Can You Bug in if You Live in the City?

Can you bug in if you live in the city? Absolutely you can. There are just some adjustments you need to make to your planning so that you can increase your chance of survival. Although most experts may recommend that you get out of the city if possible during a SHTF event, that just isn’t a possibility for some people.

Perhaps you have extremely limited resources, a family member for whom travel would be life-threatening, or other extenuating circumstances that mean leaving the city just isn’t a viable solution for you.

If you’re in the city and planning to bug in, the key difference that you have to account for is that people will be everywhere around you.

So you are going to have to learn how to do everything that any other prepper needs to do, stockpile food, cook without electricity, find water and supplies, etc., but you will have to have even more stealth.

And you will no doubt have more confrontations with other people so you will definitely need to be more prepared to defend yourself.

Stockpiling Supplies

Preppers know that their stockpile is like gold during a SHTF event. Your food, water, and other supplies can be the factor that determines if your family lives or dies.

If you are bugging in in an urban location, consider ways to hide your supplies so that you can still stockpile, even in a tiny apartment. The key to stockpiling in the city is to keep your extra supplies hidden from view so that other people don’t know what you have.

You will need to either stock more water than most people or you will need to find several sources of fresh water that are nearby. One suggestion if you have the space is to have a swimming pool.

This gives you a great way to entertain the family now and with the proper filtering, it provides a large supply of water hidden in plain sight. Know in advance where there are duck ponds, water fountains, and other sources.


In the city, the number of people around you will be greater and the odds that you will be confronted by people demanding your supplies will increase.

You will definitely want to stock up on additional guns and ammunition as well as non-lethal methods of defending yourself and your home. In fact, if your plan is to bug in within the city, I recommend that you become an expert on tactical home defense.

You will also want to know how to escape a bear hug in the event someone does jump you from behind as you enter your home. Get this simple self-defense report to help you learn which everyday items you can use to defend yourself.

Your best defense is to avoid other people who may want to take your supplies and/or harm you or your family, but in the city, chances are you will have to fight to defend yourself. Make sure you are absolutely ready to do that often if you bug in within the city.

Stealth and Cover

When you bug in within the city, people will be everywhere. They will desperate, they will be nearby, and every time you leave your home, you will be putting yourself at risk.

Someone could jump you or worse, they could follow you back to your home which puts your family and your stockpile in danger. One of the first things you want to learn is how to be a gray man so that you can move about undetected.

Stay inside and stay hidden as much as possible. Only go out when absolute necessary. The safest place will typically be inside your home if you can remain undetected. For that reason, you will need to plan ahead so that you can keep your activity invisible.

Use blackout curtains on your windows so that your lights are not seen by others. Practice moving about quietly within your home and make sure you practice with your children too.

Develop a system of hand signals and cues that are non-verbal so that you can talk to one another without making a sound in case someone is within earshot.

Urban Scavenging and Foraging

Even if you have stockpiled as much as your home can possibly hold, at some point your supplies will run low and you will need to go outside to get more

Scavenging for usable items and supplies and foraging for edible food within the city is a learned skill; it’s something you need to know and practice before SHTF, so you can get what you need quickly and efficiently.

The first thing you can do is to pay attention on a daily basis now. Keep a notebook with you and write down all the places within the city where there could be supplies and food that other people might not think about, such as the small, local hardware store, vending machines, airports, etc.

If you have a prepared list of places to scavenge, you can quickly move from one place to the next, and you will get to supplies ahead of anyone who is just roaming around without a plan.

The second thing you want to track in your notebook is where you can find wild edible food growing or living. Again, keep track now and write down places where fruit and nut trees are planted around the city.

Does your city have a duck pond? Or any stocked fishing ponds? These will be great places for you to get additional food that others may not know about. Knowing where these plants grow in advance means you will be outside your home for less time and that reduces the likelihood that someone will confront you.

Fire and Cooking

The smell of smoke and the odors associated with cooking food will be a dead give-away of your location if anyone is in the area. You will need to find a method of cooking and heating your home that won’t act like a beacon to every desperate person nearby that you are there in your home and that you have food.

It’s much better to cook indoors, but you can’t just build a fire in your living room, right? Consider a butane or propane camp stove as these give off very little smoke. Of course the trade-off is you will have to store large amounts of fuel.

You could stockpile mostly foods that do not have to be cooked or heated, but I’m sure you will tire quickly of cold pork and beans. So another good option would be solar cooking.

You will have to cook outdoors but there won’t be any smoke and your food will be contained inside your solar oven. You can even build your own solar oven like the one in the video below:

Regardless of how you choose to heat your home and/or cook your food, make sure that you have the proper ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide build-up. It won’t do any good to cook without being detected if the carbon monoxide fills your home and kills you while you are sleeping.

If you can, install CO and smoke detectors in each room of your apartment.

Flexibility and Back-up Plans

Your plan is to hole up inside your home with all your supplies and your family and only go out when necessary. While this is admirable and may be your best option initially, you absolutely must be prepared for the fact that you may have to leave your home, temporarily or even permanently.

If you are discovered, and if your home is breached, you and your family may have no other choice but to leave.

It’s a good idea to have some alternative locations nearby where you and your family could get to if needed and stay temporarily. Other locations should be as isolated as possible and should not be a place that other people might consider a shelter.

Consider abandoned factories, old warehouses, or even shipyards and junkyards. You want a place that will have some kind of shelter but won’t be a popular place for people to seek shelter.

Now that you realize that you may have to leave your home, understand that you may have to leave very quickly. For that reason, each family member should not only have EDC kits, but also keep bug out bags packed and ready for a quick departure.

In the event that you need to leave your home quickly, either for several days or for a longer time, it’s good to have several planned evacuation routes in place.

Hold frequent drills with your group now. Here are some things to consider so that you can be ready for whatever comes your way:

  • Can you and your family members get out of the house without using the main door and get to an alternative location quickly and without being seen?
  • When you get to that alternate location, are the supplies in your bug out bags enough to sustain you for several days or a week?
  • What if one or more of your family members couldn’t bring their bug out bag?
  • What if someone in your family got separated from the group, do you have a way to meet up or communicate?
  • Who else knows about your alternative location and what will you do if someone else is already there when you arrive with your family?
  • Do you have anything that could be used as a bug out vehicle? In the city, a car or truck might not be the best option. You may have to think about silent modes of transportation that don’t require fuel such as a bicycle or scooter.
  • If you had to leave the city, what routes would you consider and what things do you need to plan for so that everyone can get out quickly and safely? If someone is disabled, you may need a wheelchair or some other way to carry them.
  • Consider alternative routes such as railroad tracks or following a creek or river out of town instead of the highway.

Regardless of what type of situation you are preparing for, if you plan to bug in within the city there are definitely many things you need to learn and practice. You need to be physically fit, prepared to defend yourself and your home.

You need to be prepared to bug out into another area of the city or into the woods if your home is compromised. You need to be on a never-ending journey to find as many urban tips and tricks as possible, because you never know which one(s) will make the difference when it finally hits.

Do you plan to bug out or bug in? Let us know below.

About Dan F. Sullivan

Dan F. Sullivan
My dad was military. My grandfather was a cop. They served their country well. But I don't like taking orders. I'm taking matters into my own hands so I'm not just preparing, I'm going to a friggin' war to provide you the best of the best survival and preparedness content out there.


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    You asked for a comment if I will be Bugging on or out. Hoping this never has to happen, but I will have to bug-in. I am 77 at this time and am really not able to do much moving out. but I have enough food and supplies for a while. Although I may be one of the 9 out of ten who will die the first year at least I will leave something for others.

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    People definitely need to bug in unless they have a planed place to go with people to receive them. You will not be allowed to come into the rural areas that you think you can bug out to without that and may be stopped even if you have that advantage. Don’t think you will be welcome in these area as to the people that live there you are just another drain on their food and water sources. You may think ” well I have property there” in a SHTF situation property right are going out the window and the locals will band together to make that so.

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    Like Lois above, I’m a “little ole lady” who lives alone. However, unlike Lois, I live in a small community that is about 9 miles from a medium sized town. The nearest big city is across a big bridge and so should expect an influx of people fleeing the city. I’m planning to bug in as I can’t walk far and riding my bike isn’t really an option since I have no place to go that is more secure than where I now live. Therefore, I have stocked supplies, built a water collection system, developed a garden, and have the means and skill to protect myself up to a point. I have also met with selected neighbors to discuss the possibilities of forming a defensive plan. Beyond trying to keep myself as fit as possible, I’m not sure what more I can do. Any suggestions?

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    i am 70 and live in a small urban apartment. i have been prepping for a long time and will take care of myself for as long as possible. i have nowhere to go so staying is the only option. i have a middle school behind the property and could start a garden. within 1 mile are 3 different retention ponds, 2 are big enough to be full all the time, one does go dry during the dry season. it is what it is. i will do what i can for as long as i can. good article.

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