Living in Alaska, my friends and I never went anyplace without duct tape. Even on wilderness backpack trips a little bit always came along in case I needed to patch a tent, pants, whatever.

There was another essential that rarely gets mentioned in run-of-the-mill survival prep stories: lip balm. That’s right, a little tube of lip balm is quite handy for more than just chapped lips. Here’s what else you can do with it:

Light ‘Em Up

Wet out and need to start a fire? Smear a little lip balm on any surface — lint, cloth, a cotton ball, gauze, and dry bark all work well — and it will ignite quickly and burn slowly, making it a great way to ignite tinder without wasting matches or fuel.  Here’s another trick. By stuffing a match stick or half a Q-Tip vertically down into the lip balm maybe a half-inch, then coating it with some balm, you now have an emergency candle that will burn slowly. (This also makes a great fire starter). Or, by removing the lip balm from the container and melting it down, then inserting a wick into the goo, you have another emergency candle.


Lip balm can be used in a variety of ways, including protecting small cuts, abrasions, and scrapes from dirt, grime, and the elements by simply smearing a light coating on the affected area. It will also help stop minor bleeding. It is also useful when hiking long distances. Simply rub a little on your heels and other areas of the foot prone to blister; the lubricating effect with help prevent blistering. And while we all know how it helps keep our lips from drying and cracking, it can do the same in extreme weather with other exposed body parts, like fingertips. Finally, to help reduce glare from super-bright places like snow fields or the desert, you can mix ash from a fire with lip balm and rub it under your eyes. It’s sort of the same thing you see athletes sometimes do.

Lube It

Waxy lip balm also acts as a waterproofer, albeit in small quantities. I have used it to help seal up a leaky seam in both a tent and a jacket. A better use is as an emergency lubricant, especially for zippers. I have also used it as a wax for my bowstring.

Got some more uses for lip balm other than soothing your lips? Drop me a note at and let me know.