The Website Of Wilderness Travel

The Great Tape-Off

Find the best duct tape for your needs.

By Steve Howe, BACKPACKER Rocky Mountain Editor

We’ve heard stories of folks peeling a 2-year-old wrap of duct tape off a trekking pole to patch a hole in a raincoat successfully or to keep a snapped tent pole together. These tales beg the question: Just how good is the silvery beacon of hope?

In the quest for adhesive enlightenment, we visited a few local hardware stores, grabbed samples of whatever they had in stock, and then patched together a few less-than-scientific field tests. Here are the results.


Duct Tape Price Thread count (threads/in.) Sun resistance Stickiness Best for:
Manco X-Treme Duck Tape $2.99/ 4 yd. 66 Excellent Average Fabric repairs, high-abrasion spots, hot weather
Nashua 398 $3.91/ 60 yd. 22 Good Good Preventing blisters, fabric repairs, places that stretch
3M Scotch All-Weather $4.99/ 60 yd. 18 Average Average Preventing blisters, pole repairs, stretchy applications
3M Decorate & Repair $3.19/ 4.72 yd. 20 Good Average Fabric repairs, color-coding, water resistance
Manco Colored Duct Tape $2.99/ 5 yd. 24 Good Good Fabric repairs, color-coding, waterproof repairs
Tartan $1.19/ 10 yd. 20 Average Average Minor repairs, preventing blisters, cooler weather
3M Home & Shop Duct 4.59/ 60 yd. 18 Average Good Preventing blisters, fabric repairs
Anchor $2.39/ 10 yd. 18 Good Excellent General repairs, fixing poles, preventing blisters
3M Scotch A/C Ventilating Duct $10.59/ 60 yd. 18 Good Excellent Wrap repairs, preventing blisters, stretchy applications
Manco Duck Tape $2.99/ 5 yd. 18 Excellent Excellent Durability, pole wrapping

Thread count: Number of fabric threads in a 1-inch width of tape. The higher the thread count, the stronger the tape, and the easier and straighter it tears.

Sun resistance: After less than 72 hours in the hot desert, test tapes showed significant variation in durability and adhesion.

  • Excellent-just stick it on and quit worrying for the next year
  • Good-it'll last a good long time
  • Average-for a week or two, you're golden
  • Poor-peels up in no time
Stickiness: How well it sticks to surfaces that aren't smooth.
  • Excellent-forget about ever removing it
  • Good-with a bit of elbow grease, you can get this off
  • Average-it'll stick to smooth surfaces, but won't last long on textured stuff
  • Poor-you want it to stick?

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