Ideal Mechanical Keyboard Keycap Materials for Outdoor Use

March 21, 2024

Are you a traveler who blogs your adventures on a sunny, sandy beach? A field salesman? A competitive gamer who goes to places? If so, then you'd probably be typing outdoors at one time or another. 

The outdoors is great! But the keyboard---and its keycaps---which you will be using will be exposed to the sun, wind, dust, and other harsh environmental elements. And since most keyboards are designed for indoor use, using them outdoors is using them "out of their element."

Everything in your keyboard, including the keycaps, should be robust enough to handle diverse weather conditions, sun exposure, and frequent typing. In fact, you may find it prudent to change your stock keycaps with sturdier ones.

Considerations When Selecting Keycap Materials for Outdoor Use

If you're constantly bringing your keyboard out of the safety of your indoor space, you might consider replacing the stock keycaps with a keycap set that is more durable and resistant to environmental elements. 

  1. Weather Resistance: Choose keycap materials that are resistant to the effects of weather conditions including sunlight, rain, and temperature variations. UV-resistant materials can help prevent fading or degradation of keycap colors when exposed to sunlight.
  2. Water Resistance: Water-resistant keycaps can help prevent damage from rain or accidental spills and ensure the longevity of not just the keycaps but the keyboard itself.
  3. Durability: Durable keycap materials can withstand outdoor conditions. Materials like PBT are rugged, durable, and resistant to abrasion.
  4. Temperature Resistance: Consider keycap materials that have good temperature resistance, especially if you're going to be typing in hot or cold environments. Materials with high melting points, such as PBT, can withstand temperature fluctuations better than some other plastics.
  5. Chemical Resistance: If the keyboard is likely to come into contact with chemicals (such as cleaning agents or outdoor pollutants), choose keycap materials that are resistant to chemical degradation. PBT is known for its chemical resistance.
  6. Ease of Cleaning: Choose keycaps that are easy to clean to remove dirt, dust, or other outdoor debris. Smooth surfaces and materials resistant to staining can make the cleaning process faster and easier.
  7. Legends and Markings: Consider how the legends (characters or symbols) on the keycaps are applied. For outdoor use, durable printing methods, such as double-shot molding or dye-sublimation, can ensure that legends remain clear and readable.

Best Keycap Materials for Outdoor Use

an image of a mechanical keyboard

Several keycap materials are ideal for keyboards meant to be used outdoors. While individual preferences may vary, certain keycap materials are generally well-suited for outdoor use. 

  1. PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate)
    • Advantages:
      • Excellent durability and resistance to wear
      • UV-resistant, reducing the likelihood of color fading from exposure to sunlight
      • High melting point, making it more resistant to temperature fluctuations
      • Good chemical resistance
    • Considerations:
      • PBT keycaps are known for their textured surface, which can provide a comfortable and non-slippery grip.
  2. POM (Polyoxymethylene)
    • Advantages:
      • High resistance to wear and abrasion
      • Good chemical resistance
      • Low water absorption
      • Resistant to temperature variations
    • Considerations:
      • POM keycaps may have a smoother surface compared to PBT
  3. PPS (Polyphenylene Sulfide)
    • Advantages:
      • High resistance to chemicals and solvents
      • Resistant to high temperatures
      • Low water absorption
    • Considerations:
      • PPS is less common than other keycap materials and may have limited availability in certain keycap sets.
  4. Double-shot ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)
    • Advantages:
      • Legends that are resistant to wear and fading
      • Provides customization options with vibrant color combinations
      • Commonly available in keycap sets
    • Considerations:
      • While ABS is durable, it may not be as resistant to UV radiation as some other materials.
  5. Dye-sublimated PBT
    • Advantages:
      • Legends are dyed into the keycap, providing long-lasting and wear-resistant characters.
      • PBT base material offers durability and resistance to wear.
      • Suitable for vibrant and detailed designs
    • Considerations:
      • Availability may be limited compared to other keycap types.

Tips for Maintaining Keycaps

Maintaining keycaps when regularly bringing your keyboard outdoors requires extra attention due to exposure to environmental elements like dust, moisture, UV rays, and potential physical damage. 

  1. Use a Protective Cover: Use a protective cover or case for your keyboard when transporting it outdoors. This can shield it from dust, debris, and potential scratches during transportation.
  2. Regular Cleaning: Clean your keycaps regularly. Use a soft brush, compressed air, or a keycap puller to remove dirt and dust. For deep cleaning, remove the keycaps and soak them in a mild soapy solution. Scrub the dirt away with an old toothbrush. Air dry completely before reattaching them to your keyboard.
  3. Inspect for Damage: Regularly inspect the keycaps for any signs of damage such as cracks, chips, or loose keycaps. Address any issues promptly to prevent further damage and maintain the keyboard's overall functionality.
  4. Use a Keyboard Sleeve or Bag: Invest in a keyboard sleeve or bag designed for outdoor use. These accessories provide an extra layer of protection against environmental elements when the keyboard is not in use or is being transported.
  5. Apply a Water-Resistant Sealant: Consider applying a water-resistant sealant to the keycaps or keyboard surface. This provides an additional layer of protection against moisture and makes cleaning easier.
  6. Keep the Keyboard Elevated: When using the keyboard outdoors, try to keep it elevated from surfaces to minimize exposure to dirt and moisture. A portable stand can serve this purpose.
  7. Protect from Sunlight: Avoid leaving your keyboard exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods because strong UV rays from sunlight cause color fading and potential damage to the keycaps. Type in the shade or use a protective cover not using a keyboard.
  8. Consider Silicone Keycap Covers: Silicone keycap covers can provide an extra layer of protection against water and debris. These covers are designed to fit over individual keycaps and can be removed for cleaning.


With the right precautions, you can carry and work on your keyboard anywhere even outdoors. Consider PBT and ABS plastics as your prime choices due to their toughness and ability to withstand harsh weather conditions.

Regular cleaning routines and protecting the keyboard from UV rays prolong the durability of keycaps, ensuring your keycaps are prepared for another day outdoors.

Chris Greiner, a Mechanical Keyboard specialist, boasts a solid educational background with dual bachelor's degrees in Computer Science and Business Management from Lewis University. His additional certification in Mechanical Keyboard Design showcases his dedication to staying on the forefront of keyboard technology. Chris primarily writes for keyboard enthusiasts and has been featured on platforms like Jestik, solidifying his reputation as a thought leader in the mechanical keyboard community.
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