A core item in my backpacking first aid kit and foot care kit is Leukotape P, a non-elastic strapping tape. I most often use it for hot spots, blisters, and other skin irritations; and on a few group trips I have made custom bandages and protected injured body parts with it.
Leukotape P should not be confused with Leukotape K, which stretches. I’m uncertain about its differences with Leukotape Classic; it may be a re-brand, since I no longer see Leukotape P on the manufacturer website. I have made an inquiry with BSN Medical for clarification.
Leukotape P comes in a 15-yard roll. This works well for stabilizing an ankle, and so I take it on group trips when such injuries are more likely to occur. But for foot care, it’s an unfriendly form factor; it’s also more tape (and more weight) than I need on a solo trip.
Make field-friendly Leukotape strips using discarded mailing label paper, rather than or in addition to carrying the full roll.
- Create patches that are precisely sized and shaped, with rounded edges that are less likely to curl under pressure;
- Maintain the tape’s full adhesiveness, which is compromised when it is touched or when it is re-rolled into smaller rolls; and,
- Carry only the amount you are likely to need, thereby reducing pack weight and volume.
1. Find a discarded sheet of mailing label paper. I find address label paper to be convenient: the paper is pre-cut into strips that are about the same width as Leukotape.
2. Place a strip of Leukotape on the waxy side of the label paper, where the labels used to be. Leave about 1 inch of extra tape on each end.
3. Adhere the overflow sections to the other side of the label paper, to hold the strip in place. Unfortunately, these sections of tape are now trash. Remove the paper margins.
A finished strip is 11.5 inches long. I fold them into fourths to make them more packable, and store them in a plastic bag along with Band-Aids, Steri-Strips, and moleskin.
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This is exactly what I do, and it works great.
Please credit Philip Werner, who I learned this from. He posted about it in April 2015.
Since I have been doing this since 2010-ish and since Philip observed multiple foot care clinics of mine on the guided trips we ran together, I am reluctant to credit him with the idea. But indeed he is an excellent source of knowledge.
Man this is such a good idea. I’ve been using Luekotape for awhile but it’s such a pain to tear by hand, especially if your hands are cold or wet.
Well, that makes sense. I’ll suggest that he credit you, then. Regardless, I’ll teach the Scout leaders about it next Thursday.
I’m trying to figure out the changes in Leukotape. It looks like they have changed from rayon to cotton. That could increase friction.
I won’t claim credit, either — I’m not that creative. I think I was told by a client about it, as he watched me futz with the big roll during a foot care session. Phil Barton or Pat Starich (both BSA guys, and both active BPL forum members back in the day) would be a likely source, but I don’t recall exactly.
I noticed the cotton component in the Leukotape Classic, too. I hope BSN’s website is just mistaken. Cotton would increase water absorption, too.
Is there anything else that would work as well for what you put the Leukotape on, such as wax paper?
You probably could. The key thing is applying it to a surface that will not absorb or activate the tape adhesive. It does not take much — even the “back” side of label paper (usually where there is some product branding) is paper-ish enough that the tape will stick to it some and be compromised.
I wonder if freezer paper would work? It has a slick side and a paper side.
Any silicone release paper should work. Give it a try.
Here is one example, though I have not tried it. We had some label release paper I could use.
Freezer paper is an unqualified failure. The bond between the Leukotape P and the shiny side is stronger than the bond between the shiny side and the backing paper.
Parchment paper, which is silicone treated throughout, appears to work, at least in the short term. I stuck a six inch long piece of Leukotape P to some parchment paper and it came right off. I’ll leave it there for a few days and try it again.
I’m just looking for something that I might have around the house or be able to source locally. I don’t have any old label sheets, or I would use them. I’ll try to keep it in mind if I use some labels.
I work at a hospital and I use the label sheets that we use to have people sign in on. I noticed my Dr and Dentist both use similar sign in sheets. If you have a local Dr or Dentist, maybe you could stop in and ask if they would save a few for you?
Also, this time of year, we start getting pre printed mailing labels from non-profit groups wanting us to make donations. If you are so inclined, you could use the backs of those.
After around six months, parchment paper still appears to work. Since parchment paper comes in rolls, longer strips of Leukotape can be used.
Nice tip, thanks!
Awesome–thanks for the follow-up!
Wax paper doesn’t work well as I discovered around 2011. I tried to use some from my kit and it wouldn’t peel off the wax paper.
I probably ought to change mine out as I have been carrying the same strips in my kit for the past few years and haven’t used them.
Andrew, I find that OmniFix tape (which comes on non-stick paper out of the box) works nearly as well as LeuckoTape for a lot of situations. I think Leuckotape is still better for some spots of the foot such as the back of the ankle. https://www.amazon.com/Omnifix-Dressing-Retention-Tape-yards/dp/B001ANS1YS/
I’ve traditonally used duct tape for this purpose… any thoughts on how it might compare to Leukotape?
Leukotape is breathable and it is more adhesive. It is slick, but not as slick as duct tape.
Buying printer labels is cheaper (3 times cheaper) than buying the silicone paper. https://www.amazon.com/EcoSwift-Shipping-Mailing-Inventory-Adhesive/dp/B00DOI8HPU/ — it might be interesting to compare the efficacy of the two options though. Thanks, Walter
I ordered from Amazon both address labels (to throw away and only use the label backing paper as well as the silicone paper), I’ll compare both to each other for doing the Leuckotape backing. I’ll report back later.
Andrew, having followed your advice on leukotape and completely eliminated blisters (thank you), I’ve noticed one issue: the the non-adhesive side of the tape sticks to my sock and leaves a sticky tape residue on the sock.
It doesn’t seem to impact the blister-reducing function of the tape, but the residue collects dirt that’s difficult to clean off. And sticky dirt in my sock is obviously not a good thing for blisters. Have you noticed this issue and, if so, how do you address it, if at all? (I should note that I re-roll the tape around a shortened pen tube.)
And, thanks for the wealth of information you’re providing–it’s revolutionized my backpacking trips.
This can be an issue. It seems to be worse on furry socks and on the bottom of the foot.
Two solutions. The best is to put some Bonnie’s Balm on the tape after it has adhered well. The other is to put some duct tape over it. I like this one less, since it is more work and since it reduces breathability.
Hello, I have found out that any time I re-roll Leukotape onto itself, the non-adhesive side ends up retaining a significant amount of adhesive when unrolled, and exibits the behavior Jake has described. This is strange because it doesn’t occur with the original, from factory roll, only if I re-roll it. My guess is that when re-rolling, the exposure to air (or something) causes the adhesive to change enough that it does 2 things: sticks to the non-adhesive side of itself and deposits an adhesive residue, and it also degrades the adhesive enough that it is no longer useful when applied to skin (even with tincture of benzoine). Because of this, I recommend only using the method Andrew describes in this article to make smaller, reusable sections of Leukotape. This has been my experience, YMMV.
Your observation is correct. I do not know the precise cause (exposure to air is a good one) but the adhesive is compromised if it is re-rolled onto itself. Interestingly, the adhesive is fine when put on strips of mailing paper.
You really don’t need to buy label paper at all. Just go to the post office and take a handful of label paper people have already peeled off their mailing label from. Or just keep your eyes open, label paper without the labels on it is around. 5k runs, track meets, etc.
I usually wrap a few feet of duct tape around my one of trekking poles, does Leukotape lend itself to re-wrapping like that
No, it does not. It sticks to itself and is compromised. Also, you cannot handle it easily without touching the adhesive, which compromises it again. Finally, it gets dirty.
I generally discourage attaching anything to your poles. It takes several times more effort to swing your poles than to simply carry it in your pack.
“Leukotape P should not be confused with Leukotape K, which stretches. I’m uncertain about its differences with Leukotape Classic; it may be a re-brand, since I no longer see Leukotape P on the manufacturer website. I have made an inquiry with BSN Medical for clarification.”
Andrew, did you ever get a response?
Leukotape Classic and P varieties are both listed on the BSN’s UK site:
Little to choose between their descriptions other than Classic confirmed as cotton whilst P’s construction is left to the imagination.
I’m going to try a medical tape, that is called “silk tape” in Finland. It is similar in other qualities, but the woven fabric is shiny and more slippery. Used to secure things like cannulas (where the drip goes into the body). Should work well in blister prevention.
Leukotape K is a kinesiotape. Used for supporting joints, muscles, relieving pain etc. And in finland tapes like Leukotape P, or the classic, are commonly called “sports tapes”. You can find them in sports stores, from many different manufacturers.
I took Leukotape on every trip this summer it was used each time, the last time by me for hot spots. I used the shipping label backing method and it works perfectly. I find that Leukotape adheres better than moleskin, stays on longer and totally prevents hotspots from becoming blisters. Because it adheres so well, it takes a little effort to get it off the backing and scissors defintely simplify the job of cutting.
Is there some reason to use Leukotape P rather than the K version or any of the other
stretchable physio tape products (KT Tape, Rock Tape, etc.)? Most of those come already on some backing paper and often pre-cut into 10-inch strips that would be easily packable for a solo trip.
Haven’t tried the stretchy versions. For this application, I’m unsure that I want the tap to stretch.
But try it, compare it to the static tape, and let me know!
Hi! Very useful post, thank you! I have a (maybe silly) question though, how do you cut the pieces on the trail? Can it be done with a pocket knife? Thanks!
It’s best cut with scissors. Depending on the trip, I use the scissors on my Victorinox Classic or I bring Fiskars blunt-tip kid scissors.
I use strips of parchment baking paper, which is always in my kitchen. One could also place strips of the leukotape on both sides as it peels equally from either side.
Some people (like me) are allergic to the zinc oxide adhesive used in Leukotape (and many other tapes). In that case, people suggest Kinesio Tex Gold (hypoallergenic). Anyone else had this problem?
I think the coated film from the inside of a cereal box would work. It is much better than parchment paper for rolling pie crust and releasing it easily.
Hi I am having the same problem. After reading this blog I found Leukotape Premium Plus (I am in Australia). Does anyone know if there is a difference between this and Leukotape P?
Andrew, do you think wax paper will work? or parchment paper?
I’d try parchment paper before wax paper. The silicone coating on the former is probably more durable than the wax on the latter.
How much do you usually cary with you? Planning out for the SHR, I rarely use it but always carry a roll. Your advice would be better than me guessing.
If you don’t use it often, I think a strip or two (12-24 inches) should suffice. And it weighs nothing, so why not add a second strip? When you really need it, it’s nice to have enough of it.
For context, with a single strip I took care of a client’s heel blisters on both feet, both high and low on the heel. That was Day 5, and if it’d been earlier in the trip I would have wanted more tape so that I could re-tape their feet later in the trip.
Greetings, I am new to the Leukotape brand. I just thought I would chime in though on the usefulness of stretchy “Kinesiology” tape. I studied some kinesiology with my naturopathic and holistic health studies. I assure you that you can stabilize an injured joint quite will with it if need be, but it sort of defeats its real purpose. It really depends on what you are wanting to do, but in general; the more you pre-stretch the tape, the less give it will offer. Kinesiology works quite well for various inflammation of tendons and ligaments, strains and sprains and more. It helps your natural gait and is especially useful for weakness following an injury. You need not be an expert to do a proper kinesiology taping either. Most of it is pretty straight forward with easy to follow steps and pictures widely available on the internet. I wouldn’t let it stop me if the tape was firm or stretchy, just learn to use it either way and things will be good to go. The biggest difference is in how the tape works. You generally want some motion with kinesiology. It sounds crazy I know, but the kinesiology tape corrects the range of motion, while offering some stability to an injured area. Obviously it would not work for a break or serious tear, but for strains and sprains it is excellent. KT tape can also be worn a lot longer. You can keep it on for several days of your adventures, whereas you need to change a rigid athletic taping more often. I’m going be buying the Leukotape brand now as a physician friend and fellow backpacker suggested it to me as most tape won’t stick to me very well. If given the choice, use what you are comfortable with, but if KT is all you have on hand it can be quite useful too. It just takes a different approach or a lot of pre-stretching. You may also want to discuss which would be better for you with your doctor, chiropractor, naturopath or physical therapist. You may find the added mobility of KT will enhance your outdoor experience.
I have been using Leukotape Classic for last 2 years, but when the roll was finished I decided to go with P, as it is stronger and more commonly ‘advised’ in the internet.
And sadly it is a complete trash – already after 30min activity the adhesive bleeds through the tape and messes up the socks. Ok – the tape stays on the skin throughout the whole activity (eg. 5h hike), but the socks are becoming sticky and stay this way even after solid washing.
Am I doing something wrong, or has BSN messed up something over last years in product design?
Pro tip: After the tape is applied and adhering well, rub some balm on the outside of the tape, to keep it slick and prevent it from adhering to the sock.
Regarding the problem with adhesive bleed-through, why not add a layer of moleskin (or a large patch band-aid) over the leukotape? I’m also wondering whether anyone has used regular medical-grade non-elastic cloth tape instead of leukotape? I already have a small roll on hand.
The moleskin will add extra thickness, which could exacerbate the pressure on the blister.
Neither the moleskin nor the cloth tape will probably not stick sufficiently for this purpose.
I bought at some point another quite robust textile tape for a try – adhesive does not bleed through, but also the adhesion is waaaay worse. I recently moved back from Leuko P to classic and the bleeding is significantly smaller on classic. I also emailed BSM about this, but either their email gate is broken or they don’t give a damn about my email…
Thanks, Marcin. What is the diff between the two Leuko tapes? BTW, this is not for a weeklong hike through the wilderness, just a few miles a day while on vacay in shoes I don’t normally hike in.
Leuko P has more robust material (I also think that on the higher weight/sqm) and higher adhesive coatweight – that is why it definitely sticks better.
Both are woven with zinc-rubber based adhesive.
What do you mean by balm – which ingredient would you consider important? Or what is the name of stuff you used, so that I can check it.
I tried with a moisturising cream and the suncream and in both cases no changes 🙁
A “balm” would have the approximate consistency of Chapstick.