When on extended outdoor excursions are there any scenarios where you can leverage urine as an efficient tool?

An example would be: You're in your sleeping bag in a tent and it's -30*C outside, you opt to urinate in a nalgene inside your sleeping bag and place the sealed nalgene at your feet to keep your toes warm.

I would like to emphasize practical uses rather than concocting dubious scenario's that ultimately are not beneficial to the readers of this question.


7 Answers 7


There are many if you can adjust with smell and fact that you are going to need to use your own urine for some or the other purpose.

  • Hydrate using Urine: When you are damn far away from any water source and going through serius dehydration, You distill your urine if you can light a fire and have two makeshift containers, some kind of tube, and something to cover one of the containers (like a plastic bag). You put your urine in one of the containers, insert the tube, and cover the top of the container. Put the other end of the tube in the other container. The water in the urine will evaporate, leaving the undrinkable elements behind. It will travel up the tube and the condensation will run into the other container. This method is proven one and is also explained in The SAS Survival Handbook.

  • Makeshift Gunpowder using Urine : Though historical references says that there had been an established technique for making Gunpowder, called the French Method which was commonly used during the Civil war, I personally feel, getting that accuracy for some common adventure guy like me would be out of question. But Yes, as the Gunpowder comprises of 75% potassium nitrate, 15% charcoal and 10% sulfur. We have sources for that around: Charcoal - Wood? Sulfur: dug from the ground around volcanoes? And, Potassium Nitrate: Urine? Bat poo? I actually don't have any experience in making one such, but there is a lot of saying about how that worked for people trapped in caves or under some abandoned mine.

  • Urine as luke warm fluid source: Usually, at higher altitudes, one of the most concerned issues for mountaineers is Frostbite. I have a teammate / mentor who eventually had to suffer a minor frostbite during an attempt, He was some 6-7 hrs far from the Advance Base Camp, and he almost got his toe frostbitten. He realized that it is not so serious yet, but it can be if not taken right preventive measures. He had lost his water can during the climb around ice walls and he needed to put the toe in warm water to asap. He was properly hydrated, and could walk down down the distance. He urinated in his socks to keep his toe warm and walked down till the Advance Base Camp. And, he recovered with absolutely no trouble to his toe. What he actually did was, He did attempt the summit, couldn't make it though, got frostbite to the toe, somehow descended before it got worse, when he was sure that he has descended sufficiently well and to the safer altitude where there is no sub-zero temperatures, then he took the gamble to urinate in his socks, just being sure that it won't freeze.

  • 5
    I'm not entirely sure about the second and third points. Especially the third point. If he did wet his socks, wont it further worsen? i.e, due to the extreme cold temperature, the urine most probably would harden into ice and cause additional problems. Jan 7, 2014 at 11:47
  • @Unsung: He was coming down, to the lower camps, far from sub-zero temperatures.
    – WedaPashi
    Jan 7, 2014 at 12:45
  • 2
    For the gunpowder use: that would take some time... say, 2 years or so... From the late middle ages till basically 19th century this was done in Europe in "salpeter pits" and "salpeter gardens" (not sure about the correct - translated literally from German). If you can read German, here's a paper: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ciuz.19950290103/abstract. Basically you need nitrifying bacteria to convert the ammonia (from hydrolysis if urea) into nitrate. With lime, Ca(NO3)2 is formed (Mauersalpeter), which you can also find "naturally" on cellar walls if the ground was soaked ... Jan 9, 2014 at 21:40
  • 1
    ... regularly with urine (horse, human, dunghill in the yard, ...). You can then exchange the Ca²⁺ against K⁺ (KNO3 is less hygroscopic than NaNO3) by potash. Used to be a big business (kings proclaimed nitrate regalia = defined all nitrate to be theirs). End of the business were the huge guano exports from Chile in the 19th century and then the invention of the Haber-Bosch-process which allowed to produce NH3 from N2 in the air and thus to use the Ostwald process to industrially produce nitrate (fertilizer + ammunition) at the beginning of the 20th century. Jan 9, 2014 at 21:49

Whatever you do, DO NOT DRINK URINE. People who suggest this, including a example I saw on a survival show, are just plain wrong.

The job of your kidneys is to take out the trash. This trash is in the form of various chemicals that are biproducts of other parts of the body doing their jobs. Energy is delivered to cells chemically. Cells take in chemicals that combined are in a high-energy state. They re-arrange these chemically into a low energy state, thereby deriving energy for themselves that they use for various life processes. The resultant low energy chemicals are the trash they just eventually dump into the blood stream. The kidneys are constantly grabbing these trash molecules from the bloodstream to keep it clean. Without kidneys, the trash builds up, which will kill you in a few days.

Like a lot of similar industrial processes, the kidneys use water to move the trash and to keep it in a solution such that it can be more easily handled. That solution is urine. If you drink urine, you are putting the trash back into your body, which the kidneys then have to expell again, again using water in the process. In fact, the kidneys require energy to pump these trash molecules out of the bloodstream, which makes some amount of additional trash, which takes additional water to get rid of. Therefore drinking urine will cause you to loose water overall, not to mention the added stress on the kidneys from having to take out the same trash twice, especially when there is less than usual water available (you are already dehydrated).

Urine is mostly water, so if you can somehow purify it, then you can drink it. There are ways to purify water in the wild, so you could conceivably use urine as a water source, but only if you are able to purify it. This is really no different from using seawater as a water souce, and the backcountry methods for purification are the same.

If you can build a fire and have suitable closed containers and something you can rig up as a condenser, then you can distill urine to get mostly clean water that will provide net hyderation to drink. Without a still setup, you can use solar condensators and the like. You don't need to boil a mostly-water solution to generate (mostly) pure vapor, just that you get a lot more of it more quickly that way. Any method that keeps the original liquid at a higher temperature than the output in a closed space will eventually condense clean water. It's a bit of a aside, so getting into details of such methods is too much for this post. But it can be done, although passive condenstation produces clean water only slowly.

  • I have no intention of drinking urine. I realize now in my previous comment it only states "Drinking Urine" as opposed to the common question I always hear which is "Is it Safe to Drink Urine". Thanks for your input I appreciate your answer and contribution!
    – AM_Hawk
    Jan 7, 2014 at 22:44
  • 1
    Care to support your ALL CAPS warning about drinking urine with a credible source? Sure, we know what the kidneys do, and we know urine is full of waste products, but water remains its primary component and your GI tract and kidneys are perfectly capable of filtering them out a second time. It's not like urine is some sort of deadly toxin, but dehydration most certainly can be. It's unlikely you'd get more than one pass out of the water in a bladder full of urine, but that one pass might be enough to buy you a full day of survival in some climates, and one day might be what you have. Jan 14, 2017 at 3:23

Urine has been a very helpful substance in most rural part of Africa. In case you find your way in Africa or on a tour or aid programme. In Africa, people(Mostly elderly people) who can't afford testing of their sugar level in hospitals, use Urine to know their sugar level and chances of having diabetes.

What they Do

Ants are known for their like for sugary substances which is easily noticed when a food or something that contains sugar is kept around the house.

So People urinate on the bare ground outside their house where they know ants visit a lot. They monitor the urine to know whether ants will visit the place. And if ants (so many) should get attracted- then it means that its either they are diabetes prone or already suffering from it.

  • 3
    This used to be how the ancient Greeks would diagnose diabetes. Great answer!
    – studiohack
    Jan 14, 2014 at 14:42
  • 3
    I don't understand how diagnosing diabetes during a survival situation or extended outdoor excursion is helpful.
    – Erik
    Jan 13, 2017 at 21:59
  • 1
    @Erik, me neither - but at least it seems to be a genuinely useful thing that you can do with urine in the short-term, as compared to the usual making-salpeter-for-gunpowder stories...
    – fgysin
    Aug 28, 2017 at 12:32

You could wet your clothes so that evaporation may help you cool a little in warm places such as deserts. Though this may be trivial.


Urine is quite effective for removing tree sap from human skin. It is best to have a bit of water handy for step 2, rinsing.


It's useful for extinguishing your campfire.

Stir the coals, add the "liquid", then stir again.

  • You forgot one crucial point (or did you omit it on purpose? :P ): You should stay upwind of the fire during this procedure :D
    – imsodin
    Sep 1, 2017 at 15:36
  • The question was about the use, not the technique. :-D
    – B540Glenn
    Sep 1, 2017 at 15:42

No, There is no practical scenario in which you would want to use urine for anything other than waste removal from the body.

If anyone is trying to make plans which involve relying on urine as a staple then they truly are unprepared for what is ahead of them. There are however emergency dire situation in which it can be used to sustain life for one reason or another but if that use is included in the original plan then there is no solution in the case of an emergency.

  • I fully agree that no plan should ever involve relying on urine, I was hoping to receive feedback on possible uses such as the ones provided by WedaPashi. Thanks!
    – AM_Hawk
    Jan 7, 2014 at 13:42
  • @AM_Hawk Personally I've not heard of any of those references given by weda (apart from the first one). Jan 7, 2014 at 15:18

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.