Duct tape is magic


Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped. –Andy Weir, THE MARTIAN

Image downloaded long ago via GIS


I am currently reading an excellent hard SciFi book called The Martian.

The plot is simple: a near future (2030 maybe?) astronaut gets stranded on Mars. Through ingenuity, luck, and hard work, he manages to survive the initial mishaps. What happens next is up to the reader to find out.

The story itself is fantastic. No aliens, no mutant superpowers, no hand waves to explain the future technology.  Just a rollicking good story with a wise-cracking astronaut who uses his training, education, experience, and grit to solve problems.

And one of the keys to his success is duct tape. The line above came at a crucial moment. But duct tape gets used more than a few times in the book.

In real life, duct tape was a critical material in saving the lives of the Apollo 13 crew members.


And repairing a fender on the Apollo 17 lunar rover. From Wiki Commons


I noticed about new versus experienced people outdoors that the newcomers lack duct tape.

Duct tape can help in medical uses, with gear repair, marking equipment, a makeshift utensil, a shim, and many, many, MANY other things.


~80+ miles left to a 2650+ mile hike, and my shoes blow out in the middle of nowhere? Make a figure eight repair on the shoe with duct tape! Of course.


There are better solution-specific tapes and materials. But their use is limited compared to duct tape and, well, solution-specific.

To quote Jamie of Myth Busters: 

Duct tape is not a perfect solution to anything. But with a little creativity, in a pinch, it’s an adequate solution to just about everything. 

Duct tape seems to have magical properties that make it so great.  Inexpensive, ubiquitous, and versatile. All gear should be as good.

Duct tape often gets sold in an out-of-the-way fishing resort, at a dollar store, or a  gas station.

There are a handful of items I constantly and consistently take in all my days and nights spent outdoors, be it a day ski tour or a multi-week excursion.  And duct tape is one of those items.

Duct tape IS magic.

Spend time outdoors? Take some duct tape.

Some birthday wishes from my friends’ children

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9 years ago

I always carry some duct tape with me. I cut 24 inches or tape and wrap it around a cut section of straw. This keeps it safe in my pack away from the elements .

9 years ago
Reply to  Jarrett

Better yet, wrap it around a pen or pencil. Double utility, and it saves space!!

9 years ago

Wrap some around your water bottle. Wrap some around your trekking pole shafts. If you have aluminum upper shafts, it will help insulate them. Keep some handy so that you don’t have to hunt for it when you need it.