Since it was invented more than 70 years ago by a division of Johnson & Johnson, the sticky silver adhesive with durable fabric backing known as duct tape has become a fix-all for everything from mechanical failures to cracked bones.
To get metaphysical: “Duct tape is like the force: It has a dark side and a light side and it holds the universe together,” says Carl Zwanzig, apparently one of duct tape’s largest fans. For an encyclopedic, fascinating, and non-exhaustive look at its uses, visit DuctTapeGuys.com. In the meantime, following are the top five ways to use duct tape in an emergency.
Use duct tape for in-flight modifications. The Apollo 13 crew used it in 1970 to retrofit square carbon dioxide filters into round lunar module receptacles. The down-to-the-wire duct tape solution saved three astronauts’ lives. At top is a shot of astronaut space patches on the Endeavor’s aft flight deck.
Legend has it that after a bear destroyed a fisherman’s plane in the Alaska bush, the pilot radioed a buddy to fly him two tires, sheet plastic, and three cases of duct tape. Using these items, the pilot fixed the plane and flew it home. Hard to believe? Check out this experimental duct-tape flight that the Mythbusters put it into action.
There are countless stories of crafting wilderness casts out of duct tape. Wayne Merry, the Canadian author of a wilderness first-aid book, damaged the medial anterior collateral and posterior collateral ligaments of his knee while cross-country skiing. The 72-year-old wrapped multiple layers of duct tape very tightly around the knee outside the pantleg, eight inches above and below to form a splint, which mobilized his leg enough to allow him to crutch out to the road on his ski poles, according to DuctTapeGuys.com.
From warts to mosquito bites to cuts, duct tape not only protects the open sore, it also reportedly draws white blood cells to the area to ward off infection.
Alaskan snowmobilers apply duct tape to their faces to keep them from freezing during the February Iron Dog, the 2,200-mile longest, toughest snowmobile race in the world. According to Sarah Palin in her book Going Rogue, it’s also a favorite trick of her husband Todd. “All the guys wear it to protect exposed skin from frostbite,” she writes. “It’s not a pretty site when they rip it off their faces at race checkpoints and chunks of skin come with it.”