Here in the south, we have a saying: “If it can’t be fixed with duct tape, it ain’t worth fixin’ at all!”
Duct tape has been around for over 70 years and has become a staple in the handyman’s bag of tricks. It has been used for things that even the creator of the product never thought possible… but what about survival situations? Let’s take a look at survival uses for duct tape.
What is Duct Tape?
Duct tape, duck tape, “rigger’s tape”, “hurricane tape”, “100 mile per hour tape” or whatever you want to call it is a cloth-backed tape that is typically (but not always) coated with polyethylene. In its original incarnation, it was a silver/grey color due to the powdered aluminum mixed in with the LDPE (low density polyethylene) coating.
According to Wikipedia:
During World War II, Revolite, then a division of Johnson & Johnson, developed an adhesive tape made from a rubber-based adhesive applied to a durable duck cloth backing. This tape resisted water and was used as sealing tape on ammunition cases during World War II.
What Can Duct Tape Be Used For?
If you have never used duct tape for anything, you have missed out on a world of enlightenment. It is typically used for things that need a strong, flexible, and very sticky bond.
Duct tape has been used for things like body repairs for multiple different NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) vehicles including NASCAR cars. It has been used for sealing air ducts in heating and air conditioning systems (hence the term “duct tape”). In fact, according to NASA engineer Jerry Woodfill, duct tape was used as an improvised wheel fender extension on Apollo 17, and had been stowed on board every NASA mission since the early Gemini mission days!
The term “hurricane tape” or “100-mph tape” comes from when it was used during the Vietnam War to repair or balance helicopter rotor blades, thereby withstanding high pressure from wind.
Clothing Hacks Using Duct Tape
Rain Gear – If your rain gear gets ripped, you can use a few strips of duct tape to cover the holes. Certainly you have rain gear in your bug-out bag, but if you don’t, you can actually make your own. Using some tape and plastic trash bags, you can make yourself some rain clothing on-the-fly. The lesson here? If you don’t have some sort of rain suit in your emergency gear, you might think about putting a couple of large garbage bags in your pack.
Belt – Don’t get caught with your pants down in the wild! If you are lacking a belt during SHTF, run a piece of duct tape through your belt loops and stick it to itself in the front. If you overlap it 6 inches or so, you’ll still be able to undo it when nature calls. You could even get creative and make yourself some sort of suspenders with your duct tape. They’d look real snazzy with this kind of duct tape!
Mend Shoes and Clothing – Even if you have an emergency sewing kit handy, duct tape may be easier and faster. Just as with the rain gear fix, pull off a strip or two of tape and cover the hole in your clothing. You may even want to put some on the inside and outside if the hole is really large.
Like the picture to the left, if the sole of your shoe or boot decides it wants to come off before the boots are ready to be totally trashed, a little duct tape will fix you right up! I had those boots for years even after I put tape on them! I did also use some of this Shoe Goo, too, though.
If you have enough duct tape, you can even waterproof your shoes and boots. Wrap the tape around your shoes enough to cover them entirely. If there are no holes showing in the tape, you should be protected from water. If you aren’t wanting to stick tape directly to your shoe for waterproofing, you could slide your foot (and part of your leg) into one of those garbage bags we talked about earlier and tape over that for some cool rain slickers.
If you don’t necessarily want to go that far, just make yourself a headband by pulling off enough to go completely around your head, fold it in half length-wise, and leave a little sticky on one end. Then, wrap that around your head, stick it to itself, and stick a few leaves or feathers to the side where the sun is to shade your eyes. If you carry a bandana or shemagh with you, you probably already have this covered.
Repair your glasses – If you end up with a broken ear piece or bridge on your glasses, a little duct tape will fix it right up. Wrap a thin strip around the broken section for a quick, temporary repair. You may look a little nerdy, but in a SHTF situation, it won’t matter much as long as you are surviving.
Medical Uses for Duct Tape
Sling – Form a sling to hold a wounded arm by folding a length of duct tape down the middle so that it is half the original width and no longer exposing a sticky side. Wrap the strap around the back of your neck and tie it, allowing the loop end to dangle in front of your chest. Rest your arm in that loop end. You could also fold your shirt-tail over your arm and tape it to the chest area of your shirt to hold your arm in place.
Butterfly Strips – Cut two small strips of duct tape, and add a smaller strip across their centers (sticky side to sticky side) to create a makeshift butterfly suture. Likewise, you could just use a few thin strips to bridge the cut and hold it closed.
Splint – If you break a leg or even sprain an ankle, you will need something to stabilize the area. Use a few sticks and duct tape to fashion a splint and keep that leg straight. Likewise, you can wrap the area fairly tight so the duct tape acts like an Ace Bandage for extra stability.
Crutch – If you can find a long, sturdy branch that is shaped the right way, you can pad the fork of it with some cloth and duct tape to make a quick SHTF style crutch. It still may not be the most comfortable thing to hobble around on, but then I’m not sure you can find a pair of crutches that are comfortable — even if they say they are.
Blister Care – You’re bound to get a blister or two during TEOTWAWKI. Cover the blistered area with a bit of cotton gauze and tape over the cotton. Make sure the duct tape fully covers the cotton and does not touch the blister at all, otherwise, when you pull the tape off, you’re liable to take the blister with it!
OpSec Uses for Duct Tape
Arrow Fletching – Tear off a few 5-inch pieces of duct tape and fold them in half lengthwise, taping the edges to the shaft of what will be your arrow. Repeat this process one or two more times and trim the vanes to shape with your knife.
Spear – Duct tape your knife to a long, sturdy stick to make a trusty spear with which to fend off beasts — or make one of those beasts into your dinner.
Handcuff Alternative – If someone gets unruly during a SHTF survival emergency, you can duct tape their hands together around a tree to prevent them from becoming a danger to themselves or others.
Using Duct Tape to Make and Repair Your SHTF Bug-Out Gear
Repair a Cracked Water Bottle – A little strip of duct tape is the best thing to bandage a busted water bottle. Dry the surface, place the patch, and refill the container. If you already have water in the container, tilt it to get the water away from the crack and use the method above. Just know that if you have a metal water container like this one, you won’t be able boil water in it after a repair.
Cordage – If you are all out of paracord, you can tear long strips of duct tape and twist them onto themselves to make cordage. If you need stronger rope, braid multiple strips of duct tape cordage together.
Patch a Boat – I have never done this one myself, but I have seen others patch their boats (temporarily) with duct tape. As with the water container repair, make sure the area is dry before attempting the repair, otherwise you may be fighting a losing battle.
Make a Drinking Cup – You don’t have to know origami to make this cup. Just fold a little tape onto itself for the bottom, curl it upwards, and work from there. Make sure you put sticky side to sticky side so the inside and outside are both waterproof. You can make all kinds of duct tape cups and containers. In fact, with some really creative thinking, you could make a decent sized container with a carrying strap and a “lid” to hold the water inside.
Attach Shelter Elements – Just a few trash bags (you have them in your gear now, right?) or a large tarp and some duct tape, and you have a survival shelter. You can also use duct tape as lashings to hold together branches to make the frame of a tent or shelter.
Leave a Note – Use duct tape to make large letters that may be seen from the air, or use a Sharpie or other type of marker or pen to leave a smaller note. If you leave your camp for any reason, and someone from your party isn’t around yet, you can leave them a note to let them know you are ok.
Attach Survival Gear – Tape a ferro rod to the side of your knife sheath and you’ll always have a back-up fire source.
Mark a Trail – Use duct tape to mark your trail as you maneuver through the wild. If you get lost, you’ll know your way back. It also helps a rescue team find you if you’re on the move.
Make Emergency Repairs on Your Vehicle – Radiator hoses, windows that won’t stay up, ripped Jeep covers, and even seats can be repaired with duct tape.
Repair Your Sleeping Bag – If you have a hole in your sleeping bag, the stuffing will most likely start coming out (especially if the stuffing is feathers). Patch the hole with duct tape.
Keep Your Tent Closed – If your tent door zipper is busted, you can use duct tape to close it at night to keep the bugs and other creepy crawlies outside where they belong.
Splint a Broken Pole – Just as with splinting an arm or leg, by taping a stick to the broken area of your tent pole or fishing rod, you might just get more use out of it.