Learn how to build an urban survival kit and increase your chances of survival whatever disaster comes your way!
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In this article:
How to Build an Urban Survival Kit: Tips and Steps
Tips to Build an Urban Survival Kit
1. Take Time to Build an Urban Survival Kit
When you hear the words “survival situation,” what springs to mind? For most people, they immediately imagine some kind of emergency in the great outdoors: lost in the woods, or perhaps a camping trip gone wrong.
Survival kits typically reflect this public fascination with wilderness survival. This was true even as far back as 1986 when John Wiseman released “The SAS Survival Handbook.”
The book is often credited with popularizing the idea of a survival kit. Wiseman’s readers were encouraged to stock up on fishing hooks, how to track animals and general campsite craft.
Problem: None of this is useful to the average person living in an urban environment. Read on to find out how you can be prepared for any disastrous event in an urban setting.
2. Preparing for Urban Survival
That’s not to say wilderness survival doesn’t have its place (of course, it does). However, the reality today is that 54 percent of the world’s population live in cities.
In the United States, the figure is 80 percent. If you’re reading this, you’re probably doing so from a city.
If you live in a city, this means if disaster strikes, you’ll probably be (you guessed it) in a city.
Moreover, an urban disaster isn’t quite as unlikely as you might think. Over 2017, we’ve seen hurricanes Irma and Harvey batter the east coast, while California’s wildfires roast the west.
In between, NOAA recorded nearly 1,400 tornadoes nationwide in 2017, while Homeland Security says state governors have issued 140 emergency declarations across the country in the past year.
Disasters happen, and it pays to be prepared. And not just prepared, but prepared to survive in your own environment.
You probably don’t need bear spray in Kansas and can likely survive in Montana without a mosquito repellent. Likewise, an urban survival kit is very different from the so-called conventional wilderness kits of pop culture.
3. No Size Fits All
Here, we’re going to look at the basics of how to construct your own urban survival kit. However, bear in mind this isn’t a cookie-cutter IKEA instruction manual.
If your finished product comes out looking slightly different, then it means you’ve done something right. Just like with wilderness survival, an urban kit should be tailor-made to your specific needs and circumstances.
Do what works for you. For now, we’re going to try to stay as focused as possible on the essentials.
Think of this as a base from which you might add or subtract items depending on your situation.
4. Complete Your Urban Survival Kit Checklist
An urban survival kit is a must with all kinds of natural and man-made emergencies which could inevitably occur near you. This urban survival guide, along with an urban survival essentials checklist, will help.
Now, let’s get into it. Here are the 12 urban survival essentials you’ll need to make a simple urban survival kit, listed vaguely in order of importance.
Urban Survival Kit Essentials
1. Urban Survival Backpack
Traditionally, backpacks are preferred, though some people nowadays swear by shoulder bags. Don’t listen to hardliners on either side of this inconsequential debate, and opt for whatever you’re most comfortable with.
Whatever you go for, make sure it’s durable but lightweight, and preferably waterproof. Ideally, you also want something which is not eye-catching.
Please don’t use urban or jungle camo if you don’t want to be a target. Both colors have SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS painted all over it.
- Military Tactical backpack size approx.:13"*20"*11" / 33*50.5*28CM (W*H*D),Capacity: 40L; Military backpack is made of high density fabric--durable...
- Molle tactical backpack has molle system, Molle webbing throughout for attaching additional tactical pouches or gear as 3 day assault pack backpack...
- Assault pack backpack with double-stitched, Heavy duty zippers and utility-style cord pulls, Side and front load compression system, Ventilated mesh...
Arguably, the one tool you’ll get more use out of than any other is the flashlight.
Try nonetheless to keep your flashlight compact. There are some decent flashlights listed here.
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During an emergency, you don’t want to have to rely on plastic. Keep a reasonable amount of cash in your urban survival kit bag, ideally with a mix of large and small denominations.
Also, don’t forget to give the money its own waterproof bag (even if your kit itself is inside a larger waterproof pack).
4. First Aid Kit
Here, just a standard first aid kit formula will work just fine. There’s a good survival first aid kit checklist of the basics here.
5. Folding Knife
In wilderness survival, the fixed blade reigns supreme, but in urban survival, you’re much better off with a more discrete folding blade. In an urban setting, your chunky Fallkniven A1 will probably cause more problems than it solves.
Either this one or any of the knives listed here should be fine for most people, though, make sure you’re aware of any local laws surrounding the carrying of knives. A multi-tool also can be very helpful, but should never be a substitute for a dedicated knife.
RELATED: Top 13 Urban Survival Gadgets
Have at least two; at least one can be a cheap lighter from the convenience store, while the other/s can be something more heavy-duty. For the latter, a waterproof lighter can do the trick.
- The all new Everstryke Pro has been completely redesigned, with new features like a replaceable flint, the wick lasts 10x longer and is even...
- Contains the flint and wick in one all-inclusive fire starting kit that fits conveniently in your pocket.
- Strikes hot, burns hot: Flame burns at over 600 degrees fahrenheit
Among survivalists, there’s sometimes a discussion between analog versus digital.
Once again, it really doesn’t matter. Get something cheap but reliable, discreet yet easy to read.
8. Notepad and Pen
Personally, I like small notepads I can fit in the palm of my hand, though some people prefer slightly larger ones with more space per page. Most survivalists also opt for fine point markers because they can write on pretty much anything, though frankly, I can’t write anything with them.
Hence, I like to keep both a ballpoint pen and a thin marker on me. You might also want to consider a tactical pen.
Again, personal preference gets a lot of leeways here, so you do what works for you. As long as you can take notes when needed, you’re on the right track.
When all else fails, the radio waves might be your last, best option for getting important news during a disaster. As always, go for something compact, reliable and (ideally) cheap.
Some good options can be found here. Remember to pack spare batteries.
10. Food and Water
The recommended amount of water you should have ready in a survival situation is usually put at around 11 liters (3 gallons). Water purification tablets are also a good idea.
If you’re also including food, try to have enough on hand to hold out for 24 hours or so.
As usual, simple and compact is usually your best choice. While many people love their smartphones, a cheap burner can be just fine.
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12. Duct Tape
Parachute cords, hi-tech adhesives, zip ties, and the like are all in vogue right now.
Throw these things in if you like, so long as you don’t forget to pack a trusty roll of duct tape. You can never go wrong with duct tape.
Check out this video from Randough Survivor for a desktop office urban survival emergency kit idea:
Perhaps we can never stress enough how important an urban survival kit is. It can mean the difference for your survival and demise in an urban setting.
Continue adding items you deem essential for urban survival as you go along building your urban survival kit. Pretty soon, you’ll build your ultimate survival kit bug out bag in time for a survival scenario!
Do you have any other urban survival kit item you would like to add? Share them with us in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 3, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.
Not a bad list, I was in boy scouts, so we actually had a walking exercise where we imagined nothing worked what do you do, it was nice having a marine as one of the dads. Anyway great starter, keep up the good work…
Nice list…I like the examples with the links for purchase
The only thing I would add is s multitool and some extra batteries.
Excellent list – I have always carried a mini urban survial kit in my pockets pen, multi tool(s), folding knife, coins, tooth pick, breath spray (also for defense) comb, gel based lip balm (can be used for emergency oil with everything having multipe uses.
CR – Also add mini bic and flashlight to this list
I used to carry water purification tablets in any Kit I had, but now I have substituted water purification straws (or Bottles) as they are easier to use and I think they last longer. I’m not sure if they are as effective though. Any opinion on that?
I would add a flat pry bar. If your in the city it will come in handy for prying open things such as doors, etc.
One more thing would be a good pair of leather gloves
Always have waterproof matches….. never know when a bic might go out. Also, put into a waterproof bag…… socks. One wool pair for warmth. One cotton pair to keep moisture
at bay. Nothing feels better to boost spirits than warm dry feet.
Baby wipes and toilet paper
We changed from Bug Out Bags to Get Home Bags, primarily because we realized a smaller container is far more realistic to carry around. Consequently, there are less items. Stuff that may be considered “Nice to have” has been replaced with “absolute necessity”. We start filling our Get Home Bags with a mini survival kit, each holding 5 items. The mini kit contains a Swiss Army Knife or multi-tool with saw, a lighter, a space blanket, straw water filter and flashlight. The larger Get Home Bag container/pack/bag holds an All Weather Blanket (ground cloth), tarp (shelter), SOL Bivvy, first aid kit, DATREX Food Bars, water bottles, fire kit (tinder/matches/lighter), water filter, flashlight and either a saw-back machete or hatchet. The Get Home Bags are set up around a combination of weapon systems (Ruger 10/22 Takedown & Security-6 Revolver, Henry AR-7 Rifle & .45 ACP Pistol or Rossi Circuit Judge & Taurus Public Defender Revolver.