For this reason, this article is going to focus on the gear you need for urban survival because when disaster strikes, you won’t have time to think about what you need or how to get it. You will be focused on getting out of harm’s way and getting home safely. You will be stunned, possibly in a state of shock, and so will the people around you. I know just watching the footage from 9/11, watching the horror and the events unfold on a screen so many years after the event still causes a sense of disbelief and shock at what people went through. To be as prepared as possible, you need to plan ahead and have the right gear on-hand.
You Could Be Anywhere
One thing about urban survival is that you could be literally anywhere in the city when disaster strikes. This is different than bugging out and either going to a bugout location or surviving while on the move. When you go to your bugout location, you are going to stay put for the most part. You have prepared in advance and everything you need for a long period of time is right there with you. If you are surviving on the move, then everything you need will be with you (in your BOB) or you will find it as you go.
It’s different when you are in an urban center when disaster strikes. You could be at work and your kids at school or daycare. You could be at your son’s soccer game or watching your daughter’s dance recital. You could be shopping in one part of the city with one of your kids, while your spouse is across town with your other kids. If you are lucky, you will all be home together when disaster strikes, but this is not likely.
For this reason, you don’t just need to be ready to bug in at home; you need to be prepared to get home no matter the situation and survive on the streets of the city for as long as you need to. This type of survival is unique and requires special gear that will help you no matter where you are in an urban center. You need to consider what you will have on you at all times and what you will have to help you get home.
First, the Basics
First, I want to point out that I am not going to talk about basic preps. I am assuming that in your home (bug-in location) you have your preps set up in terms of food, water, and basic supplies. What I am talking about here is the gear you will need to help you get to that bug-in location, should you be away from it when disaster strikes. This is the gear you will need to stay alive and to reach your kids if you need to in order to get them home safely.
So what do you need? You need the following categories:
- EDC (everyday carry): Survival gear that you will have on your person at all times when you are outside of your home.
- GHB (get home bag): You need the right gear to get you home when you are away from home. This is gear that you will keep near you at all times, but cannot be carried on your person.
- BOB (bugout bag): Yes, you will still need a bug-out bag, even if you are bugging in. In it you can include items that will help you in urban centers as well as outside of the city.
In each of these bags, you will need the basics. The GHB should have enough food and water to last a few hours, enough to get you home. The BOB should have at least 72 hours’ worth of food and water. Other than food and water, you will also have items such as:
- A blade
- At least two ways to start a fire
- An EDC weapon you can carry, such as a kubaton, mace or pepper spray, tactical flashlight, or a stun device
- Medical gloves
- N95, N99 or, even better an N100 respirator mask
- Water purification tablets
- First aid kit
Now let’s talk about some additional gear that is ideal for urban survival.
Special Urban Gear
When you are surviving in an urban setting, you will have resources around you that you can take advantage of if you know where to look and you have the right tools for the job. But these tools are different from those you need in a rural or wilderness setting.
Rather than hunting and foraging and managing to make do with whatever you can find in nature, in the city you might potentially have to be able to break into buildings, steal from locked cars and other locations, and scrounge for whatever you can find. From accessing water, food, and shelter to protecting yourself, you will need tools that will help you survive in the city.
I will put this in here because I think it’s important. For your BOB you might very well have a camo backpack or something that is meant to blend in when in the wilderness. This isn’t what you want in the city because in the city it will stand out. Instead, you want as normal looking backpack as you can get. Even a fanny pack or laptop pack or bag would be great, as long as whatever you choose is durable. The point is you don’t want your GHB or EDC to stand out and be noticed simply because of the bag in which you are carrying it.
Water is heavy and bulky. You just can’t haul it around with you all day every day. However, provided it’s not contaminated, there is always water all around you in the city. Every building, commercial or residential, has a water supply. There is a fabulous tool out there called the Four Way Key and it will allow you to access any commercial or residential water spigot, even if they have their handles removed, which is most often the case. Just remember that using this is only for emergencies because you will be taking other people’s water.
Another water option (that you should have on hand in addition to the Four Way Key) is portable personal water purification system. Top choices include the Berkey and the Sawyer Mini. These are small, very portable water purification devices that you can use when you need to drink water from questionable sources. If you only had access to river water, pool water, or mud puddles, you could stick in the LifeStraw or Sawyer Mini and drink up, knowing you wouldn’t get sick from any potential bacteria or other contaminants.
Ultimate Urban Blade
We have talked about having a blade on you whenever possible, but this is a different kind of blade. Designed by a professional firefighter, the CRKT M.A.K.-1 is more than just a knife. It was design to be a rescue tool, meaning it can grant quick and easy access to locked and secure locations. The tool is meant for rescue workers, firefighters, and the military, but it is great for anyone in an urban survival situation. The CRKT M.A.K.-1 offers:
- The knife blade
- An 8 mm wrench that is designed to fit side terminal batteries built for GM
- Two tools for breaking windows in both buildings and automobiles
- A pry bar/chisel tip on the end of the blade, which will allow you to pry open doors, windows, vending machines, file cabinets, or anything else you need to get into
Lock Picking Tool
In the city, another way to get into places that you might need to access is by picking the lock. You should have a good lock-picking tool, such as the NALAKUVARA Practice Lock Set, for this and you should know how to use it. Picking locks isn’t as easy as it’s made to look on TV and in the movies, so you need to practice before you will ever need to use the skill. Being able to pick a lock and access a secure location or resources allows you to get in and out without anyone knowing you have been there. Accessing a building or room in which to hide or shelter will allow you to do so without letting others know you are there.
A multi-tool is something no urban prepper should be without. A multi-tool combines your blade with several other tools in one compact, easy-to-carry unit. Depending on which multi-tool you choose, you can have some or all of the following:
- Fire starter
- Can opener
- Hex wrenches
- Wire cutters
One of the best multi-tools is the Leatherman Signal.
A solar charger is important during an emergency. It might take you some time to get home and you might lose power in your cell phone, emergency radio, or GPS. Having a solar charger on you is important in this technological age. Whether you don’t have access to a power source or the power grid is down, you can charge your much-needed devices with ease. One fabulous solar charger is the Goal Zero 19006 Guide 10 Adventure Kit. Another is the Power Monkey Extreme, with a battery that holds a lot of power.
Your ultimate goal in an urban disaster situation is to get home as quickly as possible. If you have to spend any time surviving in an urban center, then you need to be prepared to do whatever it takes to forage and steal (only in the most desperate situations) from the buildings and vehicles around you. In order to do this, you need to have the right gear. Consider the options provided above and create yourself an EDC and GHB you can count on no matter how bad the urban survival situation becomes.