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Peregrine News

Water: Duck Tape

Posted by Joseph Anderson

WATER:  Maintenance and Repair-Duck Tape (Duct Tape) 

In this high tech age of outdoor gadgetry we have been blessed with a gift from the heavens.  Just last year I used this stuff to hold together boots, seal thermarests, repair puffy jackets, hold together a crampon that would have been otherwise lost, repair destroyed ski bindings, bind lacerations, pad feet and  stabilize an ankle.

When I realize, darn forgot my repair kit – I think “No problem, I have Duck Tape.  Forgot Duck tape?  That would be insane.  Granted, when I am in the field for numerous days or even more so guiding, I bring a small first aid and repair kit.  But as I reflect over the years I see leaky tents – fixed, exploded camera – as good as knew.  All because of Duck Tape.

This stuff which is so essential to avoiding mis-adventures is a bit taken for granted.  So much so that the name itself is not exactly clear.  I have naively assumed that it was Duct Tape, with the clever nick name of Duck tape.  But it turns out that the original common name was given during World War II because of its water shedding properties like that of a duck.  It received the nick name duct tape after veterans returned home and found common household uses such as repairing ductwork.  As a matter of fact research conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Environmental Energy Technologies Division concluded that “one should not use duct tape to seal ducts.”  The findings showed that “the tape may burn violently, producing toxic smoke.”  Several states have banned the use of Duck tape for Duct work.

So how is it that this tape came to be?  What was its original purpose?  Well it turns out that what I use duck tape for today is not that out of line with its origin.  Duck tape was invented by the United States Army in 1942 to add water proof sealant to ammunition cases during World War II.   Its use was quickly noted as a fast mechanism for repairing all military equipment such as jeeps, fire arms, and aircraft.  Through the years this became a must for military field repair and by the Vietnam War earned names such as rigger’s tape, hurricane tape, or 100 MPH tape.   Onboard Apollo 13, Duck tape was used to repair the lunar module CO2 scrubbers, saving the lives of the three astronauts on board.  It was also used to repair a damaged fender on a lunar rover on Apollo 17.  Duck tape is used to repair war machines and spaceships….hmmmmm.

As there have been several variations on the construction of the tape the basic structure for field repair duct tape remains the same.  It’s a 1 7/8ths width cloth backed tape sealed with polyethylene sealant and a rubber based adhesive.
So what is the best way to carry this fix-it-all super tape into the field? I find wrapping the tape over and over itself on my ski/trekking pole is a useful technique. I wrap enough so as to have a mini-role that rips off easily. It is also helpful to make a mini roll and throw it into a first aid kit and another in the top of my pack.  Either way, there is no need to ever be in the field without it.