I find it humorous that one of the most common questions I get asked from students is “Can I drink my own urine?” Apparently, their reference to this odd practice is Bear “something or other” from the Discovery channel.
This controversial practice is one which is tossed back and forth between survival experts and authors on a regular basis. Seems each year news stories surface of survivors overcoming dehydration and emergency situations by consuming their own or others urine. Most often however, we don’t get the full picture of other determining factors in these survivors success (mental attitude, environmental factors, severity of dehydration etc.), thus propelling the myth further into the survivors lexicon.
To further understand and decipher this myth, let’s look at the facts:
Urine is sterile when it leaves the body; it’s the contents of the “plumbing” which should cause immediate concern.
Urine has a 2 to 3 day shelf life depending on environmental conditions, heat, humidity and method of storage.
The color of urine is a prime indicator of hydration level*, the darker the fluid the greater the dehydration. Catching ones urine for drinking is best done while your body is properly hydrated and urine appears clear. *Certain medications and vitamins can darken urine, no matter hydration level.
As the body dehydrates and available moisture used, urine becomes increasingly concentrated with waste: toxins, uric acid and sodium. Continued consumption of these in increasing doses can speed dehydration and cause possible renal failure, drastically enflaming the severity of the situation.
The nature of survival situations in general, dictate that the severity of the situation is not realized until things turn for the worst: weather change, debilitating injury, darkness, early stages of hypothermia etc. Therefore, it’s a survival technique which should NOT be relied upon.
Understanding these simple physiological facts, we STRONGLY advise against drinking one’s own urine to re-hydrate (regardless of WHO does or promotes it), it is simply poor survival strategy.
The ability to address dehydration is a necessity for ALL outdoor enthusiasts. Without this post evolving into a “book”, here are a few basics….
PLAN ahead: knowing natural sources and techniques for obtaining water from the environment. Know how to read the landscape and natural indicators (flora & fauna).
Be PREPARED: carry enough water* on your person to last the anticipated time in the outback and a means to make water “potable”, whether chemical, mechanical or pasteurization. *Its recommended 1 gallon per person per day.
KNOW the facts.