Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Urban Bug Out Bags

More and more people live in cities; today around half of the world’s population live in cities. Within the Survivalist and Prepper community a rural setting is often described as the ideal location for dealing with a Crisis or survival Situation. But for many an Urban setting is the situation that they will have to cope with during a disaster and this article will discuss some of the aspects when building a Bug Out Bag for an Urban environment.

Many modern large cities often don’t produce all the gods that the inhabitants use and the local area around the cities are not sufficient for producing basic goods like food for the inhabitants and it must be imported from other regions or countries. But this is not a unique situation for cities; many rural settings today the inhabitants are also heavily dependent on gods to be transported large distances like medication, tools, food, electronics, fuel and other necessities. However, large cities often have other advantages like
• More specialized medical care available
• More specialized skills and professions
• More resources to deal with emergencies
• More work opportunities

An Urban environment can present different challenges than one would encounter in a wilderness setting. For this reason an Urban setting may require another set of skills, knowledge and equipment in order to deal with emergencies, disasters and survival situations. The high population density of a city can result in a large amount of wounded and killed people if natural or man-made disaster would take place. Some examples of this are the chemical release in Bhopal, India, Hurricane Katrina and The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

How Far May You Have To Go?
If you are building a Bug Out Bag for an Urban setting I would recommend that you try to build a kit and plan to deal with three types of potential Situations:

1.) An Evacuation from the City
This is a relatively uncommon type of disaster but can become necessary in scenarios like a Hurricane or a large scale disaster in a chemical or nuclear plant. In this case the kit should supply you with the basic equipment and supplies to accomplish this task.

2.) An Evacuation from your Home to another location within the City
Relatively few disasters require entire cities to be evacuated. A more common form of event is that smaller areas within cities may have to be evacuated; a typical example is fires in buildings that can completely destroy a house or smaller area. In this case you will not have to leave the city but simply find alternative housing like a motel, hotel or a room at a friend or family member.

3.) As a Tool for Search and Rescue
If a disaster would take place you do not personally have to be among the wounded and directly affected but other might be like friends, family members or complete strangers. In this case it’s good if your Bug Out Bag can provide some tools for these tasks.

The Personal Aspect of Preparedness
The Bug Out Bag is only a small part of being prepared for an Evacuation. Your personal Knowledge, Health and Physical Fitness and Skills and Experience is also critical aspects. Having a Bug Out Plan for what to do is also an important aspect.

Know your terrain and setting is very important. Where can you find hospitals, police departments, fire departments, hostels and hotels? What areas are normally dafe to travel? Are there areas where it is not safe to travel? What areas are mostly affected by crime and other problems? What risks and hazards do you face in your setting? A Risk Assessment can be a tool for structuring and thinking about threats from a more organized perspective. What type of climate and seasonal variation do you face? What kind of landmarks can be seen in and where are they located? What types of transportation is available like trains, air-ports, ports, subways and highways?

Health and Physical Fitness
An emergency may prove to be a difficult situation to deal with physically. In a worst case scenario you may have to travel long or short distances by foot carrying the equipment that you plan on taking with you, you may have to run in order to get away from threats or lift heavy object like wounded people or debris.

Your Physical Fitness may most importantly increase your health and let you live without diseases like diabetes or heart disease. Working out on a regular basis also reduces stress and increases your feeling of wellbeing. Find an activity that fits you and try to work out at least three times per week. Also make sure to visit a doctor for regular health checks and a dentist to fix any problems you may have with your teeth. Immunization may also reduce the chance that you may contract infections like hepatitis, cholera or tetanus in the aftermath of a disaster.

Skills and Experience
The wilderness presents other type of challenges compared to city. You still have the same basic needs like shelter, water and food but the means to provide these needs will most likely be very different. First Aid is a skill that is useful in order to deal with everything from small cuts to traffic accidents or large scale disaster, this like all other skills must be practiced on regular basis if you want to be able to use them properly when it really matters, having a first aid kit in your pack that you don’t know how to use is not enough. If you live in a city where several languages are spoken I would recommend that you consider learning the most common ones as best you can. All cities have their own special traditions and customs, street smart and having a deeper understanding of the environment where you live is also connected to experience and is not just simply about knowledge.

Basic Equipment and Every Day Carry
Most people carry at least some equipment on their person. When you build your Bug Out Bag you should take this in consideration so that the equipment you carry on your person complements the equipment that you choose to get for your BOB.

Cell Phone
A Cell Phone can be a valuable tool for communication in an Urban Setting. A Smartphone like the iPhone can be an even more useful tool that can help you get access to e-mail, the internet, find your position with a GPS and store digital copies of important documents. If you keep important documents on your phone remember to protect the information using a password and consider encryption of sensitive files. A Cell Phone can be an invaluable tool but during large scale disasters it’s not uncommon that the grid gets overloaded and it can become very difficult or even impossible to reach others. The runtime of Smartphone’s is often relatively low so it can be a good idea to include an extra battery and charger in your BOB. Other alternatives can be a solar charger like the Solio Classic.

In your wallet you carry many of the tools necessary for everyday life like Cash (Bills and Coins), a Credit or Debit Card, ID Card, Driver License, Permits, Passport, Immunization Card, Medical Insurance Card etc. There are also special tool kits that you can add to your wallet like credit card sized tools from Victorinox and Tool Logic. If you live in an area where robbery is common it can be good not to carry all your cash in one location and even get a fake wallet with an old id-card and some small bills and coins. There are also concealed solutions like money belts and ankle wallets that may be worth considering.

Survival Knives
A knife is a tool that can be invaluable in many situations. In cities the legal aspect is very important. What types of knives that is allowed varies from country to country and sometimes also between regions or states. What types of knives is legal to carry in your setting and where it is legal to carry? This is important aspects that you should take into consideration when picking a knife for your Bug Out Bag and Every Day Carry (EDC). Personally I would recommend a Swiss Army Knife or Multi-Tool for EDC since they have many uses both for emergencies but also in other situations. If the legal restrictions where you live are very strict you might consider getting a strap cuter like the Gerber Strap Cutter or Benchmade Houdini or carrying a compact scissor.

Your clothing provides your shield against the elements and it’s important that your clothing can withstand the temperatures and climate where you live. I recommend that you choose footwear that is comfortable, have some resistance to water and that you can run in for medium distances if you would have to. For Every Day Carry base layers, t-shirts and socks made from merino wool can give you clothing that provides performance even if they get wet. Many companies that make shell clothing also make functional clothing with a design more suitable for Urban use if want to get functional clothing for Every Day use. Do not only pick your clothing for function, blending in your environment is also an important aspect. Being dresses as a hiker in an urban setting may look a little odd.

Setup 1: Example of an Urban Bug Out Bag
Total Weight Backpack: 7,578kg (16,7 pounds)
Total Weight ankle Wallet: 0,053kg

Backpack 1,87kg
[ ] Kifaru X-Ray 1870g

Shelter and Clothing 0,34kg
[ ] Surviva Jak 60g
[ ] TurtleSkin Search Gloves 280g

Light 0,101kg
[ ] Sunwayman M10A Flashlight (52g+23g) 75g
[ ] 2 Extra AAA Batteries (23g+23g) 46g

Fire 0,139kg
[ ] Zippo Blue Lighter 80g
[ ] Zippo Lighter Pouch 59g

Survival Knife 0,15kg
[ ] Fällkniven Police Rescue Knife (PRK) 150g

Pocket Survival Kit 0,12kg
[ ] ESEE Izula Gear Wallet E&E 120g

Water 3,2kg
[ ] Camelback 3 Liter Water Bladder (3000g+201g) 3201g
[ ] Katadyn Mini Water Purification Filter 210g

Food 0,684kg
[ ] Mainstay 3600 Emergency Food Ration 684g

Navigation and Communication 0,337kg
[ ] City Map or Topographical Map 100g
[ ] Cammenga Tritium Wrist Compass 37g
[ ] Icom IC-R6 Radio Scanner 200g

First Aid and Hygiene 0,435kg
[ ] Lifesystems Event First Aid Kit 293g
[ ] OHSO Travel Toothbrush 49g
[ ] 2 Charmin To Go – Travel Toilet Tissue (28g+28g) 56g
[ ] Sea To Summit Wilderness Wash Hand Sanitizer 40ml 37g

Other 0,202kg
[ ] Cash
[ ] Cell Phone Charger or Extra Battery
[ ] Rite-In-The-Rain Notebook 4” x 6” 90g
[ ] Fisher Trekker Space Pen 112g

Ankle Wallet 0.053kg
[ ] Tatonka Skin Secret Pocket 40g
[ ] Cash
[ ] Extra ID or Extra Credit Card 5g
[ ] BCB Button Compass 4g
[ ] ESEE Escape and Evasion Ceramic Razor 4g

Summary Setup 1
The first setup is an example built upon a medium sized backpack from Kifaru. The bag contains a Surviva Jak, a jacket made by the same type of material as an Emergency Blanket and a pair of protective gloves. The setup contains a compact flashlight from Sunwayman that uses a single AA battery, two extra batteries, a Zippo storm lighter and a fixed blade rescue knife from Fällkniven. The setup also contains a three liter water bladder from Camelbak, a small water purification filter, some emergency rations from Mainstay and a radio scanner from I-Com. A City Map or Topographical Map and a wrist compass with tritium lights provide some tools for navigation.

As a backup if you would lose your pack the setup also contains a small wallet that can be worn under your trousers. This small wallet can be filled with some extra cash, an id-card or passport, a button compass and a small blade.

Setup 2 – Two Bags Bug Out System
Backpack Total Weight: 6,334kg (13,9 pounds)
Rolling Bag Weight: 5,35kg (11,8 ponds) + A change of Clothing and a Hygiene Kit

Bag 1: Backpack 1,9kg
[ ] Arcteryx Arrakis 40 1900g

Shelter and Clothing 0,512kg
[ ] Merino Wool Buff 54g
[ ] Montane Featherlite Velo H20 Jacket 150g
[ ] Montane Atomic DT Pants 200g
[ ] Adventure Medical Kits SOL Emergency Bivvy 108g

Light 0,97kg
[ ] Fenix TK-60 D-Cell Flashlight (407g+140g+140g+140g+140g) 967g

Fire 0,014kg
[ ] BIC Lighter 14g

Survival Knives 0,257kg
[ ] Leatherman Charge ALX Black Multi Tool 235g
[ ] Fällkniven U-4 Wolf Tooth Folding Knife 22g

Pocket Survival Kit 0,17kg
[ ] BCB Combat Survival Kit 170g

Water 1,399kg
[ ] Klean Kanteen 1200ml (199g+1200g) 1399g

Food 0,668kg
[ ] Mainstay 2400 468g
[ ] 4 Honey Stinger Energy Bar (50g+50g+50g+50g) 200g

First Aid 0,202kg
[ ] BCB Lifesaver 1 First Aid Kit 202g

Navigation and Documents 0,222kg
[ ] City Map / Topographical Map 100g
[ ] Recta DP 6 Compass 55g
[ ] Sangean DT-120 Radio (56g+11,5g) 67,5g
[ ] Passport
[ ] Immunization Card
[ ] Medical Insurance Card
[ ] Cash

Bag 2: Rolling Bag 4,03kg
[ ] Maxpedition Rolling Carry-On Luggage 4030g

Change of Clothing
[ ] Base Layer
[ ] Underwear
[ ] Socks
[ ] Pants
[ ] Shirt

Sleeping 1,32kg
[ ] Haglöfs LIM 50 Sleeping Bag 460g
[ ] Exped Down Mat 7 860g

[ ] Tooth Brush
[ ] Tooth Paste
[ ] Dental Floss
[ ] Soap and Shampoo
[ ] Comb
[ ] Razor
[ ] Shaving Cream
[ ] Skin Care Lotion
[ ] Sun Block
[ ] Wet Wipes
[ ] Painkillers and Anti-Diarrheal Tablets
[ ] Travel Towel
[ ] Special Personal Needs; Medication, Extra Pair of Glasses etc.

Summary Setup 2
The second Setup is an example where the most critical Survival Equipment is carried in an Backpack while a secondary bags contains a change of clothing, a thin sleeping bag that can be used for low temperatures outside or indoors and an inflatable sleeping mattress that makes it relatively comfortable to sleep even on a hard and cold surface.

The Backpack contains some ultra light shell clothing that makes it easy to avoid getting wet if you have to walk outside in hard weather, a Powerful D-Cell Flashlight excellent for Search and Rescue or Signaling, a Multi Tool in combination with a very compact folding knife. The Rolling Bag could also be used to include other personal equipment like a Laptop, charger and other equipment that most people are likely to take with them if they would have to leave their home.

These setups are just examples intended to give you some inspiration when building your own kit, the kit YOU build must make sense for your personal setting, climate and situation. There are thousands of products on the market to choose from; find products that perform the tasks that you need them to perform and fit your budget. One Size Does Not Fit All. Own The Process.

Also see:
Building The Right Bug Out Bag For You
The Bug Out Plan
Get Home Bags (GHB)
Pocket Survival Kits
Every Day Carry (EDC)


  1. Boy, survival sure is expensive

  2. Great list! Take it one step further and actually take your bugout bag out into the wild for a night or two. It helps you figure out really fast what you still need to stick in there!