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.

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.

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?

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.

magnesium fire starter

3) Fire Starter

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 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.


5) Multi-Tool

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.

Multi-tools come in all shapes and sizes, the ones made by Leatherman are among the best.

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

6) Flashlight

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

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

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 want to map out your route and directions, write down phone numbers and addresses in the absence of a phone, or just to leave someone a message. You should also consider a pen and paper. Just in case.

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.

10) Personal Water Filter

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

If there’s smoke, dust or ash in the air, you’ll want to protect your eyes. These are cheap but very effective.

12) Work Gloves

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.


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.

14) Maps

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

15) Respirator Mask

Two N95 (better yet, an N99) respirator masks; one for your GHB, and one for your BOB.

gorilla tape

16) Duct Tape

Duct tape can seal opened food packages, put broken glass together, serve as a handcuff, and more.

emergency radio
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

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

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

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

When you’re surviving the urban jungle along with dozens of thousands of city dwellers, being able to get a quick ride out of the disaster, or getting much-needed supplies are very likely. ATMs may or may not work, so having a little bit of cash on hand could be a lifesaver.

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 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

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

A few of the highly essential accessories could make good additions to your urban survival kit:

  • An emergency whistle, which will help you alert others that you’re in danger.
  • pepper spray
  • a little bit of toilet paper in a zipper bag. You can also use it for other things, such as tinder, writing something on it etc.
  • Consider these keychain items because they’re small, lightweight, and may make a world of difference one day.
  • 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.
  • An eating utensil such as a Spork might come in handy.
  • A small pry bar, so you can open doors and windows.
  • extra pair of socks, underwear, and a lightweight jacket
  • hand warmers
  • 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.

For your urban everyday carry kit, consider:

  • a wallet
  • a phone sleeve with additional pockets for credit cards and thin survival items such as bandages and credit-card shaped multi-tools
  • a 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 09/26/2019 by Dan F. Sullivan

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