Backcountry Blisters

Introduction: Backcountry Blisters

About: Building design/consulting in Vancouver, WA. Resource based problem solver... in other words, I always take a minute to look in construction dumpsters :) ---the way some have to workout everyday... i have to …

Duct tape is a material that, like many, I treasure. That said, I use it sparingly and find the cost limits me from use on larger projects... in '04 I saw a man rolling out of the Anchorage Alaska Costco. Everyone watching laughed that he was going to build a house in Wasilla ---he probably was!!

My favorite use... for duct tape is for blisters. If you've ever watched a bandaid get eaten up by a hiking boot you know that it's not even an option. Mole skin is more durable but still quickly gets loosened on the trail.

  • Hot Spot vs Blisters
  • Bandage Preparation
  • Bandage Application

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Warning: This post contains several photos of my left foot.

Step 1: Bandage Preparation - Cutting Tape

To decide on the size of the bandage pick a length that will give you enough contact with your skin.

  1. Main Bandage - Tear a first piece to length. I would rarely use anything smaller than what I show in the photo.
  2. Secondary Protection - Tear a second piece for use to keep the duct tape from sticking to the blister (see next step)

Step 2: Bandage Preparation - Creating Bandage

Fix the protective piece of duct tape to the center of the main bandage.

*optional. you could build up padding by using additional duct tape. This would make the bandage more like the cushioning mole skin. Totally unnecessary in my opinion and allows.

Step 3: Bandage Application

Center the bandage in place and use the palm of your hand to make a press/seal the tape against your skin.

Main value... duct tape effectively bonds with your skin. It protects against the rubbing that causes blisters.

Trim the bandage... wherever you can't get solid contact to skin. Any loose edges means the bandage is more likely to get caught on a sock or get wet.

Step 4: Knuckles + Joints

Shaped to fit. A great feature of using duct tape is that it can be shaped to fit even difficult joints. Have you ever tried using mole skin on a joint? miserable. For an off the shelf fix you're really only left with butterfly bandages which often fail as fast as regular bandaids.

---sorry again for the dirty, chaco wearing, feet. Actually another great way to avoid blisters. Yes, I love chacos and have hiked in them since I started guiding in alaska '04

Step 5: Hot Spots V Blisters

How Blisters Develop...

  1. General irritation - it starts with discomfort
  2. Hot spot - after enough discomfort you'll find reddening skin that is warm to the touch
  3. Blister - to pus (serum, plasma) forms between layers of skin.
  4. Burst - after enough rubbing the outer layer of skin wears thin and the blister opens
  5. Callous - given enough time a more durable layer of skin, a callous, will form

Popping Blisters - Yes, it's a good idea to pop blisters using a sterile needle / pin. Easy to sterilize using a lighter. ---see my backcountry first aid kit instructable for more on the light weight kit I carry.

Callous Feet - A pride for hikers. You build up your feet over time. There is no need to have blisters in order to get more durable feet. In the case of new hiking boots. You take time before a hike to break them in (up to 6mo for all leather boots) so that they are flexible enough to not cause rubbing. After blister's pop you need to protect the soft skin under the surface... again, this best accomplished with duct tape.

Step 6:

Duct Tape... here's a photo from walmart. I really can't believe how many options there are for duct tape. Typically I would say reach for the bottom level and avoid the eye level gorilla tape completely. Quality of duct tape varies so widely.... it's one of the main reasons I prefer electrical as my go to tape.

  • Gorilla Tape - $8.47 for 35yds (amazon) (a pallet only brings the cost down to $7.45/roll!) ($.25/yd)
  • Scotch / 3m - $4.99 for 30yds (amazon) (better at $.17/yd)
  • Duck Brand - $6.06 for 45yds (amazon) (better at $.13/yd)

Transparent Duct Tape... I would avoid any colored tape unless I had a very specific need... that said, super impressed with the look of transparent duct tape at $.31/yd. Would actually be very useful for keeping an eye on blisters. Also great for creating a window in a broken tarp or patching a cracked car window.

Thank you... appreciate your sticking with this one despite all the pictures of my dirty feet! --Jeff
Follow for more backcountry instructables or see a few recent ones below:

  • Backcountry First Aid - lightest first aid kit and what I've carried for 17+ years
  • Lightweight Backpack - coming soon
  • Hiking in Chacos - coming soon

Photos of Feet... expecting a few comments asking for more pictures of my feet. Here are a couple shots of them in chacos through the years. Can you recognize where pics were taken?
(a.hint: national park, b.hint: national park, c.hint: dc building, d. muir woods, e. small town minnesota, new pair!)

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    3 years ago

    Great idea! One question, my daughter does a lot of mud runs in the summer. Do you think duct tape would stick well enough in the wet, muddy conditions of a 5K mud run? I, and my 3 grandkids plan on joining her for one run this summer and we really don't want to end up with any blisters X5 pairs of feet. Ouch!!


    Reply 2 years ago

    100% - I'd consider rounding the corners with a scissors. It always pulls up first from the corner weak spot.


    Tip 4 years ago

    You know, since your going to be out in the wild with no one to complain about your fashion sense, socks with Chacos are a really good anti-blister combination.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Ha! thorondor - do you wear socks with chacos? It feels like sacrilege to me... The dampness puts me off as much as any fashion. I love the all webbing + all rubber design...


    Reply 4 years ago

    I actually don't own a pair of Chacos *sigh* but I know that socks with sandals is a really overpowered combo and that Chacos are overpowered in themselves, so socks 'n' Chacos would be almost godlike.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thanks! that's funny