Urban Survival Kit: Do You Need One and What Should It Contain?


While preparing for a wilderness survival scenario makes sense to most people, why would anyone bother with urban survival in the first place? With most of the population living comfortably in cities, we are all safe. And, in case something terrible happens, we can always rely on the authorities and institutions to help us out. Well, preparing for something that occurs outside our comfort zones and protected lives is more than wise. Let’s see today why and how to do it!

Why Is Having an Urban Survival Kit Important?

When it comes to outdoor emergency preparedness, things are easier to understand. You need food, shelter, and safety above all, also needing some gear, great outdoor food kits, and tools to make it out alive and unscathed. Nevertheless, what can happen in the big city where you have lighters and flashlights, cell phones, cars, and food at your discretion?

In the city, things like 9/11, the DC Subway incident, storms, hurricanes, accidental explosions, floods, and many other human-made or natural disasters can occur. Things can go extremely bad simply because we overcrowd in urban areas, know little of preparedness, and are prone to panic and chaos.

If extreme events occur, you have to “make it” for a couple of days until things slowly go back to normal. In life-threatening situations, you might not be able to rely on your usual gear and urban comforts. Emergency services overload, communication systems succumb to overwork, transportation shuts down, people panic, etc.

Few people are aware of this, but in the case of a catastrophic event, time is of the essence, together with fast moving and rapid decision making. Therefore, if you want to live and help others see another day, you might need a “getaway” backpack at the ready by the door.

The Basic Gear for an Urban Survival Kit to Keep You Alive for 3 Days

Building an urban survival kit and carrying gear is an issue because the heavier you are, the slower you will move. Since we do live in a hi-tech world and can rely somewhat on others to help, we will discuss an urban survival kit that should keep you well for three days. We are not talking surviving for weeks or months in a post-apocalyptic science-fiction scenario.

When you build an urban survival kit for 2-3 days, you need to cover the absolute basics: survival essentials, security, and navigation. First things first, you need a backpack or a sling bag. Most likely, all the items we are going to list below are already part of your EDC. What you will see are items you might consider for an urban crisis scenario.

The Essentials

As you probably know, the essentials refer to light, fire, food/water, and shelter. So here is what you might need to pack:

  • A couple of lighters, one in your pocket and one in the backpack;
  • Matchboxes, to make sure;
  • A reusable aluminum water bottle to carry freshwater and even boil water in it just in case;
  • A water filter – consider a straw-type of filter, a filtered water bottle, or a water bladder with an incorporated filter in it;
  • A couple of emergency food packs and a few bags of crunchy, high-calorie snacks with no salt if possible, because in emergencies, drinkable water can become scarce;
  • Anything with caffeine in it – preferably lightweight – for a boost of energy and a mild pain reliever, just in case.
  • Waterproof lightweight jacket;
  • Mylar space blanket you can use to warm up, sleep on, or make a shelter;
  • Wet antibacterial wipes, antibacterial gel, a couple of surgical facemasks in case you don’t find an N95 or better for particulate protection.

First aid kit

This is what you may need most and save your own or someone else’s life , learn more about First Aid Kit contents.

Safety and Security

You probably already know this, but safety and security are crucial in any emergency. It is safe to assume that if you have basic training in emergency preparedness, you already put aside a couple of every-day-carry knives, preferably the folding type, as they come in handy in any situation imaginable. As knives go, you should consider the carbon steel ones instead of stainless steel varieties because they are more robust. In case the situation is dire, think fixed blade knives with tactical or military design and uses.

However, your urban survival kit should contain more than just knives. Here are some of the items you should never forget to pack:

  • A utility tool, or multi-tool, essential for any crisis scenario
  • Spork or pocket cutlery
  • At least 100 feet of paracord, useful in a host of situations
  • Flashlight and batteries – do not overload your backpack, however
  • A pocket medical first-aid kit for health emergencies in case you cannot reach a medical unit for a couple of days
  • A non-lethal protection device, such as a pepper spray
  • Zip ties
  • Safety goggles and gloves
  • A head bandana
  • Duct tape
  • A door wedge, a pry bar, or a crowbar; due to space and weight restrictions, we would go for the pry bar as you can use it for many tasks
  • A pocket sewing kit – you will care less about fashion, but it will come in handy in some circumstances


Navigating disaster scenes in urban areas may seem simple by the light of day, but cities can be scary and dangerous at night, especially during crises. When it comes to navigation, we usually rely on our phones. However, even in the absence of a working smartphone, you can still find your way towards safety with the help of the following items:

  • Headlamp – a crucial piece in any survival kit
  • Chemlights for easy navigation in dark areas, route and hazard, marking, signaling others, etc
  • Binoculars
  • Mini-flairs – they are lightweight enough to pack and use in case you need light, fire, or signaling
  • A map of your city and permanent markers
  • A compass – preferably a small one that you can pack and use easily
  • A portable, handheld GPS unit and hope you can use it
  • Cash, divided into a handful of coins and plenty of small bills

It would be best if you also had your phone and a power bank with you, just in case the networks start running again. However, a HAM radio and a paper notebook containing all the emergency numbers you need also come in handy to permit communication.

Surviving an urban catastrophe could be and should be easy, as long as we open our minds to the possibility of having to go through such an event and take all the necessary precautions to stay healthy and safe until we reach the nearest point of assistance.

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