8 Duct Tape Hacks for the Outdoors

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Adventurers of all skill levels know there are few tools as handy to have in the outdoors as duct tape. Got a clothing tear? Duct tape. Hole in your tent? Duct tape. Need to quickly fashion a pair of shorts? Easy. (Just kidding, it’s actually kind of time consuming—but it can be done!)

Instead of taking up room in your pack with an entire roll, wrap a few feet of duct tape around trekking poles or a water bottle—then unwrap it and use these simple yet clever tricks the next time you’re in a bind.

1. Fix a tent pole

Duct Tape Hacks

If your tent pole is broken in half, keep the pieces together by wrapping duct tape around them once or twice. This works best if you can find a sturdy stick to wrap alongside the pole for extra reinforcement.

2. Make guylines

Duct Tape Hacks

If you discover that you’re missing a guyline, you can easily make your own. Take about a 4-foot long strip of duct tape and tear it down the middle to make two strips. Attach the two strips end-to-end to make an 8-foot long strip with the sticky side facing the same direction. Circle one end of the strip around a water bottle (or other similar sized object, like a log or rock) and stick it back to itself; you’ll be able to suspend the water bottle in the loop you’ve created. Have a friend hold the other end of the tape (or attach it to a fixed spot) and spin the bottle around and around to twist the cord tight.

Tip: Check the tape when you start spinning. If the sticky side is out, spin the bottle the other way.  Tie one end of your new guyline to the side of your tent and loop the other end around a log or rock to keep the line tight.

3. Patch almost anything

Duct Tape Hacks

Because duct tape is waterproof and incredibly strong, it makes a good temporary patch for clothing, tents, rain gear and even water bladders. Cover holes and tears with a layer, and mirror it on the other side of the hole for extra reinforcement.

Duct Tape Hacks

4. Footwear fixes

Duct Tape Hacks

There are a couple ways to take care of footwear issues on the trail. If you’re missing a shoelace, make a substitute using the same twisting method you used for creating a guyline (with about 2 feet of tape to make a 4-foot shoelace).

Duct Tape Hacks

Have you worn down the inner lining at the back of your shoe? Layer a few flat pieces of duct tape over it to prevent further wear.

5. First aid

Duct Tape Hacks

Duct tape also comes in handy for small first-aid fixes. If you’ve got a painful blister that’s rubbing against your clothing or gear, cover it with a small square of duct tape to reduce irritation. When covering a cut, apply a small amount of anti-bacterial ointment to a cotton ball and secure the cotton ball over the cut with duct tape. Lastly, you can even remove a sliver that’s close to the surface of the skin by applying duct tape tight and letting it sit for about a minute. Remove the duct tape slowly to pull the sliver out.

6. Soften sharp edges

Duct Tape Hacks

Got something sharp sticking out of your pack, like crampons or an ice axe? Wrap duct tape around the points to dull the edges and avoid accidentally stabbing your fellow backpackers.

7. Reseal packages

Duct Tape Hacks

A quick and simple trick: Keep food fresh by resealing bags and cans with a layer or two of tape.

8. Build shelter

Duct Tape Hacks

If you have a tarp and duct tape, you can make a shelter in a pinch. First, make grommets in the tarp by puncturing the plastic using your multi-tool or a sharp stick. Then, reinforce the hole on both sides with duct tape. Make guylines with duct tape (see tip #2 above) and string them through the grommets. Then get creative with your tarp-building skills and use trees, branches, rocks and logs as anchor points.

Duct tape repair possibilities are infinite. Share how you've used duct tape to fix your gear in the comments below.

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