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How to build a personal urban survival kit will add flexibility to your overall survival and preparedness foundation. We are witnessing an increasing amount of uncertainty in our daily lives. The events of recent months and weeks indicate that this trend may continue.  Therefore, it is wise to develop and maintain a personal urban survival kit to store in your Everyday Carry (EDC) bag or pack. Your addressing the following areas in your kit will give you a good foundation from which to build and improve your kit.

Preliminary Considerations

It is essential to think about what you want for a survival kit before you begin to build one; this is true for any kit. Also, you will want to consider the size of your kit. Some people consider an entire backpack to be their urban survival kit. Others think a kit that is no larger than an Altoids® tin to be their survival kit. So, you must have some practical idea of what you want for a personal urban survival kit. I am recommending that you consider a small-to-medium pouch, such as a 6 x 6 MOLLE pouch or container, such as the GSI® Glacier Stainless 1.1 L Boiler Cup, as a guide for keeping your kit small and compact.

Cutting Device

The first item that should be in your urban survival kit is a cutting device. A fixed-blade or pocket knife is the most common way to address your cutting needs. However, there some other options to think about when choosing a cutting instrument for your kit. A good option is a multitool.  One of the best multitools on the market for this purpose is the Leatherman® Rebar or Sidekick.

Another option for a cutting device would be a good Victorinox Swiss Army Knife. They come as a more traditional pocket knife configuration. However, they still are considered a multitool. One of the best Swiss Army Knives for an urban survival kit is the Huntsman version. The knife has over ten tools that give you a wide range of employment options in an emergency.

Fire Making Device

Fire making is a core element in survival preparation. The second item to have in your kit is one that allows you to make an emergency fire. The best thing for this task is a simple Bic® lighter. However, it is wise to have a second option for making a fire. The UCO® Survival Fire Striker or NATO weatherproof matches also are good options.

Furthermore, having a good tinder source is the second part of your fire-making option. The best tinder source for making fire is the UST® WetFire™ cubes. They will light on fire even if they are wet. Another option for tinder is cotton tinder tabs.

Food Procurement Tools

Food procurement in an urban or suburban setting is different than obtaining food in the wilderness. You will have to muster some creativity in this area. Your food procurement tools might consist of carrying cash or change, an energy bar or bag of trail mix, or keeping a small pry bar or lock pick set. I recommend keeping an energy bar, granola bar, or some trail mix in your kit.

Water Procurement

Your ability to obtain water in an emergency in an urban or suburban environment also will require some creativity on your part. Therefore, it is wise to carry a sillcock key in your kit. The sillcock key will allow you access to water on the side of an office building or gas station. It is also wise to carry a LifeStraw® or Aquatabs® to filter and purify water from questionable sources.

Emergency Shelter

The kit that I am recommending will not be large enough to carry a tarp, tent, or sleeping bag. Thus, you will have to exercise some ingenuity when it comes to shelter. In an urban environment, a shelter can be an abandoned building, garage, or overpass. Remember that your clothing is your first layer of shelter. It is advisable to carry an emergency blanket or bivy sack as part of your emergency kit. These items may have to be carried separately from your kit conveyance, such as in a trousers cargo pocket.

Illumination Device

The urban and suburban areas will have plenty of illumination as a general rule. However, if the electricity is out because a transformer or relay station is out, then having an excellent illumination device is essential. I recommend that you carry a headlamp in your bag or pack. Additionally, it is helpful to keep a micro-flashlight in your emergency kit conveyance. One of the best micro-flashlights on the market is the LRI® Photon Freedom LED Keychain Micro-Light with Covert Nose. We recommend that you get a microlight with a red light to help maintain your night vision.

Signal or Communication Device

A question that arises in an emergency is how you are going to signal for help or communicate with first responders. Our article on the PACE plan for communication will assist your efforts in this area. Your micro-flash light or headlamp can function as a signaling device at night. Your smartphone, with a charge, can be a source of communication. However, a great daytime signaling device is a signal mirror. A small signal mirror will be a vital asset in your kit. Additionally, you will want to add a writing instrument and some paper.

Navigation Device

Most wilderness survival kits have a button or wristband compass. Navigating through a city requires something more than a compass. It would be helpful to carry a folding, laminated map of your town if one is available. In a similar way to the emergency bivy, you might need to store a map in your bag or backpack separate from your emergency kit pouch. Yet, it is essential to have a map available for you to reference at all times.

Medical Considerations

Medical care in an emergency is a universal concern whether you are in a city or the deep woods. It is advisable to carry some first aid items in your kit. A good start for addressing these needs will be an assortment of band-aids, triple antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes, a triangular bandage, and Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT).

Remember that your emergency kit is a last-ditch tool to enable your survival. Therefore, the first-aid items that you place in your emergency kit are not meant to be a fully stocked first-aid kit. A larger first-aid kit should already be in your bag or backpack.

Personal Security Considerations

A final consideration for your urban emergency kit will be personal security. One thing that could be part of your emergency kit is a pepper spray canister, personal emergency alarm, or stun gun. The size of your kit will determine what you will place in it to address your security concerns.

As before, remember that your emergency kit is a last-ditch source to enable your survival. The intent is not to build a comprehensive kit. Therefore, avoid the temptation to put too many items in it.

The Carrying Mechanism

The carrying mechanism that you choose in which to store your items should fit your needs. A common mistake is to buy the pouch or box before the items have been purchased. Therefore, assemble the individual pieces before you attempt to buy something with which to carry them. You should try to keep the kit as small as possible while maintaining its practicality for use in your situation.

As you consider your carrying mechanism, there are many options on the market. One of the best ways to keep most of your stuff is the 5.11 MOLLE 6 x 6 or General Purpose Pouch or similar product. One drawback is that these kinds of pouches are not entirely waterproof.

Another consideration would be a one or two-liter dry sack. Yet, one drawback with a dry bag is that you can not carry it on your belt or the cargo pocket of your trousers. The Maxpedition® ERZ or Beefy Organizer also are good options to consider. So, you will have to experiment to see what works best for you.

Final Thoughts

A personal urban emergency kit is a highly individualized kit. It is up to you to assemble it in such a way that it is practical for your needs. There is a tendency to overfill the kit to address every possible emergency scenario. Your emergency or EDC bag or backpack is designed to address the broader concerns and contains more robust survival items.

Remember, your emergency kit is not an exhaustive solution in an emergency. Therefore, as you assemble the items for your kit, ensure that you are entirely comfortable with using them for their intended purpose.

There are 4 tips to consider for decisions about EDC options. My wife and I, recently, were discussing the topic of Everyday Carry (EDC). That conversation became the motivation to write this article. Prepping and survivalist interest is growing. Consequently, there are many people new to the jargon and concepts they are seeing on the internet. Therefore, it is helpful to keep in mind these four tips when considering what to carry for your EDC loadout.

Tip # 1: Assess Your Daily Environment

The first tip about EDC options is to assess your daily environment. The environment in which you will function everyday is the foundation for considering your EDC options. The world that we live in is not homogenous. My particular daily situation does not have the same nuances as someone else’s environment. Some people live and work in the suburbs, like Poway, California. Other people live in rural areas away from daily access to the high energy of a big city. Still, others live and commute within a highly urbanized metroplex, like Los Angles, New York, St. Louis, or Dallas-Fort Worth.

A particularly challenging daily environment to assess is one in which a person commutes long distances between work and home. I remember hearing about a professional athlete in California, who travels almost two hours, one-way, every day between his home and place of work during the season of his chosen sport. Thus, a person like that will have a unique set of EDC considerations. Therefore, it is essential to assess your daily environment.

As you assess your environment, you will want to ask and answer some crucial questions about your situation:

  • What is the level of crime in my area?
  • What is the most common kind of crime in my area?
  • How often will I be away from home?
  • How much and how far will I commute every day?
  • What is the type of transportation that I will use every day; car, bus, subway, train, taxi, carpool, airline?
  • What is the nature of the traffic in my area (easy, hard, frequent traffic jams, etc.)?

If you can answer some of these basic questions, then you may find yourself drifting into a discussion about getting home. Thus, you should be very thorough in assessing your daily environment.

Tip # 2: Assess Your Level of Readiness

The next important EDC tip in your item considerations is to assess your level of readiness. How physically fit are you? Do you have handicaps that require special equipment? Have you included an EDC, prepping, or survival line-item in your yearly budget? How proficient are you in self-defense, handling firearms, or using non-lethal weapons such as pepper spray? The point here is not to imply that you should shore up your weaknesses. Instead, these are influences in determining what items you should be considering for your everyday carry loadout.

For example, if you have never handled a firearm, you have no business carrying one until you get properly trained and licensed to carry it. If you have never had martial arts training with knives and weapons, then you have no business carrying a karambit knife because an internet personality demonstrated using one. Furthermore, how often on a daily basis will you be employing the things you desire to carry? Therefore, assessing your level of readiness should determine what you include in your EDC loadout.

Tip # 3: Assess The Practicality Of Your EDC Item Considerations

A third EDC tip concerns practicality. Now that you have assessed your environment and your readiness, you can now begin to think about what items to consider for your EDC loadout, in essence what are your needs? An important principle to remember is what works for someone else may not work for you. For example, some people carry an EDC backpack. There are many videos on the internet discussing what to pack in an EDC backpack. Remember the keyword in Everyday Carry is everyday. How practical is an EDC backpack to your situation? It might be overkill, especially if you are at your suburban house most of the day.

Furthermore, the practicality of your items will be influenced by your level of familiarity with them. Multitools are a favorite everyday carry item that you find as a recommendation on the internet. Yet, how often will you use something like that everyday? I remember in the military the only people carrying multitools every day were our vehicle mechanics. Why? They are fixers in their hearts. Thus, they discover that they need to carry a multitool. They need to be ready to repair, fix, attach, or detach something, even when they are not under a vehicle. Their experience dictates that they carry a multitool. Therefore, assess the practicality of your items along with your needs or requirements.

Do not put something in your EDC loadout that you will never use or will hardly use on any given day. Everyday carry items are intended for regular or frequent use. By definition, they are not for an emergency survival SHTF scenario. For example, I saw someone on YouTube recommending an ankle-mounted first aid kit as an EDC item. First aid kits or trauma treatment items, such as tourniquets, are, technically, emergency items. It is crucial for those off-duty medical professionals and first responders to carry emergency medical kits as everyday carry items. However, for the general public, emergency medical items should be part of your individual emergency survival kits. Furthermore, your personal emergency survival kit should be part of your EDC loadout.

Tip # 4: Learn The Art Of Modifying Your EDC Items

The fourth EDC tip is learning the art of modifying your EDC items. Many people are carrying a multitude of items on any given day. As you are assessing your daily environment and item needs, remember to be flexible. As you carry your items, you become used to them to the point of not noticing that they are on you. Then, you find yourself having to travel via airline, bus, or train. Suddenly, you are facing a TSA officer screening you, and you forgot to place your multitool or folder in the checked baggage. Now you lost that $180 Benchmade Griptillian folder or $100 Leatherman Center-Drive multitool even after putting them in the bin to go through the x-ray machine. Limit your “oops” moments by learning to modify your EDC loadout for each situation.

A good practice to employ in the art of modification is layering up or down according to the need. In the military, you are trained to modify your clothing as the climate dictates. Layering your clothing is an essential technique for the winter months and in cold weather conditions. This same technique can apply to EDC considerations. You may find yourself not carrying some items on the weekend. They are simply not needed. Similarly, you may find yourself adding items if you go out of town for the weekend with your family.

Concluding Comments

Everyone carries some kind of an EDC item, such as a wristwatch or wallet. However, as we consider carrying items beyond the obvious, it is essential to be thoughtful, diligent, and practical about what you include in your EDC loadout. There are at least three conventional approaches to EDC philosophy: EDC as items of regular or frequent use, EDC as items for personal defense, or EDC as items for emergency survival. Some advocates blend elements of all of these and call it Everyday Carry. The environment in which you operate and your level of readiness will determine what you carry daily. Remember that there is always room for improvement. So, choose your EDC items wisely and continue to improve your knowledge and experience. As a result, you will modify and enhance the things you carry with you every day