Duct tape is one of the most useful tools you can carry on the river. It can be used to temporarily patch a raft, stabilize an injury, fix a piece of broken gear, reduce itching from a mosquito bite, and a multitude of other tasks. Look in any boater’s emergency kit and you’ll probably find half a roll of flattened duct tape.
My first year as a raft guide, one of the most memorable tips I received was from a salty, old river dog who showed me how to wrap duct tape around a 3ft. piece of webbing on my water bottle. He called it the Class V water bottle, because no matter how rough the whitewater or sharp the rocks, a carabiner clipped to the webbing was going to keep that bottle in the boat. Shortly after teaching me that trick he demonstrated its resilience by expertly wrapping his boat on an undercut rock, in a Class II rapid. The rapid ripped every piece of rigging out of his boat except his water bottle.
Recently I noticed a friend had about half a roll of duct tape wrapped around his paddle shaft and it made me wonder, how many different places do boaters stash their duct tape and what are the most useful applications? Other places that my friends and coworkers said they stash a bit of duct tape is around a coffee straw or lighter, and around their oar frame.
Here are a few more handy uses for duct tape:
Eye-wear retention – Wet Planet requires some sort of eyewear retention device so that your sunglasses don’t become trash in the river. We sell Chums in our cafe, but we also offer string and duct tape for free. If you lack string, you can also just fold the duct tape over on itself so it doesn’t stick to your hair.
Mark your trail – Use colored duct tape to mark your trail so that if you need to return you don’t get lost. It only takes one confusing junction to make a difficult situation even harder. Please practice “Leave No Trace” and remove the tape as you backtrack.
Make a spear – Stranded and hungry? Tape your river knife to a stick and catch something!
Boat Repair – Whether you’re fixing a blown tube or patching plastic after a bad piton, duct tape can get you out of a bad place if all you need is a temporary repair.
Leave a Note – Bring a Sharpie and never again will you have to explain to your friends why you’re not at the takeout when you said you would be.
Butterfly bandage strips – When you’re out in the wilderness, stopping the bleeding can mean life-or-death. Use duct tape to bind the wound until you can receive proper medical attention.
Blister care – If the blister is unopened, prep the affected area with vaseline or antibiotic. Then wrap the heel in duct tape, making sure to round the edges and place a few strips vertically so that sock friction doesn’t cause the tape to ball up and create pressure points.
Make rope – Fold 3 strips of duct tape slightly longer than the necessary rope onto themselves, then twist and braid the 3 strips. Not recommended in emergency situations or for heavy loads such as a person.