We refer to them as lip balms and in the USA they are known as chapsticks as they do just that, soothe chapped and dry lips. I was with a friend and noticed that he had about a half dozen of the little sticks in the door of his vehicle. I jokingly asked him if he was worried about his lips and he simply replied that they were useful in a variety of emergencies. I could think of one other than the intended use. I had used one to lubricate a few items. My small Opinel has a carbon steel blade and goes black when wet. In an emergency, I coated the blade with lip balm until I could wash it and oil it at home I use the blade for food preparation so I coat it with olive oil which makes it safe to use. Then I also applied some to the threads on a torch that was dry and difficult to turn when replacing a battery. You get natural lip balms and the conventional variety. The big difference is in the ingredients. The core of most over the counter lip balms is petrolatum also known as petroleum jelly. Petrolatum is used in skin protection products lotions and hair care products. I always opt for more organic petrolatum free products so I was intrigued as to other uses. What makes the petrolatum version useful as a survival tool?
- It is flammable
- It is waterproof
- It resists other chemicals
- It can have some sunscreen in the ingredients
So other than ad-hoc lubrication applications what else can you use it for?
Well, I was amazed, you can cut a cotton bud in half, coat the bud with lip balm and sick it into the balm. Then light it and you will have an emergency candle and fire starter. It will burn for a while. If you are struggling to start a fire and yes the Ferro rod looks good on YouTube but in real life, it’s not so easy. Add some lip balm to kindling or even some cotton wool, as the petrolatum is flammable it will make the job so much easier.
Then he described how it can assist with emergency waterproofing. Since it is water-resistant you can seal the seam of a tent ( good for dew and light rain ).
Then in the absence of a first aid kit, it can seal minor cuts and grazes until you can get proper medical attention. Make sure though that you use a fresh stick to prevent any infection. I have used a lip balm to soften healing wounds in the past.
Then we got onto friction and the dreaded “high “ spots that may cause blisters, these friction areas may result in chafing or blisters and an application of lip balm may provide much-needed relief.
Then you get the SPF ( sunscreen ) factor, most balms have sunscreen to protect your lips. Whilst it won’t work on your body you can apply it to your nose and ears in an emergency. You can also use it on cracked fingers or dry elbows in winter if nothing else is available.
As we were chatting Eskom came to the party with load shedding. We simply put the cap of the lip balm onto a small torch to make an emergency light, then went to fetch the rechargeable lights. The glow is good enough to illuminate a small tent if you forget a light.