Urban Survival Kit: 22 Critical Tools to Have

Are you living in a city and you’re worried about disasters, emergencies, or even SHTF? Whether you’re worried about riots, an economic collapse, or just want to be ready for everyday emergencies, the first step should be to put together a customized urban survival kit that’s tailored to your own needs.

Although city dwellers are more at risk than rural folks should the big one hit, there’s still so much you can do to prepare. We’ll first uncover the three types of urban survival kits you should have, then move on to the top 15 most important ones that should be present in most of the. Last but not least we’ll talk about some other important items you should consider.

 backpack and survival items
My urban survival backpack has a built-in solar panel.

Urban vs. Rural vs. Wilderness Survival

Although the fundamentals of survival don’t change in an urban environment, the terrain, the context and your surroundings definitely will, and will affect many of your decisions. you’ll still need access to all of the survival essentials in the form of air, shelter, food, water and protection, but the order and priority of those essentials will likely shift.

For starters, the most obvious feature of urban environments is the terrain itself. you’ll be in the concrete jungle, and even in the “short and wide” cities of the American South and Southwest movement into, around or through buildings and down major thoroughfares that could be clogged with vehicles will alter the way that you seek out the things you need or attempt evacuation.

Then you have the other defining characteristic of urban environments. The people, or rather the density of the population.

You are never truly alone in a city. there is always someone nearby, and even in the midst of a major disaster or in the aftermath this has sent people scurrying for safety, you’ll be dealing with dramatically more people than you would be and virtually any other survival scenario.

This can help you but it can also hurt you, and either way your posture while attempting to survive must adapt accordingly or you’ll be risking serious trouble.

Normally in most survival situations being discovered by your fellow human beings could mean the end of your altercation. in an urban environment, especially one where supplies will deplete at a geometric rate, it could mean the start of an altercation.

Especially considering the greatly increased presence of criminals in urban areas, if you are discovered to be well equipped and well healed it could highlight you as a potential victim.

Regardless, you want to maintain as low a profile as possible in an urban area, even in the aftermath of a major disaster. This means that some of your gear selections and choices for luggage must be adapted accordingly if you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb.

Especially in normal times going around with a bulging backpack, camouflage accoutrement or any obvious indicators of a prepping lifestyle is a great way to attract the wrong kind of attention, or even highlight yourself for robbery.

3 Types of Urban Survival Kits

If you want to do this right, you’ll need to put together 3 types of kits. Don’t worry, this is neither hard nor expensive. You will need:

  • an everyday carry EDC kit – things you almost always have on you (in your pockets, wallet, lanyard, purse etc.)
  • a get home bag GHB (an additional bag you keep with you in your proximity, such as in a desk drawer)
  • a bug out bag (a regular backpack designed to get you to evacuate the city when SHTF)

So let’s go over the items that should be in these bags, keeping in mind this is not an exhaustive list.

The List

To prep for urban mayhem, be wise and practical. Don’t go for the latest popular gadgets. No need to show off when everyone is running for the hills. Consider lightweight tools with multiple functions.

Also, you might have to travel, or be in public places a lot. Knives may get confiscated so it helps to have an alternative handy.

1) Foldable Knife

A foldable knife is one of the best all-purpose tools that can be easily hidden. It should be a staple in any survival kit, but be sure to check the laws. In some countries, carrying a blade of any size in public places is illegal.

A good folding knife should be your constant companion in the city at all times. Choose carefully, as many major metropolitan areas have serious laws governing knife style, action and blade length.

Your folding knife should be sturdy and capable of handling utilitarian and emergency cutting tasks while also keeping you out of the eyes of the law.

2) Mobile Phone

A mobile phone is like oxygen for the city dwellers. Sure, right now you can charge it anywhere, at work, in your car, and even in public places, but what happens when a serious disaster hits?

Love them or hate them, mobile phones are here to stay and are an intrinsic part of modern life.

Your mobile phone serves as a communications hub for voice calls, emails and text messages, and can also perform many other vital survival tasks, such as storing contact information and maps, survival manuals and more. It isn’t any good without power, however, so make sure you keep it charged.

We’ve talked about the best survival phones, the best apps, plus how to load your smartphone with life-saving information.

If you have electricity, your phone might as well be the most important survival tool in your pocket.

Hint: when buying a new phone, always keep your old one as back-up instead of selling it.

Another very useful thing you can do is to get a solar charger, critical on the go or if the power grid is down for whatever reason. When it comes to putting together survival kits, redundancy is your best friend.

ferro rod

3) Fire Starter

Just because you are in the city doesn’t mean you won’t ever have need to start a fire if you want to stay warm. Just ask any of the countless thousands of homeless that inhabit such places.

Be it in a park, a barrel or just a small fire contained by bricks or cinder blocks, it might make the difference between staying alive or freezing to death. Accordingly, a fire starter is a must. I recommend Bic disposable lighters for their affordability, sure function, and ease of use.

Lighters such a Zippos and Bics are not just compact but also better than matches. Keep them both, just in case. In the end, both of them together won’t weigh more than 100 grams.

As a back-up, go for a ferro rod or a magnesium fire starter. it should work in most weather conditions.

4) Stun Gun

In some places, stun guns might be the only self-defense weapon that is effectively unregulated and legal for civilians to carry. Although far from ideal, stun guns do inflict painful hits when you make contact and the intimidating, crackling arc might be enough to stop a fight before it starts.

In an urban emergency where you have to deal with an attacker, or even animals for that matter, a taser can quickly cripple your enemy. A high-capacity Taser can yield up to 53,000,000 watts of power, good enough to cause paralysis.

multitool and pouch

5) Multi-Tool

A multi-tool is worth its weight in gold during any survival situation, and for many practical tasks can effectively replace a large and heavy tool bag or toolbox. Whichever variety you prefer, keep it handy and keep it close. Trust me, you’ll be needing it.

two small flashlights
The flashlight on the left is hand-crank, the one on the right runs on an AA battery.

6) Flashlight

A flashlight is another tool that no prepper worth their salt should ever leave the house without. humans don’t do well in the dark, as our eyes, which happened to be our primary senses, don’t do well without abundant light with which to see.

A flashlight can banish the darkness, and no you might think cities remain lit more or less constantly you can depend on those lights going out as soon as serious trouble breaks open. Additionally, the interior of many buildings (to say nothing of underground areas common in cities) are absolutely pitch black when not illuminated.

Consider also the inclusion of a lightweight, long battery life headlamp to free up your hands for basic tasks like navigation or working on something.

Whether to cross a dark alley, or decipher a map in the dark, they are a staple in any survival kit, and the good news is, there are plenty of durable options out there.

6) Paracord

Cordage is another one of those elementary survival supplies that you will constantly find uses for and I won’t even attempt to list them all here.

That being said, for certain urban-centric tasks like immobilizing doors and door knobs or constructing an early warning alarms you’ll definitely need it.

A small bundle of paracord or accessory cord if you want something even lighter takes up virtually no space in your pack and weighs next to nothing.

There’s an endless list of ways you can use Paracord. Also, Paracord bracelets are a great way of carrying gear, because they’ll take some of the weight off your back.

diy first aid kit
My personal, DIY first aid kit.

7) First Aid Kit

There are countless ways to get hurt during any disaster, and countless more to get hurt in a city that has been subjected to disaster. craggy masonry, twisted metal, exposed nails and rebar, broken glass, the list goes on and on.

Make sure you have a first aid kit that can handle all of the basic injuries and illnesses that you might expect to run afoul of in a city, and know how to put them to good use.

This is a must in any survival kit. Some of the things to include:

  • an assortment of bandages
  • antibiotic cream
  • hand sanitizer
  • latex gloves
  • aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • etc.

Keep it in a waterproof and puncture-proof container.

8) Sharpie

You might think that the humble sharpie, or any other equivalent permanent marker, is a strange and specific inclusion for your urban survival kit but it actually makes a lot of sense.

For leaving indelible markings that others in your group can recognize to taking notes that you cannot risk wearing out or washing away, a sharpie works wonderfully.

They’re also vital for certain casualty care procedures such as marking the time of an intervention on the patient’s forehead or in another visible location on their body.

9) Emergency Blanket

These are light metal-coated sheets, formerly developed for space travel use but they’ll do one heck of a job in keeping you warm.

Emergency blankets, sometimes called space blankets, are those gold or silver colored foil blankets usually see wrapped around victims at the scenes of accidents, and we’re given to them by first responders.

This is for good cause, as despite their sci-fi looks these blankets are capable of reflecting up to 90% of a person’s expelled body heat back onto them. They are extremely effective, way virtually nothing and are super compact when folded. Get one.

10) Personal Water Filter

A water filter is a mandatory part of any well-rounded survival kit, including, surprisingly enough to some, for urban specific survival kits.

You might think that an urban environment is one where you won’t have any great difficulty in locating drinking water, surrounded as you are my countless taps and faucets and mountains of bottled water.

Unfortunately, many city water supplies are only functional and safe to drink thanks to a labyrinthian Network of pumping and processing infrastructure which is vulnerable to damage, and you and everyone else will be competing for that comparatively tiny supply of bottled water which will disappear in short order.

In that situation has any other time, a water filter will allow you to safely drink from water sources that might be contaminated by dissolved solids and contain bacterial or viral threats.

Disclosure: This post has links to 3rd party websites, so I may get a commission if you buy through those links. See my full disclosure for more.

We narrowed the best personal filters to two: the Sawyer Mini and the Lifestraw, but if you want to learn more about how they work, plus get additional recommendations for your home, check out this other article.

The LifeStraw will help you get clean water from unfiltered sources such as ponds, fountains and lakes. Legally surpassing the standards of EPA Water filters, it can purify 1000 liters of water and removes up to 99.99% of bacteria. The Sawyer Mini, however, is able to purify a lot more water, and is in the same price range.

Throw in a few water purification tablets as well. They’re cheap and lightweight, you won’t feel them in your bag.

11) Safety Goggles

There will be plenty of airborne hazards and any post disaster survival situation that you’re trying to ride out in an urban area.

Airborne dust, smoke, haze and other particulate can damage your eyes, and collisions or falling rubble can easily create high-speed projectiles that can put an eye right out of your head.

Give your eyes the protection they deserve with ANSI or mil std. rated safety glasses or safety goggles at your preference. These are cheap, but very effective.

12) Work Gloves

As mentioned above under the entry for first aid kits, cities contain countless hazards that are waiting to lay you open, puncture you or burn you.

Since your primary means of interacting with the world is through your hands, and you’ll be depending on your hands to fulfill pretty much every one of your survival requirements, you had better protect them. A good set of stout work gloves is your first line of defense.

It’ll be much easier to do heavy-duty tasks in an emergency if you have a quality pair of gloves or two. Also cheap and durable.

poncho

13) Rain Poncho

This will not only protect you from the elements (rain, wind), but it can be used for a variety of other tasks.

You won’t always be able to duck into a building during inclement weather, and there’ll be plenty of times where you won’t want to for a variety of reasons. A lightweight rain poncho will help keep you warm and dry even when the skies open up over the concrete jungle.

14) Maps

Maps are another urban survival essential inclusion. don’t make the mistake of thinking you can find your way around like it’s the back of your hand just because you’ve lived in a city a long time, even your whole life.

Disasters have a way of quite literally turning things upside down, obliterating street signs, removing landmarks, and covering everything in the same power of dingy smoke and gray dust. It’s easy to get turned around and disoriented, so make sure you have a map to help you find your way.

You need maps of your town or city, including the surroundings along you bug out routes.

15) Respirator Mask

Perhaps more so than any other environment, a crisis inside a city, particularly one that results and major fires or the collapse of buildings will fill the air with choking dust and other particulates, stuff that can easily asphyxiate you and even if it doesn’t kill you create severe long-term health problems down the road.

You must be prepared to counter this hazard with a respirator, preferably one rated N95 or better. Don’t take your chances with a chintzy dust mask, get the real thing.

gorilla tape

16) Duct Tape

Duct tape is a prepper’s best friend. Capable of repairing almost anything or helping you craft anything that you can think of under duress, good duct tape is worth its weight in gold during a survival situation, and perhaps nowhere is it more applicable than in a city where you will have it such an abundance of materials to choose from.

This is one product you should definitely spend a little more on to get the best of the best. the difference in adhesive strength and fabric backing durability is dramatic.

hand-crank am fm radio and lantern
This emergency radio runs on batteries, is hand crank, has a built-in flashlight, lantern, and it can even charge your phone.

17) Emergency Radio

An emergency radio will allow you to tune in and get updates on everything from severe weather to other governmental notifications about the ongoing situation when a disaster has occurred. these devices are inexpensive, and some of them even have a crank operated dynamo to help you generate power when all other sources of power fail.

In a large-scale disaster or emergency, knowing what’s happening will be critical, so you know where you can and cannot go. Chances are there won’t be a TV near you, or that the cable or even the Internet will not function.

There’s a difference between NOAA radios, and regular radios. There are plenty of both to go around, so you’ll want to get for the former, because you’ll have easy access to the automated network of radio weather stations.

Another thing you can do when picking one is to get a hand-crank version. This way you won’t have to rely on batteries to get it working.

18) Spare Batteries

We all rely on electric devices in our day-to-day lives, and even in the middle of a survival situation some of your most important tools, namingly your flashlights, headlamps and phones, rely on batteries to operate. You should always use power sparingly, but you must also be prepared to recharge with fresh cells when required.

You will need these for your flashlights, emergency radios, as well as for your other devices. Keep them waterproof in zipper bags, and try to get hand-crank versions of your devices, so you’re not dependent on them.

USB stick and SD card
USB stick and SD card.

19) USB Stick

A portable USB drive is an often neglected prep because it allows you to carry important documents and pictures or scans of the same and any other vital information pertaining to your bonafides or CV, and keep them with you regardless of any connection to cloud storage or other information networks.

Make sure you encrypt the contents and password-protect them, then keep it on you and safe by storing it in a waterproof container or plastic bag.

As a prepper, you should always keep a backup of your confidential data, IDs, bank papers, passport and so on. Sometimes, the memory in your phone is not enough to store all your survival videos, courses and so on.

And even if it is enough, it never hurts to keep back-up copies on a USB stick or on an SD card, that you should store in waterproof, shock-proof, and puncture-proof containers.

20) Cash

Cash is a vital survival resource. Although many people decry it as evil or omit it entirely from their own Survival supplies, perhaps owing to the misguided belief that it will become magically useless after a disaster, the reality is very different.

Barring an event which is absolutely calamitous in its scope, properly society toppling, cash will always be valuable to the right kind of person and can buy you needed supplies, a ride out of town or other favors that could make a difference. Always keep some on you.

Never keep all your cash in one place (like your wallet). Hiding cash in your socks or even your underwear is not a bad idea, either. Spread it out so that you always have some left with you. This is similar to when you hid lunch money as a kid from bullies, or if you were the bully, the places you checked.

Depending on the budget, aim to have between $50 and $200 spread around in your kits, and a similar amount in your wallet at all times. Keep smaller bills and change, so you have change for vending machines, or to have exact amounts for the thing you’re looking to buy.

21) Water Bottle

Water, as mentioned, is a precious survival resource even in a city but you’ll need a way to carry it with you easily and effectively while protecting it from breakage. A modern water bottle made of high impact plastic or metal is just the ticket here, nothing fancy.

Water is the essence of life and, according to the rule of threes, it’s much more important than food. Always have a 500 ml bottle of water, along with a LifeStraw as part of your get home bag.

In addition, keep a 2 liter water bottle in your car’s trunk. Even if it gets hot, it’s still better in an emergency than nothing. When panics sets in, finding water can be a challenge.

22) Food

Food is also an important survival resource, though not quite as pressing as water. still, even though you can go several weeks without a bite of food before you starve your energy levels will continually go down if you are not able to top off your calories.

Portable snacks and other energy dense foodstuffs that require no preparation are great inclusions for an urban survival kit. Trail mix, jerky, energy bars and so forth.

If you’re thinking about getting home in an urban situation, you won’t need that much food. Something lightweight and packed with calories should suffice. Things like:

  • Hard candy can prove to be bliss in hard times. It could cheer up your kids, and the sweetener present in it will boost energy levels.
  • Energy bars. There are plenty of food bars out there that have a very good nutritional value. Though they may be high in sugars, sugar will give you the much-needed energy burst in a stressful situation. Make sure you check the expiration dates on each, and that you replace them with new ones before they expire.
  • Trail mix. A hiker’s favorite, this food is lightweight, and jam-packed with calories and nutrients.

You don’t want to pack too much food because the weight will slow you down. You only want enough to last you until you get to a more permanent place, one that has more food or means to procure it.

Additional Items

Emergency Whistle

a quality survival whistle can emit a piercing shriek that is absolutely ear splitting and capable of being easily heard over the din and commotion of a city.

This is also an excellent option for signaling people that are with you but separated from you, or signaling to potential rescuers should you become trapped inside a building or rubble.

Pepper Spray

Pepper spray is the city dwellers best friend, and one of the very best ranged less lethal defensive options available. High quality pepper spray is no joke and far from a mere annoyance.

Most people who are not extremely motivated or cranked up on perception altering drugs will wilt quickly after a good dose of pepper spray, and likely save you a scuffle that you would rather avoid. Even better, pepper spray is legal pretty much everywhere from coast to coast, including major cities.

TP / Baby Wipes

Don’t neglect personal hygiene in a survival scenario, as that way lies pestilence and infection, sure showstoppers during any survival scenario. When you are taking care of business, toilet paper is always going to be welcome, or you can make things even easier on yourself by carrying a pack of baby wipes.

Toothbrush

In a bug out situation, you would need to carry this basic toiletry, such as floss, a little bit of toothpaste, and feminine hygiene products.

Eating Utensil

Such as a Spork might come in handy.

Handgun

For urban dwellers that desire a firearm, the handgun is the weapon of choice. it is not the easiest to shoot or the most effective terminally, but it is the only one that you can easily and reliably conceal while still getting it into action quickly.

Don’t delude yourself into thinking that carrying a long gun in an urban environment will dissuade the serious bad guys. It won’t, and it will just attract attention and get you bushwhacked.

Tactical Pen

For discreet self defense for use as a weapon of surprise a tactical pen can be just the thing in addition to a useful, heavy duty writing tool.

A tactical pen relies on its sturdy, metal body and knurled surfaces to inflict damage when thrust into an opponent, and it’s synchronizes wonderfully with any martial arts skills developed for use with a kubaton or years stick.

Tool Card

The tool card is something of a companion option to a multi-tool, only one that is so utterly compact that it can literally go everywhere you go without raising an eyebrow because it will easily fit in most wallets.

The tool card is a credit card sized case or holder containing a variety of useful, but tiny and light-duty tools, everything from drivers and scissors to magnifying glasses and even ultra compact firefly flashlights.

Small Pry Bar

…so you can open doors and windows.

Extra pair of Socks, Underwear.

Self-explanatory.

Lightweight Jacket

For keeping warm while working hard and moving fast.

Hand Warmers

Ideal for keeping your hands warm and flexible in the coldest weather.

Can and bottle opener

You won’t use these for the foods and beverages in your own kit, but you might find some along the way. Plus, these will be useful in everyday situations.

Urban Bags and Backpacks

Your gear needs protection shocks, falling, water, humidity. Plus, you need a container that is lightweight, doesn’t stand out and doesn’t cost a fortune.

Lock Picks

Lockpicks are a contentious inclusion for some preppers, but they are a vital tool in urban environments so long as you have the skills to employ them.

Lockpicks can get you access to shelter, supplies or even escape routes that would otherwise be barred to you, and help you do it quietly. note that many major metropolitan areas define these as burglary tools, so carry them judiciously.

Trauma Kit

A trauma kit is a counterpart and upgrade to a basic first aid kit, and contains all the supplies needed to treat severe trauma inflicted upon the body.

Things like gunshot wounds, knife wounds, major lacerations, serious burns and a major blood loss. Just like the first aid kit above these supplies will not do you any good if you don’t have the skills to use them, so get trained, stay proficient and keep your supplies in good condition.

Vise Grips

Vise grips are a supremely useful tool that can help a prepper in many ways. Serving as an impromptu clamp, wrench, crimper, third hand and more these are among the most useful pliers that anybody could want.

Although not something that is at home being carried in the pockets of most people, a good size pair is a precious addition to the toolkit in your bag.

Valve Key

Although I have harped on the need to be careful of falling prey to the notion that water will be all around you and accessible in the city, there are indeed many times where that will be the case.

Fresh, drinkable water will be everywhere and nominally operational, but will usually be secured behind locked facilities or valves that require a specially shaped key to open. Happily, these keys are widely and cheaply available, so get one and keep it in your kit.

Bolt Cutters

Bolt cutters are another access tool they can allow you to obtain shelter, supplies or avenues of ingress and egress that would otherwise be barred to you by chains and other obstacles.

Any bolt cutter that is worth carrying or owning will necessarily be somewhat large, relegating these to storage inside a vehicle or inside a pack. despite these drawbacks, when you need them, you really need them and hardly anything else will do the job quickly and reasonably quietly.

Chemlights

Chemlights, sometimes called snap lights, are those spooky-looking glow in the dark rods that you see pop up in clubs, at raves and around Halloween.

Though they have a novel mode of operation they are far from novelties, as they produce bright area lighting that lasts for hours and hours while generating no heat and remaining completely safe the entire time. they are the perfect option for special purpose lighting, marking trails, people or buildings and signaling.

Power Bank

For rechargeable devices that don’t require disposable sales, you should invest in and keep handy a charged power bank for topping off.

Pretty much every single phone on the market now it uses a fixed, non-removable battery, and it increasing number of flashlights and headlamps also rely on built-in rechargeables. Having a good power bank to accompany these tools just make sense.

Compass

The compass is a vital compliment to the maps mentioned above, and even without a map basic direction finding will help you orient yourself in an instant, far easier said than done in a badly ravaged city.

You don’t need to have a serious field compass necessarily, although they work fine, and you can save weight and space by relying on a compact button or clipper compass.

For your urban everyday carry kit, consider:

  • wallet
  • phone sleeve with additional pockets for credit cards and thin survival items such as bandages and credit-card shaped multi-tools
  • lanyard hanging around your neck
  • coats and down vests with lots of pockets

For your get home bag (which is, in essence, an extension of your EDC), consider):

  • laptop bags and sleeves for additional space
  • your purse
  • your car’s trunk

Here’s an article on the best bags and pouches for get home bags and EDC kits. As for your bug out bag, consider a medium-sized backpack (more on that here).

Additional Tips

Skills before gear. All the tools in the world won’t save you if you don’t know how to use them, or if you aren’t mentally prepared to survive. In time, feel free to refine your urban survival kit by adding and removing items as you see fit. The more you think about it,  the better you’ll be able to tweak it.

Keep your family in mind. If you’re the only one in your family prepping, you won’t be able to save your loved ones unless they too have their own kits, plus the knowledge to survive. Prepping for more people is great because you’re able to buy in bulk things like bandages and even personal water filters.

Consider the weight of your kits. You don’t want these survival items dragging you down every day, and particularly in a survival situation, when acting fast and things like running will be required. Keep the weight down by:

  • removing unnecessary items (or demoting them from your EDC kit to your get home bag, or even to your urban bug out bag),
  • using smaller and lighter versions of these survival items (but don’t compromise on quality),
  • and focus on your skills, because the more skill you have, the less gear you’ll need!

The Final Word

So, are you ready to start putting your survival kit together? Star by making a list. Don’t go off buying pre-packed BOBs because you end up paying more. It’s much better to get and familiarize yourself with each item one by one.

It’s wiser to take things seriously now than regret not preparing later on. Acquire all the necessary skills now. Experiment with what’s new and overcome obstacles by purchasing the essentials and doing the survival drills.

Nver assume your kit is perfect, there’s always room for improvement… but don’t spend too much time on it, because there are other critical aspects of survival that need your attention.

urban survival kit Pinterest image

update 12/20/2021

2 thoughts on “Urban Survival Kit: 22 Critical Tools to Have”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *