Duct Tape: Reader Stories

An emergency kit doesn't amount to a hill of beans unless a few feet of duct tape are included. Here's everything you ever wanted to know about the sticky, miraculous fix-all.

Gear Repair

A few years ago, my shorts ripped in the rear on the second day of a week-long trip. One piece of duct tape in the inside, one on the outside and the shorts held up for the rest of the trip. Nicely, I might add. And with style.


Deranger

via e-mail

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During a wet, muddy day out on maneuvers with my ROTC detachment, a stick ripped my pants from the knee to the crouch. We were miles away from where we were camping and did not plan on returning until that night. I grabbed my green duct tape and proceeded to repair my pants. Several people even commented on my creative camouflage.


Patrick Langan

Sanger, TX

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I'm an outdoor video producer and I've used duct tape for everything from repairing a tripod to binding a pack strap. Nobody wants their equipment to break, but duct tape is cheap insurance.


Craig Jarman, Producer

"Outdoors Family Adventures"

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Our best and worst backpacking trip was last fall in Porcupine Mountain State Park, Michigan. Half way through our week-long trip the soles of both boots came loose from the heels all the way to the balls of my feet. Luckily my backpacking buddies JB and Matt came through with duct tape and nylon packing tape. Every morning they'd duct tape the end of the soles to the heels of the boots, then nylon tape under the arch and across the laces. That also meant each night before getting ready to relax for the evening, I had to cut my feet out of each boot, but it worked great.

Jeff Hunter

Indianapolis

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Around Camp

Duck tape is an excellent firestarter. Just wade it up and light.


Scott Short

via e-mail

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It has a light side, a dark side, and it binds the universe together.


--unknown

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I truly believe that my group wouldn't have survived our 1997 Philmont Ranch trek if we didn't have duct tape with us. We used a roll and a half during the 10-day trip: to cover blisters, to patch holes in our tents, to hold a pair of boots together, to stop our bladder bags from leaking, to keep a backpack from falling apart, in one case, to keep loud-mouth Lisa's mouth shut for 5 minutes so that we didn't have to hear her complain.


kari

via e-mail

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It has to be one of the greatest inventions created by man. I personally will try to avoid using the tape on anything that I really care about like my sleeping pad or tent fly, etc. I hate the horrid residue that it leaves behind. I have used as well on the bottom of my pants legs and gaiters to ward off bugs and protect against water. It works wonders on those people that snore and talk too much.


Briar Rabbit

via e-mail

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100 Mile Per Hour tape. There are numerous small planes in Alaska since most of the state is inaccessible by auto. Many of the planes are fabric covered and the pilots carry duct tape for repairing the skin of the planes. It's good for a small repair in the fabric and holds up to speeds of 100 miles per hour. It keeps small holes from becoming bigger holes, until proper repairs can be made! By the way, too much tape on a plane is a bad sign! The other great use: a fire starter or emergency torch. Fold a strip lengthwise and light with a match. It'll burn long, hot, and bright. With good heat and plenty of light.


Blake Allen

Hurst, TX

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We use it for just about everything and anything--on our heels to prevent blisters during ski trips, to tape together someone's face (over other bandages) who'd had a ski accident in the backcountry, repaired a guitar case, mended overbooties, repair a Plexiglas birdfeeder, and tape a ham radio rack to the dash of the car.


Laura Sadowsky

Val-Belair, Quebec Canada

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As the scoutmaster of a troop in North Carolina, I've had numerous many opportunities to use duct tape. During backpacking trips I've fixed shoes, packs, tents, clothes and an occasional leg or arm.


Steven P. Allred

Trinity, NC

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On our annual climb of Mt. Olympus (7,965 feet and the highest point in Olympic National Park, Washington), I realized I'd forgotten gaiters. I really dislike snow over my boot tops, so I begged a roll of duct tape from the climbing ranger and fashioned a pair of silver gaiters from plastic bags and duct tape. They performed moderately well but were only good for one day's use.


Carole S. Kalahar

Port Angeles, WA

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Blisters

Duct tape makes good last minute mole skin. My wife wears duct tape where blisters would normally form on her heels. Needless to say when we got back from a recent trip around Hoodoo in the Santiam area of Oregon, my wife's feet were in perfect condition while my mother-in-law and son both had huge blisters on both of the feet. But don't try to put it on if you have a blister that popped!


Tim Smith

via e-mail

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By day 7 of a winter tour in the Tetons both my feet were almost completely covered in duct-tape. Duct tape is an essential part of our backcountry gear used to fix holes in kayaks, make tent poles from branches and protect blistered feet from new telemark boots.


Soren Boysen

North Grafton, MA

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Boot Repair

Upon arriving at the start of the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota, I realized I forgot my boot insoles. My buddy, who joined me for the first leg of my 2-week trip, promised to express mail them to the next post office when he returned, but until then, I'd have five days of uncomfortable boots. In a small town nearby I found a pair of flimsy shoe liners, and using my roll of duct tape, constructed a pair of boot insoles complete with arch supports. The duct tape insoles served their purpose well, but I was glad to pick up my factory-made insoles at the post office!


Chad Brackelssberg

St. Louis Park, MN

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Sixty miles into a 100 miler in Northern New Mexico, the soles of my trusty boots decided to part company with the uppers. Like a poor retread, over the period of one day, I managed a right boot blow out, only to be followed by a left blow out the next day. Were it not for the gods of duct tape (red no less, and replaced daily!) I'd still be crawling back to civilization....

Paul Scofield

via e-mail

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Making the transition from dayhiker to backpacker entails some pretty cheap gear and lots of boot blow outs, among other gear mishaps. As a poor grad student (violins, please), I maintained the duct tape to squeeze one more hike out of my boots. This probably accounts for my flattening arches. I can now afford better gear and take much better care of what I get; despite numerous weekend trips, I didn't use duct tape last year. Still, I am glad to have taken duct tape 101. I learned a bit, especially in planning, maintaining, and avoiding situations that may require duct tape.

Harry Newman

via e-mail

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Several days into a trip in Italy, I noticed a dark shadow line at the toe of my right boot. Upon closer observation I discovered that half of the sole was delaminated, with balance ready to peel off soon. Out came the duct tape-first time I've had to use any in years. The operation was reinforced with 1/8" nylon line which was melted at the knot for security. Onward over the harsh terrain and on to the next Rifugio.


Allan Shigg

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

First Aid

While hiking the A.T. last summer, I slid in the mud and jammed a stick into my knee far enough to warrant stitches. I was two or three days from town so I cleaned out the stick, cleansed the area with baby wipes, rubbed Neosporin on it, and taped it with duct tape. After a few days, I pulled it off to see my wound was healing with only a little bit of a scar.


Sunnie

via e-mail

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Two years ago I took a spill during a hut-to-hut cross-country ski trip in Papineau-LaBelle Provincial Reserve (northwest of Montreal, Quebec, Canada) and cut my knuckle open. It wasn't a large cut but it bled like the dickens and an adhesive bandage wouldn't stay on because of the flexing of my hand and the sticky blood. I was embarrassed that all the world could see my clumsiness in the trail of blood I was leaving, but my guide was concerned that other people on the trail might think that he wasn't taking good care of his customers. He wrapped my finger with gauze and then wrapped, really wrapped, the finger with duct tape. When we got to the hut and removed the tape and gauze, the cut was beginning to close. I keep duct tape wrapped around my canoe thwarts, my water bottle, ski poles and even a pencil at work in order to cover any possible emergency.


Katharine Wolfe

Albany, NY

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When my son sprained his ankle on the AT in northeastern Pennsylvania, I taped him up, then wrapped his ankle with an ace bandage. He hiked 7 miles on ultra rocky terrain to Wind Gap, where I hitched a ride to my car, and drove back to pick him up. The following week he proceeded to make the freshman football team without any ankle complications. Duct tape served our needs better than anything could have for that type of injury.


Richard Roland

West Hartford, CT

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Working as a guide in the perilous Mojave Desert, I have discovered that covering a body part infest with cactus spines with a strip of duct tape, then ripping it off is faster and more effect that scraping with a pocketknife or picking out with a tweezers. Repeat as necessary, or as long as you can stand it, since this can be petty painful on hairy legs. And prickly pear cactus fruit and beavertail cactus are the worst, with their small, almost hair-like needles that can literally cover your hand if you accidentally touch the little devils.


Shawn Coleman

Las Vegas, NV

Miscellaneous

As a Paramedic I use duct tape to secure fractured arms and legs to splints. A small piece of gauze and duct tape and you have an adhesive bandage. I frequently use duct tape to secure back and neck injury patients to a spine board. Perfect for pressure dressings. But the most interesting is to secure a violent (typically drug-induced) patients' wrists and ankles. After all that, I need a trip to the wilderness.

Keith Fronk

via e-mail

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Car camping on the way to Yellowstone in 1985, we had a major storm in Douglas, Wyoming. It bent and almost broke a tent pole. We went into town the next day, bought 4 long bolts and a roll of duct tape. We went to work bending the poles back into shape, then bending the bolts to the poles' shape, and duct taping the mess together. Some 14 years later, I've yet to replace the poles and actually reinforced the other two poles the same way.


Starwalker

via e-mail

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I swear we skateboarders were the first to use duct tape as the all-purpose mender. We taped our boards, pads and even patched the skateboard ramps. Later when my running shoes developed holes in the soles I used cardboard and duct tape to patch them before my races. Nowadays as serious a trail runner and training for my first 100-miler, I wouldn't think of leaving home without my supply of tape wrapped round a film canister filled with various ibuprofens and antacids. I tape my ankle bone before leaving home to ward off running blisters and I know of runners who tape toes as well as their entire foot soles.

Marc Hayward

Lethbridge, AA Canada

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The 10-essentials God gave me a sign and I have since never left home unprepared. It all started in Tahuya State Forest (Mason County, Washington) during a mountain biking adventure. After a couple of hours of bouncing along, I noticed my seat was coming loose from the post, then a few more bounces and my handle gars came loose, too. I felt cursed! We didn't have a tool, but

a few tight wraps of duct tape around the seat post and handle bar post and I was able to finish the day and live to tell the story. Lessons learned: never leave home without an Allen wrench, and, if all else fails, duct tape will always save the day.


Valerie Anderson

Olympia, WA

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As the trip leader on a Canadian mountain biking tour with Adventure Travelers Society, I felt obligated to make everyone feel more comfortable by taking the first major wipe out. When I did the gymnastic feat of falling sideways, the entire top of my gel seat popped right off the frame. After about 30 minutes of intense stretching, pulling, and pounding-and several heated discussions about the best way to get it back on-I had resigned myself to the fact that I very well could be spending the rest of the day biking seatless. In an attempt to lighten the mood, I joked, "too bad no one has any duct tape!" Amazingly, one of my travel companions calmly pulled a well-worn mass of duct tape from his pack. He apparently had been carrying it around for years, thinking he would need it "someday."


Christine Scheel

Denver, CO

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My BSA Venturing Crew completed the 1999 Klondike Derby in Madisonville, Kentucky, all because of a roll of duct tape. The dog sled each group makes contains everything we need to get through the woods and complete various outdoor skills (the boys are the "dogs," by the way). Going down the first hill, our sled pass the "dogs" and slammed into a large tree. We duct taped it back together and managed to finish the race. Now whenever our crew ventures out, there is always duct tape available for whatever mother nature may throw our way (or we run into).


Greg Jackson, Advisor

Madisonville, KY

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Back in 1996, I embarked on the 63.5 km "Great Walk" walk-a-thon on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I was determined to finish and get the T-shirt, despite a recent mountain bike crash which injured my knees. At kilometer 22 my knees started to give out and buckle so I whipped out my duct tape and taped my knees. Participants chuckled at my medical breakthrough. I walked to the halfway mark like Frankenstein and collected my T-shirt!


Marty Michaud

Gloucester, ON, Canada

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Violating the number rule of backcountry travel, I neglected to check my two huge tents before embarking on a 24-day solo research trip in the forest of Coshocton County, Ohio. Upon setting them up, giant tears opened up in the side-walls and screens of both tents. I guess they had been put away wet by the previous borrower. The first night, the skies opened up and rained hard. I woke up soggy and cold. Since I was on a very limited budget, I broke out the duct tape and taped all of the tears shut. As new tears opened, I taped them shut too. The tents leaked, but I threw a tarp over the worst side of the better tent and slept in it. I stored gear in the other. Without duct tape and an old tarp, "Archaeological Analysis of Lithic Procurement Technology at the Warsaw Quarries, Conshocton County, Ohio" would never have made the presses. Now if only someone would read the damn thing!


Chris Diersen Stevens Point, WI

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I've been a Boy Scout leader for 21 years and have seen many varied uses for duct tape, from patching tents and tarps to applications on feet and boots for blisters. However, the strangest and most creative use I have ever seen for duct tape was this past fall at our annual council camporee. One of our scouts, with all of his tasks done, was enjoying his free time by manufacturing not only a complete wallet out of duct tape for one of the other scouts, but also a pocketbook for one of our female leaders. The wallet was the same size as a normal man's wallet and the pocket book (with shoulder strap also out of duct tape) was small but functional. You never know how creative young people can be until you give them the time and materials!


Paul Durwin Pittsfield, MA

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As my distinctly southern Grandfather used to say, "If duct tape can't fix it, it ain't broke!" Incidentally he purchased it by the case. I inherited 14 rolls when he died. On a recent A.T. through hike I used my Grandfather's favorite invention for blister, boot repair, stove repair, other smoldering apparatus repair, and for everyday peace of mind. Long live duct tape!!!!!!!


Chris Schwab

via e-mail

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Life-saving, eh? Well, there "have" been a few times when I should've had some over my mouth... I've carried it for years, but have never had to use it.


Tilt

via e-mail

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I've used duct tape for making shelter. My hiking buddies and I don't take a tent along in decent weather--we sleep under the stars or use a tarp. One day the rain was blowing sideways, so we retreated to a nearby cave (the "backup shelter"). We duct-taped the tarp over the dry side of the cave and secured it with rocks at the bottom. We spend the rest of the day drinking bourbon and playing cards. After dark, we lit candles on all the little rock "shelves" in there and the atmosphere was surreal! Finally the rain stopped and we decided not to sleep in there because of the several rattlesnakes, copperheads, and eastern wood-rats we'd seen in these caves on previous trips.


Steve-O

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Duct tape saved my leg and stopped it from bleeding when a knife stuck in my calf. How, you ask, did I get a knife in my leg? I was backpacking with some buddies in high school near Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada and being stupid teenagers and all, we'd packed plenty of useless stuff like weapons, Frisbees, and amo. As I stood eating chili from the can, Darin practiced his knife throwing skills. On try three, the knife hit a ponderosa pine and bounced off 20 feet into my calf. Of course I instantly pulled the blade out and was covered with blood in about 10 seconds. A clean T-shirt and half a roll of tape stopped the bleeding until I went into surgery 12 hours later.


Grubb

via e-mail

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I have used duct tape to repair cracks in a fiberglass canoe while canoeing in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, CA. The repair worked flawlessly, and held up for the several remaining days of the trip.


Rob Witham

via e-mail

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During a backcountry tele-skiing trip at Beehive Basin near Big Sky, Montana, my friend hit a deep powder pocket. His ski compressed enough to blow his binding of and the ski flew up into a tree. My buddy had to climb up in the tree and knock the ski out with a ski pole before he could even duct tape his boot to the ski for the remainder of the trip.


Jim Watson

Little Bear Snowshoes

Grand Junction, CO

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I once had a snowshoe binding break about 5 miles in from road. Duct tape fixed my boot to snowshoe so I could get back to the car. I've even seen people use it on canoes for seam leaks.


Matt Chambers via e-mail