Dry lips, hallucinations, heat stroke, and heat stress are some of the symptoms of dehydration. At best, you can survive a few days without drinking any water. There are plenty of methods available to keep you hydrated in the wild, but some are more viable than others. One of the most recognized “tips” is drinking urine when trying to survive. However, while this manner of hydration has been popularized by television survivalist shows, it’s not exactly recommended… for a variety of reasons.
The U.S. Army Field Manual states that drinking urine should not be done for any reason, and lists urine in the same category as blood or seawater. Regardless of what you’ve seen on television, if the Army wouldn’t do it, then you shouldn’t either (trust me; they’ve been at this for a while). These television shows aim to “wow” people in order to gain more ratings, and a lot of the “survival tips” in them shouldn’t be followed. After all, they have a camera crew and specialists with them in case things go south. Furthermore, the protagonists of these programs are allowed to scout the area before they begin recording – a luxury you will not be afforded if you’re ever stuck in a survival scenario. As such, when you see someone like Bear drinking his own pee, take it with a grain of salt.
But, it still bears the question, why shouldn’t you drink your own urine if you’re dying of thirst?
What’s In Urine?
While it is true that pee is sterile, this isn’t where the danger lies. Urine is filled with waste products from the body, plain and simple. The amount of nitrogen, chloride, urea, sodium, calcium, potassium and other compounds in it are not unsubstantial. A healthy, hydrated person’s urine is 95% water, but the remaining five percent is filled with an alarmingly high number of compounds and substances (over 3,000!) that should not be reintroduced into the body. Even if you started your survival journey fully hydrated, simply breathing and sweating will lower your hydration levels. You’re losing water just sitting still. If you drink urine, you’re basically putting back what your system was purposely trying to get rid of, and this can cause many problems, from dehydration to renal failure. Essentially, if you try to hydrate using urine, you’ll kill yourself before nature ever gets its hands on you.
The symptoms of total kidney failure are brought about because the high concentrations of toxins in the body aren’t filtered through the kidneys properly. This can happen as you further dehydrate, and the ratio of water to filtered toxins starts to get smaller and smaller. On top of this, certain types of injuries will cause your muscles to leak phosphorous and potassium into your bloodstream. Your kidneys are normally in charge of filtering out the toxins, but they can’t do that properly if you keep putting them back into your body.
By drinking urine, you’re putting an insurmountable strain on the filtration system of your organs. It is at this point that your options are either dying of kidney failure or dying of thirst (you can decide which one is worse yourself).
But I’ve Heard Stories…
Yes, there are anecdotes out there of people surviving in extreme situations by drinking their own urine. A man in China survived the terrible earthquake of Sichuan by using leaves to pool his pee in order to drink it. Aron Ralston, the man who cut his own arm off to survive in the Utah Canyon, also drank urine to survive. In one case, a group of nuns became stuck in an elevator and had to survive by similar methods. But, these cases were rather unique situations and help arrived very quickly, allowing them to receive medical attention. Had they continued drinking their urine for an extended period of time, they would not have survived the effects.
Yet, what can you do if drinking urine is indeed your only option?
Well, the general consensus is that, at best, you can extend your life by a couple of days by drinking pee, and to only drink it three times maximum. If help is just around the corner, this might be a viable choice. Urine can be purified, as proven by astronauts (they’ve learned to use everything on their shuttle!). But let’s be realistic. Their equipment is top of the line and you’re not going to find a purifying system like theirs in the wild. Theoretically, you could use pee to create steam or condensation and drink THAT, but you’ll need some bottles and tubing, or a solar still. Later this month I write about how to build a solar still, so stay tuned.
Hydration and survival go hand in hand. Regardless of how experienced you are in any scenario, without proper preparation or creativity, you’re only giving yourself a couple of extra days of life at best. Drinking water is always going to be preferable over drinking urine. The compounds and toxins in urine will give you a serious case of kidney failure that could basically thwart any previous chances of survival. Your best bet is to be prepared and ignore what some guy on the television tries to tell you. Don’t drink the yellow stuff!
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.