Rec & Sports » Rec Extra

Hooray for Duct Tape

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Every outdoor magazine in the country provides in-depth gear reviews for readers. These reviews are informative and fun to look at, but most of the time I can't afford the gear the mag is promoting. The review I'm hoping to see in print some time in the near future is a review of duct tape.

Duct tape, as air duct technicians can attest, could be the greatest cure-all the world has ever known. Just ask that guy who has held his tail light on his car with the sticky silver tape for the last five years. If there is a drawback to using duct tape, it's that gear fixed with this ingenious product sort of remains in an un-fixed state, somewhere between repaired and damaged. Thanks to the tape, it's working so why fix it?

The tape is a badge of honor in the outdoor world, representing everything that is independent and driven. If you see a skier with a duct tape patch on her jacket or a mountain biker with taped up shoes, it screams, "My shoes have been on every rough and tumble, dirty, single track trail around here or I just threw myself off a 30-footer and caught my jacket on a tree. And I don't give a rat's ass how I look!"

And duct tape speaks volumes about our society (excuse me for applying duct tape to social criticism). Maybe the silver sticky stuff and its use on everything from a broken fly rod to patching engine wires says that we are a reactionary public. One that depends on quick-fix solutions. We don't necessarily plan ahead. We problem solve by reacting to the situation at hand. We don't build a public transportation system. We add little bits of road every summer during the most inopportune time. Little patches of asphalt to try and ease the problem. We didn't try and prevent a growing terrorist situation that reared its ugly head a long time ago with diplomatic solutions and a change in policy with regard to foreign resource collection. No, after the problem reached epidemic proportions (9/11), we react by carpet-bombing the hell out of some "terrorist friendly" country. A duct tape approach to foreign policy.

I am part of this reactionary public. Reaction is my action. I've paddled entire seasons with my leaky kayak patched up with a few strips of duct tape. More than once, I've been skiing in the middle of nowhere, broken a binding and duct taped the ski to my foot so I could make it back to my car. Patched leaky waders. Used duct tape to protect open wounds in place of Band-Aids. Even taped a sprained ankle using the stuff.

Recently, duct tape was given the stamp of approval by the medical society. A Reuter's article reported that dermatologists recommend applying duct tape to warts. Placing adhesive tape over a wart is sometimes prescribed by doctors but duct tape is stickier and less likely to unravel than medical tapes. U.S. Army researchers found that using duct tape for wart removal took about a month. The common wart is caused by a virus and can be contagious. The growth is suffocated by placing duct tape over the top of it. The dead tissue can gradually be rubbed off using an emery board.

Duct tape has also been stylized. I had a friend who used a homemade duct tape wallet for years. If you get the chance sometime, check out www.ducttapefashion.com. The Web site has all of these duct tape made products made for you to order. There are duct tape hats, belts, purses and backpacks. They actually ask you to pay for these products. I say just blatantly copy them. Yeah, checkout the product and then make it for yourself. With enough imagination you could even furnish a whole set of plates to eat on--call it duct tape china.

It would be great to buy some of the newest outdoor gear that is profiled in the glossy mags every month, maybe replace the mildewed thermal underwear rotting in my basement, but I guess a roll of duct tape will easily suffice.