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How to Make a Fire from Urine

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Yes it really is possible if you believe what you see on TV. On the program Dual Survival Dave Cantebury showed us how to make a fire from urine. For those who haven't seen the show, the premise is this: Military survival expert Dave Canterbury and hippie desert survival expert Cody Lundin team up to try to survive and irritate each other in different wilderness areas all over the world.

This particular episode took place in the Mohave desert of northern Mexico. Cody was off collecting pine nuts and trying trying to kill a rabbit because Dave insists on having meat. Dave, meanwhile, had the task of starting a fire. With no fire starting tools, he decided on a technique that involved peeing into a clear plastic bag they had, and then focusing the rays of the sun through the urine to start a fire.

Now, those of you who have ever played with a magnifying glass to start a fire understand the basic idea. There are actually many different ways to create a lens that focuses the suns rays enough to start a fire. It has been done with bottles, eye glasses, and even carefully shaped ice (that one was tested and confirmed on the program Myth Busters, although only with perfectly clear ice that had no bubbles). But Urine?

First, Dave was concerned because his urine came out darker than he wanted, thanks to slight dehydration. But he persevered, twisting the bottom of the bag closed to create a nice yellow ball of liquid. It looked as though it would burst in his face while he tried to get the tinder smoking. Perhaps it did and was edited out and tried again. Who knows?

The show cut away to follow Cody, and came back to Dave without any mention of how much time had passed. He was pissed off (sorry, but he was) because the sun was getting lower and he had no luck yet. Then, the third time they came back to the scene, he had the rays focused and the tinder was starting to smoke. Soon he set aside the urine and blew the burning tinder into a flame.

I hope the scene wasn't faked, and that you really can make a fire from urine in a plastic bag. If so, it is probably true that a clearer pee would be better, so get it before you're too dehydrated. Better yet, why not use that water source that they had nearby. It was mentioned in passing that the water was perhaps too muddy, but I think the real reason was that starting a fire with urine was just too cool to pass up.

For more traditional ways to start a fire, and a photo of a fire plough that at least made a lot of smoke for me, you can check out the page Making a Fire. There is also quite a bit of information on how to make a fire in the e-book Ultralight Backpacking Secrets, which you can get for free (by email a chapter at a time) using the form to the right.



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The Ultralight Backpacking Site | How to Make a Fire from Urine