In Praise of Gaffer Tape
Every traveler has his or her own set of favorite or indispensable travel items. But tape? Gaffer tape? Why would that be such a great item for the traveler? Read on.
Travel is a great adventure – an opportunity to reach out and grow beyond your daily experience. Travel can also be full of surprises – little twists and turns that were just not part of the traveler’s original agenda. Part of the allure of travel is the unexpected and part of the fun is finding ways to handle the unexpected. Handling the unexpected – that’s where gaffer’s tape can be a traveler’s friend.
Gaffer tape is one of the “must have” items on my travel packing list. This hasn’t always been the case. But with time and experiences from past travels – gaffer tape – I don’t leave home without it.
Gaffer tape is a heavy cotton cloth tape which is pressure sensitive. The name comes from it’s frequent use in the movie and theater industries where the gaffer is the chief electrician typically responsible for lighting the set. The gaffer and other production crew members use gaffer tape to place and hold and adjust various pieces of equipment required for photography or production staging. Gaffer tape is quite different from duct tape. Gaffer tape is stronger, given it’s cotton cloth make up. And the adhesive is special as well, in that it is rubber based and more resistant to heat, which makes it much easier to remove without damaging the surface to which it was adhered or leaving behind any adhesive residue.
Gaffer tape can be a great problem solver for the traveler. It can be used in it’s standard manner to help position or place items for a photo. A curtain or draw string intruding on an otherwise classic shot out a window? Tape the intruder back out of the shot. Flowers not standing nicely together for that flora arrangement? Wrap some tape around the stems.
Uses for gaffer tape go far beyond those related to standard photography. Gaffer tape is a problem solver and if you have traveled at all, then you know that problems do arise. On a recent outing to Myanmar my trusty gaffer’s tape saved the day on two occasions when I encountered unexpected difficulties.
Problem Number 1 –
Camera gear is exposed to considerable wear and tear during travel. That was the case during my recent 30 day journey through Myanmar. Shooting all day, every day, tests your equipment. I’m pleased to say that in most ways my gear was up to the task. I experienced only one small glitch.
I try to keep my gear in good shape. As a result I use a plastic cover to protect the LCD screen on my Nikon D800. Unfortunately these little Nikon screens seem to be a bit fragile. On two occasions ( once in India and now recently in Myanmar) I have had the plastic tabs that hold these screens in place break off. Once broken, the screen won’t stay on the camera. Gaffer tape to the rescue. The image above shows my taped up solution. Not pretty but it worked. (Nikon – are you listening? These LCD screens really are a problem that needs to be fixed!)
Problem Number 2 –
I love Ex-Officio clothing for travel. (Ex-Officio Pants) (Ex-Officio Shirts) Ex-Officio clothing is light weight, packs well, and can be washed and dried quickly. I try to travel with limited luggage so I’m likely taking only 2 or 3 shirts and pants even for extended travel. Ex-Officio and similar light weight clothing for travel can be washed out in the sink and quickly dried by hanging out overnight. I’m capable of doing this – truly I am. But I admit, doing laundry in the sink of my hotel or guest house room nightly for a 30 day trip is not my favorite thing. So when recently in Kalaw Myanmar I saw that my hotel would do my laundry for $5.00 I jumped at the chance. Seemed like such a good idea at the time. My laundry was returned to my room all nicely clean and folded. Super. Unfortunately, when I went to put on my great, light weight, 100% nylon travel pants – there was a significant hole in the upper area of the left leg. They obviously had not read the laundering instructions which clearly state, “iron low / delicate setting.” Maybe that doesn’t translate into Burmese? They had melted a hole in my pants!
Once again it was gaffer tape to the rescue. With a limited wardrobe I needed to find a solution to this problem. I placed one strip of gaffer tape on the inside of the pant leg, covering the hole. Then I placed another strip of tape on the outside and pressed the two pieces together. The image above shows the final patch ( you can just about make out the somewhat circular area of the hole where the material had melted away ) The patch held up very well for the remaining two weeks of my journey, even surviving additional hotel sink launderings.
I do admit that patching your clothing with gaffer tape does not make much of a fashion statement. But for my travels fashion is not at the top of my priority list. So the gaffer tape fix was a really good solution.
(You can order Gaffer Tape on Amazon – using this link – Gaffer’s Tape– it will take you there directly.)
Travel With Gaffer Tape ……. Enjoy The Adventure!
Dr. B, The Photo Trekker
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