When you’re researching bug out bags or just trying to get new ideas, there is no shortage of information available. Most of these lists include typical prepping gear like a fishing kit and a Life Straw. The problem is, these supplies may not be as important in an urban bug out bag or survival kit.
This is because most of us “prepping experts” with websites tend to live in rural areas, while the majority of preppers live in suburban or even urban areas.
While it’s undeniable that the further away from population you are, the better your odds will be, that isn’t feasible for some people. Sometimes people have jobs and family that make moving out to the country impossible…for now at least.
With that being said, if you do live near a big city, and you are serious about preparedness, you should be working on an alternative to living in the city. This could be a bug out location (or locations) a survival retreat, or a goal to move further away from the city.
SPP301 Urban Bug Out Bag & Survival Kit Considerations
In episode 70 of the Survivalist Prepper podcast I had Chris on from The Bug Out Bag Guide on to talk about urban bug out bags. Specifically the pre-made TUUSK urban survival bag that he put together with Ready to Go Survival.
As far as pre-made survival kits go, the TUUSK (The Ultimate Urban Survival Kit) is top of the line. This is not a mass produced made in China kit, and the price reflects that. At the very least, you can take a look at the prepping supplies included and get some ideas.
What’s in Your Bag…
Just like every prepping list we read online, we need to remember that our urban survival kits and supplies may be different then the next persons supplies. Your location, your family and your skills will all play a factor in what you put in your bug out bag.
This means taking an in depth look at your situation and doing a personal threat assessment and a S.W.O.T. analysis. On the surface this may seem fairly basic, but as you dig deeper you’ll get a clearer picture of your needs.
Here is a free PDF I put together about preforming a threat assessment. [Click Here to Downlooad]
Urban vs Rural Prepping
While there are some basics of preparedness that apply across the board, there are some differences when it comes to where you live. After all, there is a reason bugging out is one of the most popular subjects for preppers.
Living in an urban or suburban area offers a few conveniences, but also comes with more hazards coming from a preparedness perspective. The main hazard being more human interaction, and secondary events.
Secondary events are events that unfold because of the primary disaster. Take an EMP for example, secondary events could be looting, rioting, Martial Law, and civil unrest in general. An urban area wouldn’t be affected much by these.
Another big difference when you’re putting together an urban bug out bag are the available resources. A rural area will have more natural resources, while an urban area will have man made resources like plywood, metal, nails, wire etc…
Food and water needs are also very different if you live in an urban area. A Life Straw water filter won’t do you much good (more on this later) because it’s a high country water filter. Building snares won’t be of much use, but having a P38 can opener would.
In short, think about what you will need (and use) in your urban bug out bag, and don’t just go by a list you read online.
Recommended Reading: Bug Out Bag Checklist and Prepper Gear
It’s Not Always About Bugging Out…
One thing some people fail to realize (especially non-preppers) is that a bug out bag isn’t just for bugging out. We call it an “urban bug out bag” but it’s really an urban survival kit that is useful in more situations than just bugging out.
Call it a go bag, a bug out bag, an INCH bag, a backpack, or whatever you like, It’s basically an emergency survival kit. I find that I use the supplies in my bag on a regular basis, and it doesn’t take a large scale disaster for it to become useful.
Accidents happen everyday, and we never know when having this prepping gear will become useful. It could be a car accident, an active shooter situation or just an accident around the home.
The main consideration for setting up a good urban bug out bag should absolutely be bugging out. However, you will find that these prepping supplies are useful even if nothing major happens.
Gray Man Techniques…
The Gray Man mentality means different things depending on your surroundings. Wearing camo in a rural area might be perfectly acceptable, but do that in an urban area and you are bound to get noticed.
Being the gray man means being unremarkable in every way, and blending into your surroundings. As preppers we love the “tacti-cool” supplies, but walking around the city looking like a domestic terrorist isn’t going to do us any favors.
This doesn’t mean we need to change the way we dress as we go about our daily lives. However, in a bug out or SHTF situation we want to be able to fly under the radar.
If you live in or around a big city, a tactical back pack or hiking backpack may not be your best urban bug out bag option as far as the gray man mentality is concerned.
Take a look at what people are doing in your area and think about what might be your best option. Iv’e even heard about people using a diaper bag, although I’m not sure I could (or would) pull that off.
Recommended Reading: Being the Gray Man & Situational Awareness
One of the biggest difference in an urban bug out bag and a typical bug out bag is the environmental dangers that might exist. this could be rubble, debris, humans, toxic pollutants etc…
Because there is more infrastructure and more population in an urban area, there is a higher likelihood of those secondary events I talked about earlier.
The supplies in your urban bug out bag should reflect this. I don’t have hacksaw blades, bolt cutters, lock picks, or a fire hydrant wrench in my bug out bag, but you might find them necessary.
Urban Bug Out Bag Considerations
Below is a list of considerations you should include when putting together your urban bug out bag or survival kit. This isn’t a list of specific supplies you should have, but rather why these supplies will be useful.
More on Environmental Dangers
As I stated earlier, there are more environmental issues in an urban environment than a rural environment. Personal protective equipment (including clothing) should always be included in an urban survival kit or bug out bag.
Air quality and filtration is also a big issue in an urban environment. Personally I like the RZ masks for bug out bags because the store easily, but there are other options available.
Recommended Reading: Air Filtration for Preppers:RZ Masks VS N95 Masks
Urban Survival Tools
The tools and supplies that are useful in a rural setting may not be useful in a rural setting…and vice versa. This is the main area where urban bug out bags differ from the typical bug out bag.
In an urban or suburban area you may need tools like a water valve key, or a pair of lightweight bolt cutters. A crow bar and a lock picking set may also be useful in a SHTF situation.
It’s also important to note that because of these tools, keeping your bug out weight down will be more of a challenge.
Recommended Reading: 15 Uncommon Bug Out Bag Supplies
Urban B.O.B. Food Needs
Because there is a higher concentration of people in an urban area, there may be more nonperishable food to be found. However, going after this food may not be the best idea depending on the situation.
My though on this is to have what you need in your bug out bag, but be ready for an opportunity when it presents itself. Having to find food because you don’t have any could put you in a dangerous situation.
With that being said, having items like a P38 can opener and a metal spork in your urban bug out bag are good ideas. They sure would come in handy if you came across a can of baked beans.
Your Water Needs
One thing that a lot of preppers tend to overlook is what their water filter will actually do. In an urban area, water could contain chemicals, pesticides, and other biological hazards. A Sawyer Mini water filter or Life Straw will do nothing for these.
Unfortunately, the water filters like the Sawyer S3 that will filter out some of these urban contaminants cost a little more. Another option is to know where to find water in the city that doesn’t need that level of purification.
Recommended Reading: What’s the Right Water Filter for Preppers
The main difference between finding shelter in an urban area vs a rural area is the available resources and available shelter options. It may be easier to find shelter in an urban area, but that come with higher security risks.
In both urban and rural settings we need to think about predators. The difference is that the predators in an urban environment are human.
Again, because because the population in an urban area can dwarf the population of an urban area, self defense becomes increasingly important. While self defense is important regardless where you live, there are more potential dangers in an urban area.
One of the many drawbacks of living within city limits are the laws in those towns. Most big cities have stricter knife and gun laws than the rural municipalities do.
If you are bugging out from an urban area, or trying to get home after a disaster strikes, you’ll need the right supplies in your bug out bag. An urban bug out bag should have road maps of the area you are in, along with maps of the area you are headed.
In a rural area or wilderness setting, topographic maps may come in handy, but in the city they do little good. Other than that, navigational skills are great to have regardless where you live.
As with any situation, how you communicate, and if you communicate with others will depend on a a few different factors. At the very least you should have a way to gather information. Having a shortwave radio in your bug out bag is the easiest way to do this.
However, shortwave radio will be limited to radio broadcasts, and in an event like an EMP or grid down scenario, could become useless. Having a GMRS or ham radio (and know how to use them) in your kit will give you more options.
If you live in an urban or suburban area, having a prepper group could also help a lot. If you do have a group, it becomes more important to have some way to communicate in your bug out bag.
Recommended Reading: 2 Way Radios for Preppers: the Complete Guide
Physical Fitness for Urban Preppers
Physical fitness is important for everyone regardless where you live, but it’s especially important for urban preppers. Because the odds of having to bug out increase as you get closer to the city, endurance is very important.
As I wrote in the article I linked to above, we don’t need to go to the gym 5 times a week, unless you want to. It means that we need to be “farmer strong” and have the endurance to successfully bug out.
Taking you bug out bag (or a bag with the same weight) for a walk a few times a week will help build up your endurance. It will also give you an idea about what your in for.
There is quite a bit that goes into putting together an urban bug out bag, or any survival kit for that matter. If you have anything I should add to this article, or just want to expand on something I covered, leave a comment below…
Brenda pate says
Dale. There is some of us over 65 group that would like to prepare but could use some advice. It appears that bugging in might be the way to go but things like insulin and other meds could be life threatening. I do have a rack of 20 solar panels on my roof and lots of dried and canned foods, medical supplies, and protective weapons but feel very vulnerable on other areas .
I have always been interested in survival. Born in Alaska, wood stove for both heat and cooking, drying fish in summer, and all that made me acutely aware of the fragility of life. But now that I am 75, I have become incontinent. I go through a bag of adult pull-ups a week. Strangely, I have to rethink my “hitting- the-road” mentality. I’m still working it out.