The Complete Urban Survival Guide: Gear, Skills, Tips, and More

urban survival

So you’re a wilderness survival expert.

But do you have the necessary urban survival skills? Too bad, if you don’t.

The truth is, disaster can strike anywhere, anytime. If you have to survive, you need to consider the worst-case scenario of an organized urban landscape turning into a hellish nightmare.

Even if you don’t live in a city, chances are that you visit every day for work. With 55.7 percent of the world population living in cities, this is where the struggle for survival will be at its peak. 

The truth is, not everyone has the luxury of heading out for a wilderness retreat to survive an emergency. We will have to stay in the urban jungle and fight it out.

Unfortunately, only a few of us have the right knowledge and skills to increase our chances in any survival situation.

That’s why it’s essential for any survivalist to have the necessary urban survival skills and gear to beat the odds.

And this SHTF urban survival guide will give you all the major tips and tricks about how to survive.

So let’s get down to business.

What is Urban Survival?

Imagine this…

The power is cut off, the tap is running dry, the mob has ransacked the stores and supermarkets, and the sound of unholy chaos can be heard in the distance.

Welcome to the world of urban survival.

Basically, urban survivalism is about living through a disaster that can last for weeks, months, or even longer. 

Here’s a fact for you.

The average population density in New York City is 27,012 people per square mile.

What makes urban survival so scary is the densely populated urban environment where resources can run out quickly. That makes resource acquisition a major obstacle. 

Besides, you can’t expect the key technological systems to be operating during a natural disaster or an EMP strike. 

At the same time, you can’t avoid people in an urban setting. You have to interact and manage them effectively while avoiding them when needed. 

Keep in mind, everyone around is desperate to survive and you can’t rely on law enforcement anymore. It’s possible you may find yourself among strangers who don’t have their own supplies.

In truth, disasters can bring out the goodness in most human beings. But there will always be a small group of people who will do anything to survive when the social order breaks down. That can bring you face to face with violence during urban survival.

Adapting to a new social environment and changed interpersonal dynamics is another big challenge.

In such a scenario, most wilderness survival skills like hunting, fire starting, building a shelter, etc, will be useless. Moreover, bushcraft won’t apply when you’re in a jungle of bridges, streets, vehicles, and steel structures.

All in all, the overall complexity of an urban setting makes this city survival guide very important.

Important Urban Survival Techniques

Urban survival involves multiple aspects. The first step for any prepper is to define the objectives and plan properly. This also involves educating all your family members about the basics of urban survival skills and taking proper steps for their protection.

Here’s a detailed look at some of the vital aspects of urban survival.

Proper Preparation

The right level of prepping is extremely important to face an urban apocalypse. When food, water, electricity, security isn’t within your reach, you need to use the right urban survival skills and gear to help you face the events. 

Frankly, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where all essential items will be out of your reach. That’s why emergency preparedness is critical for survival.

Remember: when it comes to survival, there’s no scope for last-minute preparations. So having the right stock of food, fuel, water, and vital medicines is a must. A backup power supply like a generator can be an effective tool. At the same time, you need the right security tools to ensure the safety of your family.


There are certain urban survival skills that can be learned through training. Beyond that, regular practice is needed to perfect these skills.

Here are a few vital ones.

  • Firearms Training
  • Situational awareness
  • Personal Protection techniques like martial arts
  • First aid training

In addition, you need to obtain a license to carry a firearm. The other thing is to keep your fitness levels up. You will be able to tackle the challenges better by staying fit and healthy.

Each of these is extremely important and can enhance your ability to survive. Once you have picked up a new skill, it’s important to practice to increase your competency. You can also conduct drills to ensure that all members of the family are familiar with the basics.

For example, everyone should have basic first aid training. You can expect hospitals will be overrun during a disaster. So it’s up to you to do your best for saving the lives of friends and family members with a first aid kit.

The Right Protection

Any disastrous event can lead to chaos, civil unrest, and a complete breakdown of the social order. Frankly, with large-scale looting, rioting, and violence, urban survival can turn ugly at any moment. Robberies, home invasions, and carjackings are some of the common threats that you may have to deal with.

So arranging the right gear for protecting your loved ones and your dwelling is a must. Keep in mind, these items should be a part of your everyday carry. While we don’t want to single you out, women have a whole different issue to face. You’re a target whether you like it or not and you need self-defense weapons to keep you safe.

Make no mistake about it, if you are unprepared and not aware of your surroundings, you’ll be an easy target for the bad guys out there.

First, you need to make full use of your situational awareness skills. Next, you should be able to use the personal protection tools and firearms in your bug out bag effectively, whenever needed. At any moment, you may need to move to a new location. In that case, you should be able to protect yourself in the new environment.

Ten Crucial Urban Survival Tactics

Here are ten tips that will help you to adapt and survive when the organized urban landscape turns into a nightmare.

1. Find Shelter

Chances are you’ll be in your home or apartment when disaster strikes. In case you don’t have any you need to find one quickly. Some of the places where you can look for during an emergency are the following.

  • Empty houses or an abandoned building
  • Stores or malls
  • Disaster relief (DR) shelters
  • Schools or hospitals
  • Abandoned vehicles
  • Garages

In case these options aren’t available, you can try dumpsters, sheds, or covered alleyways. However, make sure that you keep your eyes open. You may find other people already using these places as shelter.

2. Blend In

One of the best ways to survive a chaotic urban survival situation is to keep a low profile. The trick is, not to draw attention to yourself. 

Make sure that you don’t stand out in a crowd in terms of your appearance, clothes, or attitude. Wear normal clothing just like most other people. If you have a uniform that attracts attention, it’ll be best to change into regular clothing at the first opportunity. Other than that, keep all valuable items including weapons concealed.

Most importantly, avoid large gatherings and don’t get involved. A few wrong words can attract undue attention to you and put your family at risk. Also, be discreet about your survival preps and keep looking out for help like your neighbors.

When in your home, don’t switch on the lights after the power is gone at night. While cooking, prevent the smell of food from emanating out of your home.

3. Collecting and Purifying Water

If your taps are running, you’re lucky. In case they are dry, know that finding drinking water in a city is much more difficult than in the wilderness.

One of the easiest ways is to collect rainwater by setting up a simple collection system on the roof or the balcony. This can be stored in barrels for use.

In case it’s not the rainy season, there are lakes, ponds, or other water bodies in almost every city. You need to move out with your container and carry water from there.

The next step is purifying the collected water in the right way. 

If you have sufficient fuel, you can boil the water. Other than that you can use a portable water filter or UV water purifiers. You can also keep water purification tablets as a part of your urban survival kit. A water filtration straw can also be a practical solution in an urban environment.

4. Foraging and Scavenging Essentials

No matter how well you’ve stocked up, the supplies will run out when the disaster lasts long enough. That means you will need to head out and start looking for food. That’s why foraging and scavenging are counted among the critical survival skills for any urban survivalist.

The good news is, as long as you know where to look, you should be able to find all forms of edible food. 

While foraging, it’s best to avoid highly polluted zones or fields that have been treated with pesticides. Places like large parks, thickets, vacant plots, and areas surrounding hospitals, playgrounds, and schools are the best options.

Here are some food items that you can forage.

  • Petals of the magnolia
  • Dandelions
  • Nettles
  • Raspberries
  • Fennel leaves and pollen
  • Edible mushrooms
  • Rosehips, the fruit of a rose plant for making tea

Before starting to forage, you need to know about the local flora and fauna and learn to identify the right plants.

When it comes to scavenging, you can start by looking in abandoned buildings, apartments, restaurants, grocery stores, malls, gas stations, and drug stores.

The thing is, others will be doing the same. So you need to stay alert. It’s best to avoid the obvious choices like the nearest Wal-Mart or the local store. Spots that aren’t so common, like warehouses and office buildings are the best options.

5. Develop Fix-it Skills

Do you have the right DIY skills to fix and repair household items? If not, developing a few such urban survival skills can be invaluable while tackling an emergency.

When the emergency lasts long enough, things will wear out and break eventually. Obviously, you won’t be getting a warranty replacement. Some of the basic items that you should be able to repair are pipelines, filtration systems, generators, vehicles, flashlights, and other survival equipment. 

The more skills you have with EDC survival tools, the better off you’ll be. Besides, you can even trade your skills for some valuable items that you may need.

6. Waste Management

Waste management includes dealing with human and household waste. You need to consider that garbage pickup won’t be available and the plumbing system will probably stop functioning.

When it comes to household waste, try to minimize it as much as possible. Items like bottles, boxes, and containers can be reused. Organic waste can be turned into compost. Lastly, find a proper spot where you can either burn the waste or bury it.

However, human waste disposal can be a big challenge in an urban setting. One solution is investing in a composting toilet. However, that’s not an affordable option for many. 

In the long run, you’ll need to bury the fecal matter as well. That should be done in an isolated spot away from food and water sources.

7. Know the Safe Zones

Every urban area has bad neighborhoods. You need to know where they are, how to avoid them, and have a clear travel path at all times to stay out of them. A detailed map of the city should be a part of your urban survival gear.

The thing is, even in a relatively safe zone, a riot can break out within a few minutes. If you’re trapped in the middle of a riot, it’s best to blend with the crowd and not move against it. Try to stick with a small group of people and avoid moving out alone. Travel in well lit areas whenever possible.

In case you have to travel alone in a disturbing setting, stick to the shadows. Practice as much stealth as possible and choose alleyways, and shortcuts that you know are safe. Moving on foot will attract the least amount of attention. 

8. Situational Awareness

Next, we come to another important aspect of urban survival situational awareness. Without the support of technology, you need to be keenly aware of the environment around you. In fact, this is a major aspect of self-defense in any urban survival situation.

Firstly, take note of the conversations and keep your eyes open for anything out of the ordinary. When you see a gathering or notice people who don’t look right, move out of the area. Also, when entering a new building, take note of the exit points.

The point is, you don’t want to be the person who was too late to react to danger. By staying aware of what’s happening around you, you can be proactive. This will increase your chances of staying safe in a potentially dangerous situation.

9. Choose a Safe Haven

Strictly speaking, you can’t fight your way out of all the threats that you might face during an urban disaster. So, this is the place where you will seek shelter when your home is under attack or there is a threat.

When you don’t have a bug-out location for handling survival you need to make the best use of your home or dwelling.

A haven can be a room where you and your family can head to when seeking protection. It can even be a closet that can help you to stay hidden. Or else, it might be a separate location that’s away from the eyes of the outside world. 

When you’re heading out to the city for work, you can choose a friend or a relative’s place as a safe house for emergencies. That way, your family will know where you will be in case of a disaster.

What to look for in such a room?

It can be a room with solid walls and a steel-reinforced door. Otherwise, you can look for a solid door, with a robust locking arrangement. The room should be stocked with sufficient water and food along with other survival and protection tools. Also, carry emergency lights to tackle a possible power outage.

10. Choose a Dependable Vehicle

The fact of the matter is, you need a reliable bug-out vehicle while dealing with a disaster. You may need to move away quickly from an area and head to another spot. However, you also have to keep the vehicle safe and protected.

Besides, you should stock the important spare parts required for the vehicle. At the same time, you should learn how to install them, along with other basic things like replacing air filters or spark plugs. 

What’s more, you should also learn how to hotwire a car. At a first glance, this is a skill that may appear to be unethical. But such hacks can save your life when you are stranded in a dangerous location. At that moment, the only choice left might be using an abandoned vehicle to escape.

The Must-Have Urban Survival Gear

Needless to say, stocking the right food items and fuel is extremely important to tackle an urban disaster. But without the right urban survival gear, you can’t hope to survive through an urban SHTF situation like an EMP burst or a deadly pandemic.

So here are a few of the most important items that you need to include in your urban survival kit.

A Foldable Knife

This is one of the most important things to carry with you. It can help out in a wide range of situations but can easily stay concealed.

A Crowbar

When you are planning to scavenge for food, the crowbar or pry bar is an effective tool for getting into locked buildings. You can also use it as an effective escape tool by chopping through walls.


This is a must-have while walking through dark alleys and reading a map in the darkness. Make sure you have enough spare batteries that will last for a few months.

Solar Charger

This is an essential item in any survival kit. It’s great for supplying juice to flashlights, rechargeable batteries, emergency radios, and a whole lot of other gear.

Water Filter

Another essential item that can come in various forms. You can also try chemical water filters or filtration straws.

Work Gloves

A pair of heavy-duty gloves will keep your hands protected while digging or shoveling.

Duct Tape

This can be used for sealing food packets or joining broken pieces of glass or plastic. They can also be used as handcuffs if needed.


When you’re stuck with millions of survivors in a city, ATMs are bound to run dry. So, keeping some cash at hand can be a lifesaver. Never store all the cash in one place. Make sure to spread it around your home.


Apart from a multitool, there are a few other items that are essential for surviving an emergency. These include a hammer, a saw, a screwdriver, a drill, a shovel, and some paracord.


A cheap lighter can be a lifesaver in some critical situations. Best to pack a few among your emergency gear.


Buckets can be used for a wide variety of situations including food storage and waste disposal. So keep a few of them around along with waterproof lids.

A Radio

When you don’t have the internet to keep you updated, a  small radio will keep you connected with the latest updates. A NOAA weather radio is particularly effective for natural disasters.

Other Supplies for Urban Survival 

There are some items of daily use that can’t be found easily when shit hits the fan. While they aren’t essential, they can make your life a lot easier in difficult moments. Moreover, they can also help you to barter and negotiate with other people.

Check out a few of them.

  • Alcohol
  • Cigarettes
  • Coffee/tea
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Salt and sugar
  • Feminine products
  • Nail clippers
  • Candles
  • Toothpaste/toothbrushes
  • Soap
  • Water bottles


There you are. 

We have the complete urban survival guide ready to help you out during an emergency. 

When you are stuck in a disaster situation within a concrete jungle you can’t afford to lower your guard at any point. Honestly, this is a tough situation that has multiple hazards and unique challenges.

The good news is, with the right level of preparation you can improve your chances by a lot.

So now that you know all the essential urban survival tips, what can you do next?

Make a list of all the things you need and start the process of planning and training. 

Can you really afford not to?