Don't Drink the Urine!
Why drinking urine to prevent dehydration in a survival situation is a bad idea
You've probably seen or heard several times when someone said "Oh no, I'm getting very thirsty and there's no water around, I better drink my pee!" After all, those are precious fluids that should not be wasted and will help hydrate you... NOT!
If it wasn't for the massive salt content in your urine then perhaps it would be good advice to force it down the hatch in a desperate situation, but the fact of the matter is that you will actually be dehydrating yourself MORE by drinking urine than if you didn't drink anything at all!
Saltwater does a body good!
Urine contains a lot of salts and minerals, as well as toxins. That's really all you need to know. You drink saltwater, you get dehydrated. And if you are already dehydrated, your urine will contain such a potent cocktail of salts that drinking it would be more like wishing for a quick death from dehydration rather than escaping from it. It's very similar to drinking ocean sea water, and no one recommends that.
The whole point of urination is to get rid of excess salts and waste from the body. If you ingest that, your body will be forced to get rid of them again, plus anymore that are ready. That requires even more water. It's like taking one step forward before taking two steps backward.
Just because you heard about someone surviving a harrowing situation during which they drank their urine, does not mean that they would have died if they had not drank it. People who drink their urine tend to survive in spite of it, not because of it.
There's always an exception...
There is only one small caveat to this rule that drinking your urine will not hydrate you. If you gorge on a lot of water at one time, you will soon have to urinate and the urine will be very clear because your body has more water than it actually needs, so it just "wastes" it, literally pissing it away. This clear urine will probably have a net positive value of hydration, in other words you could drink this very clear urine and get some more hydration out of it.
But this is a bit of a catch-22. If you just recently gorged on water, then why would you be saying "I am so dehydrated I must drink my piss!" You wouldn't, you would not need water for hours. And if you are dehydrated, your urine will be so salt-concentrated that it would be a cruel joke to drink it in an attempt to get hydrated.
The only possible hypothetical situation where this caveat may actually come into play as a reasonable survival strategy is something like this...
You are in the desert and there is a large source of water, like a river, and for some reason you must travel away from this water source and into very dry territory where it is a bleak unknown when and where you will find another source of water. You gorge on water immediately prior to leaving the water source. After some traveling you have to piss, and the urine is completely clear.
In this scenario, it may be a good idea to drink your urine as there will probably be a net gain in hydration, and it would be wise not to waste it. Of course, any container you have should already be filled with water from the original water source, so how are you going to trap your urine in order to drink it? You could possibly use a concave rock or some clothes or gear for a temporary container.
However, this is a very rare scenario, and once your urine starts to gain any coloration, it would be a bad idea to drink it.
One thing you CAN do with urine that will help in a hot scenario is piss on your clothes. This will act like sweat and can cool you down as the moisture evaporates through convection. This itself can slow dehydration because your body will not need to use as much actual sweat. It may seem gross, but in a life or death situation, grossness is irrelevant. And surprisingly, it doesn't smell as bad as you might think.
It has also been said that urinating around a campsite will deter animals from visiting, even predators such as bears. Animals often use their urine to mark territorial boundaries, so there may be some truth to this technique. It shouldn't hurt, anyways.
Believe it or not, urine has actually been used to start a fire. If you put some water in a round object such as a plastic bag, it will create a convex shape which can focus the sun's energy into a point similar to a magnifying glass. Urine will also work for this, the clearer the better.
There was one episode of the survival television show 'Dual Survival' where Joe Teti, one of the "experts" and hosts of the show, said he wanted to drink some pee for a "psychological edge".
This is an entirely different matter from actual hydration, and not really one that I can completely wrap my head around. To me the best psychological edge is going to come from the knowledge and awareness that you are doing everything right and the best you can to help yourself survive as long as possible. Doing something that might hurt my chances of survival would not give me a psychological boost but would probably be a psychological downer.
This type of thinking also seems a bit dangerous. "Gee, I'm going to do this completely wrong survival technique in order to gain a psychological edge, even though it could be harmful."
Urine IS a source of water!
Of course, there IS water in urine, and if it can be extracted and separated from the unwanted salts and toxins then it is completely viable and could actually save your life from dehydration, for a short while anyways.
Simply create a solar still or a fire distillation device to evaporate and collect the water out of it and that will be completely pure drinkable water comparable to glacial runoff. Visit the "Water" page to see distillation techniques.
If you have it in your heart to drink piss, then it must be done immediately after leaving the tap. It will soon start to harbor untold amounts of bacteria. You cannot store it in a bottle for later. If you are going to distill the urine then it is OK to temporarily store it because the evaporation will not carry bacteria with it.
In conclusion, drinking your urine in a desperate bid to stave off dehydration will actually dehydrate you more. Ironic, isn't it?
Read about "Water Bushcraft"
Please Leave A Comment!
Urine can be used in the same hole you are trying to take moisture out of plants in. The sun will bring the water up but leave most of the salts behind. While it is all very iffy it will give you the hydration factor to live a little longer in a dry, waterless situation.26th April 2016 10:40am
I'm a medical student at the U of M and watched that episode of Dual Surivor. Here's my take... If you have good working kidneys you can drink your ***** and this will hydrate you. YES you will absorb the salts and toxins but 1) you need the salts to maintain ionic balance and 2) your kidneys will excrete any excess pretty quickly. As you get more dehydrated your kidney will preserve water and sodium, so your second ***** will be more concentrated. I couldn't give you numbers but I would at most drink my second ***** and that is all. The people on this show are not "physiologist" as much as they claim to know about the "physics" and "physiologist".1st April 2016 1:06pm
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