DO IT YOURSELF

Urine Filter: Don’t Waste Your Waste

Man drinks urine while hiking in a forest
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

It may be something you’ve never contemplated; it may be something that you’ve thought of, but never pictured yourself in the situation. Either way, learning how to process your urine could one day save your life. The general idea might give you pause, but a urine filter works on the same principles as other filters, and are great for the environment and recycling water.

Once you’ve gotten over the initial reluctance of “drinking piss water”, you’ll find that it’s not only a worth while skill, but also a unique way of living.

Is it Safe?

Believe it or not, many people from many different cultures actually choose to drink their own urine as part of a daily regimen. Some do it for health, others for ecological reasons, and of course there are some folk who see a spiritual side to it.

Man drinks his own urine

As to whether it’s safe to actually drink urine…yes, it is, but there are things to consider. Urine itself is actually sterile, as it is mostly just water. If you imagine your body as filtering system:

  • Liquid goes into the system.
  • It passes through the kidneys.
  • The kidneys clean the liquid sending the good stuff (nutrients etc…) into your body.
  • Your kidneys flush out the waste that’s left over (urine).

So urine, whilst not being particularly bad for you, is also not particularly good for you either. The nutrients have already been stripped away, and what’s left contains the contaminants that may have been in the original fluid. Your kidneys really are an amazing filter system that does a great job of extracting the benefits from water.

You should only ever drink your own urine. Not just because it’s slightly less disgusting than drinking someone else’s, but because illnesses or infections can be passed through the liquid. If you have an infection already (for example a urinary tract infection), you can’t “re-infect” yourself. Should you drink another person’s urine, you might pick up their infection.

If you are not healthy in general, it’s probably not wise to drink anything that can make you unhealthier.

Is it Good for You?

With unfiltered or unprocessed urine, the answer is yes and no. But in terms of the benefits you can get for your body, probably not.

As previously mentioned, your kidneys are great at filtering, although some people suggest that there are certain minerals or nutrients that take longer to be broken down by the body, so by drinking your urine, you have a better chance of absorbing them.

Some people suggest that drinking urine from a healthier person can in fact make an unhealthier person healthier (kind of like a trick osmosis), but there is no scientific evidence for this.

If you are very thirsty, technically, drinking urine will not rehydrate you. But one of the great benefits is that it will allay the worst ravages of thirst and let you function for longer in a low-water environment.

The three Ways to Deal with Waste Water

So far, we’ve only looked at drinking neat urine directly without any filtration or processing. In this next section we’ll look at the three ways you can actually get on with drinking.

  1. Neat urine (storing, carrying etc…)
  2. Quick outdoor filtering (how to do a quick filter on your water)
  3. Buying a special drinking filter

Taking it Neat

Should you find yourself in a situation where you physically “must” drink urine to survive, there are a few tricks to help you not only deal with the situation, but also to maximize it to your advantage. The key thing to remember is that you shouldn’t leave it too long before you start drinking, so that you’ll gain more benefit by staying hydrated.

Mix it early. If you are in a position where you know that you’re likely to have to start drinking urine, consider biting the bullet early with an easygoing method. When your water bottle reaches about halfway, top it off with fresh urine.

It may sound like you are about to spoil your only source of fresh water, but the amount of fluid will keep you hydrated and alert a lot longer. Also, it will allow your body to get the minerals and nutrients it needs to keep functioning at high capacity, as well as adjustt to the introduction of urine into your system.

Urine sample bottle

Store it well. Just because it’s urine doesn’t mean it won’t evaporate in hot weather.Whatever container you’re using, keep it out of the sun as much as possible (in a backpack is great). If for some reason you’re in the desert without a container, don’t try and pee into your hands and use them as a cup because you’ll lose most of it. Pee directly into a T-shirt or shirt; not only can you wrap this around your head to keep cool, but you can also suck the moisture out of over a longer period of time.

Making an Emergency Filter

Whatever water supply you have, if it’s not fresh water or rainwater, you’ll probably want to filter it. Filtering can get rid of larger particulate matter and even water-borne pathogens, so that the water will keep you healthy for longer.

Should you be in a survival situation and you drink contaminated water, this can very quickly lead to diarrhea which will dehydrate you quicker than almost anything else.

If in doubt about whether or not water is safe to drink (assuming you have no way to filter it), drink only urine. The cleanest and best way to get hydration from your urine is to make a Solar Still.

You’ll need a sheet of plastic (even a large plastic bag will do cut in half), a container, some rocks and some time (and of course the sun).

  1. Choose a spot where you are likely to get the most exposure to sunlight. Away from shadows but also a place that is not likely to be disturbed by wind or animals.
  2. Using either a tool or your hands, dig a hole that is about half the diameter of your plastic sheet and about twice the depth of your container. Make another hole inside this first one that can actually keep your container secure. Do not use a bottle (unless you are desperate, in which case, cut the top off to widen the mouth area).
  3. Urinate around the hole you’ve dug and the container. The point of this is the heat will cause the water from your urine to evaporate.
  4. Lay the plastic sheet over the hole. Place a small stone in the middle to create a concave surface and then secure the edges with either rocks or sticks (try not to make holes in the plastic sheet). This way, when your urine evaporates, it will condense on the underside of the plastic sheet and run down towards the heavy weight resting over your collection container.
  5. The next step is to just wait. In hot temperatures, it should take about two to three hours for the urine and the sun to create condensation on the underside of the plastic which will then drip into your container. Wait until all the urine is gone (or if you can’t wait, make sure you don’t cross contaminate).
  6. All Done! You now have perfectly fresh water, ready to drink and as healthy as any water you’re likely to find. The waste has been turned from urine into fresh clean water. No pathogens, no particulate matter and not taste of ammonia.

Drinking urine through filter

Making a More Permanent Arrangement

If you would like to set up a waste water recycling plant in your home, it’s not as tricky as you might think. Not only could you use it to effectively clean your urine into potable water, but you set up a system which means almost no waste will ever occur.

This is a larger project, and not for the lazy, but if you’re serious, here’s how to set up a water management system that will keep you watered-up indefinitely.

Urine to Potable Water

To recycle urine, you’ll want to make sure that you get all of the impurities out AND make sure that the water actually tastes good. This can be done by making a staged filtration system. It’s easy and effective, and won’t take long to set-up and get running.

What you’ll need: A meter and half long, wide pipe; a bucket; sand, charcoal, gravel, muslin cloth, elastic band.

  1. In one end of the pipe, start stuffing in the gravel, followed by the sand, and finally the charcoal (finely ground chunks). Pack this in to a depth of about a foot (a third for each material).
  2. Secure this end with the muslin cloth and the elastic band.
  3. Make sure the materials are packed tightly by laying the heavy end flush against the floor and compressing with a baseball bat.
  4. Secure the pipe over the bucket (make sure no debris or dust can get into the bucket from outdoors).
  5. Pour your urine into the top of the pipe and wait for it to filter through all the layers.

LifeStraw drinking filter

This method will clean your urine of all particulate matter (if there happens to be any), and almost all bacteria. The water will be fresh and drinkable straight away. You can top off the tube whenever you need to go and it won’t affect the processing. Remember that you’ll need to change the charcoal every week or so just to keep things fresh.

It should be noted that although this process will absolutely clean your waste water, it won’t re-infuse the water with the minerals and nutrients that you’d usually get from a fresh water source. You can, if you like, add mineral supplements to your new water which will make it just as good as fresh water.

Urine to Potable Water

Purchasing a filter may seem like an easy way to get out of your predicament, but it could save your life. There are plenty of products on the market that can now be used by campers and survivalists to filter their urine into liquid that is more potable and without the horrible flavor of urine.

Girl drinking her urine

Most of them are compactable enough to fit into a backpack, so it’s not a lot of extra packing you have to do. Just catch your urine in a container and add your filter, or there are even some drinking containers already equipped with filters to do the process for you.

Should you try it?

At the end of the day, there are many reasons to conserve, preserve and recycle water; wherever that water happens to come from. It’s great for the environment, it can make your home more independent and it can even be fun. Drinking your own urine may be the start of an even bigger adventure.

Woman doctor with urine sample

Do you have any tips or experiences with the use of a urine filter? Please share your stories with us in the comments section below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Sean Wright

    To be completely honest, I can’t see myself drinking my own urine, but it is still nice to know the details you mentioned here just in case of an emergency or apocalypse because you’ll never know. This article is really interesting especially when you discussed the emergency filter so keep up the good work.

    • Daniel Carraway

      We couldn’t agree more. Nobody wants to drink their own urine, so it is definitely a last resort. Survival isn’t always glamorous!

  • Mark Williams

    Wow! This is actually cool. I never knew that you can recycle urine and make it potable water. I do not plan to this anytime soon though I still find it amazing. This will be important during emergency situations or when there is no clean water to drink. Thank you for this!

    • Daniel Carraway

      This is definitely a last resort when it comes to staying hydrated. We don’t recommend it unless you are in a dire situation. Thank you for your comment!

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