Editors Note: This is an updated and revised edition for 2018.
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.
Given my penchant for common, everyday products that can be used dozens of ways, I thought it would be fun to once again look at some of the practical uses of duct tape around the house, camping, and of course, in a survival or emergency situation.
Taking into account all of the comments and tips you have so generously shared, I now have a list of 50 ways to use duct tape for survival and emergencies. But first, let us begin with that refresher course I mentioned.
All About Duct Tape
Duct tape is a strong, cloth-backed, waterproof adhesive tape often coated with polyethylene.
There are a couple of different lines of thought about the origins of duct tape.
According to one version, the 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.
The other version dates back to the same era, but gives the credit to the heating industry. When people first began using central heating, aluminum ducts were installed throughout homes in order to distribute the heat to different rooms. The joints of the ducts were leaking, so in an effort to conserve heat, duct tape was created to resolve the issue.
It had to be highly adhesive, moist enough that it wouldn’t dry out and lose its adhesive properties, and strong enough to withstand the weight of the shifting ducts.
Regardless of the origin, I think we can all agree that duct tape is a fix-all and an excellent addition to your survival kit.
As with most excellent products, there are lots of cheap knock-offs. Since your life could one day rely on your survival supplies, purchase duct tape that is designed for builders. This can be found at the hardware or home improvement store, generally in the heating and air conditioning section.
But enough of the boring details. Just how can you use this miracle tape?
50 Uses of Duct Tape for Survival and Emergencies
1. 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 duct tape patch; for double protection mirror the patch inside the tent. You’ll keep insects and weather where they belong.
2. Make a rope: In a pinch, you can 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?)
3. Make a clothesline: Twisting a long piece of Duct tape makes a great piece of improvised rope to use as a clothesline to dry out camp clothing.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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. A spear can be a valuable survival tool.
11. Create a shelter: With some trash bags and some duct tape, and you have a survival shelter roof, or sleeping bag cover, or a wind break.
12. Wrap a sprained ankle: If you trip and sprain your ankle, wrap the ankle with duct tape to give it some support.
13. 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.
14. 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 an injured arm or shoulder.
15. Affix bandages: Place a sterile dressing over your wound, and strap it in place with DT.
16. Blister care: Got a blister on your foot? 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.
17. Create a splint: A broken ankle or leg can be stabilized with ample splint material, padding and duct tape.
18. Make a crutch: Pad the crotch of a forked branch with some cloth and duct tape to fashion a quick crutch to go with your splint.
19. Make a bandage: Fold tissue paper or paper towel to cover the wound and cover this with duct tape.
20. 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.
21. 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.
22. 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.
23. 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.
24. 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 the can is completely dry and tape over the crack both outside and inside.
25. 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.
26. 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.
27. 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.
28. Repair 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.
29. 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.
30. Repair boots: If your boots have come apart or the sole has come off, perform a quick duct tape repair to help keep moisture and cold air away from your socks.
31. Keep snow out of your boots: If the snow is so deep it goes over the tops of your boots, you can wrap the tape around them to keep the tops against your legs to keep them shut tight so that you don’t get snow inside your boots.
32. Keep bugs and parasites out of your boots: Same concept as above, summer version. Secure the tops of your boots against your legs to bar entry to ticks, chiggers, and other creepy crawlies.
33. Hem your pants: No time to hem your new jeans? Fake it with a strip of tape. The new hem will last through a few washes too.
34. 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.
35. Mark a trail: Use duct tape to blaze a trail so you can easily find your way back.
36. Signal for rescue: If you have brightly colored or reflective duct tape, you can use it to signal for rescue.
37. 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.
38. Hang perimeter or security lights: String lights around your camp with a rope make of duct tape.
39. 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.
40. Repair above ground swimming pools: Got an above ground pool as part of your water storage, fish farming, or aquaponics set up? Don’t despair if you spring a leak. Simply dry the area completely, then adhere DT on both the inside and outside of the rip or hole. This little trick can also be used for waterbeds.
41. Repair gutter downpipes: Wrap the joints in duct tape to secure downpipes that won’t stay together.
42. Remove splinters: Make sure skin is perfectly dry. Apply duct tape to the area where the splinter is embedded and quickly yank it off.
43. Repair a small boat: If you have a small fishing boat, kayak, or canoe that gets a hole or crack in it, you can repair it by drying the area thoroughly and applying duct tape on both sides. The repair may not last forever but will probably get you back to civilization.
44. Repair work gloves: Got some heavy work gloves coming apart at the seams? Repair them by folding duct tape, sticky side in, over the seam and pressing it together.
45. Brace broken ribs: If you’ve broken or cracked your ribs, but you still need to function, you can provide support with duct tape. Put on a slim fitting shirt or tank top to protect your skin, then wrap your rib cage tightly with duct tape
46. Black out your windows: Use duct tape in conjunction with heavy garbage bags to cover windows during an emergency. Nothing says “rob me” like being the only house in the neighborhood with lights on.
47. Remove warts: Cover a planter wart with a piece of duct tape for 6 days. Replace the tape when the adhesive loosens or gets wet. After 6 days, remove the tape and soak the area with water. Then, gently rub the wart with an emery board. Repeat the procedure until the wart is gone (source).
48. Repair leaking pipes: Making sure to dry the area completely, apply duct tape to PVC pipes that are leaking.
49. Seal your home: In the event of a pandemic or a biological, nuclear, or chemical attack get all family members inside and seal off windows and doors securely with duct tape.
50. Seal ammo boxes: Protect your ammunition from moisture by sealing the boxes with duct tape.
28 Oddball Uses For RediTape Duct Tape
We have all done it. Who has not squished a roll of duct tape flat so that it would take up less room? Or, alternatively, who has not taken a few feet of duct tape and wrapped it around a pencil so it could be stored easily in a tight space? I will bet there are a sea of hands out there!
Well guess what? You no longer have to do that! Now there is RediTape Duct Tape which comes in pocket sized, 5 yard packs. Not only that, it comes in six different colors. Oh my gosh this is terrific stuff and I am thrilled to share it with you.
Not only that, I have six sets of six packs of RediTape to give away to lucky Backdoor Survival readers. Now how cool is that?
About RediTape Duct Tape
Duct tape is duct tape, right? Wrong.
There are different grades running the gamut of dollar-store versions to heavy-duty industrial versions. In my own tests, I would put RediTape right smack in the middle. It is stronger and tackier (stickier?) than the dollar store variety but not as thick as the 3M stuff. At the same time, it seems softer and more pliable. Does that make sense?
No worries, though, because where RediTape shines is in it’s form factor. Each pack is 2 inches wide and 4.25 inches long. The thickness is about 1/2 inch. This means that it fits easily in small, compact spaces such as:
- Backpack or Purse
- First Aid Kit
- Vehicle Glove Compartment
- Tackle Box
It tears easily and cleanly. What I mean by that is that when you tear it, it tears straight across, no knife or scissors required. The current rainbow of colors include fluorescent green, fluorescent orange, black, silver, yellow, and pink which I have renamed “girly girl pink” because I love it so much.
On the other hand, the RediTape folks are open to feedback relative to new colors and patterns. Purple cammo anyone?
Other than that, what can I say? It is duct tape after all.
Repairs Of All Types
1. Repair Car Upholstery
I have duct tape patching an awkwardly located hole in the fabric of my car seat.
2. Hold Boots Together
The most oddball use I can think of would be to tape my boots together. During hard times you may find that you wear shoes out fast and need something to get you by so duct tape could seem like a blessing.
3. DIY Welding Glove
I have a welding glove that I used for the entire build of our Shipping Container House ( 55+ lbs of wire through my welder…) that has almost an entire roll on it since I kept burning holes in it but couldn’t see purchasing another set of gloves when I only used the left hand.
4. Repair Cracked Bathtub
I did used duct tape as a temporary repair for a crack in the floor of my bathtub while I was deciding on what to do for a permanent repair. I was using regular duct tape so I had to replace it every week or two.
5. Repair Broken Windows
We used duct tape to repair two broken windows in our kitchen
6. Extend the Life of Running Shoes
I once had a blowout on one of my running shoes where the whole side seam came apart. Several strips of duct tape and I was back on the road, worked great for a while and when needed just replaced old tape with new. Got a lot of extra miles from that pair.
7. Hem Clothing
I do a temporary repair to the hems of my pants. Invariably I put my heel in the hem of my pants just before I get to work or to an interview and can’t sit in the loo to fix them, Bit of duct tape and I can wait till I get home to do a proper repair.
8. Re-Connect Broken Tail Light
Temporarily connect tail light cover to car after backing into mailbox. Sometimes it can take a while before you can get the right thing for your car.
9. Replace Broken Cap
I used duct tape to make a replacement cap on bottle of contact lens solution. How many of us have dropped/lost a cap from a bottle that is still half full or more?
10. Repair Strap on Handbag
The rubber coating on my Ameribag shoulder bag strap ripped and duct tape fixed it so it no longer hurts my hand when I pick it up.
11. Repair Rear Axle on Vehicle
Repairing a broken rear axle on a car with pieces of rattan furniture and a roll of duct tape.
12. MacGyver a Generator Belt
A long time ago I had a VW Bug lost the generator belt made one out of duct tape lasted the 4 miles to the gas station without over heating, looked like it would have gone on. I have since learned that a pantyhose will work also.
13. Fix a Hole In the Side of a Boat (while in the water!)
I was on the way to Catalina in a small sail boat at night we hit something in the water and poked a hole in the side. Went in the water with some sand paper and duct tape (3M) sanded the slime off and applied multiple layers of duct tape using my fingernails to get good adhesion and press out the water. Then we dried off the inside and applied a hot mix epoxy and fiberglass patch, back on our way in under an hour.
14. Fashion a Bike Seat
Maybe not weird but my grandson’s bike seat is all duct tape. That fake leather/vinyl doesn’t last forever so if you have a child that rides a lot, duct tape is a fast fix until they either outgrow the bike or you can get the seat replaced.
15. Create a Makeshift Window Glass Repair
A windstorm sent a flying branch which cracked a pane of glass in the hen house door. The only place to get replacement glass was miles away, so I used duct tape to hold the broken piece and cover the open area until I had time to get replacement glass.
16. Replace Broken Hinges
I’ve also used it to replace broken hinges on small things like the pill caddy in my purse or a small storage box.
17. Remove Warts
I love using it to remove plantar warts from the bottoms of my feet!
I once removed a wart on my finger by wearing a piece on my finger overnight for seven nights!!
18. Substitute Band-Aid
I have wrapped a piece of duct tape around a cut finger wrapped in cotton gauze until I could get a band aid.
19. Turtle First Aid
Several years ago I repaired the cracked shell of a snapping turtle that had been run over while crossing a sandy spot on a back road. After it was kept in a box for 2 days, it was released. The following year it was spotted and still had fragments of the tape on its shell!
20. Ankle Brace
I once used duct tape to make an ankle brace for a friend that sprained his ankle while we were camping. Worked great.
Other Creative Uses
21. Create Insulation Using Garbage Bags
I have used it to tape plastic garbage bags to our small green house door to keep heat in with when a quick drop in temperature caught us off guard.
22. Hang Curtains
I have used it to hold up my solar curtains to keep the heat out of my bedroom
23. Weed Proof Garden Containers
When we were constructing some 4″x4″ garden containers, we wanted to put weed fabric down before filling them with dirt. We wanted the fabric to come up the sides of the container and stay there to keep grass/weeds from coming up between the fabric and the sides of the containers. We duct taped the weed fabric to the sides of the garden containers before filling with dirt. Worked well!
24. Create a waterproof bandage
By now you know that I recently made a deep slash in my finger with a box cutter. After the initial bleeding had subsided, I fashioned a nifty girly girl pink bandage for myself. Trust me, it got a lot of attention at a community pot luck. “Oh, how cute but WHAT happened?”
25. MacGyver (fix) a broken lamp switch
I have very little lighting in my Southwest home and none is in the bedroom. Instead, I have been getting by with my SunBell Solar Lamp. The problem is that I let Shelly (aka the Survival Husband) use it and the button top to the on-off switch got messed up. No worries. He fashioned a color-coordinated doo-hickey out of a paper clip and RediTape. It works great and I now can once again turn my lamp on and off!
26. Repair a broken laptop case
I don’t know how it happened but the plastic side of my laptop case cracked and fell off. RediTape to the rescue. Far less expensive than what a lot of computer shops would have charged me.
27. Book binding
Cookbooks in print form are precious. I happen to have a hand-written book of my own recipes that was started when I was a single woman in the 70s. The book is falling apart so I bound it up with some fluorescent green RediTape.
28. Waterproof label for preps
I purchased a number of large, Rubbermaid tubs for storing preps in my garage. I have my preps sorted in bins by type, something I learned while visiting my friend Linda at Food Storage Moms. For example, one tub is for all things water related, another for solar items, and yet another for hand-operated mills and kitchen tools. Each now has a bright colorful label letting me know what is inside.
Similarly, I have started to label my food buckets with RediTape in the same manner. I know that by using duct tape, the label will stay put and not fall off. And no, the food buckets are not in the hot hot hot garage!
The Final Word
For the past 70 years or so, duct tape has been considered somewhat of a miracle worker. For fix-it-yourself and do-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. Can you even begin to imagine MacGyver without duct tape? I can’t.
I personally have duct tape and its sister product, Gorilla tape, stashed all over the house, in my car, and in my various emergency kits. I use it all the time for all sorts of things. Just because duct tape is ubiquitous, does not lesson its usefulness in the realm of survival gear.
Who is to say that it can’t go on for the next 70 years?
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