When it comes to go-to supplies for survival, duct tape is at the top of the list. Yes, duct tape. Let’s put it this way--if duct tape is a go-to for MacGyver and the astronauts on Apollo 13, then it is an item you should not pass on.
MacGyver (the original MacGyver and not the rebooted version) famously said, “If I had some duct tape, I could fix that.” Never without his trusty Swiss army knife and duct tape, MacGyver saved the day in each episode. Whether he was using it to keep on a baby’s diaper or to repair a hole in a hot-air balloon, he always found a way to use duct tape to solve both common and complex problems.
Don’t mistakenly believe this was just a gimmick for the show. Duct tape has proven its worth over and over since it was invented during WWII...including being used by Apollo 13 astronauts to help devise air scrubbers to stay alive. Forbes has even named it a “must-have tool” and “the other greatest tool ever.” The uses for duct tape today have expanded to the DIY movement, with individuals crafting everything from wallets to bags to complete prom outfits using only duct tape.
But don’t let the duct tape’s star power on MacGyver or its role in the DIY movement fool you. Duct tape can absolutely be a lifesaver in a crisis, which is why it’s a must-have for your survival kit.
The history of duct tape
Scientists for Permacell, a division of the Johnson and Johnson Company, made duct tape in the 1940s to help soldiers keep their supplies dry. Since it was used to repel water, it was called “duck tape.” Originally, it was army green to be camouflaged.
According to AZ Central, “Duct tape got its start during World War II when soldiers needed a better way to keep water from leaking into ammunition cases. Reportedly, the mother of two sailors came up with the idea of using a fabric tape that she had tested in the ammunition factory where she worked. […] The rest is history. Soldiers used the tape for everything from repairing Jeeps to firearms.”
After the war, duct tape was used for the ducts in homes (this is one of the few things it is no longer used for today), and the color changed from green to gray, and the name changed from “duck tape” to duct tape.
25 ways to use duct tape in emergencies
Since it was first made, the combination of cloth-backed and waterproof adhesive tape has proven to be useful in a variety of ways and extremely helpful in emergencies.
- Seal homes from hazardous materials
FEMA recommends duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal a room when you need to shelter in place in the event of a chemical or biological attack. Apply it around door frames and windows to create the seal.
- Cure warts
Forbes reports, “[Duct tape] even cures warts. In 2002, doctors at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington treated a group of patients by having them apply small duct tape patches every day; the warts disappeared in 85% of those treated, making the therapy far more effective than freezing with liquid nitrogen, the standard treatment.”
- Close up wounds – even gunshot wounds
Duct tape can be used in first aid as a temporary bandage or suture. It can even be used to close up sucking chest wounds from gunshots.
- Fix broken windows
Duct tape can keep a broken window from shattering.
- Protect pipes from freezing
You can wrap water pipes with towels and duct tape to keep them from freezing.
- Repair shoes
If you have a shoe break or experience a shoe blowout, duct tape can keep the sole attached.
- Repair furniture
From patching rips and tears on couches to mending broken legs on chairs, duct tape can repair furniture.
- Hang lights
Many people use duct tape to help them hang Christmas lights, but this same strategy can be used in survival situations.
- Remove hair
While it may not be the most comfortable way to remove excess hair, duct tape can rip it off.
- Hem clothing
Clothing that is too big or too long can be temporarily hemmed using duct tape.
- Make a splint or sling
Using only duct tape and branches, you can make a splint for a sprained or broken ankle. Duct tape also makes an instant arm sling for a broken arm.
- Repair leaking water container
Don’t forget that its original intent was to protect soldiers’ supplies from getting wet. If you are in a survival situation and your water container starts to leak, duct tape can seal the crack.
- Patch holes
Duct tape works well to patch holes of all types, such as holes in small boats and holes in tents.
- Create rope
By twisting duct tape, you can create a sturdy rope or cord that can be used for multiple purposes in emergencies.
- Make restraints
While we hope you will never be in a situation that requires you to handcuff someone, duct tape makes restraining someone possible without handcuffs.
- Prepare shelter
Duct tape makes preparing shelters with limited supplies easier. For example, duct tape and a garbage bag can protect you from the elements.
- Make weapons
You can use duct tape to fashion arrows or simply tape your knife to a long branch to make a spear.
- Mark your path
In a wilderness setting, you can mark your path by strategically placing duct tape on trees.
- Create a blanket
Duct taping newspapers, cloth, or plastic together is a way to create a blanket.
- Use for a clothesline
Twist duct tape to form a sturdy rope, and duct tape the ends to trees to create a clothesline for hanging damp clothes.
- Reseal food packages
Keep your food fresher longer by using duct tape to reseal your food packages.
- Seal clothes against hazards
If you duct tape the bottom of your pants to your boots, you can protect your feet and legs from snow or insects, depending on the environment.
- Remove splinters
When tweezers just don’t seem to work, duct tape can be applied to the area of the skin with a splinter and then pulled off.
- Make a hat
In an episode of MythBusters, Adam Savage made a hat to protect himself from the sun using only duct tape.
- Provide care for blisters
Provide care for blisters by duct taping a cotton ball over a blister.
Keep in mind that these are just some of the ways you can use duct tape when you get caught in a bind. You can add others in the “Comment” section below. Of course, there are far more ways duct tape can be used creatively in emergencies. Embrace your inner MacGyver; never leave home without duct tape!
Stay alert, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply