Urban Survival Skills List: 25 Skills You Should Know
Urban survival skills are essential for today’s environment, whether you are a prepper or not. The world is a dangerous place, and you must be prepared.
First, let us define urban survival skills. I define urban survival skills as skills, tactics, and abilities to survive a widespread, prolonged disaster while remaining in a densely populated urban environment, even if it’s just for a few days.
Now, urban survival isn’t easy – it is hard. In some cases, harder than wilderness survival. Too many people live too close together, and that is dangerous.
Well, let’s face it. Most people live in cities that are densely populated. According to our world in data, in 2017, 55% of the world’s population lived in urban centers. This means 3.9 billion people live in cities! And that was a couple of years ago.
The number of mega-cities with more than ten million inhabitants is growing at a rapid pace. There is also rapid growth in small cities of less than 500,000 people.
When it comes to the U.S., the U.S. Census says over 62% of the population lives in urban centers. Yet, U.S. cities only take up 3.5% of the landmass of the country. That’s a lot of people squeezed into small plots of land. The average population density is nearly 1,600 people per square mile.
You will need urban survival skills, so you can survive whatever disaster might come along.
With that in mind, this urban survival skills list provides the best urban survival skills that everyone should know. Bear in mind that I include general prepper skills that everyone should have no matter where they live. The focus here is on skills that will be particularly beneficial in an urban setting.
So, let’s dive right in!
1. Blending In
The first most important urban survival skill is to blend into the environment. The more you stand out in a SHTF scenario, the more risk you are taking. Plain and simple. Your survival relies on blending in. This is truly one of the most vital urban survival skills you can develop and learn.
First, you should know how to blend in at home. To last a few weeks at home, you will have to stash food, water, and supplies. However, it would be best if you still were out looking for help like everyone else. You need to be out there with your neighbors, wondering when help is coming and talking about the empty grocery store shelves. Blending in at home also means the following:
- Don’t have lights on at night when the power is out.
- Don’t let the smell of food emanating from your home.
- Wear normal clothes.
- Be discreet about your preps.
Equally important is blending in on the move. When you are moving through the city streets, you want to keep as low-key as possible. If you have anything that looks valuable, you will become a target. And when I say valuable, I mean something to eat or drink or whatever else helps someone stay alive.
2. Finding Water
It may not be easy to find water in your area, but it sits at the top of the list of urban survival skills. Assuming you are still at home, the best scenario is that water will still flow to your taps. However, if you can’t get it from your taps or if you’re on the move, you should know how to find water.
An important aspect of finding water in cities is storing the rainwater. When you are at home, you can set up a rainwater collection system. It is ideal for catching rainwater from your roof or on the balcony of your apartment. Now, you have this set up long before disaster strikes.
With rainwater barrels and screens to keep out debris, you can set up a simple water system. You can use 5-gallon containers on an apartment balcony if you live in an apartment too.
Everywhere you look, there are also bodies of water, from a pond to a lake! In a city, there are always bodies of water. If you live by a river, a lake, or a fountain in the city center, you can access the water. Bring containers to your shelter to hold or drink on the move.
There are sillcock valves everywhere, and you can learn all about them here! Large public and private buildings have external water access, especially in the downtown center of a town. This means you can get water as long as the water is still running through the taps. In fact, the hydrostatic water pressure in the pipes will often deliver water even if the water is no longer flowing. This is useful for when water is scarce.
However, water access is restricted. You can’t just walk up to the tap and turn it on. Instead, to turn on the flow of water, it would be better if you had a sillcock key. It’s easy and cheap to shop at your local hardware store. To see how the sillcock key functions, check out this article.
3. Purifying Water
Now a priority should also be to purify the water. You need to purify your water unless you get water from the tap, and you are 100% confident it is still safe to drink. In an urban environment where the neighborhoods can allow the disease to spread rapidly across the water system, this is particularly important. Here are a few ways in which drinking water can be filtered:
4. Foraging Essentials
You’ll eventually run out of your food stores if the disaster lasts long enough or society is permanently down. Or you may, for some reason, have to leave your home. That means that while on the run, you will need to find food and supplies.
For this purpose, urban survival skills that are vital to your survival are forging and scavenging.
The urban center is full of all kinds of edible food. You’ve just got to know how to find it. Quite frankly, dandelions are edible on people’s front lawns. Plus, they make a good coffee substitute from their roots.
The point is you can manage to feed yourself quite well as long as you know what to look for. In urban areas such as parks, lawns, and empty lots. Here is an article with lots of examples of things that you can eat.
Many of those foods are incredibly nutrient-dense. One of the urban survival skills that you should be developing right now is identifying wild edibles. Know how to identify and learn how to harvest and cook the ones growing in your area. If you look hard enough, you may be surprised at what you find.
In your urban area, you can also hunt wild animals. If you require food, this is an alternative. You may get much-needed nutrition from squirrels, ducks, rabbits, fish, and other small animals.
5. Scavenging for Resources
Your survival could very well depend on what you can find. Fortunately, there are plenty of places you can get food, water, and supplies. Here are some examples of places where the goods you need can be found:
- Other houses
- Apartment buildings
- Office buildings
- Grocery stores
- Department stores
- Gas stations
- Pet stores
- Drug stores
Basically, fair game is any unoccupied building. On store shelves or in their storeroom, they might have merchandise. Kitchens stocked with useful items might be there.
The people might even have vending machines, not the ideal food, but it will do in a pinch. When scavenging, there are some things to keep in mind. You aren’t the only one. Others will be looking for the same things that you are searching for. They could become a friend, or they could be a menace. Be on the lookout.
Second, you may want to stay away from the more obvious places, such as Wal-Mart and Target, or even your local drugstore, because other people will look just like you’re going to be. It might be a safer and more rewarding option to focus on the places most people won’t think about right away, such as office buildings and warehouses.
Finally, getting into any of these facilities or buildings might not be easy. You’re supposed to have pry bars with you. Doors, cabinets, vending machines, and anything else that is closed to you will help you open it.
6. Finding Shelter
You might need to find shelter in an urban area, unless you have a home you can stay in, such as an apartment or house. This is one of the critical skills for urban survival that many individuals do not consider. There are many options, such as:
- Empty houses
- Office buildings
- Abandoned vehicles
You can even use things such as dumpsters, garages, sheds, and covered alleyways that you might not normally consider. Again, you may need a pry bar to help you open doors and gain access to shelter.
To find possible alternative shelters in case you ever need them, just take the time to look around your area. And be prepared to find other individuals already living in these places.
7. Getting Out of a Riot Fast
You can count on the fact that a riot will likely break out in your city if things are terrible. If you can, stay as far away from it as possible. Sadly, this is not always possible because, in mere minutes, riots can break out quickly. If you find yourself in the middle of a riot, moving with the crowd is the best thing you can do.
As you move with them, look as natural as possible and slowly make your way toward the edge of the crowd at an angle. If you break away from the crowd, try to stick with a small group of individuals. This is going to attract less attention than breaking off on your own.
Try not to make eye contact or doing anything like that because that will draw attention or lead to confrontation. Something not to mess around with a crowd of scared or angry people. Here is a useful resource if you want to learn more.
8. Basic Self-defense
Security and defense are essential to your survival, whether you are still in your own home or on the move in the city. Being in the city means you’re faced with being in the middle of many desperate individuals. The worse the scenario in your city, the more hopeless the people will be.
At all times and in all places, the first part of security and defense is maintaining situational awareness. Always understand what is going on in your neighborhood. Always understand what’s going on in the immediate area, even if you’re not home.
It would be best if you learned to scan your surroundings constantly to detect signs of trouble, such as:
- People are running or screaming from something.
- Someone following you for an extended amount of time
- Anyone acting extra suspicious or out of the ordinary
- Unusual smells in the air, such as gas or smoke
Have a self-defense plan in place at all times. Even before the SHTF, you should have self-defense training and urban survival weapons training. Before you defend yourself, you need to know what you are doing.
This is a great article if you want to learn more about self-defense.
9. Basic Home Repairs
Be a general handyman. Know how to fix as many things as possible and repair them. These types of urban survival skills will be invaluable, no matter what catastrophe strikes. In a disaster, your shelter could be damaged, and if the event is long term, things will wear out over time and break down. You need to know how to repair such things as:
- Systems of filtration
- Equipment to survive
The more you know how to fix and maintain, the better off you will be. Would this knowledge be useful anywhere? Yep. However, when it comes to urban survival skills, it is especially vital. Plus, if you want to trade your abilities for something of value to you, knowing how to do these things will be of use.
10. Learn to Barter and Negotiate
Bartering and negotiating are good abilities to have no matter where you are, but you are more likely to have individuals around to barter and negotiate within an urban center. You’re stuck there with the people around you unless you’re planning to leave the city with a plan.
Bartering is essentially trading. Before we invented money, it was what humans did. In exchange for something I need, I’ll give you something you need. Goods and services can include necessary things, and knowing how to barter is a must in your urban survival skills list.
For instance, perhaps you were able to shelter yourself in an abandoned house. You’ve got a fair bit of food in stock, but there’s a big hole in the roof. With someone who has the skills to fix that hole, you can trade food for that, and it’s a win-win.
Plus, individuals will be grateful for a bunch of items when they can no longer easily find things from the SHTF. I don’t necessarily talk here about food. Instead, I’m talking about comfort items, products that people are usually addicted to, or other useful items like:
- Soap/body wash
- Feminine products
- Nail clippers
- Water purification tablets or filters
This list could really go on and on. Stock up and carry as much of it as you can with you.
Negotiating often goes with bartering hand-in-hand. In all sorts of situations, it is useful. To negotiate well, you require good social skills and high emotional intelligence. When settling a dispute, you might need to negotiate a deal, terms of trade, or conditions.
Start learning good skills for negotiation now. Practice them with the people you interact with every day, as much as possible. One day these abilities may very well save your life.
11. Getting to Know Your Area Well
People who live and work in urban environments should have intimate knowledge of their area. You should explore new areas and find back alleys and shortcuts, take multiple routes to and from work each day.
Buy some detailed maps of the town and surrounding areas you should store in your Get Home Bag. Study these maps. Learn them now so that when the lights go out, and anarchy breaks loose in the city, you won’t fumble with them later.
Urban survival involves learning how to move about a city undetected. A significant benefit is traveling over rooftops or sewer systems, which is actually an important skill. These are routes that you should begin to practice periodically to move throughout a city secretly.
12. Know Who to Trust
It can be advantageous to help your neighbors. During a tough period, sharing your emergency food stockpile or ammo, or even a useful survival tip, can earn you an ally. You’re watching their backs, and they’re watching yours.
It is a symbiotic relationship that both parties benefit from. Also, having friends for survival is nice for the company.
But, don’t be too unsuspecting, or you might end up dead. Even if it’s someone you’ve known for years and consider to be a close friend, showing someone where you keep your survival stash is never a good idea. To keep your most valuable items hidden, use diversion safes.
It could present an unnecessary temptation to reveal valuable food, water, weapons, or ammo supplies to someone. With all of your ramen noodles and shotgun shells, it would suck to wake up one morning and find out your “buddy” skipped town.
Be conservative with your trust; don’t just give it to anybody. You can go ahead and assume you are better off without him if they are desperate. Have some sense in common. There is also the choice of not trusting anybody at all.
To survive, you do not necessarily need other people, although it does make things easier. Just clinging to yourself makes life a little easier, though. You have to make sure that you have the ability to do that. Certainly, the lone wolf lifestyle has its benefits.
I take the middle ground personally. I believe in extreme caution. To trust somebody, the two criteria are: BEFORE the world goes to shit, they are almost as prepared as me. They’re dragging their own weight.
If they have these two qualities, I will consider building a relationship with them in preparation for SHTF. But building a new mid-diaster partnership is like playing Russian roulette. Not recommended unless it’s really the only option for you.
13. Grow Your Own Food
If you’re not into gardening, you better start now because once the economy collapses, you can’t depend on the market. Growing food of your own will give you the reassurance that you will survive.
It is a great thing to grow your own food, and it has so many advantages. By growing a variety of green vegetables, fruits, and legumes provides protein and essential vitamins and minerals, balance it. Now, here are some of the benefits of this.
- Enhance your health. One of the most important things you can do to stay healthy is to consume more fresh fruit and vegetables. The vitamin content will be at its highest when you pick vegetables directly from your garden. You also decrease the risk of eating vegetables containing harmful chemicals. You know exactly what you eat. Furthermore, getting children involved in gardening will make it more likely for them to try the vegetables.
- You’re not required to go out. Reduced outdoor interaction is one of the benefits of enjoying garden vegetables. Moreover, for a fraction of the cost in the stores, you can grow your vegetables.
14. Escape a Shooting
Although unlikely, at any school or workplace, a shooting may happen. It pays to be prepared and to know in advance what creates the best survival opportunity. Running should always be your priority, but if there is no safe escape route, be ready to hide or battle for your life.
This is from expert recommendations, and I don’t expect you to follow any particular order, but try to do this.
- Runaway if you get the opportunity and get out of the area as fast a possible.
- Know the escape routes of your location.
- Forget your belongings if possible. They will only be a drag.
- Call law enforcement numbers so they can arrive as soon as possible.
- Grab a weapon close to you. This could be almost any sharp item, or if you have a gun and know how to use that, that is good.
- Barricade and find cover.
- Reduce noise by turning off devices.
- Play dead as a last resort.
15. Defend Your Home and Belongings
Learn to safeguard your house and family against invaders. The establishment of a safe home is one of the essentials of urban survival. To prevent break-ins, it would be best if you were to design a home security system.
But it can help with a lot more with carbon monoxide detection to protecting your family from fires and flooding. By installing a few home security basics, you can increase your home’s security and enhance the assurance of your family.
You can do this by doing a few things that you can find in this article.
17. Repurpose Everyday Items
I truly believe that creativity is the most important skill required for survival. You can think outside of the box to find solutions to problems when you are creative. Creativity is about looking at and doing your best with what you have around you.
After a disaster in the city, consider what the world will look like. There will be many items around you, such as abandoned cars, piles of trash, building rubble… All of these things can be used for your survival.
18. Be More Situationally Aware
Situational awareness is the urban survival skill you really need to concentrate on and develop. How well you’ve honed your situational awareness will determine the choices you make when traveling and scavenging.
You will help make wise survival decisions by using your instincts and constantly scanning your environment for evidence of trouble. It’s often not the strongest or most aggressive winner, but the one who makes better decisions based on a situation’s demands.
The bottom line is that if more individuals had better situational awareness, a lot of violence could be prevented.
To be more situationally aware, you should do some of these things below.
- Know the current danger level through signals
- The present level of difficulty on a problem you’re solving
- The barriers you could face
- Know your area well (people, exits, windows, etc.)
19. Learn to Signal for Rescue
One of the most difficult survival issues is knowing when or if you’re going to be rescued, but the best option is to stay where you are and use what you have to create a rescue signal. A few ideas are below.
- You should always have emergency flares.
- An air horn or some kind of loud device that can make a lot of noise.
- Making something that would signal that you are there, whether it is a fire or light signals.
20. Firearm Proficiency
Owning a gun is an American right, and it saves us from millions of crimes each year in the U.S. To add on, according to GunFacts.info, I learned the following.
- An estimated 2.5 million crimes a year are prevented by guns, or 6,849 every day. Most often, the gun is never fired, and there is no death.
- 400,000 life-threatening violent crimes are prevented by the use of firearms each year.
- 60% of convicted felons admitted that they avoided committing crimes when they knew the victim was armed. 40% of felons convicted admitted that they avoided committing crimes when they thought the victim might be armed.
- Felons report that because they fear being shot, they avoid entering houses where individuals are at home.
- Fewer than 1% of firearms are used in the instance of a crime.
21. Knife Proficiency
In a wide range of circumstances, knives are versatile. They help preppers, but you’re not Rambo, and they won’t cut down big trees or bad guys.
A survival knife is simply a crucial tool to have with you and can be used to build a shelter, skinning game, splitting firewood, cutting rope, opening cans, and much more for a wide range of survival tasks.
22. Learn to Sew
An ancient skill that’s as useful today. Know how to repair clothes and even make your own, if need be. This will allow you to mend your own clothes without needing new ones, from a clothing repair to a touchup.
To add on, sewing increases dexterity, saves money, and if you are, even creativity makes something on its own. It may not seem important, but it is.
23. Learn Morse Code
This type of communication will prevail when telephones, satellites, the internet, and even the radio are out. At least a few phrases in Morse code are a handy thing to know.
When you are trying to interact with someone else who knows Morse Code, Morse code can help. To add on, when using light, Morse Code can also be used in the dark to communicate over large distances.
24. First Aid Skill
This is a no brainer – everyone should have some first aid skill period.
First aid is an important skill in responding quickly to accidents to ensure that injuries can be dealt with effectively and promptly. If the injury is serious, you can attend to them before a trained medical professional arrives to give more specialized treatment.
25. Get Fit
If you want to make it through any survival situation, being in top shape is important. In any urban survival book, this is imperative, indeed. You will have to travel through dangerous regions if you are trying to make your way back home or your apartment from within a city (probably by foot).
Police barricades, gridlocked traffic, or debris from destruction are likely to jam the roadways. And you may have to fight along the way. So it is important to stay in shape and even train yourself physically for such an event.
Long walks, hikes, or runs are excellent ways to stay fit. But for traveling on foot, it’s also great practice. It is key to urban survival to have travel endurance.
It would be best if you practiced moving quickly and with urban evasion techniques for urban survival. Thrill sports are great for toning your core and upper body muscles. Those are sports like rock climbing, bouldering, and free running.
This will prepare you for climbing ladders of buildings, scrambling between rooftops. You mostly need to be able to move with minimal visual exposure throughout a town.
Martial arts are beneficial because they are tried and tested methods of self-defense and great exercise. To add to that, if you ever find yourself in a violent riot or a looting frenzy, the need to fight instead of flight may arise. If you are a trained martial artist, you will be ready for that.
Master these abilities for urban survival, and when society collapses, you could save your own or someone else’s life. Take this list of urban survival skills, so you can make yourself and your family much safer.
It’s completely up to you to develop these urban survival skills. When disaster strikes, the more you choose to learn and practice, the better off you’ll be. So, take the time now to begin learning these urban survival skills. If you want, take it one skill at a time. You’re going to be glad you did.
There will be a severely damaged society to cope with when society collapses. There may be an extended period of rioting, depending on how severe the destruction is.
You may have to go without running water, electricity, and essential services such as garbage removal for however long it takes. It could be weeks, months, or years before life begins to return to normal.
The fight over scarce resources will drive the chaos. If resources continue to be scarce, there will be an escalation of rioting. People will go from fighting for money to killing for it.
Survival is the most important step, and if you keep your wits about yourself and prepare yourself for these steps, you will be prepared to deal with almost any urban survival scenario in which you find yourself.
I am a survival practitioner, and I have been doing everything possible to prepare for when SHTF since 2009. I am an outdoor enthusiast, and I am a preparedness expert. Learn more