7 Urban Shelters to Keep You Safe (Plus an Unconventional 8th)
The idea of urban shelters may seem far-fetched to some. After all, cities are no place to wander around once disaster strikes. Theory says you either bug into your apartment and wait for the whole thing to be over or you bug out before everyone else.
Theory and practice, however, don’t always match. Keep in mind you may not be at home when it happens and, more importantly, that you may not be able to get home. Whatever the case, I suggest you put some thought into what you’d do if your apartment building became unavailable and you’d be unable to bug out.
#1. A Space Blanket
Can this be considered a shelter? Definitely. Anything that can keep you warm can. Obviously, this won’t protect you from rain or snow very well but, still, it’s a good thing to have inside your get home bag or even your everyday carry. Your purse or laptop bag surely has enough room for one. It’s small (when packed) and lightweight. (a smaller, purse size emergency blanket.)
#2. Cardboard Boxes
Sure, there’s also the possibility of you finding a large cardboard to fit in, but the most likely scenario is that you’ll need to assemble several of them together. You’re gonna need a few tools to do it, such as a knife and duct tape. If you live in the city, chances are you won’t have a fixed-blade survival knife on you but you might have a pocket knife.
To make sure your shelter lasts well if it rains, you may want to add an outer layer of plastics (such as trash bags). Another thing you can do is use your emergency blanket we just talked about to insulate your cardboard shelter.
This is by far the best article on urban cardboard shelters you can find.
#3. A Dumpster
Yeah, I can sense the smell just by thinking about it too, but you may not have a choice. Careful, though. If you’re too close to the action, angry mobs may want to set your shelter on fire to prove a point to local authorities or law enforcement.
Needless to say, you’ll want to clean it before you use it.
#4. Your Car
Obvious, right? If you have a properly equipped car, you can spend weeks or even months inside and you don’t have to worry about rain, hail and so on. Now, this doesn’t mean your car can withstand any adversity but it’s a lot better than sitting inside a cardboard box.
The biggest when it comes to sleeping in your car is in regards to carbon monoxide intoxication. You may be tempted to leave the engine on to stay warm but this could be fatal if your car has certain flaws. This is even more dangerous if the car inside a garage or some other closed space. There have been cases of people dying like this. Besides, you’d just be wasting fuel you’d otherwise use to get home or to bug out.
Much better to stock up on things that can keep you warm such as:
- wool blankets (wool is great because it allows your body to breathe, making it better than polyester)
- hand warmers
- hats (much of the heat released by the human body goes through the head)
- tea candles (careful about lighting candles inside your vehicle) or some other type of emergency candle
- extra clothes
#6. Abandoned Buildings
Yes, there are safety concerns if you go down this route. People might already be inside (you won’t be the first one who’s thought about it), maybe someone will come and surprise you at a later time… you don’t really know what can happen. Still, this could work as long as you do your due diligence.
One of the things you can do today is to walk around your neighborhood and spot any abandoned buildings. If you make a mental note of each, you can check them out every once in a while to see if they’re truly abandoned, maybe even go inside to see what it’s like and spot all the potential exits.
#7. Bivvy Bags
Think of bivvy bags as weird hybrids between tents and sleeping bags. An ultralight bivvy bag, on the other hand, can be added to your get home bag. On the other hand, if you have access to your sleeping bag, you’re either at home or you have your car, in which case you probably won’t have to sleep on the cold, wet streets of your town or city.
Well, there you have it. 7 great options for urban shelters in case your home is compromised and have no way to go. Speaking of which, there’s also an 8th one: your actual home… even if it’s already been destroyed! Provided the danger is over, nothing should stop you from making shelter inside your own home.
I realize most survival and preparedness articles don’t talk about urban scenarios, though the vast majority of the population (around 80%) lives in cities. If you’re looking for more urban tips, you can check an older (yet still valid) article I wrote that has some pretty good tips.