How To Build An Urban Survival Kit

When you hear the words “survival situation,” what springs to mind? For most people, they immediately imagine some kind of emergency in the great outdoors: lost in the woods, or perhaps a camping trip gone wrong. Survival kits typically reflect this public fascination with wilderness survival. This was true even as far back as 1986 when John Wiseman released “The SAS Survival Handbook” – the book often credited with popularizing the idea of a survival kit. Wiseman’s readers were encouraged to stock up on fishing hooks, how to track animals and general campsite craft.

Problem: None of this is useful to the average person living in an urban environment. Read on to find out how you can be prepared for any disastrous event in an urban setting.

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Urban Survival is Actually Useful

That’s not to say wilderness survival doesn’t have its place (of course it does). However, the reality today is that 54 percent of the world’s population live in cities. In the United States, that figure is 80 percent. If you’re reading this, you’re probably doing so from a city. If you live in a city, that means that if disaster strikes, you’ll probably be (you guessed it) in a city. Moreover, an urban disaster isn’t quite as unlikely as you might think. Over 2017, we’ve seen hurricanes Irma and Harvey batter the east coast, while California’s wildfires roast the west. In between, NOAA recorded nearly 1,400 tornadoes nationwide in 2017, while Homeland Security says state governors have issued 140 emergency declarations across the country in the past year.

Disasters happen, and it pays to be prepared – and not just prepared, but prepared to survive in your own environment. You probably don’t need bear spray in Kansas, and can likely survive in Montana without mosquito repellent. Likewise, an urban survival kit is very different to the so-called conventional wilderness kits of pop culture.

No Size Fits All

Here, we’re going to look at the basics of how to construct your own urban survival kit. However, bear in mind this isn’t a cookie-cutter IKEA instruction manual; if your finished product comes out looking slightly different, then that means you’ve done something right. Just like with wilderness survival, an urban kit should be tailor-made to your specific needs and circumstances. Do what works for you. Having said that, for now, we’re going to try to stay as focused as possible on the essentials. Think of this as a base, from which you might add or subtract items depending on your situation. So let’s get into it. Here are 10 basic items you’ll need to make a simple urban survival kit, listed vaguely in order of importance.

1. A bag
Yes, you’re going to need a bag. Traditionally, backpacks are preferred, though some people nowadays swear by shoulder bags. Don’t listen to hardliners on either side of this inconsequential debate, and opt for whatever you’re most comfortable with. Whatever you go for, make sure it’s durable but lightweight, and preferably waterproof. Ideally, you also want something that isn’t eye-catching. Please don’t use jungle camo.

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2. Flashlight
Arguably the one tool you’ll get more use out of than any other, try nonetheless to keep your flashlight compact. There’s some decent flashlights listed here.

3. Money
During an emergency, you don’t want to have to rely on plastic. Keep a reasonable amount of cash in your urban survival kit bag, ideally with a mix of large and small denominations. Also, don’t forget to give the money its own waterproof bag (even if your kit itself is inside a larger waterproof pack).

4. First aid kit
Here, just a standard first aid kit formula will work just fine. There’s a good checklist of basics here.

5. Folding knife
In wilderness survival, the fixed blade reigns supreme, but in urban survival you’re much better off with a more discrete folding blade. In an urban setting, your chunky Fallkniven A1 will probably cause more problems than it solves. Either this one, or any of the knives listed here should be fine for most people, though make sure you’re aware of any local laws surrounding the carrying of knives. A multi-tool also can be very helpful, but should never be a substitute for a dedicated knife.

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6. Lighter
Have at least two; at least one can be a cheap lighter from the convenience store, while the other could be something more heavy duty. For the latter, a waterproof lighter like this one could do the trick.

7. Watch
Among survivalists, there’s sometimes a discussion between analog versus digital. Once again, it really doesn’t matter. Get something cheap but reliable, discrete yet easy to read.

8. Notepad and pen
Personally, I like small notepads I can fit in the palm of my hand, though some people prefer slightly larger ones with more space per page. Most survivalists also opt for fine point markers because they can write on pretty much anything, though frankly, I can’t write anything with them. Hence, I like to keep both a ballpoint pen and a thin marker on me. Again, personal preference gets a lot of leeway here, so you do what works for you. As long as you can take notes when needed, you’re on the right track.

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9. Radio
When all else fails, the radio waves might be your last, best option for getting important news during a disaster. As always, go for something compact, reliable and (ideally) cheap. Some good options can be found here. Remember to pack spare batteries.

10. Food and water
The recommended amount of water you should have ready in a survival situation is usually put at around 11 liters (3 gallons). Water purification tablets are also a good idea. If you’re also including food, try to have enough on hand to hold out for 24 hours or so.

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11. Phone
As usual, simple and compact is usually your best choice. While many people love their smartphones, a cheap burner can be just fine.

12. Duct tape
Parachute cords, hi-tech adhesives, zip ties and the like are all in vogue right now. Throw these things in if you like, so long as you don’t forget to pack a trusty roll of duct tape. You can never go wrong with duct tape.

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