how to be a prepper in the city

How To Be A Prepper In The City

In Prepping and Preparedness by M.D. Creekmore

how to be a prepper in the city

Even if you’re an urban prepper are fortunate enough to have a retreat out in the country getting to your safe-haven may be impossible during an urban upheaval. Roads blocked by wrecked and fuel-less vehicles will stop most people who are bugging out in their tracks. Maybe you were born lucky and can make it out safely before the balloon bursts, then what?

People in rural areas will start shooting if threatened by mobs of refugees fleeing the city. Don’t expect to be welcomed with arms outstretched. Most country folks don’t trust outsiders; you will likely be greeted with a load of buckshot and not the cup of fresh coffee and meaningful conversation you had hoped for.

After the cities are in ruins, criminal gangs will start to migrate into surrounding rural areas (especially known farming areas) where they will continue their business of stealing, raping and terrorizing in a more fruitful territory (when selecting a rural retreat location get as far away from urban areas and main roads as possible).

If you can’t or won’t get out of your urban location NOW at least start making plans to survive the best that you can where you are. It won’t be easy, but it can be done.

Start By Putting Together Your Urban Survival Kit

Most of you probably have a bug out bag by now. If not, go back and re-read the chapter on bug out bags and put one together. Having a bug out bag is good insurance in the event you are forced to evacuate your home or retreat for some unforeseen reason. It seems most preppers have planned to bug out but few of have even considered the need to find their way back home if caught away during an emergency. You not only need a bug out bag, you also need a get back home back.

No doubt, many of you spend a lot of time away from home – with work, school, and business sometimes taking you hundreds of miles away from home. Most of the time this is not an issue for me, but recently I have had to make several trips with my girlfriend to take her father to the cancer specialist on the other side of the state. What would we do if disaster struck while we were several hundred miles from home?

What would we do in the event of a terrorist attack, riot, earthquake, or similar disaster? Could we get back home? What would we do if forced to stay in the area for several days or even weeks? With any luck, I will be able to drive out but you never know; the roads could be blocked or impassable because of damage, the area could be quarantined or it could be too dangerous to move for several days.

As with anything related to survival, there are no guarantees, and I doubt her father could make it under anything but the best of conditions considering his health. I just hope nothing bad happens with him in tow.

To increase our odds of making it back or surviving in the city, I have put together a “Get Home Kit” that I take on extended trips. Sure, I could have just taken my bug out bag, but it really is not the best solution and the gear for the most part. It is not what I would need in an urban setting. The basic needs of water, shelter, food and medical are the same in the wilderness or city, but the means of attainment are different in most cases.

My bug out bag was put together for an extended trip to the woods where I can make most of what I need from what Mother Nature has to offer. However, if trapped in the city, I may have to scrounge or steal most of what we need to survive, especially if we are forced to stay and survive for an extended period. No, I am not advocating theft or looting, but I am not above it if the other alternative is starvation or death.

My get home kit is smaller than my bug out bag and weighs considerably less. Everything fits snugly inside a small dark gray and green backpack that I bought at the local flea market for five dollars. I intentionally averted from camo or military type packs to avoid attracting attention. Now that we know why we need a get home pack, the question remains what do we pack in our urban survival kit.

Urban Survival Kit Contents

  • A fixed blade knife (Glock Knife)
  • Multi-tool (Gerber Recoil Auto-Plier)
  • Two small Bic® lighters
  • One box water-proof wooden matches
  • Two Berkey water bottles
  • Small LED flashlight (Maglite XL100)
  • Cell phone
  • Prepaid calling card
  • Lockpick (Dyno Kwik Pick)
  • First aid tactical trauma kit
  • Antibacterial hand wipes
  • Space blanket
  • Bag of trail mix, box of power bars (15), electrolyte packets
  • A detailed map of area and compass
  • Garmin handheld GPS navigator
  • OC spray
  • One-hundred dollars in small bills ($1s, $5s, and $10s)
  • Glock 19 and 200 + rounds of ammunition, and 2 or more ammo magazines.

Aside from, and in addition to the get home kit, I pack a large cooler with food and drinks for the trip, partly for emergencies but mainly because I am cheap and do not want to waste money buying fast food along the way. I also carry sleeping bags in my vehicle during winter along with my winter emergency car kit and a full toolbox.

Food For City Preppers

mountain house foods reviewYou should store enough food to last at least six months – more than one year would be ideal, but probably impossible for most urbanites because of limited storage space. This means enough food to live on without leaving home. Food staples include rice, beans, honey, wheat, sugar, tea, coffee, salt, pepper, baking soda, cooking oil etc. Also canned soups, meats, fruits, and vegetables should be included. A food storage calculator is an excellent tool for approximating needed qualities of foods and is a great help here.

Also, see my recent article – The Ultimate Preppers Checklist of Recommended Supplies and Gear for a full list of supplies and gear.

Sprouting seeds for fresh greens is a very important urban survival skill that will keep you supplied with fresh greens even in the winter. Sprouts are germinated seeds of vegetables, nuts, grains, and legumes. Sprouts are nutritious, inexpensive and high in protein. Sprouts should be included in your survival food plans. All that is needed is a couple of quart mason jars, a square of nylon window screen, rubber bands and viable seed stock.

If you decide to include whole grains in your diet, you will need a grain mill. All chosen grain mills should have changeable heads so you can use both steel and stone heads for grinding depending on the product being milled. Some people suggest that steel burred grinders cause heat that could damage the nutrient content of the grain. Don’t buy into that. Hand grinding doesn’t cause enough heat to cause damage.

Next, you will need something to cook on. I recommend one of the Coleman multi-fuel camp stoves. I have a Coleman Exponent Multi-Fuel Stove which burns both unleaded gasoline or kerosene. These stoves are small, lightweight and very energy-efficient.

Remember, when using stoves like the Coleman camp stoves indoors the fumes must be vented to the outside, if not carbon monoxide can build up and kill you, especially in a small or confined area. In most cases, an open window near the cooking area will suffice for ventilation – read and follow the instructions in the provided owners manual.

My top recommendation for outdoor cooking (cooking outdoors my attract unwanted attention) is the EcoZoom rocket stove – click on the link to read my full review.

If you don’t have one already go by your local shopping center and pick up a Stanley Aladdin narrow-mouth thermos bottle. You will use the thermos as an energy-efficient appliance for cooking. Don’t get a wide-mouthed thermos; if you intend to use it for cooking, these are less efficient at holding heat.

It is best to use a different bottle for cooking then your everyday thermos. Coffee smell, for instance, tends to leach into whatever you are cooking, even if the bottle has been cleaned.

Thermos cooking is in no way difficult or complicated, all you need is some simple directions.

Water for City Preppers

berkey filterWithout a source of clean drinking water, most of us will die within three to seven days, depending on personal health, weather, and workload. The problem with water is it’s difficult to store enough to last through an extended emergency and living in an urban apartment makes it nearly impossible.

Collecting rainwater on the roofs of buildings could be a solution in areas that receive an ample amount of rainfall. Use plastic sheeting, tarps etc, to funnel water into clean trash cans, buckets, “kiddie pools” or other suitable containers.

When I lived in an apartment building years ago, I bought several “kiddie pools” just for this purpose. They can be stored neatly stacked one inside the other and slid under the bed out-of-the-way until needed.

Some urban areas have lakes or streams nearby but these will be polluted and contaminated – a running water source is better but still no guarantee of cleanliness. Never drink directly from the source; there is no way of knowing if the water is contaminated (it mostly will be) without proper testing. Don’t take chances; invest in a good water filter to be sure. The best filters filter out Bacteria, Organic Chemicals, and Protozoa (Giardia) Viruses.

Shelter for City Preppers

I hated living in an apartment. I felt like I had no privacy what-so-ever, I could hear every word, whimper, moan or scream through the walls, ceiling, and floor. I am sure everyone in the building felt the same way. If you are stuck in a large city an apartment is likely the situation you will need to deal with despite its limitations.

There are a few things you can do to make your place more secure. The first thing I did was replace the front door with a steel security door with deadbolt and peephole ( the same color and look of the old door). I hid the old door in the closet and replaced it when I moved. I also replaced the door leading into the bedroom with the same type door, lock and peephole set up for an instant safe-room (safer) inside the apartment.

Don’t forget smoke and carbon monoxide. Keep at least two fully charged fire extinguishers on hand. Also, the magnetic break door and window alarms work well when used to guard the windows and doors leading into the apartment.

If you are above the second floor an escape ladder or rope should be put back in case of fire. A proper mask should also be considered.

When we pay rent we are always faced with the possibility of eviction. If possible keep the rent paid up at least six months. If you have no other way of paying in advance, borrowing the money from the bank will keep you sheltered during hard times. I hate debt but this is an area where it could be to your advantage depending on your personal circumstances and how you work the situation.

Going mobile could be an option for the city survivor, but fuel will likely become a problem post-collapse. Like everything else in life, we must weigh the good against the bad and make our choices based on that knowledge. If you’re interested in this, some great information can be found here.

Firearms for City Preppers

Defense in the city will likely be a short-range engagement. For urban areas, I recommend a good pump-action 12 gauge shotgun and a handgun. The Mossberg 500/590 or Remington 870 are both excellent choices. For versatility put back a variety of shot-shell loads as well as buckshot and rifled slugs.

Handguns should be at least .38 caliber or above. I like both revolvers and semi-automatic handguns, in skilled hands both can be effective. Stay with what you know and practice. If you have had little or no training in this area seek out a competent instructor and become qualified. If you are fortunate enough to live in a state that issues concealed carry permits, you should apply for yours as soon as possible.

My favorite foraging tool in urban areas is the Savage Model 42.

Wild Game for City Preppers

In an urban area you’ll mostly have a choice of small game such as rabbit and squirrel but what most people fail to realize is that the outskirts of most urban areas harbor a good number of whitetail deer. The trouble is that everyone will be hunting, so the numbers of wild game might be depleted quickly and let’s not overlook the danger of going out to hunt those areas…

Small game can be taken with traps, air rifles, slingshots or ever killed with a club or rock. When I lived on a lot in a small city, I shoot squirrels that found their way into my back lot with a .22 caliber rifle loaded with CB caps, (down-loaded .22 rimfire ammo) the little rounds are very quiet and can take most small animals out to about ten yards.

Deer can easily be snared or shot.

Most cities have an abundant pigeon population. It is a simple matter to follow the flock to their roost at dusk. Shining a light into their eyes they tend to sit still where they can be caught or killed with little trouble. Air guns and slingshots work well.

Without a doubt, the most abundant source of meat in an urban environment is the common rat. They have thrived under even the most challenging circumstances. It is almost a certainty if there are human survivors after any catastrophe rats will be in abundance but likely infested with parasites and other things that could make you sick and therefore should be used only as a last resort to avoid death from starvation. Like most small animals they can be trapped in homemade box traps or shot.

Gardening for City Preppers

garden city preppersDon’t expect to support yourself entirely from a city garden, at least not at first. I have raised tomatoes in a window box and hanging baskets on the terrace. Perhaps in time, large community gardens would spring up that could be worked by groups of urban survivors.

During the first months preceding a total collapse, gardens will need to be hidden and out of sight. A lot of vegetables (especially among most city dwellers who think vegetables come from the supermarket) are easily mistaken for weeds and are not all that difficult to keep hidden from passers-by.

The first rule of avoiding detection is to never plant your crops using the traditional roll method. The three sisters gardening method comes to mind, some North American Indian tribes used this technique to grow corn, beans, and squash to great effect and it acts as a natural camouflage.

When it comes to survival gardening, obviously we must start with seed – it is a necessity to have a source of viable seed on hand. Look for non-hybrid (“heirloom”) varieties, you want to be sure the seed saved from year to year will breed true and continue to do so. Hybrid varieties, for the most part, are unpredictable and seem to only do well during the first year of planting.

Most garden varieties should be included in your stock. Include such vegetables as: artichoke, asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chives, corn, cucumber, eggplant, garlic, gourds, kale, leeks, lettuce, mustard green, onions, parsley, parsnips, peanuts, peas, peppers, pumpkin, radishes, soybeans, spinach, squash, sunflowers, Swiss chard, tomatoes, turnip, watermelon, zucchini etc; In general put back seeds that grow well in your area and of foods you like to eat.


Even in the most populated areas after the rioting, burning, and looting subsides there will be survivors. The most difficult part is surviving the first few months after the crash, and then the rebuilding can begin.

Also, see: U.S. Nuclear Target Map (Do You Live In a Death Zone?

Please share your thoughts and urban survival tips for city preppers in the comments section below…

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