I'm asking this just for curiosity: Imagine your are alone in the wilderness without any resources since a few days. You're dehydrated and you find a bottle of an alcoholic liquor in your baggage. Should you drink it?

Alcohol gives you a bit more time to find rescue instead of dying immediatly. But from a long term perspective alcohol is a bad drink, since it requires a lot of water to degrade the alcohol. Another side effect is that you're drunk and could lead you to a deadly decision.

  • I expect painkillers or some kind of mood-enchancing drug could be less dangerous than alcohol.
    – Vorac
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 16:46
  • 8
    I'm dying... oh look!, a bottle of poison!, that'll help my chances of survival...
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 16:54
  • @ShemSeger It would be similar to drink urin as the last choice. It's a water source, but still not a good suggestion, because it contains a lot of roughage that the body tries to discard. Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 17:15
  • 4
    If I'm out in the wilderness, why on Earth would there be a bottle of liquor in my pack?
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 18:13
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    The question seems to be about something like a flask of whiskey. However, it is not true that all alcoholic drinks are dehydrating. For example, beer consumed in moderation has a hydrating, rather than a dehydrating, effect. See Heinz Valtin, "'Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.' Really? Is there scientific evidence for '8x8'?," Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 283: R993-R1004, 2002. ajpregu.physiology.org/cgi/content/full/283/5/R993
    – user2169
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 18:31

4 Answers 4


Alcohol is poisonous, it saturates your blood with sugars and will dehydrate you faster as your body sucks your own cells dry in need of water to dilute those sugars. If you're in a survival situation, and all that you have left is the heavy bottle of alcohol that you somehow forgot about and didn't notice weighing down your bag, the best thing to do with it would be to try and separate the water from the alcohol by distillation.

This can be accomplished, but unless you're a chemist and have the appropriate instruments or mad MacGyvering skills, you'd be better off pouring the alcohol out onto the ground to avoid the temptation of drinking it.

  • The distillery is a good idea if you've the required resources to build one. That alcoohl is more like an accelerator to death, as you argued, would let me conclude, that raw alcoholic drinks a bad decision for the person in my thought experiment. Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 17:22
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    Since water evaporates at higher temperatures than alcohol, the alcohol will drip out of the hose and the water will remain in the bottle – in theory. However, it will be hard to do this move even in a laboratory and I'm nearly sure it will work in the outdoors by just leaving the apparatus in the sun. Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 19:14
  • Its a theoretical question that has little basis in reality, the answer uses the same reality base. Why hold the answer to a higher standard than the question?
    – user5330
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 21:48

As many other posters pointed out, drinking alcohol to prevent dehydration is counter-productive. However, there are other uses for a bottle of high-proof booze in a survival situation.

  • When its proof is high enough to be flammable, it can be used as a fire accelerant or even as fuel for cooking
  • It can be used to disinfect open wounds to avoid a nasty infection
  • It can be used to disinfect water by mixing the water with a small (!) quantity of alcohol

Another thing which might be worth pointing out is that while alcohol will accelerate your death from thirst, it might prolong your death from starvation: One liter of booze has about 2000 kcal - about the daily calorie intake of an adult human (if you can keep it inside). But still: getting drunk in a survival situation is a very, very bad idea.

  • 2
    Why did someone downvote this answer? Is there anything factually wrong about it?
    – Philipp
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 22:24
  • I'm not a downvoter, but neither in beer nor in many wines the water is disinfected primarily by the alcohol. The strategy is rather comparable to yoghurt, kefir, fresh cheese etc.: provide conditions under which a friendly microbial strain (which is inoculated to make sure it has a headstart) overwhelms any microbes that may fall in. Beer in addition is sterilized (cooked) before inoculating and it contains conservation agents (hops), so do some wines (e.g. the apple wine in my region). Ethanol is microbiostatic at about 10 %, 30 % are needed for microbiocidal effect = too much for drinking.
    – cbeleites
    Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 20:29

If all I had was some liquor, I would not be drinking that. Drinking alcohol causes dehydration, so while you might feel some very very temporary relief from having liquid in your throat, it's going to hurt you in terms of dehydration overall. Additionally, as you said, alcohol leads to poor judgement and reduced decision making skills. That's only going to make it harder to find the actual resources you need to survive.

Alcohol and wilderness survival don't mix. It's possible to enjoy alcohol in the outdoors in a responsible manner, but if you get to a situation where the only thing you have is a bottle of booze and yet you don't have a means to purify water, you've made some poor decisions to get to that point.


Alcohol is a high flammable liquid so better answer is to spread it all over the woods (if there's any) and make a spark, the help will reach you faster than you thought. ;)

  • I don't think setting fire to your surroundings would be particularly helpful in a survival situation
    – user2766
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 8:01
  • @Liam He don't have to be sitting near to it, just in hope someone will notice the fire or smoke.
    – Cyb3r
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 8:11
  • This my second instinct after getting out your handy distillery kit to make water. However, most spirits actually require significant heat to ignite so you'd probably just be better off building a fire with wood.
    – nivag
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 8:38

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