Top 5 Items for Urban Survival Situations

by David Morris on September 8, 2011

Welcome to this week’s Urban Survival Newsletter.

Before I answer a great questions for a reader, I wanted to share an eye-opening “Speech” by an Obama impersonator that is sending shock waves through the financial community.

Keep in mind, this is fiction, done by an impersonator.

But still, it could forever change how you think about our country and your safety. You can see it for yourself here:

Let me know what you think.

Here’s a question I got awhile back.  It applies to everyone and I wanted to share it with you here:

“If you only had 5 items to help you survive, what 5 items would you choose? Please leave out your brain as one of the items because having one is not a choice. Using it might be, but everyone has one!”  -Bob

Well, Bob, I have to include my brain.  Everyone may have one, but I’m sure you can think of people who don’t use theirs…and in a survival situation you MUST keep your head.

In fact, your brain will be your single most important tool in a survival situation.  Your ability to stay calm, remember skills that you have practiced and execute them under stress will trump any wiz bang survival items that you have.

I cover this extensively in the course, but if you lose control of your mind, you can die quicker than if someone is holding your head under water.  It is absolutely critical to train your brain for survival.

And, by training your brain, one of the things I’m referring to is inoculating your brain to handle stress like you would inoculate your body to handle a virus.  I also mean getting your brain to think of non-traditional solutions to problems, keeping focus under stress, and thinking up solutions that are both strategic and tactical.  And finally, training your brain means learning skills so that you know how to do without as many survival supplies as possible.

After my brain, my focus would be on multi-use items that can help with as many of the fundamentals of survival as possible.

Specifically, sheltering my body, making fire, making drinkable water, getting food, providing security, and taking care of medical issues…trauma in particular.

By far, the most important tool to accomplish these goals in both a wilderness and urban environment is a knife. And the best possible knife?  You might laugh at this, but it’s the one you have with you when your life depends on it.

This is common sense, but when you’re 5 miles from home on foot after a disaster, the cheap folder that lives in your pocket will always beat the $200 fixed blade sitting safe at home.

What that means for me is that I always carry a good, solid folder that I have a few of.

When I buy multiples of the same knife, I beat the snot out of one of them to make sure I can trust it.  I use it to split wood, throw it in the ground and into wood, hammer with it, pry with it, and of course cut a lot of stuff with it.

The particular knife doesn’t matter and my opinion on brands doesn’t really matter.  This is something that everyone needs to do for themselves so that they know…not because of what I’ve said or anyone else has said…but because of what they’ve seen and experienced they know they can trust their life to the knife that they’re carrying.

As a starting point, some common store brands that I’ve had good success with are CRKT (Columbia River),  Kershaw, BenchMade, Spyderco, and Gerber.  My daily carry for a few years has been the CRKT M16-03Z.

With a knife and solid skills that you’ve practiced, you can take care of a lot of basic survival concerns.

After my knife, I almost always have a small multi tool on me or near me, regardless of where I am.  They don’t do anything as well as a purpose built tool, but they do a LOT of things better than I can with my bare hands.  I like Leatherman and Gerber multi-tools

The third thing that I always have near or on me is a small tactical flashlight. I keep it near me during the day and on me when flying or anytime I’m going to be out at night.  My favorite is the Surefire Backup.

Those would be my first tier, and after that, most items can be improvised and they really depends on the environment, expected needs, and your skill set.

Here’s a few examples of what I mean.

In an urban environment, a lockpick set is right at the top of the list for me, but that doesn’t have very much value in a wilderness environment or if you don’t know how to use one.  It’s also something that I can make a field expedient version of in a bind…especially with a multi-tool.

When I’m doing long distance trail running, I always carry a mylar space blanket, but that isn’t very necessary in an urban environment.

I usually have cord with me, in the form of laces, 550 cord laces, a survival cord bracelet,  or rope, but I can make substitutes in urban environments with wire, torn bed sheets, or other items depending on the particular application.

Firecraft is important, but with all of the resources to make fire in an urban environment, it’s not nearly as important to carry firemaking materials with you as it is in the wilderness.

Even in the wilderness, once you know how to do a hand drill and/or a bow drill, you really don’t need much to make a fire, although a good firestarter and tinder bundle is VERY nice, especially when you’re cold, tired, and can’t get gathered tinder to light.

An important point to remember is that your particular top 5 is going to depend on your particular skillset, location, and even your physical and medical condition.  Lockpicks are important to me because I know how how to use them, but they may have no value to you.

Lighters aren’t as important to me because I know several ways to make fires if I need to.  I still carry lighters in my car, but I usually don’t carry one on me.

But my top 5 is going to be different from your top 5 and many other people’s top 5.

If you’re completely blind without corrective lenses, then they are going to be in your top 5.  If you have a heart condition, one of your top 5 items will probably be a vial of nitroglycerin.

In GENERAL, you want to develop the number of skills you know and how well you can do them so that you need as little “stuff” as possible to survive, no matter what you face.  At first, it’s natural to depend on “stuff,” because stuff is one way to help you survive until you develop the skills necessary to survive without “stuff” so don’t worry if your list of items that you need is 10 or 20 items long to start with.  You can always develop more skills to pare that number down.

I’ll tell you this.  It’s incredibly empowering to keep replacing the “stuff” that you need to survive with skills that can never be taken away from you and I encourage you to take consistent steps to do just that.

So, what are your top 5 items?  Let me know by commenting below:

God Bless & stay safe!

David Morris

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

+2 Vote -1 Vote +1Gab
September 12, 2011 at 1:00 am

Several months ago I outfitted my Chevrolet avalanche as a potentia
go bag. I put clothing and rain gear, a small generater , food water,
tent, firearm, ammo, binoculars, tools knife.etc etc…. I know that I may
not be able to use it if something happens and I can’t get to it . But
it only made sense to set it up anyway. The avalanche is the perfect
vehicle for this because you can still use it for everyday work and
transportation while stuffing it full of supplies. This rig has two locking
compartments at the rear of the vehicle on either side. There is a
large consoul in-between the front seats. This rig still has the rear bed
available for everyday use.We keep the truck fueled up at all times.
This avalanche has 30 gallon fuel capacity. 4 wheel drive, fair clearance
and it can carry 5 people. I know these comments are off the current
subject. But I think it is worth discussing.Gb


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Gary
September 12, 2011 at 6:09 am

I didn’t see anyone mention a “hitch hauler” for those bulky or heavy items. Most cars have a 2″ slider hitch for a trailer hitch. A hitch hauler slides in to it. Since you may need more than a full tank of gas, you can safely carry a couple of 5 gal. cans back there instead of inside your car/suv. Also my pick for a survival weapon is a good quality .22 cal semi auto target pistol with two mags minimum. A couple of boxes of .22 ammo takes up no more room than a deck of cards. All the other ideas from your readers are good ones.


Vote -1 Vote +1Backwoodskidd
September 14, 2011 at 11:35 am

Due to where I work, I am unable to carry any of the top 5 other than the flashlight. If I can make it to the car, the BOB is there and I should be able to make it home, drive as much as possible and if need be on foot from there.


Vote -1 Vote +1Diane
September 14, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Thanks to all you folks. I am a 71 year old great grandmother…..raised my grandkids, they are still with me. We help each other as much as possible. Thanks again for thoughts and ideas. SS doesn’t go very far.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Justin Case
September 15, 2011 at 9:37 am

I live in San Diego. Recently we had a county wide electrical blackout. All the traffic lights were flashing red, so motor transport was slightly faster than gridlock. I got home quicker walking than alot of people that left campus the same time that I did. Heaven help you if you needed police/fire response. All the gas station pumps & store registers were siezed up. All of the major shopping chains were closed. The only places that I saw open on my way home were a taco shop, probably trying to burn through the perishables because there was gas for cooking, but no refridgeration, an irish pub, and the local liquor store.
I responded to the incident as if it was a suprise earthquake drill. In such a scenario the blackout would only been one of the symptoms, and not the worst. To me a blackout in and of itself, isn’t an “emergency”, maybe more of a minor inconvienence.
I sent a text to some friends telling them that I was OK, that I was on my way home, and that I was turning off my cellphone to save the battery because who knew how long this was going to go on.
Anyway, the mission was a success. I got home before the beer got warm. What I learned is that it’ll take me about 2 hours to get home on foot from campus on an unobtructed road in daylight. There was a point when after an hour of waiting for the bus when I decided that If I wanted to make it home before nightfall then I’d better get started. Now I know how long that’ll take, and that I can do it no problem.
What would I have done different? I would’ve/should’ve topped off my canteen. I had about a third when the school texted everyone that all classes were cancelled & to evacuate the campus. It turned out that I didn’t use it anyway, but looking back on that I shouldn’t have left that to chance.
5 things? I don’t know if I could pick only five. The first thing that I’d like to suggest is a cool head. Getting all unglued because the lights went out isn’t going to help anybody, and could make things worse. Control your heart rate, and emotions, by slowing your breathing, then go on & do what you need to do.
I would’ve worn different shoes. The ones I had on did the job, but if I’d known that I was going to be hiking home that afternoon, I might’ve picked another pair.
Personally, I feel naked without some kind of knife/multitool thing.
Something that I’ve got with me know that I didn’t then is a jar of peanut butter. something that “sticks to your ribs” as my dad would say. It’s small, doesn’t weigh much, and “calorie dense” I believe is the phrase if I might quote Mr. Morris.
Water, of course.
I guess that’s five. That’s not enough, but sometimes we’ll have to make do with what we’ve got. One might want some baby wipes &/or hand sanitizer.
Oh, by the way, I’ve got a few yards of 550 paracord wrapped around the sheath of a small fixed blade that also holds a fire striker & two bandanas. Some gum might help hold off the thirst if you want to save your water. Is it considered cheating on the count to have a small first aid kit &/or an SAS survival tin?
Another thing that I learned during the unscheduld drill is the meaning of the expression “zombies”. Be the only guy on the block with a battery powered lantern & a hand crank radio and try to count the “moths” that fly in! It think I might’ve blown my Op-Sec!


Vote -1 Vote +1Tess
September 26, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Streamlight-Microstream is the new light I am wearing. I comes with a lanyard. I wear it around my neck. By adjusting the length a bit, I can comfortably sleep with it. I paid over $20.00 for it, but it does work very well in full darkness (20 lumes).


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Doc John
October 1, 2011 at 10:26 am

The five items I have are:
1. flashlight that does not use batteries
2. Leatherman and my SF survival knife
3. waterproof poncho
4. flint and steel set
5. fishing line, 550 cord, chamois cloth

I also have a Boy Scout Handbook to help me deal with nature and a Bible to help me deal with God and my fellow man.


Vote -1 Vote +1Mary Crockett
October 14, 2011 at 10:14 am

In printing out my newly-received Lessons, Lesson 10 discusses “alternative means of communication” …I have already purchased and gifted my son & his family with 2-way
radio hardware and have another for myself. What I NEED TO KNOW NOW is how to go
about getting materials to study in order for my family and I to ALL BE LICENSED TO USE
our 2-way radio contacts in an emergency situation (i.e. nuclear leak of one of our nearby
radioactive installations — at least 1 leak has already been announced previously). We live
only a few miles apart but my son works in New York and could be unreachable by cell
phone in a real nuclear emergency. I bought him a NUKALERT but he may need a car
to pick him up if trains are halted or the tunnels from New York to CT are impassable.


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