In terms of real world concerns for the outdoor adventurer, it would be difficult not to include Duct Tape as one of the 10 Essentials. If you’ve read previous posts, you know that the 10 Essentials I propose are things to consider outside of the more recognized items. I like to call them, the “Other 10 Essentials” or O10E.
Without any statistical data to back up this claim, I believe that duct tape is perhaps one of the top 3-5 most useful things invented in the 20th century. In my view, it is right above refrigerators with in door ice makers, ballpoint pens, instant replay and nuclear energy. Television shows have been produced in which the star is duct tape. Internet chat groups have debated to the point of name calling as to whether it should be called “duck tape” or “duct tape.” Fashion designers have used it to create wearables and children have built wallets and purses from the stuff. Recently, I read a science fiction writer saved his protagonist by having him build an emergency space suit from duct tape. It’s just great stuff, kids!
For those who care, “duck” tape is likely the more proper term as its inventors (a division of Johnson and Johnson, the good folks who make first aid tape) originally used water resistant duck cloth onto which a rubberized adhesive was applied. Various modification to the original product were made to more closely resemble the silvery, sticky and strong tape we all recognize. A Google search for the origins and multiple uses of duct tape will allow you to spend/waste many hours in duct tape bliss.
For the outdoor adventurer, there is perhaps no other single product or thing as versatile. With little imagination, it is easy to think that the tape can be used to repair any of the following:
- Sleeping Bags
In addition to repairs, with forethought and careful handling of the sticky tape, it is possible to create:
- Water Buckets (complete with handle)
- Hats or Sun Shielding Brim Extensions
- Sun Reflectors for Photography
- First Aid Splints
- Tree Limb Chair/Slings
That’s the good news. However, the stuff doesn’t wear well. A tape hammock is likely good for one trip and then must be disposed of. It can stretch with repeated use and it has a nasty habit of wanting to stick to itself unless you handle it carefully during construction. The edges collect dirt and can, over time, peel away. It’s also heavy so be mindful of how much you really need to pack. A quarter roll is likely enough to last a lifetime of backcountry uses.
As a strong, temporary fix, it’s awesome. Small rolls of 10 yards or so are sold by outdoor gear companies or in survival shops. An entire roll is pretty heavy, but if you remove the inner cardboard paper liner from a partial roll (use a knife and peel away the paper) and then flatten it, you will save space and weight.
For more permanent and substantial repairs, there is a product I have come to admire a great deal and to which I reference in an earlier post: FiberFix. In the two years since I first mentioned it, they’ve come up with additional styles that set with heat as well as water. The original formula is perhaps the most useful for the outdoor adventurer.
Like duct tape, FiberFix has an adhesive back and strengthened with fiber mesh in layers. The tape is infused with a water-reactive resin hardener that creates a solid surface. As layers of the material is added to whatever it is being applied to, the bond/weld becomes stronger. While I certainly endorse the product, I don’t get a kickback from my recommendation. Too bad.
A little goes a long way for most outdoor adventure applications. One small roll can be used to repair any number of things including;
- Trekking or Ski Poles
- Tent Poles
- Backpack Frames
- Hand Tools, shovels
In short, any application in which you need a rigid repair, this stuff will probably work for you. One caveat, you’ll need to keep the stuff from getting wet or even absorbing ambient moisture. Keep it in its original packaging and return it to a tightly sealed bag when finished. Also, be sure to wear protective gloves when molding and smoothing the material. It’s sticky and not great for your skin while it dries.
In the next “State of Reality” offering, we’ll belabor the obvious when it comes to plastic bags and how they can be used for outdoor adventure. Let me preface that you should always carry at least one 30-55 gallon size bag along with a plastic grocery bag (becoming more scarce, it seems) as well as a small collection of zip-lock style baggies.