A well‑stocked bug out kit is one of the ten essentials, and on treks to desolate regions, the extent of “emergency treatment” fundamentally widens. At the point when proficient medicinal help is numerous hours (or even numerous days) away, canoeists and kayakers might be called upon to be wilderness physicians, treating issues that would warrant an immediate trip to the hospital in the event that they happened at home.

Deep cuts are a prime example. The kayakers life is brimming with dangerous situations: blades, tomahawks, mussel shells, coral, half‑submerged barbed‑wire wall, broken brew bottles… Any of these can slice open your delicate skin in under a moment, and regardless of how cautious you are, mishaps do happen. Standard emergency care is constrained to halting the blood (by applying force) and afterward securing the injury with a cloth bandage or comparable dressing. That is fine if you’re just a 15‑minute drive from the hospital.

Be that as it may, imagine a scenario where you’re kayaking in frigid waters, the breeze is blowing a large portion of a storm, and sight is down to 100 yards, with little prospect of change in the following 48 hours. Or, on the other hand assume you’re exploring the great outdoors beside a beaver lake, two strenuous days of paddling and portaging from your automobile, in a zone with no cellphone access. What happens at that point? You have a gaping open injury. What’s more, you have to close it. So… What do you do after you’ve slowed the bleeding?

Once upon a time, backcountry paddlers were encouraged to suture gaping wounds as soon as they’d been thoroughly scrubbed and debrided, and some wilderness medicine handbooks devoted several pages to the technique of stitching human flesh. But that advice has long been consigned to the museum of medico‑historical curiosities. A good thing, too. It’s difficult enough to clean a contaminated wound properly in a hospital setting. Doing so in a riverbank camp borders on the impossible. And stitching a dirty wound closed is asking for trouble — serious trouble.

This is why experts now propose utilizing wound‑closure strips (“butterfly wraps” or Steri‑Strips). These enable you to estimate the edges of the injury, in this way encouraging healing, while leaving pockets for any infection to seep out. Be that as it may, as far as I can tell, neither butterfly bandages nor Steri‑Strips can be depended upon to keep an injury shut if the harmed appendage can’t be refreshed — as may well be the situation if a paddler’s arm or leg is cut open when he has a long way to go. In such cases, something more is required.

Well, how about …

Duct Tape?

It’s convenient stuff, and most paddlers have a pack of this tough, strengthened tape in their aid bags. Be that as it may, duct tape is useful for more than fixing battered water crafts and torn coverings. It can be used to help heal a deep laceration. I didn’t come up with this on my own. British Army doctor Chris Anderson said it best:

Although living in the UK, whilst serving in the British Army as a medic I was canoeing in the Rockies around the Wainwright area in Canada some time ago. There was a fire ranger who took us for our survival training who was fantastic and thankfully put us in excellent stead in order to enjoy the wilderness for 10 days.
I remembered the lessons he taught regarding using what you have at hand in order to survive [the trek] back into civilisation, and to this end, I have been using and teaching the techniques he taught us regarding the closure of wounds using duct tape.

Astonished? I was. In any case, I shouldn’t have been. Duct tape has a lot of beneficial qualities. It has an industrious, waterproof adhesive. What’s more, it adjusts well to uneven surfaces, while holding a measure of flexibility. To put it plainly, it’s phenomenal at shutting expanding wounds on appendages.

Obviously, you wouldn’t have any desire to apply it on an opened wound. The adhesive would likely bother the tissue, and removing the sticky tape later would in all likelihood injure the area. Be that as it may, Chris let me in on the mystery of utilizing duct tape as an injury closer — securely. And so, now I’m passing the word along. So here goes:

How to Use Duct Tape to Close a Wound

I’m assuming you have the following items in your survival kit:

  • Duct tape
  • Stout, clean thread or a suitable substitute
  • Needle

After stanching the bleeding and flushing the wound (use disinfected water and mild soap or detergent), proceed as follows:

1.  Tear off two strips of duct tape. Three‑ to four‑inch lengths are usually enough. (If the wound is longer than the duct tape is wide, add more strips as needed. But three‑ to four‑inch lengths should still be adequate.)

2.  Cut two lengths of stout thread, each one long enough to extend one‑half inch or so beyond the tape strips’ edges. These will be used to prevent the tension stitches (see below) from cutting through the tape and pulling out.

3.  Place the thread on the adhesive surface of each strip of tape, roughly one‑half inch from one end, as shown in Figure A below. (The adhesive is colored pale gray; the tape’s outer surface, dark gray. The thread is orange.)

4.  Fold the tape over the thread as shown in Figure B, then press the tacky adhesive surfaces together, trapping the thread in the crease (C). Repeat with the second piece of tape.

5.  Next, stick the prepared tape strips to the intact skin on either side of the gaping wound. Make sure the skin is dry. (Since duct tape often employs latex‑based adhesives, think twice before applying it to the skin of anyone with a latex allergy.) The thread‑reinforced creases should lie close to the edges of the wound without extending beyond them (Figure D below).

6.  Using more thread, place a running stitch between the tape strips, as shown in Figures E and F. You’ll need to double ordinary sewing thread, but button thread or any similarly sturdy stuff can be used just as it comes. Stop the end of the thread with a figure‑eight knot to prevent it pulling through, and keep the stitches in the doubled portion of the tape (its outboard edge is shown by the dotted white line). Take great care not to stick the needle point in your patient’s flesh. He’s suffered enough already.

7.  Continue the running stitch as shown in Figure G, maintaining just enough tension to bring the lips of the wound together.

8.  Finish by tying off the working end of the thread. Now cover the closed wound with a light, sterile dressing.

Tying Off
OK. It’s time to get real. Well, realish, anyway. In the photos that follow, I used waxed nylon sailmaker’s twine for thread. It performed admirably. I drew the line at self‑harm, however. Verisimilitude has its limits. I’ve indicated the “gaping wound” with red ink and cherry jam:

Show a Leg
 It should prove far more sturdy than a line of butterfly bandages. Better yet, I already have everything I need in my survival kit. And so do you, in all likelihood. But if you really want to be prepared, you’ll, …

Make a Brace of Duct Tape Wound‑Closure Strips in Advance

I made a couple of sets in a trice, and it was much easier to do on a table at home than on a muddy riverbank in a downpour. Each strip was fashioned as shown above, but the finished strips were subsequently stuck to squares cut from the plastic lid of a (now‑empty) can of ground coffee. I then placed the running stitch as already described, leaving a generous free end at the finish:

Make Ahead...
That being done, each completed closure was tucked into a ziplock bag and slipped into my “doc box.” Piece of cake.

To Take Along
The upshot? I’m now ready to close a gaping wound at a moment’s notice. I’ll just remove a prestitched pair of closures from their ziplock bag, put the strips in place, snug up the thread, and tie the end off. It couldn’t be easier. (Good‑quality duct tape will retain its adhesive properties through several stick‑unstick cycles, so there shouldn’t be any problem making the prepped closures adhere to dry skin after removing the plastic backing from the tape.)
A heartfelt thank‑you to Chris, whose letter describing this ingenious wilderness expedient was the genesis of my article. Of course, I hope I’ll never have to use the knowledge I’ve gained in assembling my duct tape wound‑closure kit, but it’s good to know it’s there. Just in case.

Duct tape probably isn’t the principle thing you think of when you go shopping for first‑aid supplies. It may not even be on your list, though thanks to nurse practitioner and former British Army medic Chris Anderson, I’m betting it will be in future. Then you’ll have what you need should you ever have to close a wound in the out in the field.




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