If you don’t already have a roll of duct tape on your backcountry essential equipment list, it’s time to add it. This durable and sticky tape, invented more than 75 years ago during World War II, has hundreds of uses. Alaskan mushers use it on their face to prevent frost bite during long-distance dog sled races. People in Utah build boats out of duct tape and race them in the annual Salem Days Cardboard Duct Tape Regatta. Duck Brand duct tape even offers scholarships to high school students who make the best prom attire entirely out of duct tape.
Regardless of all the practical or impractical ways people use duct tape, here are seven ways you can use this universal sticky tape in the backcountry.
1. Make Repairs
We’ve all been there. You set up camp and notice a small tear in your tent or a hole starting on the side of your boot. Maybe you ripped your jacket, shirt, pants or backpack while hiking or climbing boulders. Perhaps your water bottle sprung a leak. You can make short work of repairs by using duct tape as a quick fix.
2. Remove Splinters
If you’re spending time in the backcountry, it’s only a matter of time before you get a splinter. And a simple tiny splinter can quickly become irritating. If you don’t have tweezers handy, you can cover the area with a small piece of duct tape and slowly peel it off to remove the splinter.
3. Make a Clothesline
Weather conditions can change fast when you’re out adventuring. Duct tape makes a great make-shift clothesline for hanging your clothes out to dry. Simply twist a long piece of duct tape to make a rope and attach it to a couple trees or inside your tent.
4. Make a Wrap, Sling, Splint or Cast
There’s a lot of slips and falls that happen in the backcountry. And you never know when it’s your turn. If you have an injury, duct tape could temporarily help you in a bind. You can use it to wrap a sprained ankle, make a sling or cast for your arm, create a splint or simply apply duct tape to hold an open wound together.
5. Repair Your Glasses
If your sunglasses or prescription glasses unexpectedly break when you’re in the wilderness, using duct tape to put them back together is a quick and easy fix. Even if you look like a nerd, it’s better to be able to see.
6. Mark a Trail
Use duct tape to mark your trail — making it easy to find your way back and keep you from getting lost in the woods. Simply hang a piece of duct tape on a visible branch here and there along your route.
7. Reseal Food Packages
Duct tape makes a great lid for left over canned food. It’s also the perfect way to seal up your partially opened food packages. Simply fashion a lid for the can and tear off a small section of tape for your food package.
Uses for duct tape in the backcountry go well beyond this list. The next time you head out into the wilderness, add a roll of duct tape to your pack. If something unexpected happens, you may be glad you did.
Suzanne Downing is an outdoor writer and photographer in Montana with an environmental science journalism background. Her work can be found in Outdoors Unlimited, Bugle Magazine, Missoulian, Byline Magazine, Communique, MTPR online, UM Native News, National Wildlife Federation campaigns and more.