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Backpacker Magazine – October 2000

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.

by: BACKPACKER Editors

PAGE 1 2 3 4 5


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


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.
via e-mail


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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.
via e-mail


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


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


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

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G. Milliron
Nov 01, 2008

I also carry good quality electrical tape, it has
a stretch and seal quality that duct tape doesn't,
plus it's available in different colors.


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