Can You Drink Urine to Survive and What Are the Side Effects?

can you drink urine to survive

Have you ever wondered what true desperation feels like? Distress to the point you consider doing things you would never imagine yourself doing under any circumstance? If you have, the thought of drinking urine to survive when stranded in the wilderness has probably wandered across your mind.

But can you really do it? Can drinking urine in a survival situation keep you alive that much longer to get you to safety? In the article below, we will dive into this subject along with the risks you may face should you decide to indulge in your own brew or that of someone/something else. 

Can Drinking Urine Help You Survive

There aren’t many things in life more disgusting than the thought of drinking urine. However, in a survival situation, being dead is ultimately a worse option and makes drinking pee a small price to avoid it. With that being said, can drinking urine help you survive?

The truth is, there are no examples out there where drinking urine has helped someone survive longer. The problem is, if you are dehydrated, chances are you don’t have the urine to drink, to begin with. In the movie 127 Hours with Aaron Ralston, he decided to store urine if he ran out of water in the future. When he ultimately drank his own urine, there is no proof that this improved his survival odds and even caused sores around his gums. 

As we will discuss below, drinking urine will most likely cause more harm than good in a backcountry emergency. Urine contains toxins, bacteria and will even dehydrate you faster, making it a lousy option for survival. 

Can You Filter Urine

So, I can’t drink the urine as it is, but what if I use my backpack filter or treatment? The problem is that the contaminants found in urine are too tiny for your standard backpacking filter or treatment tablets. Even UV lights will kill only the microbes leaving other harmful materials remaining. Three methods can be used, with only two being applicable to a survival situation.

  • Reverse Osmosis. Reverse Osmosis uses high pressure to force only the water through a small membrane leaving the salt and other contaminants behind. The problem is, you likely won’t have the equipment handy when finding yourself in this type of situation.
  • Distillation. Distillation could work but would be a time-consuming process. You would use this process to evaporate the water out of the pee and collect it into a second container. This could potentially be done by urinating into a cooking pot, placing a cup on a flat surface inside the pot, boiling it over the campfire with the lid upside down, directing the moisture into the cup. 
  • Solar Still. A solar still could be used by digging a hole roughly twelve inches deep, adding any greens you can find, and pouring in the urine. Then, place a cup in the center of the hole and spread plastic over the top to seal it. Finally, use something like a stone to weigh down the sheet to direct the water into the cup. 

Adverse Effects of Drinking Urine

So, we now know that drinking urine is not a good decision for survival in an emergency. But, should you decide to ignore our warnings and do it anyway, here are some of the damaging effects that drinking urine can have on your body. 

Increased Risk of Infection

Contrary to popular belief, just because urine passes through the kidneys does not make it sterile to drink. Urine still touches the skin and goes through the urethra while exiting the body. Even in healthy bodies, bacteria is present and still a threat. These bacterias include:

  • Pseudomonas
  • Staphylococcus
  • Shigella
  • Salmonella
  • E. Coli

The bacteria found in urine may not cause the infections but can greatly increase their risks, especially in young children or people with weaker immune systems. As mentioned above, consuming urine could also cause sores and wounds within the mouth. 

Rapid Dehydration

Salts and other waste products that can be harmful to your body can actually increase dehydration when drinking urine. As urine is a diuretic, the stored water in the body will become reduced due to the salt. 

Imbalanced Electrolytes

Due to the number of electrolytes and salt that is contained in urine, drinking it may cause electrolyte imbalances in your body. These imbalances could be extremely dangerous when mixed with someone already feeling the effects of dehydration, especially if urine is being consumed in large quantities. 

How to Avoid Drinking Urine to Survive

The best way to avoid drinking urine is to avoid the situation altogether by having a plan in place and arming yourself with knowledge before heading out on your next adventure. Here are a few tips you should keep in mind before and during your trip. 

  • Know the area. Before going to any unfamiliar land or areas, you should do thorough research with maps, satellite imagery, and a call to the local forest service. Going into any adventure with a well thought out and researched plan will significantly reduce the chances of running out of water.
  • Bring a GPS. A GPS will not only give you the ability to track where you are going and how to get back but allow you to plot out water sources and trailheads before departure. 
  • Follow animal tracks. If there are animals in the area where you are stranded or without water, they have to be drinking water from somewhere. Try and follow their tracks to see where they are congregating. Lockdown where they are getting water from so you can tap into it. 
  • Bring your own supply. Pack extra water as a backup for when trips take longer than expected. If you run out, bringing a water filter or tablet treatments is also a good fallback option. 
  • Carry a satellite phone. While satellite phones can be costly, you would feel justified spending the money if it saves your life just one time. If you are someone that spends a lot of time in remote places, it may be a good investment for you. 
  • Let people know where you are going. This should go without saying, as any trip into the wilderness should start with you telling somebody where you will be going. If you don’t come back, they will know where to send the search party to come and find you. 

So, can you drink urine to survive? The short answer, a resounding no. But with some preparations and research before heading out the door, drinking pee will be the last thing you need to worry about.

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