The 8 Best Uses for Duct Tape While Backpacking

Those who say water is the universal solvent have clearly not experienced duct tape.  The band-aid for life, duct tape is a temporary solution for almost anything.  Of course, you have probably always valued duct tape as an urbane, distinguished mark of ingenuity – but did you know that even grimy hikers use it?  Here are a few common uses:


1.  Patches:  Just about everything from your rain fly to your dry sacks can be patched with a little duct tape.  It’s waterproof, durable, and cheap, so when it falls off you can add another piece.  It’s not the most aesthetic solution, but neither is thru-hiking.


Things you can patch with duct tape:

  • Dry Sacks
  • Water bottle
  • Rainfly
  • Backpack
  • Open-cell pad
  • Rain jacket / poncho
  • Down jacket / down sleeping bag
  • Trekking Poles or Tent Poles
  • Your relationship

It can’t fix everything, but it helps.

2.  First Aid:  Many hikers already know that duct tape is fantastic for covering blisters or hot spots, but this is only the beginning of its first-aid utility.  Other uses include:

  • A waterproof barrier over pre-existing bandages
  • A splinting aid
  • Remover of cactus thorns, splinters, or ticks
  • Wart remover (really!)

Hiker First Aid Essentials

3.  Creation:  The medium of the true trail artist, duct tape can be turned into a zipper, clasp, spoon, rope, cup, hat, or companion.


Picture found Here. NOTE: This is not the most UL solution for trail loneliness.

4.  Organization:  What is that word, you ask?  We all know those hikers who swagger about with a clanking assortment of pots, cups, shoes, cameras, and all other manner of absurdity festooning their 75 liter backpack, but I will be the anal hiker who seals, labels, and packs away my various items into a tight, carefully-weighted bundle.  Duct-tape is your best friend for that.


Good thing for labels.

5.  NORO warnings:


Or I guess you could leave them other notes too.

6. Trekking Pole Decoration – Nothing sends the message ‘Hikertrash coming’ like duct tape on your trekking poles.  But watch which color you use, as they often indicate which hiking gang you belong to.  You don’t want to be seen entering the Scarlet Scalper territory with Blue Banjoes colors flying high.  That could get ugly.


But really, shouldn’t everyone eat more pie?

7.  Covering the mouth of your fellow hikers – Sick of complaining?  Or just hearing the same stories over and over?  Maybe you know someone who prematurely calls out shelter sightings miles before the actual shelter.  Duct tape can fix that.


8.  Hikertrash prom!  A classic conundrum.  Here you are, in Damascus, actually somewhat clean for a change, and you don’t have a dress to wear to the hikertrash prom.  Don’t worry!  With a little leopard print duct tape and a poncho, you’re well on your way to being the belle of the ball!


Hikertrash prom queen and king circa 2013 – Sprouts and Odie

Find some much better shots from this year here


Places where duct tape has failed me:

I know it’s hard to believe, but even duct tape sometimes has its limitations.  You can’t eat it, it doesn’t keep you warm at night, and it has yet to generate its own wifi.  To equalize this clearly pro-duct tape article, here are a couple scenarios that let me down:

1.  Sole Replacer – I followed in the literal and metaphorical footsteps of so many doomed hikers before me when I tried to tape my shoes together after the sole all but completely detached itself.  As I learned the hard way, duct tape can be walked off within a mile, so unless you want to stop dozens of times in a day to re-apply, I recommend using zip ties or strong cord threaded through the sole to keep it on in a pinch.  Although duct tape isn’t bad for holding on your sole while glue dries.


2.  Making my own rain skirt and gaiters:


…It didn’t work very well.

3.  Repairing a shredded six person raft – My fellow trail workers and I discovered a completely shredded raft deep in the Oregon woods and hiked it out, along with all our tools. With the universal platitude that ‘duct tape can fix anything’ ringing in our heads, we tried to patch the hopelessly torn albatross of a boat, but after hours of work air still continued its hasty exodus through the tape, leaving our boat and our hopes deflated.


Brandon hiking with the raft.  And everything he owns.

To my fellow hikers – Don’t give up on anything until you’ve given it a genuine adhesive try!  Of the things that may disappoint you on the trail – weather, empty trail magic coolers, other hikers, and your own bowels – just remember that duct tape will support you (maybe literally) 9 times out of 10.  So stay positive!

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 3

  • Johnny LoveFive : Mar 15th

    If you’re going to use the name brand for an adhesive bandage (Band Aid), then you should be calling this by its name brand DUCK Tape.

  • Judith : Feb 24th

    My, I had some epic chuckles! But I wonder: why did the rain skirt and gaiters fail? On the pic they look quite viable!


What Do You Think?