Gear Tactics is a series of posts about specific tips, hacks, modification guides and best practices of operative, nomadic and survival gear + apparel.
Whether the purpose is to keep things out, keep things in or both, if a particular item is supposed to use o-rings, than a compromised one can potentially compromise the integrity of the gear entirely.
The problem is that not all o-rings are created equal, from cheap to premium. Furthermore, regardless of quality, all o-rings tear, crack, stretch and break – often well before the life of the gear it’s made to be used for. And finding replacements can be difficult.
A few years ago, I figured out a very simple hack to keep the o-rings in my gear “healthy” with increased life spans. Not only that, it made them work better by keeping them lubricated, seemingly indefinitely.
All you need is a ChapStick, or almost any other semi-hardened lip balm. I have dry lips so I’ve always had one of these with me for as long as I can remember so it’s quite convenient for this dual purpose.
If you don’t use them, get one anyways as they’re cheap, require very little for each use and it will go along way to o-ring maintenance and optimization.
Application Method //
There’s two ways to apply to your gear. If you won’t be using the ChapStick for your actual lips, apply the stick directly on the o-ring and surrounding area. Completely and liberally.
Otherwise, just slice a piece from the stick with your finger nail or a knife and then apply in the same way.
I do this to all my gear with o-rings and each application lasting at least a year, but much longer for devices that don’t need to be opened often.
This keeps the o-rings from wear and tear not just from friction reduction, but from drying out.
It also adds a layer of additional water / air proofing because the consistency of the ChapStick effectively fills in the gaps around the o-ring as well as any tears or cracks in the o-ring itself.
In the years of doing this, I’ve found no downside – including no rusting of metal or deterioration.