One of the most amazing, practical and under-utilized uses for duct tape is as a makeshift stretcher. Not only is surprisingly effective, but a few strips of this wonder material can provide substantial stability and strength. However, this trick sounds easier than it really is, and there are some important things to consider when building the stretcher. Here is a brief description of how to improvise and turn a few sticks into a secure way to transport the injured during an emergency.
Duct Tape Alone
The first thing to note is that you can use nothing but sticks and tape to make the stretcher, or you can use other material as well. If you have some plastic tarp, canvas, towels or linens, these can be used in conjunction with the tape to create a durable and comfortable bed. In any case, it is important to consider the needs of the patient as well as those who will be doing the carrying.
You want to have sticks that will make up the sides of the stretcher while also providing for handles as well. You want at least a foot of extra stick on each end to give those doing the carrying as much support as possible. You also want to make sure that the stretcher is long enough to extend about 8-12 inches beyond the height of the victim as well. This poses a problem when gathering sticks because most of them will not be long enough.
You want to choose sturdy but flexible branches to serve as the handles. They shouldn’t be more than an inch in diameter, otherwise they may be hard to grip while walking over uneven terrain. They shouldn’t be brittle as well, because their elasticity will contribute to the overall structural integrity of the stretcher. On the other hand, you want branches or sticks that will be firm enough to retain their shape.
Look for branches that are about three feet in length, and you can join them together in the middle. Simply place one next to the other, with a minimum of two inches of encroachment before binding them with a couple strips of tape. You can also adjust for length based on the requirements of the patient at this time as well. Next, you want to make the top and bottom portion of the frame. Try to make it between 18 and 24 inches wide based on your needs, but anything larger may be difficult to carry.
Simply start by taping one side of one stick, looping it once, bringing it across and taping the other side. You can make one long strip or two short ones connected in the middle. Repeat for the other side, but make sure that you gave yourself some extra room for the handles at the ends. Place strips over the stick sides of the tape and add one more strip on top of that. Place two more strips about three or four inches above and below where you joined the sticks together and add the two additional layers on top. Now, add one diagonal strip from the top left to the bottom right, and then another from the bottom left to the top right, until it resembles an X shape. Add two more layers. Repeat the process two more times, one at the midpoint between the X and the top frame, and the other between the X and the bottom frame.
You can also add cloth or a tarp between the layers to add some extra security if needed, or you roll the material and create a makeshift pillow or footrest as well. The X patterns and triple layers of tape will add an enormous amount of rigidity to the stretcher while making it flexible enough to be used in difficult terrain. Most importantly, it provides victims as well as survivors with an effective way to get to safety.