How to Make a Fire from Urine
By Steve Gillman
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.