City Survival: When Bugging Out Isn’t an Option

Every survival-minded individual worth their salt has a plan in place for a SHTF situation. These plans often involve heading out of the city where competition for resources will be greatly reduced. Maybe you have caches hidden in the woods with supplies you’ll need, or the perfect, abandoned cabin waiting for you.

But sometimes leaving isn’t an option. If the streets are flooded or completely congested with traffic and abandoned vehicles, bugging out is a pipe dream. Depending on what survival situation you’re presented with, you may not even be able to exit your home, let alone travel dozens of miles to your predetermined safe house. So, if going out and living off of the land until the danger passes isn’t a viable choice, you’ll have to make due and survive in your city.

Review Your Options

First and foremost, as with any survival situation, you have to take stock of what you’ve got on hand and review the situation itself. While a lot of preppers have months of food, water, and medical supplies on hand, not all survival-minded individuals have made such preparations. For those of us who have plans that revolve around leaving the city, it is important to catalogue all useful items in our homes.

Before anything else, go to your fridge. If the power is no longer functioning, you should eat as much of the perishable food in your refrigerator as you can handle. If you happen to have ice cream in the freezer, enjoy it, because who knows when, or if, your power will kick back on. Once you’ve torn through your perishables, go through all of your canned and dry goods to take stock and make a rationing plan, just in case you have to be in it for the long haul.

Next, cannibalize your meticulously packed bug-out bag. Though it may be packed with the outdoors in mind, it will still contain plenty of useful items that will increase your chances of survival. Mylar blankets can be placed on the roof to signal that you’re inside and in need of rescue, and your portable water filter will become invaluable once you exhaust all of the potable water in the back of the toilet tank. A first-aid kit will have topical antibiotics, painkillers, and bandages that you’ll find useful down the road.

The rules for staying put and traveling with a chronic illness are quite a bit different. In a survival situation you don’t have the luxury of relying on the system to take care of you. Insurance becomes null, and the chances that you’ll be able to schedule a medical evacuation in an emergency are basically zero.  Without access to medical professionals to renew prescriptions, you’ll have to make some quick decisions. Locate all of your medicine and make sure it is all accounted for, making a note of just how long you have before you’ll have to venture out to raid a pharmacy. Realistically, you’ll want to do this quickly if your medicine supply won’t last long, as in a survival situation medicine is one of the first things that will be targeted for looting.

Staying Put

If you’ve got the time and money, making some investments into city survival before things turn sour is a good idea. The immediate benefit of staying put, is that you’ll have access to all of your books, both for reference on survival tactics, and to stymie the boredom that comes with staying in one place for too long. Beyond just stocking your pantry with MREs and other shelf-stable foods, there is a lot you can do to make your survival not only easier, but a bit more comfortable as well.

The idea behind any survival situation is to get as close to self-sufficiency as you possibly can. Alternative energy sources like solar and wind power are becoming more viable every year, as the technology becomes more advanced and more affordable at the same time. Cultivating a garden, either indoors or out, is a great way to ensure that your food supply stays stable in the coming weeks or months. Having a rain barrel outside your home can help to maintain fresh water for drinking, and you can also modify your roof to collect morning dew.

Now, while solar panels and windmills do generate power, if it is overcast or the air is still, their effectiveness drops significantly. To counter this, consider purchasing and installing a couple of home batteries. Like the windmills and solar panels that provide them power to store, home batteries have become surprisingly affordable in the last few years, and their capacity has increased significantly as well.

Survival in the Streets

Once you’ve got your home outfitted for the long-term, you’ll have to start thinking about what you’ll need to do when your supplies run out. Developing a plan for extended survival is often necessary, as staying cooped up in your home will only last so long. Once the hubbub has died down a little in your city, you may even be able to enact your original SHTF plan.

If you plan on heading out of your home on foot, reassemble your bug-out bag, adding additional kit that is more fitting for an urban environment. Swap out your entrenching tool for a pry bar, which will make acquiring supplies much easier. The need for self-defense tools is greatly increased in urban settings, so consider switching out snare wire for caltrops in case you need to make a speedy exit, and bring a reliable, high-caliber revolver. In survival situations, revolvers can be superior to semi-automatic pistols as they are less likely to jam and require less maintenance overall. The trade-off is that the capacity for ammunition is greatly decreased, but hopefully you won’t have to actually use your revolver at all.

If you’ve exhausted all of the easily obtainable supplies in your city, you may be forced to head to another, or out into the woods. If this is the case, consider outfitting a mobile-home or towing camper as a survival-minded vehicle. If your journey is particularly long, this will make your survival that much easier by having a maintained collection of survival necessities at hand. There are many affordable RV’s that can be purchased for less than $15,000, or if you prefer a more DIY approach to survival, converting a trailer into a suitable camper is easy and inexpensive as well.


So, if the world comes crumbling around you, and you don’t have the option to leave your home immediately, don’t worry. With a little extra preparation, you’ll not only survive in a city, but thrive! It isn’t as easy to be self-sufficient in an urban landscape, but it isn’t impossible either. Just know that it won’t be forever, and that eventually you can head out into the woods and rely on your bushcraft and survival knowledge, but until then, enjoy your comfortable bed!

Author Bio:

Ross Cowan is a freelance writer who lives in Idaho. He enjoys white-water rafting, long camping trips with his partner and dog, and is an avid hiker. Follow Ross on his Twitter @RossCowanWrites.

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