Illustration By: Aaron McKinney
Illustration By: Aaron McKinney

Ask Eddy: Urine Luck

You've got questions, Eddy's got answers.

Can I Use My Water Filter To Purify My Own Pee?

Nope. "The pores in the backpacking filters aren't small enough to remove the sodium, potassium and calcium molecules concentrated in your urine," says Dr. James Hubbard of TheSurvivalDoctor.com. The problem with drinking those minerals, he says, is that "your body will secrete fluids to dilute them, which ultimately makes you more dehydrated than not drinking the urine at all. It's the same reason you can't survive for long on seawater." How about one of those Brita filters people keep in their fridge? Nope. According to Brita's website, the activated charcoal in the filters bonds with metals like iron and zinc. No mention of pee (or sodium or potassium) on the website.

If you do get stranded in the desert or lost at sea, the one thing that will work is a solar still. That's a fancy way to describe a hole in the ground covered with a sheet of plastic. You pee in the hole, and wait for the sun to vaporize the water in the pee, which then condenses on the plastic and is collected in a cup. The salts and metals stay in the hole. It's pretty easy to make a solar still even with a plastic bag and a cup, though hopefully you're someplace warm and sunny, as the filtering won't work well in cold temps. For the record, those Brita filters will knock some of the odor off of urine if you were to, say, lose a certain bet.

Is Quicksand A Real Thing?

Not like in the movies, says Daniel Bonn, a Dutch scientist who experimented on the stuff. He took some Iranian quicksand and figured out that its basically just very small-grained sand and clay saturated with water. It's so saturated that it can't support weight, kind of like oatmeal (the main ingredient in fake quicksand for the movies), which means things tend to sink in it—especially if they spaz out like a panicky explorer, or Gilligan. But according to Bonn's paper in Nature, his experiments prove that humans, being
less dense than the quicksand, will only sink halfway at most. Sometimes, that's enough to kill you though, if a tide comes in, which is how a woman died in 1988 on Alaska's Turnagain Arm tidal flat.

What really will swallow you up, though, is muskeg, the soupy mud found in and under northland bogs. Tractors and trucks have been trapped in it, not to mention the odd wooly mammoth and (more recently) moose. Eddy has fallen up to his pits a few times in the stuff, which is why he now portages wearing water wings.

I Need A Cupholder On The Bottom Of My Kayak. Ideas?

Eddy can only assume you have some sort of neck ailment that prevents you from using a necklace cozy. Eddy's is made from road-kill possum pelt—fur to the inside for a better grip—a tribute from a fellow he once bested in a leg wrestling contest. If your neck can't take the strain of your can of kombucha or solar-distilled urine or what-have-you, you'll find that a roll of duct tape will do the trick. It's about the right size, especially when you wrap it in a cozy, heavy enough to stay put even in a sloshy boat, and broad enough to bridge your V-hull. If the roll isn't steady enough by itself, well, now you have some tape, don't you?

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