Whenever a hike will be longer and more remote than a walk, I take a pack with basic items like water, a small first aid kit, an extra layer of clothing and rain jacket … and string and duct tape. That holds true on overnight backpacking as well. Why? Read on. This isn’t theory, I have experienced most of the uses I list here.
The Many Uses of String
Strong string (like nylon, not cotton) will solve many problems that can arise when out in the wilderness. You may find this in a hardware store but will certainly be available from outdoor equipment sites and stores.
- In case you break a boot lace and didn’t bring an extra one
- You lose the carabiner you were using to clip something onto your pack, like a dog water cup, GPS device, small camera …
- In high wind, you can use string for an eyeglass cord if you don’t normally have one (to keep eyeglasses or sunglasses on face)
- In cold weather when you are wearing gloves, you can use a bit of string tied through a zipper hole for an easier zipper pull with gloves on
- Make a sling if you hurt an arm
- A makeshift leash if your dog is along, you forgot a leash and your dog spots a deer.
- Maybe the strangest use I have had is when we were flown to a lake in Canada for a few nights’ camping. We were planning on fishing for our food and we forgot a fishnet. I stayed up all night, tied a thin branch into a hoop and then used the string to tie knots every inch into a small mesh across the hoop. This served us well in netting fish caught on hook (it was Northern Pike, delicious but a bit bony).
- For campers: If setting a tent in wind and one side of the tent is on rock which you can’t push your tent pin into – use string to stretch out to where you can push the pin into dirt – or tie around a big enough rock.
I will bet there are a lot more cool stories out there—if you have one, share it in the comments section below!
The Many Uses of Duct Tape
I know I don’t have to make the case that duct tape is the top makeshift repair tool in the universe. These are just a few uses relevant to hiking and camping. You don’t need a lot of it, so a small roll for your pack should suffice – outdoor equipment stores even have a waterproof and hand-tearable version of this versatile tape.
- When remote and a blister is developing, you can create a friction-less covering with duct tape over the blister—but don’t try to remove it until you get home. Warning – don’t put the sticky part over the blister itself, that won’t turn out well! For the part of the tape that goes over the blister, put another piece of tape on the sticky side so that the smooth (i.e. non-sticky) side is facing the blister. This will keep any of the sticky adhesive from touching the blister itself, and removing the tape when you get home won’t rip the skin off the blister.
- Fix a rip in clothing where you don’t want to be exposed, especially rain gear.
- Hold a shoe or boot together that is falling apart or patch a boot or shoe hole that is allowing dirt or pebbles in.
- If you have a colored version (recommended), you can use pieces for a trail marker (breadcrumbs) by taping a piece at intervals along your path for visibility on branches or rocks. This can be very useful if you’re worried about getting lost. Upon return, be sure to collect your markers so that you don’t leave a mess behind.
- Use the sticky side to remove ticks that aren’t too burrowed in – for humans or dogs
- Fix a broken sunglass side arm.
- For campers: Fix a hole in a tent
I could go on, but if I had to guess, protecting a developing blister is probably the most important and most critical use of duct tape. But if you’ve ever experienced any of these other scenarios, you’ll know duct tape is worth its weight in gold on the trail.