This article will surely have people disagree and say that drinking your urine is fine and even recommended. So let's look at some of these pee-drinking proponents' arguments before we gun down the idea of urine-ade for a thirst quencher.
"Urine is sterile, therefore you can drink it!" - Do you know what sterile means? Do you know what else is sterile? Gasoline is sterile, hot magma is sterile, arsenic is sterile. All sterile means is that this substance is not capable of supporting life.
I'll also point out that urine is actually NOT sterile, sometimes. So not only is the conclusion wrong (that urine's good to drink due to it's sterility) but the premise is also wrong (that urine is sterile). Here's the science behind urine composition.
"Urine is mostly water, therefore it will re-hydrate you!" - Do I need to propose more counter examples? Fine, here it goes... 80 proof vodka is also mostly water, hydrogen peroxide is mostly water, dirty and disease infected pond water is mostly water. Get the point?
"But Bear Grylls, Mykel Hawke, and Joe Teti all drank their own piss, so it must be ok!" - They all had one thing in common... Millions of people to entertain. Of course watching someone consume something so vial makes for great TV. I believe Cody Lundin and Les Stroud didn't succumb to the pressure of trying to develop 'ratings', they didn't need to, they had other things going for them.
What is Wrong with Drinking Urine?
Urine contains several harmful toxins including urea and ammonia. Both of these chemicals can have adverse effects on the human body, and although small doses like that in a sample of urine would not have a macroscopic effect, it can wear away at the functioning of your system on a small scale, which ultimately can make a big difference in a survival scenario.
Urine contains relatively high salt content. The amount of salt can vary depending on the individual's diet and current level of hydration.
You never know how your body will react. When most people drink piss, it doesn't exactly go down like a refreshing glass of icy lemonade on a hot summer day. It usually accompanies a lot of physiological effects which can really hinder your chances of survival. Attempting to force something down your throat against your will can release a flow of energy wasting adrenaline, increase stress levels and therefore heart rate and blood pressure, and not to mention, potentially induce a vomiting/gagging session. If this happens you'll easily dehydrate yourself even further.
The United States Army field manual advises against consuming urine in ANY survival scenario. It does not even reference any exceptions. Never mind how it affects dehydration, it's simply bad for your overall health as well! Urine therapy is just absurd.
Let's get one thing clear:
One might try to argue that in some cases your urine is not particularly tainted with toxic chemicals and high sodium levels, but when is this the case? The best time to drink your urine if you're convinced it can provide an edge, would be when your urine is clear and watery. But in that case, you're probably not dehydrated at all. When you're dehydrated is absolutely the worst time to drink it.
Alternative Use for Urine:
In a hot, desert-like environment, you can soak an article of clothing in urine, which can then be used to cool your skin down. Simply drape a wet, urine-soaked rag or cloth across the back of your neck to create a cooling effect.
What About Filtering Urine?
There are many ways to filter and desalinate urine sufficiently enough to consume. Although this article isn't meant to focus on urine filtering techniques, you can certainly (more often than not) find a way to improve the quality of urine to the point it becomes advantageous to consume. Stay tuned for a future article on this topic!
"Those who drink their own urine, don't know what they're doing" - Cody Lundin
I tried the filtration method of digging a small hole, urinating in the hole, placing an empty soup can in the middle of the hole, and using saran wrap over the hole to drip some of the water into the center. I got more water from collecting it from my tent tarp in the morning dew, and later boiled some water from a puddle I found (tasted funky but I didn't get sick). But it was early spring, and on the east coast (where there was a considerably higher level of humidity in the air) so the water may not have been evaporating quickly enough from my latrine setup. Suppose it all depends on where you're trapped and what you're available resources are at the time, but agree 100% on not directly drinking the same waste your body just tried to get out of your body.
Popsci did a good article on this awhile back I recalled:
Urine is at least 95 percent water, but the remaining 5 percent is not very good for you—that's why your body is getting rid of it. It carries excess electrolytes, such as chloride, sodium and potassium (urine also carries small traces of excess toxins in the form of acids from your kidney, but you'd need to drink a lot for that to do damage). Electrolytes enable some of our cells to conduct electricity, but too much sodium draws water out of our cells, dehydrating us, and too much potassium leads to a heart attack. "Think about it like drinking ocean water," says Jeff Giullian, a nephrologist (kidney doctor) at South Denver Nephrology Associates in Colorado. "It's going to dehydrate you and do significantly more harm than good."
Drinking urine for survival is even more harmful, since dehydration makes it less dilute and all those electrolytes and acids appear in greater concentration, making a bad situation worse. Also, it's gross.