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10 Survival Uses for Duct Tape

by Ryan Dotson

duct tape in a tool bag of other items

Whether bugging out in the wilderness or bugging in on your homestead, you need multipurpose tools. It’s simply not practical to have tools with only one function. If you go through my survival supplies, almost every item has multiple uses. It can be expensive to pick up some of these multipurpose tools for your survival tool kit. However, there is one common easy to buy product that is a necessity for your supplies. That product is duct tape.

Duct tape was originally created to patch and connect sections of ductwork. They needed a product that would stay in place and create an air-tight seal, even when blasted with hot air.

The solution they came up with was a fabric mesh applied to a plastic sheet then coated with a super-sticky adhesive. The mesh made the tape stronger and prevented any warping or melting once it was applied to ductwork. This mesh strength and the sticky adhesive makes it ideal for survival use.

1. Cordage – One of the most difficult tools to replicate in a survival scenario is cordage. You can use natural materials to create cordage, but it’s often not as strong as it needs to be. It’s also very time consuming to create your own. Simply extend a strip of duct tape and twist it several times to make cordage that is strong and reliable.

Human arm with cordage made from duct tape

You can then use it to build a shelter, make a clothesline, hang a bear bag, build a bed, create a bow drill set for fire, suspend a bottle of water or pot over a fire, make snare traps, or catch fish.

2. First Aid – There are dozens of first aid uses for duct tape. When I split the knuckle of my finger to the bone, I held the wound closed with duct tape.

Person putting duct tape on their heel

You can use duct tape for compression on a sprained ankle or broken ribs, for a tourniquet, to hold together a splint, as butterfly bandages, protect a blistered foot, make a crutch or sling, or to remove splinters.

3. Patch Fabric – The mesh in duct tape makes it ideal for repairing any type of fabric. Tape both sides then add a few hand stitches to make sure the repair is permanent.

This is great for tents, clothing, hiking packs, screens, boots, food packages, sleeping bags, rain gear, tarps, blankets, gloves, and emergency blankets.

4, Home Repairs – Because of the waterproof nature of duct tape, it works well for quick repairs around the homestead. You can use duct tape to patch busted pipes, secure a broken window, repair leaky downspouts, fix a leaky roof, and attach broken siding. Use duct tape to black out your windows so intruders can’t see in. Also you can seal the house from radiation or chemical content in the air. I recently used duct tape for a temporary seal on a leaky camper.

5. Waterproof Seal for Small Projects – Again, the waterproof nature of duct tape can work in your favor for smaller projects. The most common way I use it is to create a makeshift cup to hold water for drinking.

Glass cup pouring water into a cup made from duct tape

You can also seal an ammo box, fix a leaky boat, fix an oozing trash can, or seal a broken water bottle.

6. Collect Food – In addition to making a cordage snare trap, there are multiple other ways to use duct tape to collect food. You can use it to make a fish trap with a bottle. Affix a blade or sharp stone to the end of a staff for a spear. Wrap duct tape around an aluminum can with the sticky side out and put a flashlight inside to create an insect trap. This will attract all kinds of insects at night, many of which will be edible.

7. Repair a Vehicle – Duct tape can give you at least a temporary fix for all kinds of things that can go wrong with a vehicle. I’ve used it on a leaky radiator hose to get home from a road trip.

Inside a car's hood with duct tape covering hoses

I once used duct tape to hold a loose headlight in place after an accident so I could see to get home. You can use it to attach or patch wiring, seal leaks in exhaust, repair lights, fix broken windows, and seal fluid reservoirs. Duct tape can even work for patching bullet holes.

8.Get You Home – Duct tape can help you be rescued when lost in the wilderness. Use tape to blaze a trail as you hike so that rescue personnel can follow the reflective trail. You can signal for rescue with duct tape using its reflective surface. You can make a flag and attach it to a long pole to flag down rescue teams. Use it like a signal mirror to reflect the sun back at rescuers. If you’re avoiding capture, use the tape to attach leaves and other debris to your clothes to keep hidden in the wild. If you win in a confrontation, use duct tape to handcuff your captive. Just be sure that you roll the edges a bit so they can’t split the tape.

9. Create Insulation – The reflective properties of the back side of duct tape make it functional for reflecting heat back to your body. This can be used on the inside of your boots, a blanket, a sleeping bag, clothing, or a shelter. For example, you can build a lean-to and attach a sheet of duct tape inside of the roof. This reflects not only body heat but will also reflect back heat from a fire if you have it close enough. This is the same principle as an emergency blanket.

10. Other – There are several survival uses for duct tape that don’t fall into these other categories. The only limit to the uses of duct tape is your imagination.

Duct tape meme

You can use it to repair eyeglasses, hang lights, fix broken tent poles, mend a broken fishing rod, make a belt or waterproof hat, and wrap the top of your boots to keep out water or snow.

Final Thoughts

Duct tape is one of the best multipurpose tools that you can use in survival scenarios. I use duct tape several times a week just for random purposes around the house. Be aware that there are varying degrees of quality with this type of product. The most noticeable difference is that the adhesive seems to break down over several years on the cheaper products. This doesn’t happen if you spend a few extra dollars. If you don’t currently use duct tape on a regular basis, I suggest you go buy some and keep it handy. You will be surprised by how many ways this wonderful invention can make your life easier.

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