While browsing the site, you may have noticed that Chapstick (and many other brands of lip balms) pop up in quite a few EDCs. The obvious reason being that it prevents chapped lips, sure. But you might be surprised to learn it's capable of much more—especially in a survival situation. While the all-natural stuff may be the best for your lips, throwing a stick or two of the oil-based kind in your EDC bag can get you out of a few jams. In this guide, you'll learn 9 different ways to turn your ordinary lip balm into an unexpected survival tool.
Why lip balm?
It’s in the ingredients. At the core of most lip balms is a chemical called petrolatum. This waxy oil-based substance was originally discovered on oil rigs and used by their crew on cuts and burns. Now, it's found in a variety of skin protectants, lotions, and hair care products. Petrolatum is a useful survival tool because of its flammability, resistance to water, and resistance to most other chemicals. Most chapsticks also have added sunscreens too—just check the active ingredients label.
For these examples, I'll be using good ol' Chapstick brand lip balm for its useful cap and oil-based composition.
Let’s take a look at what you can do with this versatile little stick…
1. Make a candle
With a cotton swab (Q-tip) and a stick of lip balm you can make a long-burning emergency candle. Cut the swab in half, apply some chapstick to it, and push it (stick side down) into the stick. Light the top with your fire starter of choice and voilà—an emergency candle. It’ll burn for a long time, providing light and an easy way to get a larger fire going.
2. Start fires faster
Starting a fire with a ferro rod can be tough, especially if you don’t have the right kindling. A quick and easy way to get the fire going is with a cotton ball and some chapstick. Since petrolatum is flammable, applying a small amount to a cotton ball will keep it burning much longer than one without. If you don’t have a cotton ball handy, apply it to some bark or wood shavings for a similar effect.
3. Use as emergency waterproofing
It might not be ideal for all fabrics, but you can plug a small hole in a tarp or tent with a small blob of chapstick. Since oil-based balms are hydrophobic (read: water resistant), it’ll seal light rain and morning dew out. Don’t expect it to plug a hole in heavy rain, but if you’re out of options it’s worth a shot.
4. Stop bleeding in minor cuts and scrapes
You can apply a small amount of lip balm to minor cuts and scrapes. It’s also great for healing pesky hangnails. Make sure you’re using a fresh stick (or cut a small layer off the top) to prevent infections. For small nicks and scrapes, this can help when you don't have a bandage available. Remember to seek medical help or administer proper first-aid techniques for more serious injuries!
5. Use on high-friction areas between boots/clothing and skin
On a long hike or walk, your boots may not always get along with the back of your heel. You can use some lip balm on high-friction areas to provide some relief. Since lip balm's main ingredient is a topical healing ointment, it helps abrasions.
6. Use as emergency sunscreen
Most lip balms have some added ingredients for SPF. While we don’t recommend slathering it all over your arms, it can be great if you’re feeling the heat on your nose or ears. Avoid sunburn and irritation by applying a thin layer to exposed skin. This Chapstick has an SPF of 25, which is more than the standard.
7. Protect the rest of your body
Chapstick is marketed for lips, but it can treat dry skin anywhere. Your hands, knuckles, knees, and elbows can all dry out from exposure to the elements. Take some preventative action and moisturize before skin cracks or splits. You’ll be glad you did. Carrying a stick or two of lip balm is much easier than a big bottle of lotion, and it’s less messy too. The Swedish military developed Hudsalve over 50 years ago, for exactly this.
8. Turn your flashlight into a makeshift lantern
If you’re carrying a AAA flashlight (like the Fenix E01) you can use the cap of your chapstick as a light diffuser. By placing the top of the cap over the front of your light, you can turn that beam into a makeshift lantern. This spread out, soft lighting is great for inside of a tent, or if the power were to go out.
9. Lubricate and maintain your gear on the go
Lots of chapsticks are petroleum-based. This wax and oil mixture makes a great lubricant in a pinch. If your flashlight threads are dry, apply a small amount to the threads and they’ll be twisting like new. While you can use it on a knife hinge, it’s best to do so only in an emergency situation — it can be a bit gunky for EDC use. If your knife is carbon steel, you can add a thin layer to the blade to keep it from rusting.
What's your most creative use of lip balm? Let us know in the comments below!