5 Essential Urban Survival Tips To Keep You Alive

urban survival tips

As a part of developing The Ultimate Urban Survival Kit (TUUSK) with the team at Ready To Go Survival, our conversation turned to urban survival planning and strategy.

We talked about our experiences with the various snowstorms, hurricanes, blackouts, and terrorist threats that we had been through and compared notes.

In this guide, I am going to share the Top 5 Urban Survival Tips that came out of our brainstorming session. If you are not one of the 80.7% of people who live in an urban environment feel free to share these with anyone you care about who does.

Top 5 Urban Survival Tips

Urban Survival Tip #1 – Move fast before exit routes are clogged or closed

There is a clear first mover advantage when evacuating a highly populated area.  Once everyone around you gets the same idea, getting through the exits – bridges, tunnels, highways, or train routes will become hopelessly clogged.  To ensure a speedy exit:

  • Make sure your bug out bag is packed, accessible, and ready to go.
  • Make sure everyone you are bugging out with is on the same page for when to initiate your bug out plan and where to meet
  • When in doubt MOVE!  Don’t wait for everyone around you to agree, get going.  Be a survivor, not a statistic.

urban survival tips

Urban Survival Tip #2 – Be prepared for environmental hazards

The modern urban landscape if full of dangers that become exposed in any type of disaster.  Damaged buildings put all manner of dangerous debris in the air from asbestos and concrete dust to broken glass and toxic smoke.

We need to be sure that our bug out bag has the proper protective gear to keep us moving through such hazards, you never know what you will need to scramble over or through to get to safety.

Sturdy shoes, and well-made pants and a long sleeve shirt should be your default bug out clothing even in summer to protect you from jagged or burning debris.  Additionally, consider having environmental protection gear to protect the rest of your body:

  • Eye protection
  • Hearing protection
  • Respiratory/Lung protection
  • Hand protection

Urban Survival Tip #3 – Be a Grey Man or Woman

The idea of being a “Grey Man” (or Woman) is based around being fully prepared but inconspicuous as to not draw unwanted attention to yourself. This serves two purposes:

  1. Being a Grey Man will help you blend in with a crowd if people are being singled out or if you are trying to evade a pursuer
  2. Being a Grey Man will make you seem like a regular person instead of a target of opportunity for aggressive people who are less prepared than you

There are many ways to be a Grey Man and a lot of them just come down to common sense and not advertising your presence:

  • Wear normal looking clothes, not camo or other tactical looking gear
  • Remove any military style logos – The TUUSK bag comes with a velcro patch of the RTGS logo that can be removed at a moment’s notice to slip into the crowd
  • Do not open your bug out bag in a public area where others can see that it is loaded with food, water, and survival gear that they may need.
  • Avoid staring or unnecessary eye contact
  • Conceal any obvious survival gear on your person

Urban Survival Tip #4 – It’s better to look like a threat than a target

In an urban scenario, you are inherently more likely to encounter other people.  Some of these people may be aggressive, desperate, or seeking to take advantage of others in the chaos.  It is best to deter such advances before they even start by making yourself look like more trouble than it is worth to bother you.

  • Travel in a group if you can, single people are far juicier targets than two or more people who are obviously together
  • Have a self-defense item ready to deploy if you are approached; this can be pepper spray, a firearm, knife, or another weapon. Showing you are armed and ready to defend yourself shows that you are not a target of opportunity
  • Be aware of your surroundings – If you are being followed or possibly entering a dangerous area keep your eyes open and change course immediately
  • Keep in mind the Grey Man tips above to keep off the radar of inquisitive people
urban survival tips
Image Credit: Satguru on Flickr

Urban Survival Tip #5 – Follow your instincts, not the mob

When a disaster hits, 99% of people are completely unprepared. You are reading this article, so you are obviously of a mindset of preparing for the worst BEFORE it happens. Stick to your bug out plan and improvise when necessary.

If a mob of people is heading one way, it doesn’t mean that is the best way for you.  You don’t need to go in the opposite direction as everyone else but look for the safest way for YOU to reach your destination.

Follow your instincts when faced with a hard choice, not just the path of least resistance.

Putting These Tips Into Action

Partnering these 5 tips with a well thought out bug out bag will vastly improve your odds of making it through the next urban disaster alive.

For more urban survival tips based on my real world experiences check out my article here: 10 Preparedness Lessons From Living In NYC.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, these tips came out of the TUUSK project that I partnered with Ready To Go Survival (RTGS) on. The team at RTGS has been hard at work sourcing gear and getting The Ultimate Urban Survival Kit ready to launch out into the world.

If you are interested in getting your own TUUSK and free Lifestraw before they are made available to the general public check it out here.

urban survival tips

Good luck prepping and remember, Chance Favors The Well Prepared.

Your Thoughts?

Do you have an urban survival tip to share?  Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!


Chris Ruiz

My name is Chris and I created this site to help ordinary people prepare for the uncertainties of the modern day world. I believe that a well-prepared society is the best safeguard against any natural or manmade disaster.

19 comments on “5 Essential Urban Survival Tips To Keep You Alive

  1. It’s none of my business what you do or why you do or don’t do it, but when a comment sits here for 8hrs. awaiting moderation, then one has to wonder. Maybe the readers should say your article is awaiting moderation. That said and out of the way, I’ve been thinking about your posting after reading it this morning before daybreak while watching the blood moon eclipse. And the bottom line is that no-one is going to be able to get out of the city after teotwawki unless they live on the extreme outskirts. If a person lives in a city such as Dallas then they will still have to contend with Ft. Worth, Irving and 25 or more smaller towns just to get south of I-20. Going north, east, or west, won’t fair much better. Any population center of over 50,000 is going to be a death trap for anyone inside. There will always be the survivor, but they will be the extreme exception, not the rule. There has to be a way for city preppers to start moving to the countryside. This is just a shot in the dark, but maybe country folk could help out by providing lodging free of charge in their homes a couple days a month for sincere city dweller preppers who don’t mind bending their backs and doing some hard backbreaking bonecrushing work in return. This would entail a serious amount of trust and cooperation…and yes the city dweller would have to return to town to work and so forth, but at least when teotwawki hits all they would have to do is get in the car and git…fast. What they have in the trunk and bugout bags would keep them till they arrived countryside. This is just a thought and probably wouldn’t work, but you never know till you try it, and maybe, just maybe friendships would bud into something that bring forth fruit and save lives when shft. It’s your move. thanks

    1. Hey Towtruck,
      Sorry it took so long to approve your comment, I am in Australia right now so your it came in in the middle of my night.
      I know that it will be difficult to evacuate a city but some small percentage will be able to. Some factors are out of your control like where you are when the disaster hits of course and these may make it impossible as you say.
      However, whether it is 1% or 5% of people, some WILL be able to make it out. Our job is to maximize our chances to be in that group.
      You have a great idea to partner with someone who has a viable bug out location, this can be the basis for forming a prepping group. In addition to having this arrangement of country folks helping out city folks you can work together before a disaster strikes to increase everyone’s preparedness.

      Thanks for your comment.

    2. I hate to say something negative in response to your effort to make a helpful suggestion, but having lived extensively in both city and country with military-trained survivalist friends (the serious types, such as ex-IDF, not the conspiracy weirdos) the kind of people in the country with whom it would be practical to survive are not going to welcome city dwellers into their compounds. If I were in the country at the time of a serious contingency, I would immediately shoot any city people approaching my property in such a situation, and feed them to the hogs. I would have nightsweats being so cruel, but I don’t need their help, there is nothing they could do for me, they represent potential threats and liabilities on so many levels, and better safe than sorry. In that kind of life or death scenario as pointed out in the above article, the careless are only careless once. Intruders need to vanish. It’s just not worth the chance. Also, not enough resources to share for charity. In all politeness, you’re dreaming if you think hard chargers in rural areas are going to work out an arrangement with you. These people are more cunning, ruthless and hardcore than you realize. Many of them are real pros, or the equivalent in their own contexts. You will be lucky if they simply let you pass through in most cases. While you stand a better chance of being unnoticed in the countryside, it is not so much safer than the city in terms of the entities whom you may encounter.

  2. I like the article very much, the only thing I vehemently disagree with, is “look like a threat”. While that may “sound” good, in reality I believe from my personal and professional experience, that is incorrect. Being “invisible” or grey, means that the groups of thugs looking to attack someone, will necessarily gang up on some one who does look like a threat to them, especially those who are by themselves. While we can fantasize about being a legend in our minds, in reality getting accosted by several attackers is a sure fire recipe for disaster. Better to be invisible to them as well, so you can melt into the crowd. Look like you have nothing worth stealing, and nothing worth dying for. That, is the art of being invisible. Hope this helps.

    1. Hi TPSnodgrass, thanks for your comment. I agree that being a grey man is the best option but if you are confronted, I do think it is better to be an unappealing target than an easy looking mark.

    2. Nicely put. TPSNODGRASS. That would seem to make sense. I think looking like a threat would work better in large numbers. I suspect that it was one function of biker gangs wearing “colors,” back in the day even though they identified the members to the authorities as being outlaws -it let the petty street pests and trouble makers know who they were and nipped a lot of potential trouble from other criminals in the bud.

      But in a contingency situation, it seems intuitive that you are right. The key would be to look as uninteresting and unremarkable as possible, just another fish in the sea, with nothing to protect, and no weapon for anyone to want to take away from you. This seems to also be a key to avoid trouble from law enforcement, such as unconstitutional searches and harassment -to look like just another fish in the sea.

      1. Also, there is that gunslinger challenger phenomenon of people WANTING to prove themselves against someone who looks like a threat..or thinking it might be a good idea to eliminate a potential threat.

        Thanks to the site creator for tolerating my verbosity.
        Fascinating site, btw. Thank you for publishing it.

  3. I personally feel safer around more people than less. The last thing one might wish to do is walk through an unfamilar neigborhood and have the one person whose might be in the mood to mess with someone be the only one to see one.
    In my years I’ve found the way someone dresses really can affect the likihood of being attacked, just not in the way many people might think. A woman dressed appropiately is more likely to be attacked, not less, and a mugger is more likely to go after an old man in rags than a young healthy man in a business suit.
    A person who looks weak and homeless but is not only a lower risk target but is also more likely to be carrying everything they own on their persons.

    1. Thanks for sharing your real world experience Betsy! You make a great point about presenting yourself in a savvy way to not be a target.

  4. I have read several articles about bugging out, but where to you go. I for one do not have the money to buy a cabin in the middle of no where. What are your suggestions where we are suppose to go to be safe.

    1. Hi Glenna,
      I think this is a common problem. One thing to look for is alternatives to building your own cabin in the woods. Do you have friends or family that live in a safer location that you could bug out to? Is there a prepper group in your area that you could pool resources with?

      Good luck.


  5. Enjoyed this very much, most of these lists of 10 things to do when or 5 ways to..whatever, are a guided tour to a FEMA Camp and the rest are a list of contradictions,
    I try to Live the Grayman lifestyle that I learned over 30 years ago from an actual Hitman that worked for one of the Families “Back in the Day” and he knew my Mom. Unfortunately myself, like you, have a Blog and they, the alphabet-soup crowd, have our numbers, but the average folks and low lifes we would run into in a Bug-out situation won’t and that’s why everyone should Go Gray.
    That said, Thanks for a simple and articulate plan of action,

    1. Hey Mark, thanks for your feedback and I think you are right on point. I totally agree with the skills/gear/mindset approach on Prepperguy.com by the way.


  6. I’m working in Vietnam 🇻🇳 and being a Grey man is a challenge for me. I’m a white male and will always stand out in any environment regardless of what clothes I wear. I normally wear cargo shorts T-shirt, Sandles and a northface hoodie on rainy days. I dress the same as locals and even wear a face mask when driving my motorcycle but I will always be noticeable to everyone. My best bet is to look like a foreign traveler and blend in with the expatriate community.
    I’m normally armed with a variety of blades and a Karambit is my every day carry. I also have an Oso Negro Spanish military knife that I stash in my backpack when traveling around Vietnam. If I’m walking about the streets at night I stash the Oso Negro in my back waist band and cover with my t-shirt.

  7. Really interesting piece and coming from England I try and put an English perspective on it. Very recently me and my partner have bought a house in a small rural community and moved from suburban London. I’m feeling a lot more safe here but in the back of my mind is how would I get back to the village if I was working up in a major city. Being the UK carrying a legal concealed piece if out of the question.
    On 7 July 2005 London suffered multiple bomb attacks . As a precaution all subway and bus services were stopped and the roads were gridlocked. Luckily I wasnt in the capital then but it make many of us think how woudl we get out or what woudl we need to stay but safely. What if this was added the situation, a violent breakdown of law and order or government imposed curfew.
    Despite having been in the military I would avoid camo clothing completely. It marks you out in any situation due to its conspicuos nature. I woudl make my first priority a good pair of walking shoes or boots and a decent outer shell garment that is weather proof and has plenty of pocket large enough for two water bottles.
    Healthy , hydrated and discreet.

  8. Great advice. But being mentally disablled and dependent on narcotic medications as well as being an elderly women in ill health – I am already a target no grey women scenario for me. I am known far and wide in a major urban city for being a loner have trouble walking, I have always looked (my face and hair) a hot mess despite the fortune and effort I spent to appear normal my face is bright red and my one eye is lazy, my hair is so thin that it is almost none existant . I am living in a rooming type situation run by dca BUT I have serious mental issues, and a speech impediment as well. The whole of this city who has seen me double take and make threats I have been approached by pimps who told me that they would work me all the time with a bag over my head – to there most disgusting clients then when I cannot go on they say no on will ever know what happened to you, they will kill or sell me. OH GOD. i am terrified about being jumped the second I step out the front door as the neighbors tell me that they are taking my shoes my purse my phone wallet keys and will beat the shit out of me – or at least make me completely helpless IT IS TOO LATE FOR ME, I HAVE been in this place 5 years in that time I have deliusions I cut my long hair off and set it afire – they could have got me on arson. Then I spent 3 1 month long visits to hospitals crazy wards over the years. I have seziure/epilespy problems so even if they let me have my shoes I could not run, I am not strong enough to fight, especially a friggin mob I am terrified of these damed meds that are so addictive that when I do not have them I won’t be able to function. All of this because I have really avoided everyone here in this place, and I do not go out during the week at all because I am scared that I will be beaten, robbed,etc. I am so hated here I can only ask you if it would be safer for me outside with all it’s dangers or in jail? I do not want to die by inches or by tourture but this is the cold hard facts. I have bites all over me as well so people are afraid and horrifired by me. The owner of this place wants me dead, he gave me so many chances and I just keep having breakdowns. The women here love to gossip and lie on each other – go out into the neighborhood talking horrible things about me lies about me- I have no defence I have been homeless many years before I came to this place. I should have stayed out on the street and never come here,

    1. I know this is a late reply, but to the above commenter “dead” as a mental health professional, PLEASE talk to your therapist about this. If you don’t have one, find one. I can agree that some inpatient help may be in order. I do believe in the article, and being a grey man. That said most things in life are 90% mental and 10% physical more or less. You need to formalize a plan and be able to enact it, whether it’s bugging out, hunkering down, or utilizing a weapon for self/family preservation. If you do it, to coin a Cobra Kai motto (yes, a Karate Kid reference) Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy. This scenario is play for keeps.

  9. I know this is a late reply, but to the above commenter “dead” as a mental health professional, PLEASE talk to your therapist about this. If you don’t have one, find one. I can agree that some inpatient help may be in order. I do believe in the article, and being a grey man. That said most things in life are 90% mental and 10% physical more or less. You need to formalize a plan and be able to enact it, whether it’s bugging out, hunkering down, or utilizing a weapon for self/family preservation. If you do it, to coin a Cobra Kai motto (yes, a Karate Kid reference) Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy. This scenario is play for keeps.

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