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5 Items For Your Urban Bug Out Bag

Urban Bug Out Bag

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Survival in an urban environment is a little different than in a rural one.  For starters, urban environments provide ample opportunities to scavenge and potentially survive inside an abandoned structure. Therefore, shelter is less of a concern for an urban survival kit than a rural bug out bag.

First – your survival kit should be kept in a bag that is as unobtrusive as possible, so:

  • it does not look too shiny and brand-new
  •  or look too military (with camouflage)
  • and does not attract attention by being colorful. (Go for natural earthy colors, brown or tan, grey or grey-green.)

Your urban survival kit will contain some different items than a standard bug out bag. You will still want to pack basic items such as bedding, a first aid kit, food and eating utensils, and a knife. Here are a few ideas for some additional items to include:

  • Map – for more detailed awareness of resources and dangers within reach of a specific area.
  • Protective equipment – various types
  • Specialized equipment to break out of or into buildings and other man-made structures in addition to equipment to access or switch off water or gas supplies
  • General equipment

1. Map

To achieve a detailed awareness of resources and dangers within reach of a specific area you want a high-quality, very detailed map of the city where you live and/or work. Before an emergency – study the map thinking in terms of safe places, what is going on in buildings around the area you frequent, sewer systems, utility tunnels and possible routes out of town. And keep the map in your Urban Survival Kit.

2. Protective equipment – which includes 3 areas

Self -Defense

Your greatest priority should be to stay off the radar, stay out of sight and be unobtrusive. Any goods you have need to be stashed safely out of sight and only accessed when you are not being observed.  Unfortunately, if you are in a survival situation it is possible that there will be people out there who are competing for scarce resources and will want to claim yours.

If it comes to direct confrontation (and you are not someone who carries a gun) you need a deterrent such as mace (legislation permitting) or pepper spray. Mace is an irritant, similar to tear gas. Pepper spray is classified as an inflammatory agent and will immediately incapacitate an assailant and is probably your best choice for a chance of discouraging multiple attackers at a distance.

You need to give yourself some training and experience with pepper spray and know how to avoid debilitating back-spray and deal with having your spray turned on you.

Protective equipment for your lungs against dust, smoke, fumes or industrial pollutants chemicals.

  • Surgical face masks might already be in your First Aid kit but you might want to investigate more robust or comprehensive masks for an urban setting. At the very least you want N95 or better rated disposable dust masks and preferably a half-face N95 cartridge respirator or P100 Disposable Particulate Cup Respirator.
  • Shemagh (also known as a keffiyeh) a scarf-type wrap commonly found in desert regions to provide protection from direct sun exposure, as well to protect the mouth and eyes from blown dust and sand. This versatile wrap is like a bandana but much larger – approximately 42″ x 42″.  Take some time watching YouTube instructions on how to tie one around your face and neck for best effect.

Protection for your head, eyes and hands from debris

  • Gloves, heavy-duty protective and thin technical pairs
  • Sunglasses – shatter-proof
  • Head protection – an industrial/construction site hard hat or bike, skateboard, or even motorcycle helmet.
  • Poncho – durable and high-quality (consider a military surplus supply poncho).

3. Specialized Equipment

Equipment to break out of or into buildings and other man-made structures
Tools might be the main area where you want specialized equipment for survival in an urban area. You might find yourself having to get through doors, windows, gates, tunnels and alleys, all of which could be either barriers to escape or give access to something you need to survive.

In addition to your general multi-tool that you always carry, consider: –

  • A Forcible Entry tool (like a multi-tool for breaking your way into or out of a building), e.g. Ontario SPAX tool or Stanley FatMax Xtreme FuBar III.
  • Lock-picking equipment (good quality and not going to snap off in a keyhole!) and practice using it
  • Wire cutters – useful for obtaining access to a fenced-in area. While trespassing is not recommended, all bets may be off in a true survival situation. Wire cutters may also be used to cut rope or other thin material for bush-crafting.
  • An ax for chopping wood, cutting down doors, or as a weapon. It does not need to be full-size, a small backpacker’s ax is sufficient.
  • A small sledge hammer
  • A crowbar or pry bar – if you need to smash through a window or pry open a door
  • Bolt cutters

The last three are particularly bulky and though you might be very happy that you included them in your kit they are probably good things to stash in a safe place rather than carry around in a backpack at all times. (As a last resort this heavy equipment can be used as protective weapons.)

4. Utilities Equipment

Equipment to access or switch off water or gas supplies.  Water keys help you gain access to commercial or residential water in an emergency situation. This may help in the days after a natural disaster or another emergency when drinking water is scarce.

Again, this is heavy equipment that you do not want to be carrying all the time.

5. General Equipment

Can Opener

If you are surviving in an urban environment, you may find yourself eating a lot of canned goods – either ones you had stored at home or ones you found. Either way, a can opener will come in handy.

Portable Solar Panel

A portable solar panel can be used to charge your phone, flashlights, and any other rechargeable electronics you may need. The solar panels are lightweight and thin as well, making them easy to pack and transport.

Emergency radio

If communications have not been knocked out or are restored, a radio can help keep you updated in the event of an emergency. It is a good idea to have one that is battery operated or solar charged.

Water Purification Tablets

Water purification tablets may be useful when you find a water source but you are not sure if it is safe to drink. Simply add tablets according to the directions on the packaging and you will have clean drinking water.

Rest Supplies


When you have packed the basics, these items make up an urban survival kit.  A well-stocked survival kit will have you prepared for any emergency.

Click to view a video by “An Urban Prepper Guide”

Kate P

I have always had an urge to “be ready’ for emergency situations. To my delight, I discovered the term “prepping” and that there is a community out there willing to learn and share information on a subject close to my heart. I also discovered how entwined self-sufficiency and homesteading are with prepping!

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