The Best Duct Tape for Emergencies and Survival

We’ve tested and reviewed all of the major duct tape brands to find the best duct tape for an emergency or survival situation. A few household brands made the cut, as well as some battle-tested brands I’m familiar with from the military and some industrial strength brands us engineers like to use.

Duct tape is just one of those things that everyone needs and already has. It is easy to use, cheap, and can fix pretty much anything around the house. That roll of silver tape has probably helped you out of several jams already in your life, but when it comes to survival you want the best for the job. There are several types and brands to pick from, so you have plenty of options when you are adding rolls to your survival kit. This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best duct tapes, tested them in the elements, and the results are in: the overall best performer, our budget pick, and an upgrade option. If you need tape that won’t let you down in an emergency, one of our suggestions will keep you rolling.


Contents (Jump to a Section)


The Best Duct Tape

Gorilla Tape

Strong, Durable, and Super Sticky

No other tape outperforms this ‘sweet spot’ of strong adhesive, tape flexibility, and material strength.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

The tape with the gorilla on it came out in 2005, made by the same Ohio company that brought us Gorilla Glue. It was stickier and stronger than most hardware store duct tapes, but maintained the same flexibility. Now you can find Gorilla Tape and knock offs (like T-Rex tape) everywhere and it’s still better than the competitors in terms of value, strength, tackiness, and durability.

Good duct tape has been around for a while (see our upgrade pick), but Gorilla brands made it cheap and accessible to all of us by mass producing it. You can now get Gorilla Tape in a wide range of widths, roll lengths, colors, and package quantities. I especially appreciate the Gorilla Tape Handy Roll, because it fits perfectly in any kit: 1 inch wide and 30 feet long, the roll is much smaller and lighter than a full roll of standard duct tape. And the handy roll is only $3, so you can stash it everywhere for dirt cheap: tool bag, survival kit, etc.


Budget Duct Tape

Duck MAX Strength

Cheap, Lightweight, and Effective

This duct tape on steroids at the standard duct tape price punches well above it’s weight class.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Your standard silver duct tape got a big upgrade with Duck MAX Strength. Stronger and stickier, but still easy to tear makes this tape a great value. The price certainly lets you stock up: one roll is 45 yards of reinforced tape that is extruded through the hot melt adhesive. Duck (made by Shurtape Technologies) added MAX to their catalog as they saw their customers needing stronger tape than traditional duct tape. They hit the nail right on the head, since this tape gets all of it done at the best price.


Upgrade Duct Tape

Nashua 357 Premium

Refillable, Long Burning, and Versatile

The clear leader when it comes to duct tape, the military’s 100 MPH tape is battle-tested and tough to beat.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Just the smell of this duct tape takes me back to my military days. Our HAZMAT team would stick it on everything- gas mask carriers, vehicles, people, plastic sheeting, etc. We went through it like crazy but never really considered the cost. It never failed in the field, and it was no surprise that it outperformed the other tapes in our tests. It does cost more than our other selections, but it also outperforms them and is battle-tested. If you could have one roll and only one roll for any emergency, Nashua 357 Premium is the tape you want.

Nashua and Polyken are both produced by the same company out of Kentucky. They are well known by contractors and military logistics since their tapes are popular with the pros. This tape is rated 40-200 degrees Fahrenheit, and has a tensile strength of 50 pounds per square inch.


Everything We Recommend

Gorilla Tape

Gorilla Tape

No other tape outperforms this ‘sweet spot’ of strong adhesive, tape flexibility, and material strength.

Where to Buy

$8* at Amazon

$8* at Walmart

*at time of reviewing

Duck MAX Strength

Duck MAX Strength

This duct tape on steroids at the standard duct tape price punches well above it’s weight class.

Where to Buy

$5* at Amazon

$5* at Walmart

*at time of reviewing

Nashua 357 Premium

Nashua 357 Premium

The clear leader when it comes to duct tape, the military’s 100 MPH tape is battle-tested and tough to beat.

Where to Buy

$12* at Amazon

$12* at eBay

*at time of reviewing


The Duct Tape We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to the several tapes and brands that we tested: Duck, Gorilla, Nashua, Scotch, T-Rex, Polyken, and more. This helped us eliminate some of the tapes that just are not a good value.

There is not a big number of brands that make duct tape, but there are several types of tapes for specific applications. For example, Polyken and Nashua (a few of the military favorite brands) are made by the same company. But each of those make over a dozen types of tapes for different environments or applications. For survival purposes, we stuck to looking at general use tape which narrowed everything down a bit.

We also steered clear of any decorative duct tape (looking at you, Duck brands!), because it is just not optimized for emergencies or survival. Of course, if you happen to have those during an emergency, they are better than nothing. You may also find some uses for some of their high-visibility duct tape in an emergency for signaling or marking.

Duct tapes for review and testing.
All duct tape is versatile.

What to Look For

The best duct tapes have several important features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Adhesive
  3. Material Strength
  4. Flexibility
  5. Versatility

When you get the right blend of these, you can find an unmatched tape that will help you tackle almost any obstacle during an emergency or disaster. Below, we break down what each of these features mean for great survival tape.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you can spend on duct tape can get a little silly. Sure, the performance of the tape in our tests was directly correlated with cost- but the exceptions are where you get the best bang for your buck.

Our top pick focuses on performance first and foremost, but our budget pick performed very closely to our top pick in this case. If you are looking to save a few dollars on your survival loadout or emergency kit, our budget pick for duct tape is a good opportunity.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, especially tape. Using your money to get the most functionality and versatility out of your survival kit is the smart way to go. There is a sweet spot where you get high value out of the best functionality with not-to-high of a price, which is where our top pick sits.

Adhesive

Different duct tapes use different amounts and strengths of adhesive, and even different types of adhesive.

The stickiness of the adhesive needs to be backed up with a strong material, or the tape will just degrade or shred under any force, even thought the tacky adhesive will stay put. Manufacturers have found clever ways to address this.

Material Strength

Extruding the tape material through the adhesive is one of the main ways tape manufacturers have found to increase the material strength, but keep the tape’s pliability. The thickness of the tape itself affects the tear and shear strength the most, but too thick make the tape difficult to work with- you may need a knife to cut the tape rather than tearing it by hand.

Many tapes have different properties across the roll versus down the roll. This makes the tape easier to tear and bend across it’s width but much harder to tear down the length.

Flexibility

Some specialty duct tapes are made very thick, so they are much less flexible. If you try to adhere them to a sharp angle, or even a 90 degree angle, the stiffness of the tape makes it actually less likely to adhere. The flexibility of duct tape makes it so versatile in many applications- stiff tape isn’t great for patching clothes, lashing poles together, etc.

To keep flexibility and strength, a grid of material is usually used to hold the structure and glue of the tape together.

Versatility

Duct tape, in and of itself, is pretty darn versatile. There are a few thing that make duct tape even more versatile, and we’ve touched on a few of them above. Your standard ‘general purpose’ flexible duct tape is great because it lets you use it virtually anywhere. It may not be as strong as some of the specialty tapes, but you can use it for almost anything.

Duct tape can also come in different colors, patterns, roll lengths and roll widths. Black and OD Green are great for general survival use, but high visibility colors are great for marking gear, paths on the go, or signaling. Small rolls of 1″ wide duct tape are great for smaller kits, like EDC loadouts.

Engineering Flowchart showing duct tape and WD-40 can fix anything.
Have to add in zip ties too, though, right?

Uses for Duct Tape in an Emergency

When SHTF, duct tape is one of the first things out and getting to work. You can fix stuff, make cordage, mark bug out routes, patch clothes, make containers- the list is virtually endless. Here are just a few of my favorite survival uses:

  1. Fix a leak. Crack your water bottle or get a small tear in your Camelbak? Slap some duct tape on it for a fast fix!
  2. Make cordage. Twist or braid duct tape to make some high strength cord or rope.
  3. Butterfly suture. Use small pieces of duct tape to make a butterfly bandage.
  4. Make a belt. Wrap it around your waist to hold your pants up, or add some utility pockets to carry stuff.
  5. Leave notes. Write on a small piece of duct tape with a Sharpie for a semi-permanent note.
  6. Make arrow fletching. Attach some duct tape folded onto itself to an arrow shaft and shape it with your knife.
  7. First aid sling. Make a sling for your arm.
  8. Handcuffs. There are plenty of ways to disable someone with duct tape.
  9. Patch clothes. Fix that hole in our drawers already.
  10. Make clothes. Duct tape hats look crazy, but are better than nothing in the heat.

I’m not the only one in the world that pushes the importance of duct tape for emergency use. The boys over at Sensible Prepper (Sootch) do a pretty good job of laying out their ideas:


Who Needs Duct Tape?

Duct tape has so many uses that it is found in most survival kits. Everyone has used some version of it: it is cheap, easy to use, and effective for plenty of situations, emergencies, and disasters. Duct tape is an essential part of a shelter-in-place kit (which basically consists of tape and plastic).

Duct tape is an important part of these kits:

Duct tape is suggested for these kits:

No matter what threats come your way, duct tape is always nice to have around so you can handle a survival situation.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing done to determine the best duct tape are useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical military and prepping experience:

Wenner, R., Askari, S., Cham, P., Kedrowski, D., Liu, A. & Warshaw, E. (2007). Duct Tape for the Treatment of Common Warts in Adults: A Double-blind Randomized Controlled Trial. Arch Dermatol. 2007;143(3):309–313. (Source).

Kapila, T. & Hutches, K. (2012). Methods for Separating Duct Tape. Journal of Forensic Identification. Vol. 62 Issue 3, p215-226. 12p. (Source).

Sorensen, J. (2002). Will Duct Tape and Plastic Really Work? Issues Related to Expedient Shelter-In-Place. US DOE: Office of Scientific and Technical Information. (Source).


The Final Word

Duct tape may seem like a basic and insignificant tool, but it is easy to use and extremely useful in a lot of situations. The uses of duct tape for survival are endless, and it is just one of those tools that is always nice to have around- even for non-emergencies.

Besides duct tape, there are a few other common tools you should consider for survival:

  • Paracord
  • Zip Ties
  • Super Glue
  • WD-40
  • Tarps

If you already have paracord, it doesn’t hurt to stock up on alternatives:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found that Gorilla Tape is the best option given the value, adhesive properties, material strength, and versatility. Duct tape is easy and simple to use, but it doesn’t hurt to get it out every once in a while if you plan on relying on it in an emergency. Some of the higher strength duct tapes don’t handle the same as your run-of-the-mill silver rolls. Don’t let your tools sit in your bag or kit indefinitely- get them out and get familiar with them by using them.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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The Best Survival Duct Tape

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer by day, but a prepper 24/7. I am an Air Force veteran that developed emergency and disaster plans as an emergency manager and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters worldwide. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

One thought on “The Best Duct Tape for Emergencies and Survival

  • thanks for the great article Yes, i bought some as you suggested.thanks.

    Reply

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