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Small Basic City Survival Kit in the 21st Century

Updated on June 29, 2019
TessSchlesinger profile image

Tessa Schlesinger has too much life experience in too many things not to take life seriously. Anything could happen...

Climate change brings us an increasing number of natural disasters. It's best we prepare.
Climate change brings us an increasing number of natural disasters. It's best we prepare.

The 21st Century Basic Survival Kit for the City

We live in interesting times.

It could be a fire, six feet of rain, a tsunami, an earthquake, a terrorist attack, an explosion from a compost factory, or an unexpected war or invasion.

When I first arrived in the States in the early naughties, the city I was living in sent out a leaflet making suggestions of a survival kit, the contents of which bewildered me somewhat.

I had no wheels, and even if I did, how was I supposed to load a three weeks supply of water and food, plus all the other suggestions.

While it’s true that authorities might tell one to remain in one’s home, I’m the kind of person who is more likely to grab my things and run. That has often proven to be the safest course of action. And when you run, you need speed and convenience.

If you have five minutes to leave your house because your neighbour has just woken you up to tell you there is a fire burning down your front door, you don’t have time to grab a three week supply of water. Been there. Done that. Grabbed my daughter, my passports, and climbed out the window where the fire brigade was waiting.

If you google survival kits, you will find that they’re generally made to survive in the wild. That may well be necessary, but I think for the most part when we’re running away from a natural disaster, we’re going to be running towards another big city.

My idea of a basic survival kit is a lot more suited to the 21st century, I think.

The Importance of a Basic Survival Kit

We live in precarious times, regardless of whether we live in the first world or not. Unexpected (and dangerous) events can hit us from Mother Nature or a fanatical government gone haywire.

It’s a time to live our lives as best we can in the present but realize our reality and our lives can be crushed in a moment. We need to be prepared for that.

A basic survival kit needs to carry us from where we are to a place of safety. We also need to be aware that much of what we have can be lost, and we will need to start again.

So what do we take with us.

The City Survival Kit for Climate Disasters, Getaways, and Life in the 21st Century

If you're not going to be off the grid, then you don't need a compass. You might, instead, need a plane ticket or a passport!

Small, Lightweight, Waterproof Backpack

We come in shapes, ages, sizes, and levels of health. Our survival kit needs to be easy to carry regardless of who we are. It does not need to be made of heavy canvas material lined with sponge and attached to a metal frame. A simple unlined backpack made of Taslan nylon is your best bet. I have one hanging from my door and it cost me $1.20.

My emergency backpack with radio, flashdrive, and flashlight. No big bucks necessary, but when you have to cut and run, it's nice to have it!
My emergency backpack with radio, flashdrive, and flashlight. No big bucks necessary, but when you have to cut and run, it's nice to have it!

Flash Drive Containing Photos and Documents

I think most of us grab the photos because it’s something we cannot replace. It’s best to be prepared beforehand. Take time now to put copies of all your photos and important documents (degrees, driver’s licence, passports, property deeds, references, etc.) on a flash drive. Certainly you can upload these to cloud as well. It never hurts to have more than one copy of everything.

Waterproof Pouch

We all have electronics. We have our phones, tablets, laptops, and more. As we use these on a daily basis, it’s not feasible to store them with our survival kit. They’re in daily use. However, it could be raining or flooding when we need to move in a hurry. Quite possibly, if we are asleep (which is what I was when I heard my neighbour screaming for me to get up), we will need something to protect our electronics. So have a waterproof pouch or two inside your backpack.


A small flashlight (torch) that is fully charged is an essential. Yes, your phone may well have a light, but phones can go dead when you least need them to. Also have a spare set of batteries.

Even better, there are small flashlights when you can turn a lever to crank the restore the internal battery. It’s a good investment. A flashlight without a battery has the same worth as a dead phone.

Earthquake - it happens unexpectedly


You never know when you might need some heat to keep you warm, to light a candle, cook some food on wood fire, or some other emergency. Waterproof matches are a good investment. One box is sufficient.


Yes – a small radio. It needs to be something very basic (but reliable) so that you can hear emergency broadcasts. Also carry a spare set of batteries.

Spare Battery Recharger for Your Phone

They’re pricey, yes, but your survival kit needs to have one for genuine emergencies. When you have to grab your things and run, there may not be time to recharge your phone. You have time to grab your phone, maybe your bag, and your survival kit, and then you’re out of there!. So invest in a second phone recharger, the resist temptation and keep it fully recharged in your grab-and-run bag.

We do not know the future, but it's unlikely that we are going to be survivalists off the grid. We need to have survival bags that suit the needs of a modern human being.
We do not know the future, but it's unlikely that we are going to be survivalists off the grid. We need to have survival bags that suit the needs of a modern human being.

Water in a Water Bottle

Different situations require different supplies. In our world, however, with many different types of emergencies a possibilities, we can only cater to so many because while, in some instances, we may be able to prepared, but there are other times when we won’t have the time. Water is heavy to carry, and it takes up quite a bit of space. We know that we can do without water for a few hours, so a small bottle of water will carry us over (hopefully). Make sure the water bottle can only be used to keep liquid hot. You may have to use it for coffee or something else at a later point. My water bottle has a small mug attached – much like the conventional flasks of old used to be, but much smaller.

Have you given thought to being prepared if you need to leave in 5 minutes?

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Adrenaline requires chocolate. It is as simple as that. There is a reason that soldiers have been carrying chocolate as part of their military rations since 1937. You’re not going to be loading that survival kit of yours with any other food so the chocolate needs to be a good quality that will last (you may have to replace it every six months or so) and a sizable portion.

Ziplock Bag

This is where you store your chocolate. You may also need it for some other item at a later time. If you’re grabbing food on the run, it pays to have somewhere to store it where it won’t get messy.


Two changes of underwear are vital. If you want to remain feeling human, this is a must. Fortunately, they take up very little space, and they’re light.

Light Nylon Jacket with No Lining

These jackets fold down to a few inches. They are waterproof (check that they’re made of taslan) and act as windbreakers as well. While you may not need this if you’re on the run in summer, they would be immensely useful in winter or a downpour.

Always have a large bar of chocolate in your emergency bag. You will need it!
Always have a large bar of chocolate in your emergency bag. You will need it!

Homemade Black Taslan Sheet

You can buy this fabric at Amazon. You need two yards of it, and then you simply have to hem it (or not). It’s thin and silky, and it folds up small. That said, it will probably take up the most space in your backpack. It’s necessary, however. It’s waterproof and windproof. And you might find yourself need a blanket to keep you warm. You could also purchase those silver moon blankets which rustle and look awful, but I prefer the black taslan because they’re inconspicuous and they’re warmer.

First Aid

A very small bag containing a painkiller, a small bandage, an antibiotic ointment (perhaps left over from some past incident), etc. Again, you can never anticipate what will happen, so it’s a case of taking as little possible – possibly having some spare medication if you’re taking something.


You may have to leave the country in a hurry. No reason you shouldn’t keep your passport in your emergency-exit bag. To my mind, even if you have never left your country of birth, it is a good thing to have an up-to-date passport so that you can travel to another country in a hurry.


You will need cash. You might need to spend the night or a month at a hotel. You might need to cross a border. You might have to fly to another town. You might be able to pay with bank cards, but it’s best to be safe rather than sorry. Of course, each individual will need to decide how much they want to put aside in that little survival bag. It might lie there for years, and it might never be used. No doubt, there will be many times you’re tempted to use it, but don’t. If the day should ever come when it needs to be there, you’ll be thankful.

For the Rest, There is Mastercard

There is no change of clothing here. There is no adequate food supply here. There are no pots or pans or camp stoves or blow up mattresses. It’s too much to carry, and there is the probability that those will not be things you need. In addition, if you only have five minutes to get out of there, you have to grab your pets, find your car keys, remember where you stored your survival bag, possibly put on some clothing, stuff your laptop in your survival bag, and look for the phone under your bed.

Have you made plans where you would go if you had to leave in a hurry?

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Your Harley, Scooter, or Electrical Bicycle

If you’ve watched enough disaster movies, you know that getting out of town in your car is a nightmare. That is especially so when you hit the highway and you discover that someone’s car broke down and traffic has ground to a halt. This is when you’ll wish you had invested in a scooter or an electrical bicycle. Sometimes it’s faster on two wheel transport than on four wheel. Getting out of there as fast as possible is not always a matter of the fastest transport. Other factors can play a part. Ask the tortoise and the hare!

© 2018 Tessa Schlesinger


Submit a Comment
  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    2 years ago from England

    Great advice, hopefully we don 't need one over here, but you never know! maybe everybody should do this, great hub.

  • Gloriousconfusion profile image

    Diana Grant 

    3 years ago from United Kingdom

    By a strange coincidence, I've almost finished reading The Counter-Terrorist Handbook - The Essential Guide to Self-Protection in the 21st Century. It's all about being prepared for shock incidents, just like your helpful article. Good stuff, and thanks Tessa


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