The very nature of being a ready traveler means making sure you’re relatively self-reliant while seeking new adventures in far-off lands. Most travelers have a small list of things they will not leave home without, and for many experienced travelers – even business travelers, duct tape is at the very top of that list.
Duct tape is a cloth-backed adhesive tape that is more easily ripped than cut – so you don’t need a cutting tool to use it. It’s got three layers, the polyethylene (top side), the fabric mesh between, and the adhesive, which makes it a very tough tape. Originally called duck tape – it was green colored and waterproof – hence, like a duck’s back.
The typically silver tape now gets its name for fixing duct work, but it’s durability, stickiness, and flexibility has made it very popular for all kinds of uses. Duct tape even has a fan club – the Duct Tape Guys – who publish a range of medical uses for duct tape, calling it HMO on a Roll.
For travelers, however, duct tape can be used to:
1. Repair broken things
Simple wear and tear can cause all kinds of things to break, but when a traveler is counting on that thing to be in one piece and functional, duct tape comes to the rescue.
- Repair a broken luggage handle or keep your bag closed if the zipper fails.
- Fix a falling hem in your pants or skirt – helpful if you’re already late for a meeting or tour!
- Seal a tear in your mosquito netting or in the screen of your room to prevent mosquito-borne diseases.
Fixing broken things is true to the roots of duct tape, but so is sealing leaking things.
2. Seal leaking things
There are all kinds of reasons a traveler may want to seal something up on their trip, and duct tape is often the perfect temporary fix – if not very fashionable.
- Seal up the drain in the sink in your room to do laundry.
- Fix a tear in your raincoat, windbreaker, ski pants, or camera case to protect what’s inside from the elements.
- Seal an air vent that’s letting in noxious smells or noises.
We’ve even read that it’s a great idea for sealing the door and air vents in case of fire – to keep smoke out. It would certainly work better than dampened towels.
3. Aid medical emergencies
In a medical emergency, it’s all about preventing further damage or infection while you get the injured to a medical care facility.
- Got a deep cut that probably needs stitches, but no hospital for miles? Clean the cut well using the products in your travel medical kit. Then use duct tape to close the wound tightly. Get to medical care as soon as possible and keep the wound clean.
- A scratch or cut on your feet may not be a big deal back home, but get one while galavanting around the tropics and you’re at risk for microorganisms and bacteria that can cause a mild infection that can be treated with antibiotics or soft tissue necrosis that requires amputation! Seal the sore with duct tape – after cleaning it, of course – and get to medical care as soon as possible.
- If you severely twist your ankle or knee, or break a finger or leg, you can use the duct tape to brace or splint the injury to keep it stable until you can get help. When creating a splint with duct tape, immobilize the broken bit by taping it to a stick, pole, or other body part. And yes, get medical treatment as soon as possible.
Got a blister from lots of walking? While not exactly a medical emergency, if you feel a blister coming on, cover the area with duct tape and continue your journey. If you know you’re prone to blisters at certain spots on your feet, cover those areas at the start and avoid developing painful blisters.
4. Hide things
If you’re traveling in a foreign country or have doubts about the security of the hotel safe or the safe in your room, you can use your duct tape to hide things.
- Tape your passport to your stomach and wear your clothes over it – more secure than a money belt!
- Tape an envelope with flat items under a piece of furniture – even the maid won’t find it because it’s held in position by the tape.
- If traveling by car, tape your travel documents up under the seat to keep them secure and hidden.
5. Secure things
If you’re traveling a lot of planes, buses, trains, and taxis, use your duct tape to secure your bags as a simple theft deterrent.
- Wrap the duct tape around your luggage, tucking the zipper pulls under the tape, as a way to deter baggage handlers and other transportation officials from pilfering your bags.
Of course, you’ll have to do this AFTER you get through security, but it’s cheap and easy tamper proofing – especially if you need a nap!
6. Stop annoyances
There are many little annoyances we run into when traveling. And no, we’re not talking about taping the rowdy kid that keeps kicking you in the back to his seat – although we understand the urge.
There are legitimate ways to use duct tape to stop little annoyances from ruining your enjoyment of your trip.
- Close the gap between curtains that’s letting in light when you’re trying to sleep.
- Keep small items (pins, anyone?) that are easily lost by taping them together.
- Seal the door on an air conditioning unit that rattles all night.
We’ve also heard that it makes great flypaper – just hang a strip of it from the ceiling or doorways to catch unwanted insects.
7. Identify things
While duck tape started out as green, duct tape is most known in a silver color. Today, however, duct tape comes in a range of sizes and colors and can be used to identify things:
- Your luggage – it’s cheaper than a fancy luggage tag and dual-purpose as a theft deterrent.
- Your room – on a cruise, many people find that marking their door helps them find it more easily in those long hallways.