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If You Can't Duck It, F&@# It

Silence is golden. Duct tape is silver. Photo by Mary Reed.

Those of us who don’t believe in miracles nevertheless can have faith in one thing: duct tape. Indeed, there’s an almost religious fervor among the initiated regarding the seemingly endless list of uses for this unassuming adhesive.

Robert Cuthbertson is not only a mountain biker, hiker and camper, he’s also a category manager at Manco, makers of Duck brand tape. He explains the possible uses for duct tape like this: “We have a saying around here. It’s 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent Duck tape.”

The fixer-upper. Sure, you can patch the hole in your canoe or your rain fly with duct tape. But that’s just the beginning for this strong, sticky, waterproof wonder.

HMO on a roll. Duct tape has many medical applications. A hiker who’s out of moleskin can use duct tape instead to keep blisters at bay. Sprained your wrist when you missed your crash pad while bouldering? Make a splint with a stick and duct tape. Cut yourself while gutting a fish? Bandage the wound with duct tape. Is frostbite a possibility? Robert adds a less obvious use of duct tape: “You can protect yourself from exposure.” Just stick it onto your skin.

Duct tape cordage. Since duct tape is so pliable as well as durable, it’s also an excellent raw material to make cordage by twisting and braiding. Not only can you make a line to lash down your tent and hang your food bag, but if you’ve got a lot of time (and a lot of tape) to kill at camp, you can weave the tape to make everything from shoelaces to a hammock. A duct tape hammock! Does camp leisure get any cooler than that?

Like water off a duck’s back. Fold duct tape over on itself, sticky side in, and you’ve got waterproof fabric. Crafty outdoorspeople can make a very durable (and definitely not breathable) raincoat. Why stop there? You can make a tent out of duct tape. Use the kind that’s printed with a camoflauge pattern instead of the standard silver and you’ll blend right in. For the truly adventurous/goofy you can even make a kayak out of cardboard wrapped thoroughly in duct tape.

Boy Scout approved. To be prepared out in the field, always carry duct tape. “(It’s) the most versatile tool to be prepared for the unexpected” according to Robert. He suggests taking an entire roll when possible, using a carabiner to hook it to your pack. To take less, you can wrap some tape around a water bottle or a pen. Robert prefers to have at least 20 to 30 yards with him, and he likes to tear a foot-long strip of tape and adhere it to a piece of wax paper. Then he tears off dozens more strips and layers the tape to form a little slab of tape that he can easily carry anywhere. So when he was out mountain biking and his cycling shoe’s cleat broke, he didn’t have to walk home. “I Duck taped my foot to my pedal.”

Duct or Duck? A brief history.
According to The Duct Tape Guys, duct and duck are both acceptable terms. Though Duck is now a brand name, it’s said that because of its waterproof quality, World War II soldiers who used it compared the tape’s water repellency to our fowl friends. After the war, furnace installers figured out that it could be used to connect duct work. Heating and cooling people don’t use duct tape anymore because the heat from the furnace ducts dry the glue on the tape and the tape falls off.