Solutions for the Everyday Carry of Duct Tape

by A Manly Guest Contributor on February 14, 2013 · 56 comments

in Manly Skills, Self-Reliance

Editor’s note: This post was written by Mark Greenman and originally ran on ITS Tactical.

Duct tape is one of the most useful things on the planet. It can be used to secure, repair, or build in ways that other materials such as rope, glue, or conventional tape cannot.

Because of the hundreds of applications for this miracle material, I have always loved duct tape. I’m especially fond of Gorilla brand duct tape, which has 50% more glue than conventional silver duct tape and adheres to damn near anything.

Unfortunately, while convenient to use, duct tape is very inconvenient to carry around. It comes in large, 20-yard rolls with a big hole in the center, which makes the tape take up far more space than it should. When you’re carrying a full bag, that extra space could be crucial.

I have found three different ways to easily carry around duct tape: in a mini-roll, a collapsed roll, or on a keychain.

A Multi-Use Item

Many of us in the tactical world already have paracord (a lightweight nylon cord, originally used in parachutes) integrated into our everday carry kit (EDC), either as shoelaces or as fancy lanyards and paracord bracelets. This is good, but cordage has limited utility. In three years I have yet to use my survival bracelet or my white paracord shoelaces. Meanwhile, duct tape is very useful in day-to-day life and unlike cordage, it cannot be improvised. You either have it or you don’t.

I have been carrying duct tape on my keys now for several months. It holds up great and it has come in handy many times. I’ve used it to fashion an improvised bandage and to remove fine splinters of cactus fruit from skin. The methods outlined in this article will ensure that you always have some duct tape when you need it. And chances are you will need it.


To create a mini-roll, I broke off a 2-inch section of a plastic hanger and carefully wrapped the duct tape around it. It was a pain to do, taking about 15 minutes, but the result was a good amount of tape in a much more compact package. I’ve been carrying a roll of tape like this in my suitcase for the last several years.

Recently Gorilla Tape has come out with a Handy Roll which consists of 30 feet of 1-inch diameter duct tape. This is a great off-the-shelf solution, yielding a very portable roll for around $5.

Collapsed Roll


While a step in the right direction, the Gorilla Tape Handy Roll still has that obnoxious empty donut hole in the middle. I have limited space for my gear, and this was driving me crazy. A tip I picked up on a forum is to remove the cardboard center of the tape, then press in flat. A collapsed roll can be used with any size roll of duct tape to save space.

Using a box cutter, I cut through the cardboard on the inside, then slowly peeled it out bit by bit until it was all gone. It took me about 10 minutes. The roll could then be pushed flat.

A few months ago, I used this mini-roll to fix a girl’s sandal at the beach. She was very pleased and I was feeling very satisfied with my level of preparedness, but when I got home later that day I began to re-evaluate my level of preparedness. If I hadn’t been carrying my bag, I wouldn’t have had any duct tape and I wouldn’t have been able to complete the repair.

I decided then and there that I wanted a way to integrate some duct tape into what I carry every day in my pocket.

Duct Tape Keychain

For this method you will need paracord or wire and some duct tape. I first completed this project using wire, but have since decided that paracord is a superior material. In this tutorial I will provide instructions for completing the project using paracord, although the pictures are from my first build, which used wire.

First, cut off some paracord and take out the guts. All you want is the nylon sheath. Tie a length of the gutted cord together so that it’s sufficiently longer than your roll of duct tape. If you want to use this for your keys, you will only want a short loop sticking out. If you want to use it as a fob for a knife or flashlight lanyard, give yourself a longer loop.

Next, place the paracord with the knot on the edge of the tape, and press it in so that it’s firmly stuck to the glue. (Note that the photo shows the wire from the initial prototype, but the procedure is the same for either material.)


From there, carefully roll the tape around the paracord. Try to be as even as possible, but don’t worry if it’s not completely straight. Most of mine are a bit crooked, but they function just the same.

When the keychain is as wide as you want, simply cut the tape off and you’re done. I wanted mine to be the same diameter as a roll of chap-stick, which gave me about 18 inches of duct tape. Obviously, if you want more tape, you can increase the diameter, but I personally like my gear with minimum bulk.

An optional final step is to untie the knot, cut off the excess paracord, and melt it flush with the tape. This provides a more finished look.

You can now easily integrate some duct tape into your EDC, either on your keys, attached to a Swiss Army Knife, or as a zipper pull. A foot and a half of duct tape may not sound like much, but it’s enough to get most things done.

How has duct tape come in handy for you in a tricky situation?


ITS Tactical (Imminent Threat Solutions) is a website run by Military Veterans and those serving in the Special Operations community that covers skill-set information, tactical gear reviews, and DIY projects that can help you live better and survive any scenario. Check ‘em out and become a member!

{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Don February 14, 2013 at 5:43 pm

I carry my emergency duct tape wrapped around a black sharpie marker. I have one in the glovebox and one in my back pack. Instant label maker.

2 john February 14, 2013 at 5:44 pm

The option I use to keep duct tape with me is to reuse old gift or store reward cards. The tape stays fairly flat and you carry much more than what you would carry rolled up in some sort of tube.

3 Jay February 14, 2013 at 5:59 pm

For years now, I have carried duct tape wrapped the size of the chapstick as above. I have not needed it one single time.

4 Spencer February 14, 2013 at 6:00 pm

I usually have a water bottle on me or in my pack, so just taking the tape off the roll and re-winding it around the bottle works wonders. Haven’t noticed a reduction in stickiness either.

5 Greer February 14, 2013 at 6:16 pm

I carry duct tape and cordage in my school bag. Both came in handy when the lock on our Nordic Skiing team’s Thule rack broke and we had no way to secure the thing closed for the ride home from the race. Enter duct tape and p-chord to save the day. I wrap my duct tape around an old gift card, but I am going to make a keychain this weekend!

6 Len February 14, 2013 at 7:28 pm

1. A friend had some floor work done in his basement. When the work was completed, the remounted flush toilet was about 3/4 inch off-center from the wall pipe. Duct tape to the rescue! That was 10 years ago and the wrapped joint is still holding up fine.

2. In pre-9/11 lower Manhattan the city did some sidewlak work next to the Church Street Post Office and I noticed they had cut a temporary 6″ hole near the curb. It was covered with duct tape overnight. (I often wonder about THAT solution).

7 Justin February 14, 2013 at 8:05 pm

I keep some 100 mph duct tape around a small tactical flashlight I always keep in my pocket. We had freezer go down at work and we had to up tarps up to keep what cool air was left in. No duct tape in the store? Oh wait, I have some! Plus with the tape around the flashlight if I have to hold it between my teeth, no biting on metal, no chipped tooth.

8 Tanner February 14, 2013 at 8:44 pm

I’ve always found it convenient to carry duct tape wrapped around a cheap gas station lighter. I don’t smoke but this has always come in handy while on a camping trip.

9 Anoron February 15, 2013 at 1:16 am

Most camping supply stores carry something similar to this (a roll smaller than the standard waterproof match tube with no core). I keep these stocked in my first aid, survival, and camping kits.

10 Mr. Blather February 15, 2013 at 2:53 am

I carry duct tape wrapped around an old store card. I’ve actually used it three times: once to help close a package; once to help a friend put his glasses back together; and once to hold my cellphone together after I dropped it. (Actually, i still use if for that last purpose.)

11 BadgerPrepper February 15, 2013 at 5:54 am

I keep some around a Bic lighter and some in my wallet around a cut down, old credit/gift card. I use it all the time!

12 Tom February 15, 2013 at 6:14 am

I have a roll in my EDC wrapped around a long cotter pin. I chucked the end opposite the eye into my drill and “power wound” it on from the roll held by a screwdriver in my bench vise. Turns a tedious ten minute job into a 30 second task. The eye can be used to secure it to a keychain.

13 Gernot_Freiherr_von_Donnerbalken February 15, 2013 at 7:35 am

That article looks like a jolly good idea. I can tell out of my own experience what a jack-of-all-trades you have with a roll of ducktape. I’ve used it all the time during military service and it has always come in handy when there was something to fix. I’ve once fixed a torn off rear mirror with that.

14 S.M. Ingersoll February 15, 2013 at 7:40 am

I’m very partial to carrying duct tape, and in particular Gorilla Glue Tape. I’ve used it to tape up windows in my patrol car when the customer in the back got a little too rowdy, amongst the many other uses for it. My method of carry for duct tape is that I take an old hotel room key (the card type) and wrap the card length wise until you’ve got the thickness you want and just slip it in your pocket or EDC pouch. That way you’ve got a sturdy and durable method of carry and you can carry a whole lot of duct tape that way.

15 tsherry February 15, 2013 at 8:48 am

My everyday carry for duct tape is wrapped around my Nalgen bottle. Just about 5′ worth. Another carry that I have in my desk and in my backpack is wrapped around an old credit/plastic/gift card. You can cut the card down to a nice small square.

16 Matthew February 15, 2013 at 9:28 am

Duct tape should be in everyones EDC, I also carry paracord I even subsittuted all the draw strings of my hoodies and sports bag with Paracord.
These ideas and the one in the comments are great I shall be utilising them as soon as I can.

17 Moeregaard February 15, 2013 at 10:08 am

I’ve never been a big fan of duct tape (which is not code-compliant for A/C ducting anymore), since it tends to leave a lot of goop all over the place when removed. What I do carry is a roll of 3M filament tape. I learned early that the no-name filament tape is just crap, so make sure it’s genuine 3M brand. It’s stronger than duct tape, and when I was a frequent business traveler I always ensured a roll was stashed away in my luggage, along with some plastic (“zip”) ties. Broken luggage never stood a chance with those items.

18 Brian February 15, 2013 at 10:27 am

All I know is that, while most of MacGyver’s ideas were crap, his insistence on keeping duct tape close at hand was righteous. Never leave home without some. Actually, never stay at home without some either. Ever.

19 Ron February 15, 2013 at 10:34 am

I keep a small amount of duct tape wrapped around my chapstick in my pocket every day. Haven’t need it it yet, but…..

20 Erik C. February 15, 2013 at 11:45 am

This is definitely one of the oddest articles I’ve read here. Most of them convince me about the topic of conversation but not this one.

21 Waykno February 15, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Eric C. is not a handy, fix-it person it seems and Anoron–you can make it yourself much cheaper. I carry some around on a bit of paracord with a loop in the end and overhand knot on the other end (keychain) plus old credit cards with as much as you want in my range bag, tool kit, etc. You can just start rolling it on itself and make a very small roll or large one for the glove box.

22 Liz February 15, 2013 at 12:29 pm

1) I repaired a broken suitcase while traveling

2) At a camping trip, on a barrier island, 45 minutes away from the coast by boat, a guy suffered a serious knife wound and blood was pouring out like a fountain. The arm was bandaged with duct tape until help arrived.

Great post!

23 Joseph February 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm

I like gaffers tape instead of duct tape.
Used by electrical gaffers in the movie/TV industry (thus the name) and by theater and sound/PA technicians. Sticks to anything, cloth, black, heavy-duty, does not leave residue. Expensive. High end camera stores and theatrical supply stores.

24 william February 15, 2013 at 3:23 pm

I wrap a generous amount around the end of my mini mag light it’s there when I need it and easier on my teeth when I hold it with my mouth

25 Stephen Richard Levine February 15, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I use the duct tape core as a container, using two plastic end caps from a shipping tube which allow me to use the now enclosed space created by the core to store a variety of bits for my screwdriver/ratchet wrench.

26 Josh February 16, 2013 at 2:03 am

One trick I like to use is to store a variety of useful small items in an altoids mini tin. (E.g. aspirin, benadryl, antibiotic ointment, bandaids, string, microfiber cloth, P38 can opener, an extra ink refill for my pen, extra contact lenses, and probably half-a-dozen other things I’m forgetting.) Then I wrap around the outside edge many times with a thin strip of duct tape to make the whole package waterproof and so I always have some tape.

This package is small enough to carry in dress pants, but useful in a pinch. Unfortunately, the duct tape takes time to remove, which makes it slow to get at anything inside the tin. So I’m looking for a better method.

27 Doctor X February 16, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I use Nuclear grade duct tape. Yes there is special black colored duct tape used in the Nuclear power industry. It it used to seal a radioactive waste container units and anti- contamination suits. It is much stronger and does not contain chlorides that effect stainless steel. It doesn’t leave the sticky residue like cheap home improvement store tape.

28 JoSchmo February 16, 2013 at 10:06 pm

I would say take a straw, wrap duct tape around, cut off straw ends flush with tape, insert 550 cord through straw, tie knot on end, tie double overhand on other(adjust length of cord as needed) and there ya go, duct tape on the go. Throw it on a carabiner attached to your belt loop.

29 Brad February 16, 2013 at 10:40 pm

It comes in handy mostly when I have to tie up and/or restrain my victims.

30 Gerry February 16, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Duct-tape comes in all kinds of cute, fashionable colors now too…Smiley face or hot-pink duct-tape should be carried in case you might need to repair something at a Mental- Hospital…?

31 Luis February 17, 2013 at 9:24 am

I’d be very pleased to meet the kind of girl who’d be very pleased to let me repair her sandal with duct tape :-)

32 Neil February 17, 2013 at 11:49 am

I noticed safety pins on your key ring. They are almost as useful as duct tape and I use them to double for lock picks when needed. Tape and pins are both in my carry bag and you can imagine how useful they are.

33 Walt February 17, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I wrap a few feet of duct tape around my hiking poles…had to use it a few times. Also, in response to the comment about using it for an improvised band-aid: I also try to carry (during outdoor activities) a small tube of super glue…great for closing small cuts.
Thanks to all for all the idea.

34 James February 17, 2013 at 11:41 pm

I have a pair of beloved TOMS that are dying. They want to give up but I won’t let them. I stepped on a very sharp rock wearing them one day and they poked a hole clear through a soft portion of the sole that had worn down. I stuck on some duct tape and the shoe is now even more water proof!

35 Matthew February 18, 2013 at 3:43 pm

my method is to take two old cards (credit card sized) and wrap the duct tape around it. it keeps it flat and allows for one length of standard 2″ width , and another length of 1″ width. below it. there’s a little gap in between the two lengths that i have two rubber bands and a length of dental floss wrapped around. the two cards form a pocket into which i have a number of mini zip ties, and a couple band aids. the whole thing is super convenient to fit in my trifold wallet, and is only the thickness of a few cards stacked together. my wife thought i was retarded for carrying it around before she called me over a number of times in social situations where i saved the day with my wallet contents.

36 Toni February 20, 2013 at 9:35 am

I’m so dang manly I carry the big, full roll of duct tape. Anybody got a problem with that, I slug ‘em with it.

All kidding aside, never occurred to me to make a mini-roll of it. Thanks!

37 Toni February 20, 2013 at 10:01 am

Hey, Neil…
How about you teach us that lock picking bit with the safety pins?

38 Sullutuk February 20, 2013 at 2:45 pm

I’ve used duct tape to make on-the-go repairs to canvas covered canoes, torn raincoats, a tent fly and broken tent poles.

The best use, however, is to cover blisters = reduces friction and provides protection …. and no, the blisters never got infected.

39 Mike February 20, 2013 at 6:55 pm

I keep some duct tape wrapped around an old credit card or gift card in my dirt bike’s tool pouch and in my pickup’s center console. Probably have a good 4-5 ft, at least, of tape on each card. Handy in a bind.

40 Mikaeel February 20, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Instead of duct tape you should invest in “gaff tape” the rubber is synthetic and like the natural rubber in duct tape it will stick and hold very strongly but will come off clean as well. The synthetic rubber also doesn’t react as poorly to weather and moisture conditions and so it wont leave a mess anywhere. better option IMO

41 Lars J February 21, 2013 at 7:26 am

Now, what I found intriguing was the handcuff key on the key-chain. Talk about being prepared, and involved in some serious business…

42 Drew February 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Years ago I worked with a multiple medal winner who had spent time in the SouthEast Asian games… He always called duct tape “The Gun Fighter’s Friend”. And I’ve been carrying it one way or another for quite some time…. A few years ago, in a hurry & on the phone with the bride I slammed the hatch back on my forehead…. I had to get something somewhere and the emergency room wasn’t on the schedule… Slapped a piece of paper towel in the gash while I thought…. Spotted the role of duct tape in the back of the pathfinder, peeled of 3 inches, pulled the towel & slapped on the duct tape… Got the trophies & charcoal to the park without blood running down my face. Nurse Nadine wanted to take a look, but I told her I knew when I need stitches… The receptionist at the ER wanted to take it off, too- but didn’t when I told her I wanted to take off my shirt first…. The MD who came to stitch me up remarked “Oh, are you a knife fighter? Duct tape the knife fighter’s friend”.

43 Matt B February 23, 2013 at 5:09 pm

I actually keep three feet of duct tape wrapped around an old debit card. They’re divided into one foot sections, and the card stays in my wallet. I found it to be the easiest solution when carrying duct tape

44 Jason B February 24, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Besides knowing about duct tape, Mr. Greenman also seems to know a thing or two about high security locks. I believe I spy a medeco key on that key ring. Excellent choice sir.

45 Nick M February 25, 2013 at 10:11 am

I definitely need to work on my EDC if anyone wants to post any good guides I would be great full. Great article by the way!

46 Rks1157 February 25, 2013 at 11:42 am

I’ve never carried duct tape but have been in positions that having some would have been helpful and might have saved me some time.

This artlcle got me thinking and here is my solution. I unrolled about a foot and a half of ruck tape and taped it onto a sheet of waxed paper. I trimmed the excess paper and now I have a foldable strip of duck tape I can keep in my wallet without worrying about it gumming up the works. All I need to do is peel away the wax paper backing and all that sticky goodness is ready to use.

I also carry toothpicks at all times. These are awesome for a quick repair of stripped screws. I simply insert one or two in the hole, snap off the excess and rescrew.

47 Brian February 26, 2013 at 11:14 pm

I attempted to make the keychain with paracord, but ended making another one around a closed zip tie. It was easier to make, and seems like it be little more durable than the one listed above. I followed the same instructions, except I closed the zip tie until it was about the size of a ballpoint pen and then cut the tag end off after wrapping.

48 don Roberto March 1, 2013 at 6:52 am

NickM, for information on improving your EDC, check out More information, advice, reviews, and EDC-geekery than you can imagine. I spend entirely too much time there; it’s addictive.

Neil, I’ve done some lock picking in my time (used to hang out with some MIT types), and I’ve never seen safety pins used as improvised lockpicks. I think they’d need to be modded to the point where they were no longer usable as safety pins, and even then I’m not sure what you’d use for a torsion bar. Please enlighten us.

49 Leiff Eiriksson March 1, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Duct tape. America’s answer to the Swiss Army Knife (and way more useful).

I swear, one day some smarty-pants will figure out a way to cure cancer and end world hunger using duct tape.

50 Juhl March 13, 2013 at 2:01 pm

My childhood hero was MacGyver and from the first time I saw him pull out duct tape and save the day I’ve carried tape on me(and a swiss army knife). While it may not be as sticky as gorilla tape, I just carry a 10 yard roll from wal mart. They’re a dollar a piece and if you take the cardboard out of the middle it’s smaller than a wallet. If, like me, you don’t use your left pocket for anything else it integrates nicely into one’s EDC gear.

51 Stewbert March 14, 2013 at 10:17 am

I found duct tape in flat sheets. Not good for EDC, but packs well in BOBs, buckets and tubs. NO wasted space.

52 Caleb March 20, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Took the duct tape key-chain a step further I guess. I didn’t want to buy paracord and I didn’t want to use a bit of hangar.

My solution: I took about 6 inches of the Gorilla tape and tightly roled it into a 1/8th inch core. I then doubled that over. I wound about 3 feet of tape around the core at the bottom, leaving a 1 inch loop at the top. I just stuck an s-biner clip on that and attached to the Exotac key ring I just bought. Super handy!

Thanks for the idea. Also, Gorilla tape makes for a great DIY wallet. Another idea I stole from this blog.

53 harm March 27, 2013 at 1:41 pm

I love the idea of having duct tape (Gorilla Tape or Gaffe Tape) with me at all times. I already have a ton of stuff on my keys and so found putting it on my keychain difficult and cumbersome. That said instead I used the straw idea mentioned above, only instead I used a bit of small PVC hose for swamp coolers, I’m unsure of the exact diameter, and wrapped about 6.5 feet on that and then trimmed the hose to match the width of the tape. Then I ran paracord through the tube, and tied it into a modified double fishermans knot and attached to a carabiner on my Maxpedition Man Bag. Works great and can even be used to spool tape off of it.

I love the idea of using the gift card to always have at least a few inches of tape on my person though. Thats a great idea. Going to go look for a spare gift card when I get home.

54 Dan April 8, 2013 at 10:01 am

When I was at basic training, I realized that soft duct tape and foot powder were the key to saving my feet in the field and on long ruck marches. I began wrapping duct tape around my travel-size foot powder in the same way you recommend. To this day, I keep that bottle in my ruck and continue to refill as needed.

55 Chris October 16, 2013 at 9:17 am

I’ve not read all the comments yet but one idea I found on a backpackers website is to cut strips of Duct tape (or black nasty) and place them on wax paper. You can then store these handy strips of black nasty in an envelope and use as a bookmark.

56 Tim November 13, 2013 at 1:44 pm

First wrap the duct tape, I prefer Gorilla Tape around a straw. Trim to length. Then run the paracord with a loop on top of a knot thru the center. Then tie another knot underneath. When your done get some shrink wrap and melt it just enough around the whole thing that it will keep the ends protected so when it’s in your pocket it doesnt pick up lint and stuff that end of tape rolls do. Attach it to your keychain. I have used it several times and you just cut the shrink wrap and untie the bottom knot. When I get home I just add more shrink wrap and can refill the tape on the straw anytime.

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