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Urban Bug Out Bags: What They Are, Why You Need One, and How to Pack One

An urban bug out bag may not be something you’ve ever heard of or considered owning. But if you live in an urban setting, you should know that bugging out isn’t something you do only in rural areas.

Man viewed from the back wearing a black backpack in an urban setting.  Even a basic backpack can become an urban bug out bag.
Even a simple backpack can become an urban bug out bag in advance of a disaster.

A city can be the worst place to be in when a disaster strikes. You not only worry about threats like downed power lines and rubble, but also crowds of scared people who might not have planned for such an event. These individuals could raid your stockpiled supplies if you didn’t prepare for how you’ll conceal and carry them in such a disaster.

About 80.7% of Americans live in urban environments. Preparing your urban bug out bag can give you an excellent shot at survival by keeping you safe and providing you with the much-needed essentials. This article will help you discover everything you should know about urban bug out bags.

What Is an Urban Bug Out Bag?

Survivalist-style backpack with various camping and survival supplies.
A well-prepared urban bug out bag with camping and survival supplies.

An urban bug out bag (BOB) is a survival kit containing supplies you need to survive for at least three days after a disaster strikes a city. The essential items in an urban bug out bag may be like those in other bug out bags. However, they can have extra unique things to the city’s negative and positive disaster conditions.

Urban Bug Out Bags Advantages

They include:

  1. Unlike in the wild, where you need many items to increase your survival odds during a disaster, scavenging for survival supplies from abandoned residential buildings and businesses can enhance your survival chances in the city. You can get water, food, clothing, and sleeping gear from these spots. However, don’t loot.
  2. It is easier to find shelter in a city’s “safe” place or corner. Therefore, you might not need to create a cover. Having sleeping gear might be all you need to rest and recharge.

Urban Bug Out Bag Disadvantages

They include:

  • Urban disasters may involve crumbling buildings, breaking glass, and debris buildup. These threats can add extra items to your urban bug out bag list.
  • Disasters can trigger uncontrollable movements by people. This scenario complicates escaping to safety.
  • Panic can make people act irrationally as they try to stay alive. This situation can cause everyone to put their interests first, even at the expense of others. However, people may also support one another during emergencies and shouldn’t be only regarded as a threat.

Your urban bug out bag list can differ from other bug out bags because of the city’s unique factors.

Why Do You Need To Have an Urban Bug Out Bag Ready?

You may think you don’t need an urban BOB. However, there are situations where you may be stuck wandering the city during a disaster. They include:

  • Authorities put the city on lockdown, and you can’t leave
  • Your home becomes unsafe
  • You have an illness or disability that prevents you from leaving the city
  • There are no rural areas or wilderness around you
  • It takes several days of walking in the city to reach the nearest safe location

Being prepared for such occurrences by having an urban BOB can provide you with essential supplies and increase your odds of survival.

If you think such a day might not come, experts believe there is a 50% chance that a Chernobyl-level disaster could happen by 2050. Isn’t it best to plan ahead rather than be caught unprepared?

Considerations When Planning Your Urban BOB

Closeup of first aid kit, flashlight, bottled water, and other basic survival supplies that should be included in every urban bug out bag

Keeping in mind the conditions of bugging out in an urban setting as you plan your urban BOB is vital. You’ll include the necessary items and plan how you’ll access them.

Special Urban Considerations

There are more people packed together tightly in an urban setting. This situation can require you to prepare your urban BOB differently from one for a rural environment.

Bugging out in an urban setting will mean having to plan for your security during a disaster. For example, carrying some sort of weapons and having an urban BOB that doesn’t stand out to prevent security threats.

Movement in and out of the city may also be a challenge if it is highly populated. The infrastructure may be clogged with heavy traffic attempting to leave, or it may be damaged. Carrying some items, like halligan bars and bolt cutters, helps you gain entry. However, be careful to follow the law.

The air quality in an urban area may also be poor during some disasters. You may require portable air supply equipment or air filtration equipment. These tools can help you deal with dust, smoke, and chemicals present in an urban disaster.

Urban areas may also have falling debris during a disaster. Having protective gear should be part of your BOB planning.

Considerations for All Bug Out Bags

Man in cold weather clothing wearing a gray backpack walking down a sidewalk.  The ideal urban bug out bag is nondescript and doesn't attract attention.

Choosing the right BOB is essential to prepare you for any disaster. Here are critical considerations to help you with this goal:

  • Appearance: Choose a BOB that helps you blend in or remain unnoticed. There are two ways to do this: mimicry and camouflage. Mimicry colorways resemble popular items carried by people on ordinary days. They aren’t too flashy or noticeable. Camouflage colorways actually draw attention in a city setting. For example, tans and gray greens can be ideal for a city. Black, dark grays and camel can also work.
  • Proper fit: The right BOB distributes your load’s weight evenly between your hips and shoulders. You should be able to adjust the straps to enable the bag to sit up against your back without too much movement. Padded straps can also protect your shoulders. A properly fitting BOB won’t topple you or drain your strength quickly.
  • Weight & strength: Watch the BOB’s weight to avoid issues. Carrying many heavy items can slow you down and drain your energy quickly. It is best to take about 15% of your body weight. A BOB should be judged by three criteria: Is it strong? Is it affordable? Is it lightweight? Consider the essential requirements to choose the suitable pack.
  • Size & layout: Choose a BOB that is big enough to carry your essentials. It may also have a pocket on the outside for items you need to access quickly. Your things shouldn’t be hanging from the pack’s exterior because they can be lost, damaged, or someone can steal them. Having the right size BOB will help you stay mobile, balance the load you are carrying, allow you to move through tight spaces easily, and not slow you down.
  • Waterproofing: A water-resistant bag can improve your supplies’ durability. Its zippers, straps, and seams shouldn’t break easily. A coating process or applying a waterproofing treatment yourself can keep your items from being damaged by water. Covering your BOB with a dry bag will also help protect against moisture and rain.

Creating a Modular Pack/System

Stay organized to survive an SHTF event. A modular pack system is lots of little packs organized inside the main one. You create it by grouping things in small packs to fit specific uses, such as food, first aid, and lighting.

Creating a modular BOB enables you to arrange your items to suit your BOB and accessibility needs. For example, you can put things you may often need or those you require when you are in a hurry in a place that is easy to access.

What To Pack

Overhead view of survival supplies on a wooden table.  Urban bug out bags need specialized supplies for city emergencies and disasters.

Here is an urban bug out bag list of items to pack.

1. Respirator and Masks

Dust from a disaster event can pollute the city’s air. Tear gas from military activity and bombing can also be a challenge. Mask and respirators are essential for survival. You may choose foldable respirators instead of surgical masks, as they provide better protection from smoke and dust. For example, you can use a KN95 Face Mask or the 3M 8511 Cool Flow Valved Respirator.

2. Eye Protection Goggles

Smoke and dust can harm your eyes during a disaster in the city. Choose clear airtight goggles to protect your eyes without affecting your vision.

3. Protective Head Gear

The city’s buildings can crumble during some disasters. Protecting your head reduces your risk of being injured by falling debris. You should include a folding helmet and a bike helmet resembling an ordinary cap in your urban BOB.

4. Protective Gloves

Hand gloves can protect you from infectious viruses, bacteria, or germs during an SHTF event. They can also prevent injury to your hands if you have to climb or clear rubble or gather materials to build a shelter. Choose gloves that can protect you from microorganisms, colds, and injury, such as the Mechanix Wear: M-Pact Covert Tactical Work Gloves.

5. Reflective Safety Vest

A reflective safety vest can help you be visible when dust, darkness, or smoke blurs people’s vision. People or drivers won’t run into you because they will be able to see you.

6. Mini First Aid Kit

Get a pre-made mini first aid kit for your medical emergencies. These products include the essential survival first aid items you may need. For example, they have prescription drugs, analgesics, and personal medical kits you may need.

7. Food

It is easy to forget about food in the confusion of a city disaster. This omission can be deadly, as you will get hungry and have low energy at some point. Pack y

Pack your urban BOB well to ensure it’s compact and the items are well-secured within the bag. Consider each item’s accessibility as you pack. For examplfood options that don’t need to be cooked, such as military Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). High-protein energy bars can be fresh for an extended period. Survival tabs will not leave you feeling full, but they are an viable option in a disaster scenario because they will provide instant nutrition and energy to sustain you.

8. Water

Water is an essential requirement for your urban BOB. Store about a gallon of emergency water pouches in your BOB to reduce your load’s weight. This water can last you for about a day as you figure out how to get more water. For example, you may get water from public water fountains or abandoned businesses if the circumstances push you that far. Water purification tablets may also protect you from waterborne illness as you get water from various sources.

9. Towel, Soap, and Bathing Wipes

Soap and compressed disposable towels can help you if you get an opportunity for a bath or shower. Bathing wipes are an alternative if you don’t have time or a place to bathe.

10. Hand Sanitizer

The dirty environment created by a disaster can be a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria. These microorganisms can cause discomfort, disease, and even death. A hand sanitizer can protect you if you can’t wash your hands with soap and running water.

11. Toilet Paper and Human Waste Disposal Bags

You will need to think about human waste disposal during an emergency. Doing it hygienically while you are on the move is crucial. Locating working restrooms may be challenging. Some restrooms may be closed or damaged, while others can be in unsafe locations that expose you to danger. Toilet paper rolls, human water disposal bags, and disposable urinals can provide options when no bathrooms are available.

12. Toothbrush and Toothpaste

Going 2″“3 days without brushing your teeth is awful, even during a disaster. How uncomfortable would it be to go through a disaster with something stuck in your teeth that you can’t get out? Put together a dental hygiene kit that includes oral health items, such as tooth powder, dental floss, and a folding toothbrush.

13. Hair Brush

Your hair may be the last thing on your mind during an SHTF event. However, having a folding hairbrush can be helpful. Maintaining a neat appearance will go a long way toward improving your morale during an emergency. Taking care of your hair even during a disaster minimizes the problems caused by snarls, tangles, and mats you’ll have to deal with when the dust settles.

14. Menstrual Hygiene Products

These items are indispensable for female preppers and loved ones who still have menstrual cycles. Having menstrual cups is better than having sanitary pads or tampons during a disaster. You’ll save on space and have less disposal trouble. Women may practice with them at home to become comfortable with using them before a disaster strikes.

15. Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag is more practical than a tarp or tent. Some sleeping bags are light and easy to transport. Others can also keep you warm on cold days and cool on hot ones. Choose the best option for surviving in your city.

16. Change of Clothes

A change of clothes can help you. Your clothes can get wet, dirty, or dusty. Having items to change into can ensure you are warm, clean, and dry. Clean clothes can also be a morale booster during a disaster. Carry a few things to suit the different seasons. For example, you can carry thermal clothes for the winter, moisture-wicking clothing for the summer, and waterproof clothes for the rainy seasons.

17. Stun Gun and Pepper Spray

Self-defense items can help you stay safe by slowing down attackers for long enough for you to flee. Carrying pepper spray and a stun gun can be easier than having a firearm. Put the stun gun or pepper spray in a spot you can access quickly. Some stun guns also have LED lights that can help you navigate the city during darkness.

18. Communication Gadgets

Communication gadgets can help you connect with your loved ones and keep up with developments in the city. For example, you may carry your smartphone for these purposes. Having a solar charger power bank can help you recharge your phone. Include a walkie-talkie and a hand-crank radio to keep up with updates in situations where cell phone towers aren’t working, and there is no cell service.

19. Flashlight

You never know what route you will have to take to stay safe. A flashlight can help you move around in darkness or through escape tunnels. Choose a battery-powered, waterproof, and drop-proof option, such as Gear Light LED Tactical Flashlight S1000. Carry an extra set of batteries.

20. Map and Compass

Navigating in the city can be challenging in the wake of a disaster. Disaster may destroy the signs, buildings, and infrastructure that may have helped you pinpoint your location and destination. Crowds of people trying to find their way to safety can also complicate your navigation. A map and compass are some of the essential items for survival navigation in the city. You may also need them if you leave the urban setting.

21. Extreme Survival Tools

You may need to collect provisions from abandoned shops, shelter in abandoned buildings, or force open a water valve for water in dire situations. Specialized tools can help with these purposes. You can pack a lock pick set, bolt cutter, and pry bar if there’s room in your urban BOB. Conceal these tools well to avoid being mistaken for a burglar.

22. Other Gear and Tools

You may also need these tools and gear:

  • Multitool
  • Zip ties
  • Pocket knife
  • Paracord
  • Duct tape
  • Small denominations of cash
  • Copies of family and personal documents
  • A deck of playing cards

Tips To Having the Ultimate Urban BOB

Woman packing a backpack with urban bug out bag supplies.
Packing an urban bug out bag before a disaster strikes is critical when every minute counts.

Here are a few tips to help you have the ultimate urban BOB:

1. Think Urban When Prepping Your Urban BOB

Consider the unique requirements for surviving in the city as you pack. For example, you may need protective head gear, bolt cutters, self-defense tools, and air filtration equipment. These items may not be necessary for survival in rural or suburban areas.

2. Make Your Urban BOB’s Load Light

You may walk or run a lot during an urban SHTF event. You may also move in tight or hidden spaces to stay away from danger and get to safety. A heavy urban BOB load can hinder your movement and expose you to danger for a more extended period. Make your urban BOB’s load light by carrying the essential items only. Don’t pack things you don’t need or that you may be able to find substitutes for in the city.

3. Take Care of All Your Urban Survival Needs

Ensure your urban BOB’s load is light, yet includes all the essentials. Make a list using the things mentioned above and check it against your bag’s items. You may add other items to suit your needs.

4. Arrange Your Items For Quick, Convenient Access

Emergency supplies (such as self-defense equipment) and frequently used items should be in areas you can quickly access, such as outside pockets. It may also be best to put the bigger but softer things, like a sleeping bag, at the bottom of your urban BOB.

Weight Considerations for Your Urban Bug Out Bag

The weight of your urban BOB’s load is a crucial factor to consider while prepping. Having the right weight makes it easy for you to move around. It also won’t take a toll on your body because your bag won’t be too heavy.

The ideal BOB load weighs around 15% of your body weight. This equates to about 25 pounds for the average female and 30 pounds for the average male. Some people may carry more, but smaller individuals will need to carry less. The items shouldn’t exceed 25% of your body weight.

Suggested Packs To Use for Your Bag

These packs can be excellent BOB options for urban preppers. The best choice for you depends on what you’ll carry and accomplish with the bag. Check their features against your needs to pick one.

Red Rock Outdoor Gear Assault Pack

The Assaust Pack from Red Rock Outdoor Gear is an amazing pack that is built for survival and bugging out. The bag can hold up to 20 liters and has multiple internal dividers, zippers, and a MOLLE strap system to attach whatever you may need.

Maxpedition Falcon III

The manufacturer has refined this bag regularly over its decade of existence. It has a hidden, expanded CCW pocket that can hold spare mags and large pistols. The ample external storage may also enable you to store other items you may need quickly. Its wide padded shoulder and waist straps provide stability. You’ll enjoy 35 liters of storage with this bag.

Osprey Rook 50

This pack has an excellent strap and belt to keep you comfortable. Its frame also makes your load stable and keeps it in place. You’ll enjoy its lightweight property as you carry it for an extended period. It also has an integrated rain cover to protect your items during inclement weather.

5.11 Rapid Quad-zip Pack

This pack incorporates the best features of a tactical assault pack, an easy-to-tote commuter bag, and a duffel bag. It has a sizeable main compartment that you can access from four corners and has a 270-degree zipper opening. It doesn’t draw too much attention, and side lashing straps secure and compress the load internally.

Color/Blending In “Gray Man Theory”

The gray man theory states that one needs to blend into their environment as much as possible. You may as well put a target on your back if you bug out of a city with a colossal camouflage or brightly colored pack. It is best to carry something medium size with darker colors that holds everything you’ll need.


A nighttime city disaster scene.

An urban bug out bag can be an essential item to get you through an SHTF event in the city. Pack all the vital things you need to get through a disaster scenario. Use a list to ensure you’ve included all the items. Pack the items strategically for accessibility and to increase their longevity. Keep self-defense equipment and things you use often in easily accessible spots. Ensure your load’s weight does not exceed 15″“25% of your body weight so that it doesn’t slow you down or cause you to become fatigued.

If you have any suggestions, questions, or comments on urban bug out bags, leave them below to get help.