Best Duct Tape

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Posted August 11, 2014 by Joel Schopp in Backpacking
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In our testing Gorilla tape is the best duct tape.  It is sticky and tough on an amazing number of surfaces.

Introduction

There is an age old argument about what is the most useful thing for makeshift camping repairs.  Bailing wire, paracord or duct tape.  I don’t see how it is even close.  If I’m outside I have duct tape on me.  Maybe not the whole roll, but enough to fix what needs fixing.  Dried your rain jacket too close to a wood stove at a backwoods cabin and melted a hole, duct tape.  Animal tore a hole in your tent, duct tape.  Blisters, duct tape.  Large wound, gauze and duct tape.  Broken sandal, duct tape.  Ants climbing down into your hammock, duct tape.  Cactus thorns, duct tape.  Hole in your kayak, duct tape.  Broken paddle, duct tape.  Split your pants open, duct tape.  Basically, if something goes wrong you will be happier if you have duct tape than if you didn’t.

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What makes Duct Tape Duct Tape?

There is no formal definition of what duct tape is.  Originally, duct tape was used for sealing air ducts. However, today most duct tapes probably aren’t well suited for that purpose.

In my mind duct tape has a few key properties.

  • You have to be able to tear it off by hand without a knife in a perfectly straight line.  This is achieved by having a cross-hatched fabric layer.
  • It must stick to basically anything that isn’t wet.  This is achieved with a thick layer of adhesive.
  • Once stuck it must stay stuck.  It must stay stuck in all circumstances including if it gets wet.
  • Toughness, flexibility, and durability are expected.

What Makes Gorilla Tape Better Than Other Duct Tape?

Black is the new Silver

I had long been a believer in Gorilla Tape when I heard an interesting story.  At a seminar for a 265 mile canoe race an old legend was talking about what you have to bring with you to survive the race.  He relayed a story of literally breaking a canoe in half, piecing it back together with gorilla tape, and finishing the race.  Among competitors in that race the only tape I ever saw was gorilla tape.

STRONGER

Typical Duct tape will break with 45lb of force.  Gorilla tape takes about 85lb, nearly twice as much.

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STICKIER

If you put Gorilla tape and typical duct tape side by side you will see Gorilla tape is much thicker, and most of that comes from having a much thicker layer of glue.  For smooth surfaces both regular duct tape and Gorilla tape will stick plenty well, though Gorilla tape will stick stronger.  Where Gorilla tape really shines is on rough uneven surfaces.  Regular duct tape often fails to stick to these surfaces at all.  Gorilla tape of the other hand will stick if you press hard to deform the thicker glue down into the crevices.  Rough cut lumber, uneven stone, and tree bark; yes, yes, and yes.

MORE DURABLE

We have to warn you that there is a danger in having too much durability.  Durability in something meant to be temporary is a double edged sword.  Temporary fixes of Gorilla tape can sometimes turn into permanent fixes of Gorilla tape because they work too well.  It’s pretty easy to tear your puffy jacket, slap some Gorilla tape on it and then the Gorilla tape does such a good job that you become that guy who walks around with duct tape on his jacket forever.  Sure you could take that duct tape off and sew up the tear, or you could just not do anything and leave the Gorilla tape there.  Or say you duct tape a broken fiberglass tent pole together, and when you get home you find an extra pole segment that you could replace that broken pole segment with.  Only you don’t and then suddenly twelve camping trips later you still have a broken tent pole held together by Gorilla tape.  Pretty soon all your gear is held together by Gorilla tape and you keep having the thought you should fix it “properly” and you never do because you never have to.

What Others Say

Popular Mechanics did an abusive lab test and declared Gorilla Tape the winner.

The Sweethome did what we think is the best set of head to head duct tape testing on the internet.  They show Gorilla tape wins hands down in material strength, adhesion to wood, and adhesion to masonry.  They declare another tape the winner because they think that Gorilla Tape is too thick and they had trouble wrapping it around a pine cone.  Our results are based on field testing, but we’ve never had to wrap duct tape around a pine cone before.  We can’t in fact remember a single real world scenario where Gorilla tape was too thick for the fixes we needed to make.

160 Amazon customers rated it 4.5 out of 5 stars

Survivalist Boards had a discussion on Duct Tape.  Lots of praise for Gorilla tape.

At Home Depot 48 customers rated Gorilla tape 4.8 out of 5 stars.


About the Author

Joel Schopp

Joel is a a rock climber, canoer, backpacker, camper, father, skiier, programmer, swimmer, cyclist, zipliner, kayaker, and adventurer in no particular order. He is president of the Central Texas Mountaineers, Texas regional coordinator for the Access Fund, and sits on the board of the non-profit Ascend Outdoor Adventures. Joel wants you to have the best gear so you don't think about your gear and instead focus on the wonder that is the outdoors.

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