The armored, windowless vehicle was as quiet as it was dark. Inside, 20 fully geared soldiers said little as their APV rattled down the long road from Camp Bastion to Forward Operating Base Khar Nikah in Afghanistan. Crammed between two other soldiers was Martin, a first-year infantryman, and he had to pee. Badly.
But on a trip like this, there’s no stopping for a bathroom break, so Martin held on as long as he could. Finally, with little room to wriggle, he fumbled through his gear to pull out a one-liter water bottle, unzip his pants and “attempt to hit the small opening.”
It didn’t go as expected, Martin tells MEL. He’d held it for so long, there was “enormous pressure,” and the darkness resulted in a No. 1 disaster: “Piss was on my hands, on the outside of the bottle and on the inside of my PPE (personal protection equipment). It took all my strength to tighten the pelvic muscle and try again.”
The whole embarrassing ordeal, he says, “was one I hoped never to repeat.” But Martin would pee in a plastic container again — countless times. In hindsight, he says today, the only thing that went wrong here was his bottle of choice.
It wasn’t a Gatorade.
‘The Savior I’d Been Looking For’
“Gatorade is a soldier’s close companion for three reasons,” Martin, now 31 and a father of two, tells MEL: “the wide variety in taste, hydration, and the fact that the [bottle] head is large enough to prevent major spillages whilst caring for nature.” He learned that the hard way through his tours in Afghanistan.
Martin recalls the very moment he discovered this fact. After chugging two liters of water before a lengthy trip in an armored personnel carrier with 11 other guys, he suddenly felt an “insane urge to pee.” This time, as he aimed into the water bottle, he could see what he was doing, but it was a bumpier ride than before. He figured he’d only splattered his partner’s boots a bit. Then he heard a loud voice in the vehicle’s rear: “MARTIN, I’M STEPPING IN YOUR FUCKING PISS!”
“Little did I know the solution was literally under my lips,” he says: “Gatorade.” With their wider opening and larger capacity, Gatorade bottles were “the savior that I had been asking for.”
Martin eventually went from infantry to tank gunner, spending hours at a time inside the vehicle, sitting between the driver and his commander. If Martin had to pee, his commander would have to exit the tank as well.
“This was suboptimal when pulling security, so I would drink Gatorade, piss into the Gatorade bottles and pass the bottle to the driver, who would empty it through the front bottom valve,” he explains.
To stay hydrated, Martin could drink eight to 10 liters of water a day — far more fluid than he was used to consuming. When he wasn’t drinking water, he’d drink Monster Energy. His pee, he says, “would look like I was producing apple juice by the gallon.”
“Due to the fact that we lived, ate, slept and considered the tank our home on tracks,” Martin says, he took special care to “ensure spillages, however small, would not end up in the tank or on my hands. So I made a type of collar with Gorilla Tape.” He illustrated it for MEL:
‘A Big Ol’ Mouthful of Piss’
There was one downside to using Gatorade bottles on the tank, however. “Plastic tends to melt,” Martin says, “and piss bottles stashed on an MRAPV” — mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle — “near or on the exhaust pipe will result in leakage. One time this happened and piss hit a number of bags. An argument ensued, but new rules were established after that.”
On the ground and in high-pressure situations, Gatorade bottles come in handy. But during downtime, they’re just as useful. When you sleep in rooms full of other people, sometimes it’s easier to let loose in bottles so you don’t wake everyone up when going to the bathroom.
“It was a quarter-block walk from my bunk to the port-o-shitter, and when you’re working 18-hour days six and a half days a week for up to 15 months… yeah, you start pissing into bottles,” says Jon T., a former sniper in Afghanistan.
“It’s gross,” he adds, “but what’s more gross is when you wake up parched, grab a seemingly safe bottle and end up taking a big ol’ mouthful of piss.”
That’s one big downside of the Gatorade bottle.
Often, the only source of light in a space they slept in was the soft red indicator on power strips. According to Jon, that low glow “doesn’t do you many favors when you hold the bottle up in the dark to inspect whether this is a clean bottle or a urine bottle.”
Piss Bottle Ingenuity
When he wasn’t in the tank, Martin says, he’d keep an empty Gatorade bottle in his sleeping bag. “I was able to take a piss while covered with the warm, cotton fabric without having the need to get out in skin and briefs. This was especially nice in the cold nights, because an added benefit was the bottle would be warm” — meaning he could soothe his cold feet on the hot piss container.
He also tied a string from the bottle to the zipper, he says, so he could find the bottle easily in the dark. In the morning, he’d empty it and wipe it down with alcogel hand sanitizer.
“Piss bottles have come in many sizes and shapes throughout my military career,” Martin says, “but the valuable lessons learned on tour stuck with me through the different branches.”
Unlike water bottles, Gatorade was not supplied for free. Guys like Martin and Jon had to purchase them by the case. “But the valued benefits far outweighed the price,” Martin concludes. “I never left anywhere without at least one bottle of Gatorade, because it ensured an optimal mental state of mind in terms of knowing I always had a safe place to urinate. Always.”
Alas, Gatorade bottles can’t help every soldier with a full bladder. “I had an instance in Afghanistan where I was stuck in a sniper position with people in a village almost walking over me for like nine hours,” Jon tells MEL. “But I had to stay so flat, prone on my belly, that I couldn’t even lift my head up.
“At a certain point,” he continues, “I just half-rolled when no one was around, snaked my dick out and pointed it perpendicular to my prone body, and put as much pressure behind it as possible. My plan actually went pretty well, considering. Very little dribbled back toward me.”