Planning Your Urban Bug-Out Bag

kid with backpack city

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Everyone knows what a bug out bag is: a backpack filled with survival essentials that can assist you during or immediately after a natural or man-made disaster. The problem is, people start packing way too many things and end up with one that’s too heavy to carry.

There’s a balance between having too much or too little inside but there’re also solutions for this. the biggest issue is that people don’t keep in mind their unique situation (location, age, sex, climate, fitness levels, whether or not they have a pet and so on). One thing before we begin… keep in mind that survival skills and tips that can read in other articles are more important than any item you could possibly own.

Remember, a BOB’s purpose is to get you to safety. What happens after that is a whole different story. That’s why you should also consider a bug out retreat where you can live self-sufficiently, you need to figure out how to get food, water, medicine and gear for the long term. In other words, you need to know the basics of prepping so don’t expect your bug out bag to help you in any situation.

The Best Backpack for Urban Scenarios

City dwellers should consider smaller bags because they should have a bug out location nearby. Something light, yet durable to keep all the essentials. Ideally you want something in a neutral color to avoid standing out from the crowd. Black, grey dark blue and dark green are all good choices while red, yellow, orange and camo should be avoided.

If possible, get something water resistant in case you’ll end up in a body of water (for a short period of time, hopefully). Still, try to keep most if not all of your items inside waterproof Ziploc bags.

Recommendations: the North Face Jester and the 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 Back Pack, both available on Amazon.


Not any survival food is good for your BOB. You need something that’s as light as possible so forget canned meat. It’s much better to get freeze-dried food because it’s light, tasty, and only requires boiling water to “cook”. MREs (meals ready to eat), on the other hand, don’t taste nearly that good. You should /avoid them but they can work in a survival situation because they have a long shelf life and are light. If you don’t mind the taste, that is.

Let’s make a full list of foods you can include in your bug out bag:

  • freeze-dried veggies, chicken, eggs etc.
  • raisins
  • peanut butter
  • instant mashed potatoes
  • energy bars
  • trail mix
  • hard candy
  • hard-tack
  • pop tarts
  • hot chocolate powder (good comfort item)
  • powdered milk


In most disasters, the water will remain safe to drink. However, it could also stop running or get contaminated (in case of a nuclear meltdown).

For your bug out bag, 1/2 of water, a personal filtration system and a few water purification tablets should be enough, depending on how much you can comfortably carry. What’s more important is that you include a few water purification tablets (they’re light and cheap) and a portable water filter such as the LifeStraw.

Don’t overdo it with food and water, because they’re heavy. Instead, focus on building a stockpile at home (in case you have to bug in) and at your BOL (bug out location) in case you have to bug out.

Medical Supplies

Since you’re gonna need a first aid kit in your survival bag, I recommend you assemble it on your own. It’s cheaper and you don’t get stuck with whatever items those pre-packed kits have. Here’s what you’re going to need:

  • an airtight container such as a zipper bag to put everything in
  • Band-Aids of all shapes and sizes
  • elastic bandages
  • tweezers
  • a couple of N95 respirators
  • a thermometer
  • hand warmers
  • hand sanitizer
  • antibiotic cream
  • Ibuprofen
  • Benadryl
  • Aspirin

Many preppers don’t like to think about the possibility of injuries, but the sad reality is it’s more than likely… that’s why you have to prep accordingly.


You and your family need to be protected especially when you’re out there and all you have is your backpack. Anything can happen, anyone can attack you. A handgun should be enough for a quick bug-out, but you should also make room for a second one in your BOB, some spare ammo, a stun gun and maybe even some pepper spray.

There are other survival weapons that preppers like, but they’re not everyone’s cup of tea: spears, axes, machetes and even boomerangs. Chances are you won’t need a boomerang to hunt ducks and pigeons and using it on a bunch of rioters won’t help so let’s leave them out for now.

Consider taking self-defense lessons, they’re not only incredibly useful but they’re also considered “normal”, if you’re worried about people finding out you’re a prepper.

Other Things to Consider

OK, now that we covered the essentials, let’s see the rest of items you may need:

  • a fixed-blade survival knife (8 to 12 inches in total length is ideal),
  • a couple of Bic lighters (I’m not saying you’re gonna have to survive in the wilderness but, wherever you end up, there’s a chance you’re gonna need them),
  • a sleeping bag,
  • a tarp (You probably won’t need to make shelter in the wilderness but it’s good to have something to sleep on wherever you end up. Besides, tarps have a million other uses.)
  • duct tape (Another survival item with lots of uses. You may want to get a smaller roll, though, to keep your bag light.)
  • a spare change of clothes,
  • a bandana,
  • work gloves (useful because you might have to climb fences, move heavy objects and so on),
  • a headlamp (to light your way while keeping both hands free)
  • and a portable AM/FM radio (to stay up-to-date with the latest developments), preferably one that’s hand crank and has a flashlight.

Truth be told, I left out a lot of items because this bag is for urban situations and, as I said, we need to keep it small (unless you’re in good shape and think you can carry it). All you really need is something to get you out of the city or the suburbs and, if you want to store more stuff, consider the trunk of your vehicle. Since thugs and angry mobs will rise in the coming economic collapse, flexibility and speed are going to weight more than sophisticated gear.

Now What?

Well, how about you take your BOB for a test drive? You have to know how long you can walk with it on your back. Most preppers are overweight or in bad shape, and they severely underestimate how far they can get in an emergency.

If you’re embarrassed that people might ask you what’s inside, do this: get an empty backpack, walk to the supermarket (and leave the car at home), put all your groceries inside and walk home with the backpack on your back. You’ll not only save money on gas but you’ll give yourself quite a workout.

Now, there’s one last thing you need to know. The food inside your BOB will expire at some point. In fact, if you don’t keep your bag somewhere cool (such as a basement), it will last less than the expiration date on the packaging. Most people keep it in the bedroom or in some other place so they can just grab it and leave in case of emergency. This is why it’s important to rotate the food every 6 months to avoid spoilage.

© 2016, DFW Preppers and Survivors. All rights reserved.

About Danny

Danny is one of those preppers who doesn't believe in the end of the world, zombies and asteroids hitting the Earth. There're plenty of other things threatening our lives, he just wish people realized that instead of being in one of the extremes.
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