When it comes to learning how to survive in the city with nothing but the clothes on your back, it will do you good to learn from the homeless – they may have a thing or two to teach you about urban survival, after all.
- Dress in layers — When SHTF, your priority is your personal safety. This includes staying and keeping warm. It’s not far off to think that you may have to sleep outside if things go down. In a survival situation, you will need to dress in layers. The first layer is the layer in direct contact with your skin, so it should be relatively comfortable and can be reasonably thin. The second layer is the insulation layer and is meant to keep you warm. We suggest wearing bulkier fabrics for this layer. The third, and last, layer is meant to protect you from the weather, so choose fabrics that can resist wind, rain, and snow. If you do not have enough clothes for three layers, you can use plastic, cardboard, and newspapers as your second layer.
- Newspapers are your friends — True, most of us don’t read actual newspapers anymore, but they have many survival uses. For one, you can use a stack of newspapers as a pillow, blanket, or even as a shelter. Newspapers can double-up as toilet paper and can be used as fuel for fire. (Related: 5 Effortless ways to use old newspapers instead of tossing them to landfill.)
- Use water bottles — You can keep warm by placing hot water bottles inside your clothes, or by surrounding yourself with hot bottles as you sleep. Now, you might not have access to tap water or a water heater when SHTF, but you can heat water in a tin pot over a small fire or trash can fire and use that water to fill the bottles. As a last resort, you can pee into a bottle and keep it in your pocket until it’s not warm anymore.
- Go in groups — This one is a bit tricky, but it is generally a good idea to sleep near, and hang around, other people during emergencies. While it can be dangerous to sleep near other people (who are, most likely, incredibly paranoid, stressed, or worried about the situation), you will find that there is power in numbers. The key here is to choose people who seem more-or-less trustworthy and won’t rob you while you sleep.
- Always be ready to go on the fly — Homeless people are constantly on the go and can leave an area immediately. When SHTF, you need to have a similar mindset. It is unlikely that you will be able to stay in one location for long in an urban survival situation.
- Pack well — In our prepping articles, we talk about the importance of every day carry (EDC) bags. These are bags that you carry with you every day and contain essential items for survival. The same principle applies in an urban survival situation. In this case, however, you may need to carry a bigger bag as you will also need to store items meant for shelter.
- Know how to blend in — There is a social stigma to being homeless. Most of us pass over our eyes on the guy lying down on the street. Being homeless essentially makes a person invisible. However, that doesn’t mean that the homeless don’t know how to blend in with the crowd, either. In a survival situation, it is important that you become a “gray man” (or woman). A gray man is someone who is not easily noticeable and does not attract attention. Opt for clothes that are neither too flashy nor obviously worn out.
Lastly, one overlooked aspect of survival is knowing how to control your emotions. It is easy to become desperate when SHTF, but remember to keep a cool head. People who explode in an emotional outburst during a survival situation can put themselves in danger.