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How to Label Your Hiking and Backpacking Gear

Label your outdoor hiking and backpacking gear with colored duct tape so you can tell it apart from your friends' gear.
Label your outdoor hiking and backpacking gear with colored duct tape so you can tell it apart from your friends’ gear.

Do you have a lot of hiking, climbing, or backpacking gear that looks identical to your friends’ gear? Does it get all mixed up in the car or in camp so you can’t tell what gear is yours? Here’s an easy way to color code your gear with colored duct tape so you can tell what’s yours and what belongs to somebody else.

Pick two or three unique colors and wrap them around all of your gear from bear canisters and carabiners to trekking poles and snowshoes. My colors are red and yellow, as shown above. Colored duct tape is super durable and will last through many seasons of abuse: $10 bucks worth will last a lifetime.

My friend Ken, a guide who works for Redline Guiding in the White Mountains (New Hampshire,) taught me this trick. We have a lot of gear in common that looks pretty similar and this helps identify what belongs to whom quickly. It’s a neat trick that I thought I’d pass along – great for winter hiking and backpacking gear – but the applications are limitless for fishing, hunting, camping, even skiing.


  1. Great idea. Following your link I was drawn to a similar product down the page…printed duct tape. My favorite is Love Tie Dye – http://amzn.to/2eqykBo

  2. We did something similar to this in a past job. I did rope access work, which required a ridiculous amount of gear, which needed to be tracked both for where it goes, and it’s usage time (for safety). We actually etched serial numbers into the metal parts and wrote on the non metal parts. Worked great!

  3. This is cool! I’d definitely recommend it to my fellow hikers so they’ll start labeling their gears like I do. I’d had this habit of labeling my gears since about last year when somehow my camping stove got swapped with my friend’s. They’re identical but mine got no major dent like his. I sure was glad I could convince him that our stoves got swapped.

  4. For some gear, where tape doesn’t work well, we used to use paint stripes, using testors model paint.

  5. Let your friend tape all his gear so he can carry the extra weight. :)

    Learn how to peel tape when you run out of fuel and need to swap his during the night…

    Seriously though great idea, when I was a kid all of our 2-man Eureka tents had electrical tape color codes so we knew who’s was who’s.


  6. Thanks for this tip, I can see it saving me some serious money. I’m going to use the gaudiest tape I can find.

  7. Thanks for the mention, Philip!

  8. Been doing it for years with my tools. I use the same choice of colors,yellow and red.

  9. My problem with duct tape is that, here in Texas, the heat makes the adhesive gummy and it can get all over. However, I own a sign company and have all kinds of colors of vinyl film on hand and I use those. You could check with your local sign company and see if they have some scrap color available. In my case, I check with my loco sign company…

    • Photographers’ gaff tape? I can’t say that I have tried it in TX, but it is less gummy, leaves no residue. Yes, it comes in colors as well as black.

      • This tape is never intended to come off.

      • @Philip: Which tape? Gaffer’s tape is designed to hold a reasonable load, stay on securely, and come off easily and cleanly when you want it to. Gaffers use it to hold up lights. I use fluorescent green on all my photo and audio gear. Some smart Alec said “Gaffer’s tape is what duct tape wants to be when it grows up.” On the other hand, if it does what you need, duct tape costs about half as much.

  10. Always a good idea to mark your stuff, keeps honest people honest. Learned that on a dive boat where gear from 30 divers piled up quickly after a dive. Used Testors and puff paint on dive gear (duct tape wouldn’t hold up under salt water), but I’m sure colored duct tape would be fine for backpacking. The red, yellow and black background looks very Germanic, Phillip.

  11. Nail polish works great for small items. Carabiners, etc….

  12. Bear keg gets a reflective sticker.

  13. I do this with my camera equipment so I go hme with what is mine. And tools. I am partial to pink duct tape for tools. The shovel with a wrap of pink tape jumps out at dusk when you are trying to gather things up. I also wrap pink on my bags when checked or overhead. Works great. So, no one out there use pink, ok?

    Whenever I buy anything electronic that comes with an ac adapter I use a sharpie on yellow vinyl tape to identify what it goes to. Wish the electroncs people thought to do this but it really helps to keep the right adapter eith the right widget. It does let you know what you are unplugging while under the desk.

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