These 14 Urban Survival Skills are Critical

by Megan

When SHTF, the most important thing for you to understand is that everything you know about how the world works can change very quickly. Most new preppers do their planning as if they will all be at home when SHTF. But the truth is you and your family members could be anywhere when things go bad. Even if you don’t live in a city or urban area, it’s quite possible you will be in or near an urban area when SHTF. If that happens, these urban skills will help you survive in any city.

#1. Navigation

If you’re caught out away from home when SHTF, one of the key urban skills to help you survive in the city will be your ability to navigate your way through the city to either get home, reach your agreed rendezvous point, or get safely out of the city to your bug out location. The ability to find and make use of detailed maps of the area, alternate routes to/from work or school, and shortcuts will be vital to your survival.

#2. Locating and Purifying Water

It’s impossible for humans to survive without drinking water. This is a critical survival skill whether in an urban or rural situation. But in an urban situation, the large fresh water sources such as lakes and ponds may be less prevalent than in rural situations. This means you need to know where to find water in the city and how to then purify the water you find so it is safe to drink.

#3. Make Something from Nothing

The knowledge and ability to make something from nothing in an urban skill that will help you survive in any city. Most people will look for the obvious things to help them such as lighters.

Flashlights, canned food, bottled water, blankets, etc. A city has so many people that these obvious supplies will be gone very quickly. If you are able to look at the things other people passed up and know that you can make those work for something you need, you’ll be ahead of the game. Examples might be using a magnifying glass or steel wool and battery to start a fire or using a solar powered light next to a sidewalk as a flashlight.

#4. Knot Tying

No matter how well prepared you think you are, something is bound to go awry at some point. Your knot tying skills will help you survive in any city, whether you need to lash extra gear to your bag or vehicle, make your own snare, tie hand and footholds in a rope, or build a ladder for climbing. Even if it’s just to secure a makeshift shelter or tie a hook or sinker on a fishing line, knot tying will come in handy again and again in an urban survival situation.

#5. Climbing Skills

When you’re in an urban environment, climbing skills come in handy so that you can use an alternate rooftop route which will be less exposed or get into or out of a building without being discovered or followed. You may need to climb in order to cross a river to get to your bug out location or meeting area. If the bridge you would normally take across the river is clogged, monitored, or overrun with dangerous people, you need to climb to go around.

#6. Choose Shelter Strategically

One of the most critical skills you can have in an urban survival situation is the ability to strategically choose your shelter. Your shelter needs to be secure from intruders. It needs to be secluded so you don’t attract attention of passersby. It also needs to be a location where you can easily defend yourself and one that has an alternate way out so you can retreat if things get bad.

#7. Fire-Making

Like any survival situation, a key skill is knowing many different ways to make fire, cook food, and stay warm, so that no matter what resources you have at your disposal, you can stay warm and cook food. One method not many new preppers may know about is joule heating.

This is the ability to create fire by sending electric current through a conductor. A standard toaster uses joule heat. One way to do this in an urban grid down situation is to use an old piece of steel wool and a power source, such as a 9-volt battery.

#8. Evade and Hide

In the cities, one of the biggest threats you will face in a grid down situation will likely be other people. Your ability to evade and stay hidden from those who intend to do you harm or who are desperate and want what you have, can go a long way toward your survival. Map out alternate routes using rooftops and/or underground subway tunnels or sewer systems, so you can travel without being seen. Learn how to hide your fire from view so you can stay warm without revealing your location to others.

#9. Scavenge

Knowing where and what to scavenge is one of the urban skills that will help you survive in any city. When looking for supplies skip the retail stores and go for warehouses, distribution centers, or even supply trucks. Abandoned public buildings such as schools or office buildings and construction sites can be good sources for the following items:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Tools
  • Shelter materials
  • Diesel Vehicles
  • Generators

#10. Foraging

While scavenging is a term used more for the skill of finding materials and other items you might need, foraging usually refers to the skill of collecting or harvesting things that grow wild. For example, many weeds that you pass every day in the city are useful for medicinal purposes or are edible. If you are able to identify these weeds when other people don’t have that skill, you will be able to find food and medicine even when others cannot.

#11. Thinking Outside the Box

The ability to think outside the box is an urban skill that will help you survive in any city. People in cities will be desperate and the obvious places for supplies will be quickly overrun. To increase your odds of finding supplies that haven’t already been grabbed by others, you need to think outside the box.

As an example, look for diesel from underground tanks at gas stations and use something like an old bike pump and hose to make a syringe pump. Seek out working communication equipment or components to piece together from a taxi cab dispatch office or take advantage of small solar panels that normally power road construction signs to charge your batteries.

#12. Self-Defense

Self-defense is one of the urban skills that will help you survive in any city because sooner or later you will need to defend yourself at some point. The more ways to defend yourself you are experienced with, the better your chances of being able to defend yourself against whatever enemy might show up.

It could be criminals who are intent on violence, looters motivated by getting what you have, or desperate families just trying to survive. It doesn’t matter who the enemy is because if you can’t properly defend yourself, they win, and you lose.

#13. Negotiation and Bartering

Another urban skill to help you survive in any city is bartering and negotiation. While experts will recommend you try to avoid other people whenever possible, this won’t always work. There will be times when you need to barter and/or negotiate with others to get the supplies you need. Being prepared to do this and having proper bartering supplies stockpiled will go a long way toward your survival.

#14. First Aid Skills

When things go wrong and in a survival situation it’s almost certain that at some point things will go wrong, you have to be prepared for the worst. In an urban situation, your level of first aid skills and medical knowledge may be the difference between life and death.

Many people may falsely believe that in the city medical help will be more available, but this is far from the case. Most emergency services personnel will be overrun with desperate people very quickly. To survive injury or illness in an urban survival situation, you need to master first aid skills, so you can handle whatever may come up.

Wrap Up

The more of these urban skills you can master, the better your chances of survival in any city. There will always be other skills you can learn which is why prepping is a lifestyle change and not something you can ever be “done” learning. And when it comes to survival, there are no absolute guarantees.

Even the most skilled survivalist can make a mistake when fatigued or distracted. In the same vein, the least skilled among us can luck out and make it through a nearly impossible situation. But these urban skills will help you survive in any city because they can help tip the odds in your favor. And when it comes to a survival scenario, having the odds in your favor is the best position you can be in.

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2 thoughts on “These 14 Urban Survival Skills are Critical”

  1. #3 I think you mean steel wool not wood.
    Thanks for an excellent article. As for #1, I have reasons to go into a major city now and then. I went there yesterday in the daytime, and I left during the night. I kept thinking if the SHTF, especially at night, how many routes do I know to get out/home? Paper navigation, and memory are my chosen ways to navigate.
    As for #2, I purchased a 4-way water faucet key that hopefully I never have to use. I will use it on faucets on the outside of a building to secure water if needed.

  2. Urban environments can nearly be defined by the means taken to block, restrict, and deny entry/exit to others.
    Breeching structures (doors, windows, wall, roofs) and the tools needed is a top priority in urban environments.
    Bolt cutters, saws, crowbars, and railroad bars are a few of the basic tools needed.
    The skills needed to quickly penetrate/create an entry/exit point will greatly improve one’s survival in an urban environment.


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