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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.