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Urban Bug Out Bag List: 23 Survival Items For Urban Preppers

An urban bug out bag is a comprehensive kit with the essential items that you need to increase your chances of survival should disaster strike when you are in a city. This gear list should support your survival needs for at least 72 hours.

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If SHTF today while you are in a big city and everything goes south, what would be your chances of survival? Well, how would you know that if disaster is unpredictable? We’ll tell you what your chances of survival would be: as much as your level of disaster preparedness with an urban bug out bag.

An urban bug out bag is a comprehensive kit with the essential items that you need to increase your chances of survival should disaster strike when you are in a city. This kit should support your survival needs for at least 72 hours.

Most preppers will tell you that your best option when everything is crumbling into rubble and everyone is panicking in a city overwhelmed by disaster is to move out immediately, we tell you that getting out of a city during a disaster might not be as easy as it sounds.

However, having a good urban bug out bag can turn the tables and increase your chances of staying alive. That’s what we’ll be telling you in this article, starting with a bit more info on what an urban bug out bag is.

What is an Urban Bug Out Bag?

An urban bug out bag is a survival kit with food, water, hygiene and sanitation items, self-defense tools, communication and lighting tools, shelter and sleeping gear, and other survival gear and items that are essential in sustaining your chances of survival for at least 72 hours following a disaster in a city.

While an urban bug out bag is equal to all other bug out bags in that it contains the same basic gear and items to support a prepper’s survival, it also differs from other survival kits because of some positive and negative disaster conditions that are unique to the city:

Urban Bug Out Bag advantages

  • Unlike being in the wild during a disaster where you need to have every possible item to create survival chances, livelihood during a disaster in the city can be enhanced by scavenging survival items like food, water, sleeping gear, and clothing from abandoned businesses and residential buildings. Note that we are not advocating for looting, but a grocery shop in ruins can save a desperate life when SHTF.
  • It’s a lot easier to find shelter at a corner of an abandoned building or in common places people identify as safe when disaster hits a city. That means you won’t need to create the shelter, you just need sleeping gear. You could also salvage material to make a shelter from the rubble.

Urban Bug Out Bag disadvantages

  • Disaster in cities often comes with breaking glass, crumbling buildings, and debris buildup, all of which will require extra attention to your urban bug out gear.
  • Disaster in a city provokes an uncontrollable movement of people, making the escape to safety more difficult. In addition, panic can cause people to act irrationally to stay alive, which could mean everyone against everyone else.
  • Bear in mind that people can equally turn supportive and help each other out during a disaster and should not be merely considered a threat.

Because of these unique factors in the urban setup, your urban bug out bag list can be a lot different from other types of bug out bags. So, what exactly should be included on your urban bug out bag list? Let’s talk about that in the next section.

Urban Bug Out Bag List

From what we’ve said so far, it is clear that an urban bug out bag may need to leave out certain survival gear and items and improvise from available material. But it is also evident that some items could be absent in other BOBs but must be included in an urban bug out bag.

When creating your urban bug out bag, consider that your list should include necessities in all these areas:

  • A sturdy backpack.
  • Personal protective gear.
  • Medical kit.
  • Food and water.
  • Sanitation and hygiene.
  • Shelter and sleeping.
  • Clothing.
  • Self-defense.
  • Communication.
  • Other survival gear and tools.

Here’s your comprehensive 23-item urban bug out bag list.

Best Urban Bug Out Backpack

An ultimate survival skill that every urban prepper must have is being a gray man (or woman). That means maintaining a low profile and not standing out in the crowd.

Doing so will keep you safe from unnecessary attention from the rest of the crowd should disaster strike, and that’s crucial in helping you move swiftly.

Being a gray man/woman also has to do with how you dress and the kind of backpack that you carry. If you are carrying an obvious tactical backpack when SHTF, you are telling everyone that you have survival provisions with you.

Since you can’t have enough survival provisions for a crowd, we suggest you keep a low profile with your backpack if you want to truly increase your chances of survival by keeping your backpack contents.

In this regard, the 5.11 COVRT18 Tactical Covert Military Backpack is our choice. This backpack has an ordinary look but gives you the qualities of a strong and durable bug out backpack at the same time:

  • It’s made with 500D waterproof nylon and has an internal nylon lining.
  • It has a reliable YKK zipper closure.
  • It has ample space with external pockets for better organization.
  • It has an ambidextrous side-entry belt system as backup.
  • The Roll-down Assault Compartment (R.A.C.) can conceal a firearm (if allowed by your state laws).
  • It has a reinforced grab handle that can be used to carry the bag if you need to run or rest your shoulders.
  • The backpack has several comfort features: compression straps, padded back panel, yoke-style shoulder straps among others.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Note that we chose the asphalt color (black and grey) for its ordinary, low profile appearance.

Masks and Respirator

A city in a disaster is most likely going to be full of dust from extreme human movement, and in extreme cases collapsing buildings. And if there is bombing or military activity, you might also have to deal with tear gas and the like. We hope not!

Nevertheless, it’s better to be safe than sorry. So, masks and respirators are a ‘must-have’ item in your urban survival bag.

Opt for foldable respirators rather than surgical masks as they’ll offer better protection from dust and smoke. The 3M 8511 Cool Flow Valved Respirator or at least a KN95 Face Mask are recommended.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Eye Protection Goggles

Your eyes and ears are going to need protection from dust and smoke if things are really bad in an urban emergency.

Opt for airtight clear googles like the 3M 91252-80024-10 Chemical Splash/Impact Goggles. These will protect your eyes without blocking your vision.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Head Protection Cap

If buildings are crumbling for real (think of the 9/11 attacks), you are going to have to protect your head as well.

A tough helmet may be difficult to include in a stealth urban bug out bag. Consider a folding helmet or a bike helmet that looks like an ordinary cap that you could easily attach to your backpack.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Protective Gloves

In typical disaster circumstances, hand gloves come in handy as protection from germs and infectious viruses or bacteria. In urban disaster, hand gloves will also play the role of protecting your hands when you salvage material from the rubble to put together a shelter or clear your hidden path.

Go for a pair of gloves that can serve both purposes: protect from germs and from damage or injury to your hands. Consider the Mechanix Wear: M-Pact Covert Tactical Work Gloves. These will also protect you from cold should the weather call for it.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Reflective Safety Vest

This might sound strange, but imagine being in a city full of dust and smoke. Vision becomes blurred in such cases and you’ll barely see others trying to get to safety.

At least, make yourself seen by wearing a reflective safety vest. You might appear as the odd-one-out but at least you’ll be safe.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Mini First Aid Kit

We’ve already established that you don’t want to be running around with a bug out bag that’s heavier than you in the confusion of a city in disaster chaos.

So, for your medical emergencies, go for premade mini first aid kit and complete it with any analgesics, prescription drugs, or personal medical kits you might need.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Food

Food might be the last thing you’ll think about amid the confusion that could characterize a disaster in an urban context. But you are bound to get hungry and go low on energy at some point.

We recommend prepping with food options that will not require any form of cooking like the military Meals Ready to Eat (MREs).

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

High-protein energy bars are not just tasty and can store for long, but they are also an easy-to-munch option when you are on the go.

Survival tabs may not fill your stomach but they are also a survival option to give instant nutrition and provide energy to keep going

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Water

Water is life and can never miss on your urban bug out bag list. To cut on weight, store at least 1 gallon of emergency survival water pouches in your bag. That will last you a day before you figure out how to procure additional water.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Public water fountains can save the day if the utility lines are still safe. You may also salvage a bit of water from abandoned grocery stores if the situation pushes you that far.

Consider bringing along a reliable water filter in case you should need it. The Sawyer MINI Water Filtration System is a reliable option for its 0.1-micron rating and 100,000 gallons filtration capacity.

Last update on 2021-07-24 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

A pack of water purification tablets could serve as an additional precaution for obtaining survival water.

Soap, Towel, and/or Bathing Wipes

Packing a bar of soap in your urban bug out bag in case you have a chance for a refreshing bath will not hurt. Couple that with some compressed disposable towels.

But, depending on the circumstances, a bath may not be available and you may have to do with bathing wipes.

Hand sanitizers

Disaster situations will often come with a dirty environment which also creates the conditions for viruses and bacteria to flourish. A hand sanitizer will give you good protection especially if you cannot wash your hands with running water and soap. Opt for wipes rather than liquid.

Human Waste Disposal Bags and Toilet Paper

This might sound disgusting, and even though the call of nature may not be frequent if you are just eating for survival, you’ll have to find a way to answer the call hygienically.

Restrooms may not be available if plenty of destruction has happened, which is why a pack of human waste disposal bags, a couple of toilet paper rolls, and disposable urinals are a wise addition to your urban bug out bag list.

Toothpaste and Toothbrush

Even though it is disaster time, two or three days without brushing your teeth can feel awful. Prep for some oral hygiene items including a folding toothbrush and tooth powder.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Comb/Hair Brush

You may not worry about how unkempt your hair might look in a SHTF situation. But, especially for female preppers, it doesn’t hurt to bring along a folding hairbrush with a mirror. Tidying yourself up and looking good could even boost your morale in the midst of an emergency.

Female Menstrual Hygiene Items

This is an indispensable addition to your urban bug out bag if you are a female prepper (of course depending on age). Always prep for a menstrual cup instead of tampons or sanitary pads. That way, you’ll not only save space but you have less trouble with the disposal.

Sleeping bag

We do not advocate for a tent or tarp when prepping for urban disaster survival. Imagine having to run in a crown and the stands/support for your tarp or tent are hitting everyone and slowing your movement.

If you must go for a tent, go for a lightweight tube tent that’s is sold in a folded package and can be easily set up with a rope.

A sleeping bag is a more practical option. Go for a high-quality one that will keep you cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather like the Oaskys Camping Sleeping Bag. You could also opt for the lighter Bivy sack.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Change of Clothes

Being drenched under the rain, getting covered by dust, or just simply needing to change your dirty clothes are all situations that require you to bring a change of clothes in your bug out bag.

The best way to do this is to update your urban bug out bag with a weather-appropriate set every time seasons change:

  • Thermal clothes for winter (Protective coat, goose down jacket, pants/leggings, vest/top, underwear, sweater, beanies, gloves, boots, socks.
  • Moisture-wicking clothes for summer (Top/vest, leggings/pants, underwear, long sleeve outer shirt and long pants to protect your skin from UV rays, collapsible sun hat, comfortable shoes).
  • Waterproof clothing for rainy seasons (Raincoat/jacket, waterproof pants, backpack waterproof cover, waterproof boots, poncho.

Self-defense Pepper Spray and/or Stun Gun

With everyone struggling to get to survive and get to safety when disaster strikes in a city, self-defense items are a crucial item on your urban bug out bag list. If you are thinking firearm, that may be difficult to carry around especially if it’s not legal in the zone.

We recommend a non-lethal self-defense tool, enough to keep away anyone coming close to you with the intentions of taking your survival provisions. The SABRE RED Pepper Spray Keychain can be carried in disguise as a key chain and will temporarily put your assailant in pain so you have time to get away.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Another option could be a Stun gun. You do not need to be an expert to zap an assailant with a stun gun and you have time to get to safety while the attacker is temporarily immobilized. Stun guns often come with a LED light which could serve to navigate your way through the city when it’s dark.

Communication Gadgets

We’ll keep this one simple and assume that your usual smartphone will serve the purpose. Just be sure you can grab it along with your survival bag. You’ll need it to communicate to family, stay updated with news about the emergency, or call for help if need be.

However, include a solar charger power bank in your urban bug out bag to recharge your phone when needed. You should also opt for a hand crank radio or a walkie talkie to stay updated with disaster news.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Flashlight

Whether it’s for lighting during the dark nights of the emergency or to find your way through escape tunnels, a flashlight should not miss in your urban bug out bag list.

Go for a battery-powered and water and drop-proof option like the Gear Light LED Tactical Flashlight S1000. Don’t forget to bring along a spare set of batteries.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Map and Compass

You might think that a map and compass are only good when you bug out in the wild. Not so!

In a city where a lot may be destroyed or large crowds are trying to find their way to safety, it might be difficult to actually tell out a place you know very well.

Having a map of the city and the local area and a tactical compass can save your day. Besides, you might need these tools to guide you towards safety outside of the city if situations allow it.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Extreme-survival Tools

Remember how we said you could go for provisions from an abandoned grocery store, use an abandoned building as shelter or even force open a water valve to get water if situations are dire?

You’ll need specialized tools for that, most of which can be cumbersome for your bug out bag.  Choose the one among these that would best fit your preference.

Note that some of these tools can be judged as burglary tools or weapons and may get you into trouble if you are carrying them around.

Other Tools and Gear

  • Pocket knife
  • Multitool
  • Paracord (read our article on the best paracord for survival)
  • Zip Ties
  • Duct tape
  • Copies of personal/family documents
  • Cash, in small denominations
  • A deck of playing cards (to distract you from the emergency situation if things settle down but you can’t get home yet)
.

Bug Out Situations for the Urban Prepper

There are many disaster situations that can hit a city, but not everyone would require you to bug out. For example, a nuclear explosion would require you to bug in and stay away as much as possible from outer walls and the roof. So, what disasters would require an urban prepper to bug out?

Bug out situations for the urban prepper are emergency situations in which the prepper stands better chances of survival by leaving their home, workplace, or vehicle when SHTF in a city.

These situations include:

  • Civil war/unrest that’s escalated to dangerous levels and is characterized by riots, mass panicking, and looting.
  • Natural disaster like earthquake, flood, tornado, hurricane, or other deadly storms once the disaster watch has been issued or an evacuation order is given.
  • Economic collapse in which resources in the city are meager and bugging out would give better chances of creating survival alternatives outside the city.
  • Military and nuclear attacks on the city where staying in would be more dangerous than finding a bug out route out of the city.
  • Advancing urban fires that are progressing to your location.
  • Pandemics (the coronavirus pandemic has proven to us that being away from others reduces our chances of being infected. Cities are highly populated and bugging out could reduce your chances of infection).

Potential Dangers and Threats for Urban Bugging Out

From our list of bug out situations for urban preppers, it is easy to tell that heading to safety is not going to be a walk in the park. Certain dangers and threats can make urban bugging out more difficult. Here are 4 of the most obvious:

Human and Vehicle Congestion

When disaster strikes in a city or there is a disaster watch, everyone will want to move to safety. The traffic that is created by moving persons and cars can make movement extremely difficult.

Also, some cities are exit routes for other cities. Think of Houston in 2005 when Hurricane Rita hit. People from cities like Beaumont and Galveston were all trying to evacuate in cars to the West or North, and that created extreme traffic congestion, carbon dioxide poisoning, and being caught up by the hurricane.

A ‘Man Eat Man’ Situation

Not everyone in the city has or is prepping for disaster. So, when it finally happens, the non-preppers will be eyeing the survival provisions that urban preppers have put together.

Some may even want to have a share of the provisions at any cost as long as it enhances their own survival.

Collapsing Buildings and Infrastructure or Health Threats

In the case that bugging out is warranted by military attacks and civil unrest, the destruction of property can be extreme.

That could mean glass, debris, and all form of dust and smoke all over the city, predisposing preppers on their bug out trail to injuries, infections, and overall delayed evacuation.

Nowhere to Go!

Plenty of urban preppers may actually have nowhere to go as their city is surrounded by other cities in similar a situation or by geographical situations that would not support bugging out.

For example, cities like San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso, Tucson, and Los Angeles are surrounded by deserts or mountain ranges. These would not provide safety in disaster situations like military attacks or civil unrest.

Some cities are also surrounded by exurbs and suburbs, which would mean that people in these places will have the same need to bug out.

Tips to Build the Ultimate Urban Survival Kit

Most people think only think of the wild when they hear of a bug out bag. That could be pretty unrealistic at times. With 56.2% living in an urban setup as of 2020, it is obvious that many more people will be caught up by a disaster in a city.

The obvious conclusion from this is that you need an urban bug out bag ready for any eventualities and it has to be the best in enhancing your chances of survival. To help you make the ultimate urban bug out bag, here are a few tips.

1. Think urban when making an urban survival bag

Even though your urban bug out bag will need to have the basic survival gear and items as any other bug out bag, there are some survival needs that are unique to the city when SHTF.

For example, you may not need to protect your head from falling items in the wild, but you’ll need to do so in a city where everything is coming down following disasters that involve bombing and destruction.

2. Make your bug out bag as light as possible

Being caught up in an urban disaster situation may mean a lot of walking/running or the use of hidden passages. If you have an extremely heavy bug out backpack, it will derail your movement and delay your arrival to safety.

Avoid including items that you may never really need: using a stove in the city may not be possible, so carrying one will just increase the pounds of your bug out bag.

Also, a bug out bag can feel heavier or lighter depending on how the contents are packed. See our suggestion on how to pack your bug out bag in no. 4 below.

3. Ensure all your urban survival needs are taken care of

Even though you need to make sure your urban BOB is as light as possible, you also need to ensure that all your survival needs are covered:

  • You have a strong bug out backpack that will resist that strain of bugging out.
  • Your eyes, lungs, head, and hands are protected from injury, dust, and infectious viruses.
  • You can stay alive with enough water and food.
  • You have the equipment to perform basic first aid.
  • You can contact family and friends and stay informed with news on the disaster situation.
  • You have shelter and can sleep somewhat comfortably in sleeping gear.
  • You have a weather-appropriate change of clothes.
  • You can take care of your sanitation and hygiene needs.
  • You can defend yourself if need be.
  • You have a few other items for general survival needs.

4. Arrange your bug out bag gear and items in the most convenient manner

Packing your urban bug out bag in a way that it is compact and not wobbling is important in ensuring comfortable carrying and movement.

When parking, ensure you arrange the gear and items in a way that it will be easy for you to access them when needed:

  • Place the bigger but softer items like the sleeping bag and clothing at the bottom. These will lay a stable base for your backpack, plus they are usually the items you’ll need last.
  • Place the heavier items like food, extra water, and the extra-survival stuff like paracord and sanitation items in the middle.
  • Place the items you’ll need to access quickly and easily while on the go at the top of the backpack. Items like a rain jacket, personal protective gear and the like should be easy to access.
  • Place items you’ll use consistently or which you need to use for emergency self-defense in the external pockets of your backpack. These could include the bottle of water that you are consuming, energy bars, and pepper spray for self-defense among others.

Note: avoid hanging stuff on your bug out bag as this imbalances the weight and can cause pain to your shoulders and body. Besides, it would be easier for anyone to steal stuff hanging on your bug out bag.

Urban vs. Suburban Bug out Bags

Urban setups are realities that describe life within a city. Suburbs are city periphery areas that are majorly residential, having people who often work in the city. Whether you live in the city or suburb, preparing for emergencies with a bug out bag is a wise precaution.

As a similarity, urban and suburban bug out bags have the basic survival gear and items like food, water, basic personal protective gear (masks, protective glasses, and gloves), hygiene and sanitation items, a medical kit, self-defense tools, communication tools, and other miscellaneous survival tools.

As a difference, a suburban bug out bag may omit items included in an urban bug out bag and instead, include others:

  • Because it would be easier to move into the wild and bug out there from a suburb than it would be from a city, a suburban bug out bag can include fire starters, stoves, and cooking ware. These items would be an almost unnecessary carry for someone bugging out in the city.
  • The possibility that destruction in a city in a disaster will cause buildings to collapse is a lot greater than would be in a suburban area. As such, personal protective gear items like a foldable helmet and a reflective jacket may not be necessary in a suburban bug out bag.
  • The possibility of creating survival opportunities in a suburb such as finding water or locations for shelter is a lot higher. So, you may not need bolt cutting and forceful opening tools in a suburban bug out bag but may need them in extreme urban emergencies.

Urban Bug Out Bag List Conclusions

Every bug out bag has basic survival gear and items that take care of preppers’ survival needs and increase their chances of survival in emergencies.

Because cities can be different when SHTF in that they could be characterized by the collapse of buildings and the extreme movement of people in crowds among other factors, an urban bug out bag should take into account the special reality of city disaster.

Protecting your head, carrying forced entry tools, and including human waste disposal bags are among the bug-out extras that any city prepper should put into account when making their urban bug out bag list.

And don’t forget to be a gray man/woman when you prep for urban disaster, not every city dweller preps for disaster.

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Hi, I'm Russ!

I've been prepping for a long time, but 2020 convinced me that I need to take it to the next level.

This website started as a way to keep me going forward on the path to being better prepared.

Now, I’m turning it into a complete blueprint for anyone else looking to do the same!
Russell M. Morgan
Telson Survival

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