34 Ways to Use Duct Tape for Survival

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The information in this article, 34 Ways to Use Duct Tape for Survival, has been updated and incorporated into an all-new, enhanced article.

50 Ways to Use Duct Tape for Survival | Backdoor Survival

50 Ways to Use Duct Tape for Survival


I have always claimed – and not altogether jokingly – that you could build a house with Elmer’s glue and Duct Tape.  Both items are readily available, relatively inexpensive and easy to tote around.  I will set aside the Elmer’s for another time, though.

Today, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the practical uses of duct tape around the house, camping and of course, in a survival situation.

Duct Tape for Survival

First a bit of history

This miracle stuff was created during World War II when the US military needed a flexible, durable, waterproof tape to use making repairs in the field. A strong tape was created by Permacell, a division of Johnson and Johnson for this purpose. As the story goes, the GIs called it “duck tape” because it was waterproof – like a duck’s back.

Enough of the boring details.  Just how can you use this miracle tape?

34 Uses of Duct Tape for Survival and Emergencies

Repair a tent:   You open your tent at the campsite and oops — a little tear. No problem as long as you’ve brought your duct tape along. Cover the hole with a patch; for double protection mirror the patch inside the tent. You’ll keep insects and weather where they belong.

Make a rope: Twist one or several lengths of duct tape into a cord or rope. Of course paracord would be a lot better and you do have some of that, right?)

Make a clothesline:  Twisting a long piece of Duct tape makes a great piece of rope to use as a clothesline.

Hold the feathers in your sleeping bag: If you have a hole in your down sleeping bag, you can patch the hole with duct tape.  No more feathers flying out all over the place.

Reseal packages of food:  Use duct tape to seal up partially opened packages of food.  Fold over the top of the package and seal it tight with a piece of duct tape. Works for cans, too.  Simply fashion a lid out of duct tape.

Hold your tent closed: A damaged zipper could leave your tent door flapping in the wind. Stick the door shut, and keep the bugs and critters out.

Splint a broken tent pole or fishing pole: Tape a stick to the broken area of your tent pole or fishing rod, and you might just get one last adventure out of it.

Catch pesky flies:  Roll off a few foot-long strips of duct tape and hang them from a branch or your tent or cabin rafters. The DT serves as flypaper and when you depart, you can roll up the tape to toss it in the trash.  No need to use nasty chemicals, either.

Repair your water bottle: Have a cracked water bottle or a pierced hydration bladder? A little strip of duct tape to the rescue. Be sure to dry the surface before you try to tape your patch in place since most forms of duct tape don’t stick to wet surfaces. You can also wrap plastic water bottles with duct tape to prevent cracking and leaking.

Make a spear: Strap your knife to a pole and you have a trusty spear to fend off beasts, or make one into your dinner.

Create a shelter: With some trash bags and some duct tape, and you have a survival shelter roof, or sleeping bag cover, a wind break, or well, there are kits of possibilities.

Wrap a sprained ankle:  If you trip and sprain your ankle, wrap the ankle with duct tape to give it some support.

Make butterfly bandage strips: Cut two small strips of DT, and add a smaller strip across their centers (sticky side to sticky side) to create a makeshift butterfly suture.

Make a sling: Fold a length of DT down the middle, so that it is half the original width and no longer exposing a sticky side. Use the strap to make a sling for a busted arm.

Duct Tape BandageAffix bandages: Place a sterile dressing over your wound, and strap it in place with DT.

Blister care:  Cover the blistered area with a bit of cotton gauze, and tape over the cotton. Make sure that the duct tape fully covers the cotton and doesn’t touch the blister at all.

Create a splint: A broken ankle or leg can be stabilized with ample splint material, padding and duct tape. Pad the crotch of a forked branch with some cloth and duct tape to fashion a quick crutch to go with your splint.

Make a bandage: Fold tissue paper or paper towel to cover the wound and cover this with duct tape.

Make a temporary roof shingle: If you have lost a wooden roof shingle, make a temporary replacement by wrapping duct tape in strips across a piece of 1/4-inch (6-millimeter) plywood you’ve cut to size. Wedge the makeshift shingle in place to fill the space. It will close the gap and repel water until you can repair the roof.

Fix a hole in your siding:  Has the stormy weather damaged your vinyl siding? A broken tree limb tossed by the storm, hailstones, or even an errant baseball can rip your siding. Patch tears in vinyl siding with duct tape. Choose tape in a color that matches your siding and apply it when the surface is dry. Smooth your repair by hand or with a rolling pin. The patch should last at least a season or two.

Tape a broken window:  Before removing broken window glass, crisscross the broken pane with duct tape to hold it all together. This will ensure a shard does not fall out and cut you.

Mend a screen:  Have the bugs found the tear in your window or door screen? Thwart their entrance until you make a permanent fix by covering the hole with duct tape.

Repair a trash can:  Plastic trash cans that are blown over by a storm or frozen in an ice storm often split or crack along the sides.  Repair the tear with duct tape. Just be sure tape over the crack both outside and inside the can.

Make a belt:  Run a piece of DT through your belt loops and stick it to itself in the front. Overlap it about 4 or 5 inches and you’ll still be able to peel the belt apart when nature calls.

Repair your glasses:  If your glasses break while you are out in the wilderness, tape them up.  You might look a bit nerdy but at least you will be able to see.

Fix your rain gear: Keep the dry stuff dry, and keep the water out, by mending your ripped rain gear with a few strips of duct tape.

duct tape on bootRepair your clothing:  Repair rips and tears in your clothing by slipping a piece of tape inside the rip, sticky side out, and carefully pressing both sides of the rip together. The repair will be barely detectable.

Add extra insulation in your boots:  Make your winter boots a little bit warmer by taping the insoles with duct tape, silver side up. The shiny tape will reflect the warmth of your feet back into your boots.

Hem your pants:  No time to hem your new jeans?  Fake it with a strip of duct tape. The new hem will last through a few washes too.

Make handcuffs:  Create handcuffs for the bad guys by taping their hands together around a tree to prevent them from becoming a danger to themselves or others.

Mark a trail: Use duct tape to blaze a trail or signal for rescue, especially if your DT is brightly colored or reflective.

Make emergency repairs on your Bug Out Vehicle: Repair leaking hoses, broken tail lights, windows that don’t stay and even bullet holes with strips of duct tape.

Hang perimeter or security lights:  String lights around your camp with a rope make of duct tape.

Make a disguise:  Using trash bags and leaves, fashion a disguise then hold it all together with duct tape so that you can hide in plain sight.

The Final Word

For the past 70 years or so, duct tape has been considered somewhat of a miracle worker.  For the fix-it-yourself types, duct tape has become indispensable and has been used for things that I am sure the original developers of the stuff never imagined.

Whose to say that it can’t go on for the next 70 years?

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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Bargain Bin: Thinking of heading out to the wilderness?  Although I like to hike, I usually do not stray too far from the beaten path. I typically grab my hiking boots, a camera, my cell phone, some Kashi bars (protein and fiber bars) and water and plus lightweight pack filled with gear. Here are some of the prepping items that are useful outdoors – including duct tape, of course,

3M Heavy Duty All-Weather Duct Tape: This heavy duty duct tape happens to be a favorite in our household.

Fix-It Duct Tape, 7-Mil, 3-Pack: On the other hand, we also keep a supply of this less expensive duct tape on hand (about $16 for three 60 yard rolls).

Gorilla Tape:  And then there is Gorilla Tape which is the really tough stuff for the really tough job.  Great stuff!

Military Prismatic Sighting Compass w/ Pouch:  You need a compass and you also need to know how to use it.  This is a great option for your first compass.  Practice in you neighborhood, at the local park and on the trails so you know how to use it and to find your way back home (or to camp).

Kershaw OSO Sweet Knife: This “oh so sweet” knife is solidly built, stainless steel knife that comes razor sharp right out of the package. It will pretty much cut through anything the price is amazing.

Windstorm Safety Whistle: This particular whistle can be heard a long distance away and above howling wind and other competing sounds.

Rothco Type III Commercial Paracord: You can get 100 feet of Paracord for about $8 or $9. This is a real bargain but be aware that price can vary substantially depending on the color.

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (Pack of 10): You will be surprised at how warm these will keep you. Be sure to test one out in advance so that you have the confidence to trust the blanket in an emergency. You will be amazed at how small and portable these are; a packet will easily fit in a back pocket.

Emergency Shelter Tent: The Emergency Tent is a lightweight and compact emergency shelter. It is wind and waterproof and easy to set up and is roomy enough for two people.

Emergency Sleeping Bag: Another low cost item designed to keep you warm in an emergency situation.


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34 Ways to Use Duct Tape for Survival — 42 Comments

  1. Fix your swimming pool should be on here…. 😀 I know that is not exactly survival necessary, unless you are an 8 and 11 year old kid, and your pool is leaking! A couple of pieces of duct tape placed on the inside of the pool, while full of water is enough to stop the leak! I continue to be amazed by the amazingness of duct tape 🙂

  2. I once made it 50 miles across southern AZ after repairing a radiator hose with a WalMart plastic bag and duct tape.

  3. Interesting comments about the origins of duct tape, but all miss the target. Nothing at all to do with the military, nothing to do with repairing anything, these are all side benefits that were derived from experimenting and playing around.

    Just consider the name,literally, and lifestyle during that era 6 and 7 decades ago. The only central or whole house heating that existed then was the coal fire furnace, normally in the basement of the home. The furnace connects through “duct” pipes to each room in the house, and also through larger “ducts” to vent the smoke and exhaust gases out the chimney. The “duct” work is composed of large pipes made from sheets of rolled, galvanized tin formed into tubes that stick inside one another and are secured at the joints with a couple of sheet metal screws so they don’t fall apart. Seams and joints are very loose and leaky, and of course you don’t want to lose your heat, nor do you want the gases and smoke to escape into the house So these duct pipes were originally all sealed with a cement compound, but that tended to crack and fall apart over time. Duct tape was made as a replacement for that cement and had to be strong in order to withstand the weight of shifting duct work, and also super sticky with an adhesive that would not dry out or breakdown, yet gooey enough to totally seal all joints and seams against any gas leaks. Hence the creation of Duct Tape.

    So there you have it … whew!

    • Hi Roger,

      A most interesting explanation of the origin of duct tape. I did quite a bit of research before writing this article (not to say that what I found was correct) and as a I recall, I learned that the original duct tape was quite different from the tape soldiers called “duck tape”. This may be one of those things that we will never know for sure. Or perhaps they were two similar products with similar names that at some point melded into one.

      In any event, thank you so much for the heads up!


      • Greetings, Gaye –

        Roger is correct about the origin of duct tape. The current spelling of “duck” tape is a bastardization of the original, which was derived from the way the majority of people pronounced it, regardless of spelling.

        The current “duck” tape is also generally of an inferior quality than the original, but that doesn’t stop manufacturers and/or distributors from selling it at nearly the same price. The best quality tapes are still generally found in hardware and home building stores in the heating and air conditioning section, because the adhesives have to take extremes of heat and cold.

  4. I have even used duct tape to patch up a hole in a tire and still drove with the same tire for another 300 km. yes I have always used duct tape for any and all.things needing repair. Including my own body lol.
    I also use it on my houses feet for an abbess there’s a few things we do and then wrap the hoof fully in duct tape it will last and not brake forever! I’m no regular woman…I carry a carpet knife and duct tape i’m my purse at all times instead of lip stick and make up! That stuff won’t save you when you need to patch up a leaking tire! Or repair a hose under the car. Our fix your horse trailer.or fix your horses feet! Ooh and certainly in winter I duct tape my boots shut so I can walk through deep snow 🙂 and I wrap plastic garbage bags around my feet and stay nice and toasty warm!! Seems that duct tape works good as an insulation on your body!!!:) user your imagination and you’ll find duct tape to be womans best friend!

    • Please, NEVER use duct tape directly on a horse’s hoof!
      My farrier told me horror stories of people who have done that and their horses got terrible infections solely from the use of duct tape.
      If he has an abscess, wrap it in clean bandages. If you really feel the need to use DT, you can wrap it OVER the sterile bandages to keep it somewhat waterproof…however you still need to change the entire dressing frequently.

      And BTW, DT really does work well when you break a hose in the car…at least temporarily 🙂

  5. Retrieve your keys from a sewer. Wrap a rock at the end of a length of duct tape sticky side out. Lower the rock into the sewer throught the grating (obviously the rock must fit through the holes). Let the sticky tape wrapped rock land on your keys with sufficient force to make them stick and carefully pull the tape, rock and keys out.

  6. 🙂 must be a woman thing:-) I use duct Tape if any of my dogs have cut feet etc, iodine, some gauze to pack between toes an old sock and then duct Tape it to make a waterproof chew resistant bootie for the injured one:-)
    one thing -allow room for the dogs foot to spread a little as their weight is placed on the foot.too tight is NOT alright.
    I also have my cracked plastic guttering downpipes held together by it, so far 3 years and holding fine.

  7. Great reply dude! More Usefull than the original article in some ways. In the near future survival might depend on being able to FIX things.

  8. Another use is the removal of fine cactus thorns from your skin–and even small splinters. Be sure the skin is dry, press the tape over the skin, and quickly pull it off–the fine, hairlike thorns (glochidia) that some cactus can shed, and tiny, hard-to-see splinters are easily removed.

    • Obviously, another use for DT is to maintain the perfection of one’s Brazilian Wax when out camping, etc. Gentlemen may use it as an alternative to shaving when razors become blunted, and/or if water is not available, or if one needs to keep it in reserve for drinking. My extensive research, in fact, reveals that this is why it was first issued to the military, which as we know, is nowadays a unisex organization.
      But seriously, I have used it when planning camping expeditions, as loops to apply to the corners of a silver space blanket. A central area of the tape is double-taped, sticky to sticky; the ends are then folded over onto the two sides of the SB. I then DT’d two of these blankets together to make a really large and useable and super-lightweight cover. The blanket then can be used either as this simple cover, in an emergency, or, when allied to a length of string, as a tarp to tie between two branches. I never used it once, because the weather was dry, but the idea was a good one.
      Additionally, this construct could also have been used as a sun shield; had I damaged an ankle when far from civilization, it would have protected me from the intense rays of the sun until evening arrived, and I could have hobbled onwards.

  9. Since we’re talking survival uses, make thin strips of duct tape 2-3 inches long. Loosely shape them into a “bird’s nest”, and use this to get a fire going in a wilderness situation.

  10. I was on a canoe trip in Canada several years ago and in one of the bad rapids that we were going through I hit a rock and put a hole in the bottom of my canoe. I used duct tape to patch the hole in my canoe and made the rest the the trip with no problems.

  11. Repair work gloves (especially thumbs that come unstitched), repair winter heavy gloves.

    Color code boxes with preps in them.

    Color code keys, luggage, etc.

  12. One of the pics on the original articles mentioned hemming pants but the picture is actually of taping the pant leg to your boots to keep critters from crawling in. Important if you are bugging out! Stress is already off the charts and having to deal with insects on your legs, inside your boots is not something I want to worry about.

  13. Mend a horses’ hoof when they lose a shoe. Since the hoof has been compromised by the nails, the tape helps hold it together if you need to continue on until you can get it replaced. Helps keep you from losing a chunk of hoof that the horseshoer then has to work around.
    I have also used it to make a straw and a cup. For a straw, take a stick about thin stick (like a straw size about 10″ long) and cut a piece of duct tape the same length. Wrap the duct tape, sticky side out, long ways around the stick and overlap to create a tube (albeit sticky). Then take another piece of duct tape the slightly shorter (9″) and cover the sticky side. Overlap the ends and you have a straw. Making a cup it similar, I use my elbow as a form, but you can use an appropriate sized rock too!

  14. Duct tape will work if you happen to crack a rib or two or even have a clean break. Just be sure to tape over something like gauze or even a t-shirt. This will brace your ribs a bit and it actually works just as well or better than an elastic wrap style bandage or adhesive tape. If you need to prevent light seepage through your windows it can be used by taping overlapping strips over each pane. Depending on the weather and size of the panes you are blacking out.you may need to put cross pieces at intervals and at the ends for added security. This is much more effective than just blackout curtains. It also provides some added insulation in severely cold situations. You can also use it to seal the lids on any bottles that you place in your checked luggage to prevent drips and leaks from ruining your clothes. If you loose the the plastic tip end of your shoelace you can tape it and still be able to get the lace through the eyelet. Use it like a bungee cord to prevent your glass canned goods from falling off of a shelf during an earthquake by taping two sticky sides together of the appropriate length while leaving both ends with sticky side available to attach to the shelving unit. Apply as many strips as needed to provide a safety rail for your jars. This works best on metal shelves but you should still be able to reach through to identify and retrieve your jars as needed. i have even used it as a label on some of my canned goods when I ran out of other options and wanted to be sure the contents of the jar would be marked and identified. I have heard rumors that it can be used for depilatory waxing but you won’t get me to try that one out for you. But if in an emergency and no other options, you’ll just have to try it yourself. 🙂

  15. Cover a plantar wart with a piece of duct tape and leave it on at all times until the wart peels off. Wear the tape in the shower, to bed, etc. Do not remove for longer than it takes to replace a wet or dirty piece. It works by smothering the virus that causes the wart. I got rid of a large painful on this way.

  16. Duct tape can be used for minor repairs to a car.. It also can be turned into a really strong rope by taking three strands each is twisted to form a thread then put the three of them together to twist into a strong rope.. You know the old ruling.. if it moves and shouldn’t use duct tape.. if it is supposed to move and doesn’t then use wd-40

  17. I used to work in timber, and every now and then you can have a boot or shoe blow out when you are way back in the woods. Duct tape was always in my carry along tool kit. I’ve repaired many a boot or shoe to get me through the day, as well as coveralls and pants when they got ripped.

  18. For the best adhesion with duct tape, apply it to your fix and then use a blow dryer. It heats and softens the glue. Then press it down again. I fixed a leaky sunroof on a car this way and it lasted all winter with no leaks and didn’t flap off at highway speeds.

  19. After purchasing several Water Bobs for myself and Christmas presents, I realized that you would need to hold the filler valve to the tub spout. I wrapped a couple feet of DT to a small piece of PVC, so you can tape the filler to the tub spout. This enables you to do other more important things than watch 100 gallons of water fill the bag. I put a roll in the box, so you don’t have to go to the garage to get it during an emergency situation.

  20. Let’s not forget the most famous DIY Duct Tape project of all time. The crew of Apollo 13 were able to make a functional temporary CO2 scrubber using DT. If NASA would send men to the moon with duct tape, why on earth would you leave home without it?

    • I think most of us with a functioning cerebrum have realised by now that there were no “moonflights”. The Apollo 13 ( coincidence? ) fiasco was just pure theatre, designed to rekindle interest in a ploy which was only ever designed to steal tax dollars for the usual suspects.
      But I grant, if ever there IS a flight to the moon, then duct tape is a priority, even if it has to be carried in a special pouch outside the simulator. ( Sorry, “spacecraft”. )

    • If you look carefully at a picture of the first moon rover,
      notice the right front “fender”. It cracked when they were
      driving around and kicked up “moon dust” impairing visibility.
      The astronauts used duct tape to repair it. I always wondered
      who had the foresight to include a roll of it onboard.

  21. Duct tape is indeed one of the most useful inventions of the 20th Century, capable of performing at least 97% of all temporary repairs needed in our daily lives.

  22. Special Bonus: The Ultimate Traction Machine!

    Tape a long strip of duct tape to another long strip of duct tape with a slight offset on the end. Repeat until you have a long strap (you’ll figure out how long you need in a moment). Tape something bulky to each end (I used something cylindrical, like a used chapstick). Now place the bulked up end over the top of your bedroom door, close the door, and make sure it’s tight and secure. The strap should now reach the floor such that when you pull the bottom of the strap 2-5 feet away from the door, it just barely hovers above the floor. Lay down with your head being supported by the strap just 1/2 an inch to an inch or so. Enjoy!

    (caution you don’t want to do it for too long, as you may strain the tinier muscles in the neck. I’ve fallen asleep / passed out while using this homemade device and I wake up with my head off of it, probably because my unconscious body cant take it anymore.)

  23. You can also construct a wallet, change purse. You can tear pieces and spell out letters to make a sign. Fix leaky pipes temporarily. Suspenders or a belt.

  24. Thanks for all the great ideas. I write YA/Children’s novels. In my latest novel about teens surviving a world disaster on a sail boat, I have them repair a sail, make a life jacket smaller, a sweatshirt larger, secure a rope ladder, and secure both the jib and mainsail before a tsunami. All with duct tape.

    My husband and I have four rolls of it on our actual, real, sailboat.
    Can’t wait to get back to writing and use some of your tips in the story.


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