The topic of bug out bags has been beaten to death, yet there’s so many things that need to be said. People are talking about what to add, what to leave out, and how to make a BOB smaller and lighter. They keep in mind their personal needs, climate, location, which brings me to the topic of today’s piece: how to build a bug out bag if you live in the city. Known as an urban bug out bag.

Unlike people living in the burbs, in small towns, or even in the wilderness, city dwellers have no choice BUT to evacuate. Unless you live in a big house with a garden and plenty of space for your stockpile–plus the means to defend it– the urban prepper probably won’t last for more than a month in the city after the SHTF.

Bugging out becomes of utmost importance and so is having a bug out bag. That being said, an urban BOB should be lighter, smaller, but, at the same time, you have to put a lot more thought into it.

Why should it be lighter and smaller? Because the task of getting out of the city is going to be filled with dangers. You’ll likely have narrow streets, traffic jams, riots, and thugs waiting for you at every corner. If you’ll be bugging out on foot or on a bike, a large bug out bag is not very feasible.

Sure, if you have a bug out vehicle, you can stock up on a lot more items in the trunk but what if you have to abandon it? What if your vehicle is attacked by gangs of thugs (and we’ve seen numerous cases ever since the economic migrants have started flooding Europe)?

Having a large hiking backpack is going to attract attention if you’re on foot so, in most cases, you’re better off with a smaller one.

The biggest objection to having a smaller BOB has to be about not having enough to survive. Most bags are designed to keep the owner alive for at least a week. However, in urban scenarios, I’m assuming you have a location nearby and that bugging out is your main choice when SHTF. As long as the place is less than 60 miles away, you could get to it within 2-3 days on foot if you’re in good shape.

The Backpack

Building the perfect urban bug out bag starts with the perfect bag. I suggest you get something that has a capacity of less than 7 gallons (or, approximately, 25 liters). A few recommendations:

Just make sure you don’t get anything that screams “I’m a prepper”. Camo, green and bold colors are all no-nos and so is MOLLE webbing. Also, get something that has lots of pockets to keep some of the items you’re most likely to use when you’re on the run, such as a self-defense weapon or a first aid kit.

Now, does this mean you can’t get a slightly larger bag? Of course you can. For example, the Kelty Redwing is a great 50 liter backpack with an internal frame. If you’re in good physical shape and you’d like to have your tools on hand, there’s no reason not to add more weight, as long as you do it smart. For example, you can get a second bag that’s smaller, fill that with supplies and keep it inside your main BOB or attach it to the outside. This way, if the weight is dragging you down, you can just throw the bigger bag and keep the small one.

The Items

There are numerous articles detailing the various items you should have inside a bug out bag, but the thing to keep in mind for smaller backpacks is that you need to get the ones that are smaller, yet they don’t compromise on quality.

Before you rush on Amazon to buy the best sellers, I strongly suggest you dig up similar items that are smaller and lighter. Get smaller:

  • whistles
  • multi-tools
  • knives
  • hand-crank radios
  • personal water filters
  • lighters (take a look at this fire starting post)
  • pocket chainsaws
  • notebooks
  • pencils

By the way, here’s a video showing a pocket chainsaw in action.

How do you make your urban bug out bag perfect?

Easy. You just have to keep these things in mind:

– Leave some extra room in case you need to add something you find along the way. In addition, once you use your items, you will find they take up more space because you won’t be able or won’t have time to properly re-pack them.

– There are various hacks to shed some pounds off your bag by crippling your toothbrush, for instance. You don’t really need the handle.

– Stock up on multi-use items. Duct tape, Ziploc bags, Paracord, bandanas – these are just a tiny few of the items that have numerous applications in survival.

– Get items that can do more than one thing. For example, Amazon has emergency radios that also have flashlights and can even charge your phone.

– If possible, keep a pair of hiking boots next to (or even attached to) your bag. This way, when you grab your bag in a hurry, the boots will come along with it. I’m assuming you don’t have time to put them on.

– Follow the “two is one, one is none” rule. Redundancy is critical for survival so always make sure you have at least a couple of ways to light a fire, purify and filter water, defend yourself etc.

– Don’t pack too much food and water. It’ll make the whole bag extremely heavy. Again, I’m assuming you’re prepping to stay no more than 72 hours away from permanent shelter. Light, high-caloric foods such as raisins, freeze-dried food and hard candy and a quarter of a gallon of water should suffice. Remember that because the food will stay for months on end at room temperature, shelf life will decrease so you may want to rotate it more often.

Final Word About an Urban Bug Out Bag

The big takeaway is this: building the perfect urban bug out bag is not hard or expensive, as long as you put some thought into it. You need the right backpack and the right gear to put it together. All you have to do next is focus on your skills, because, as the saying goes, a fool with a tool is still a fool.