Everyday Carry

9 Lip Balm Survival Hacks

Authored by:
Ed Jelley
9 Lip Balm Survival Hacks

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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, or the more available ThruNite Ti3) 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!

Discussion (25 total)

Vasujith Dharwar ·
Fantastic article!! Never knew that a simple chapstick had so many useful applications.
Great article!! I've always been a student ok the "everything you pack must be multi-use" to save weight and space but never really considered chapstick. Definitely bookmarking and saving this. Thanks for some great intel!!
You can run it down a sticking zipper chain too.
Johan Bertilsson ·
Very good survival tips, a few i already did know of(firestarting, and candle), but the rest i did not know about. I will get some petroleum based myself as a backup. I prefer otherwise Burts Bee's myself.
Bruce Maczko ·
Hey John....not telling you what to use on your lips because I like burts bees also. I found this stuff on Amazon called Honest Amish that's handmade and in a little tin. Its very good stuff!
Johan Bertilsson ·
Thank you for the tip. I will try it out.
Franklion ·
My go to was Burts Bees, but I switched brands to an all natural homemade shop. I also stopped using petroleum based in general and have a bunch leftover so this article is timely!

#1 was an eye opener. Just never thought it could be used that way.
Windburn prevention - slather it on before you go outside on a very windy day, tip of your nose, nostrils, lips, cheekbones. Doesn't always heal the best, but works well for prevention, especially if you stay well hydrated and get it on there thick. On a horribly bright day that is causing sun blindness, you can smear it on your sun glasses and then clean just a small spot in the middle to look through - it cuts down on UV transmission through the remainder of the lens. Last and most unpleasant - if you have a terrible task to undergo where the smell might be over powering or make your stomach heave, you can use a scented chapstick in your nostrils (don't plug them) to help with the odor. Vicks works better, but chapstick is better than nothing at all.
SleepsonCouch ·
I tried the candle idea and it lit easily but burnt out with too much of the stalk sticking out. I then tried it with the cotton in contact with the balm and that worked better but the tip fell over with the plastic side igniting. Is there a trick here?
Stuart ·
It's also a great container. You can use it hide cash, store toothpicks or matches, and even make a tinder/fire kit out of it. Just take the bottom off, cut off the stick, glue the bottom back on, smear the chapstick in some cotton balls, and stuff the saturated cotton balls back in.
Daniel Griffin ·
Impressive article. I'm not giving up my Burt's Bees for my lips, but I'm adding some Chap Sticks to my EDC for the versatility.
David Marcus ·

For some reason the tips of my fingers crack a couple things a year. Nothing helps and it hurts. After reading this article I tried putting lip balm on the cracks, MUCH better! In 1 night my fingers are better. THANKS
Ever tried teatree oil? I've (really) incredible results with this.
Tonkatruck ·
Really like this article, also a burts bees fan, I'm pretty sure it would still work for most of these uses fine- the main ingredient is beeswax, which also has the advantage of being edible (extreme situation only..) particularly liked the torch defuser, going to try a red cap for a night vision red defuse light.
TKsovereign ·
I can say unequivocally that I have been carrying chapstick for longer than I can remember. I even carry backups in my GHB and EDC. I am a Burts beeswax guy but I've been thinking of getting the multipack of Chapstick at Costco. Now I think I may for some of the aforementioned reasons.
joWatts ·
Never thought of other uses for chapstick.
I always carry at least one with me so this is some extremely useful information.
Great tips. I actually picked up a new 3 pack yesterday.
Vince ·
Great ideas! Now, to add Chapstick to my EDC pack.
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