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What survival skills are more important, urban or rural?

In today's world, the prudent amongst us have decided to prepare for the unforeseen. If you're reading this, we're hoping that you fall into this category. If you're new to Range University, listen up. The Covid-19 crisis has shown anyone with a modicum of common sense that there can be significant negative repercussions without a minimal level of preparation. In the special operations community, the key to success in irregular environments is tailoring your approach to your specific situation. We want to talk about some issues that most will have to overcome in a disaster type scenario.

First, I want to say that this will not be an apocalypse/zombie scenario walk through. However, there are a few types of survival situations to consider. You will have to tailor your approach based on the problems you encounter. First, the natural disaster type: tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes. The second are man-made disasters: terrorism, accidents, financial collapse, government-imposed pandemics, or overreach. We're going to talk about the first type as they offer a more broad overview and the skills have applicability in most situations. We will go over the pros and cons of beginning your survival efforts in an urban or rural environment and how to prioritize your training efforts during a disaster or worst-case scenario of a pandemic. I'll be lumping city dwellers, suburbanites, and people living within city limits of small towns, all under urban survival. Likewise, I'll lump homesteaders, survivalists, country ranch folks, and people more than a 20-minute drive away from the nearest town and infrastructure with the rural survival. Everyone understands that living in the city is much different than in the country. Regional differences, climate variances, population densities, infrastructure support networks, population self-sufficiency levels, etc., all are critical factors in developing your preparation plans to where you call home.

According to the US census bureau, 62.7% of the US population live in cities or metropolitan areas. This is a stunning statistic in that those inhabitants occupy just 3.5% of the available land in the US. That means most of us will have to first orient to utilizing urban techniques as our primary means of survival. There are some advantages to being in a city. Ready-made shelter, access to more significant community support, and medical resources. Cities will also get the focus of first aid in a natural disaster due to their population sizes. The most practical reason as to why people live in cities is access to greater opportunities. There you'll likely have an higher income potential, thus providing the ability to expand one's preparations at a faster rate than elsewhere.

The negatives of city-dwelling, however, outweigh the positives in our humble opinion. With a larger population, there are fewer resources available for all. Essential services: water, food, waste removal, security, all are intertwined. Most people only carry about two days of food in their homes on average. Granted, this can go further with frozen foods, but in a natural disaster, the likelihood of having electricity to preserve those frozen foods is very low. Large scale or even micro-scale gardens are non-existent or will be overwhelmed in a day. These are not sustainable options built overnight. The majority of city dwellers do not understand or possess the capability to support essential life functions in this scenario.

Urbanites in a natural disaster that is only regional and not widespread should focus on the big three: Water, food, and shelter. With shelter including protection apart from the environment. If unable to immediately evacuate to a safe zone, the city folk need to prepare for the water lines being out and not having electricity. This means having a way to purify and store water but also collect water. Having containers, water filters, a solar still (if you don't know how to make one, instructions can be found on google and our Facebook page) are very important. Having shelf-stable foods like tin cans or home-made canned foods available that do not require additional water are recommended for short term food requirements and easily obtained in non-crisis circumstances. Ideally, these foods could be eaten without fire or cooking needed due to the higher risk of fires raging out of control. Having additional tarps or plastic sheathing to assist with rain collection and multiple fire extinguishers to mitigate the risk of fire is advisable. If you're lucky enough to have a yard, you may want to consider starting an urban garden that is not readily observable from passersby on the sidewalk. Your home provides ready-made shelter that, unless damaged from the disaster event, should protect and provide minimal security from the other unfortunates.

All of these precautions will only stave off the inevitable for so long. One will have to leave to go to other protection zones, or if the situation is a more widespread disaster, to more rural environments with lower population densities to forage for food.

Rural inhabitants have a ready built advantage over city dwellers. Being further from population-dense areas, they likely have greater access to tillable land, forage opportunities, water sources not tied to the system, and statistically have retained more survival skills than their urbanite counterparts. Rural folks statistically share more common characteristics and belief systems, and their first person knowledge of their neighbors is more common. This knowledge facilitates the rapid return to land survival shift required in this type of scenario.

Rural environments carry with them their own challenges. Less access to communication, potentially susceptible to more widespread impacts of environmental disasters, fewer economic opportunities to expand one's self-sufficiency all weigh heavily on the successful rural survivalist. Also, an inherent bias that we've seen time and again across the country that is unique to country/rural people. The overconfidence in one's abilities to overcome any situation when it comes to survival. We've heard multiple times the phrases: I hunt every year and am always successful; I am always out in the woods and know how to survive; I have a wood stove and am not dependent on electricity; I work in a physically demanding job, so I'm not concerned with carrying heavy weight over long distances, and so on. This overconfidence sees dozens of people die of exposure or preventable causes each year by "experienced" people.

Water availability and purification is still should be the chief concern of rural folk. Many natural streams and water sources carry bacteria that can cripple and even kill an adult human. These need to be purified out. With greater access to grow/garden/store food comes a greater requirement to do so.

How many of you rural folks out there have a few weeks supply of shelf-stable food on hand? Do you have those gardens and orchards in, or are you just waiting for the right time? Do you know how to preserve meat without refrigeration?

Shelter likely is still available in the form of your house, but it will be essential to know how to make survival shelters and fire in the likelihood that you will have to roam much further to find food. Medical services will be much less available. It would behoove the rural survivalist to learn how to make improvised medical supplies from readily available products. Most high dollar medical items sold in kits can be replicated with household items and a bit of ingenuity. It also goes without saying that learning austere medicine and when to apply those skills is vitally important.

In the interest of paring this longer post down, the easy response would be to know it all. Learn how to meet your basic survival needs in both an urban and rural environment. I know this is a cop-out and will elicit some groans from you, our readers. The simple fact is that in a widespread disaster situation, the ability to remain in a city will not be available. Rural folks will eventually need to visit the cities or towns to receive information, heightened medical care, or, if able, help their fellow man in the crisis. Survival takes a community. Unless one is going to go to the woods by themselves and have the requisite skills to survive, the probability of actually surviving is very low. A person can have all the skills in the world, but one accident or letting one's guard down to sleep can negate all that knowledge. In today's digital world, we need to think with an analog mentality, just as our grandparents did. The key to survival is practicing and expanding one's skills and creating a network of trusted friends that can be relied upon in times of hardship.

If you are interested in learning more about survival. Check our events page for events in your area.

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Feb 25, 2021

Holy moly, Batman! This one is so on point. Living in a subtropical climate where there is an annual threat of natural disasters (hurricane, tornado, torrential flooding rain storm, etc) has quickly taught me to be prepared. Last week's deep freeze of Texas brought the state to the brink of collapse. We normally fill up our water storage containers with fresh water just before hurricane season and then empty them out after the season is over. Thankfully we had over 10 gallons of drinking water on hand when we lost water, and thankfully we were fortunate and blessed enough to have a whole home generator installed last October, so we were better than ok. We also had enough food on…


A few years ago, while working in a large office (ewww) environment in Redmond WA, I was part of a large discussion email group of like minded geeks on the topic of survival techniques. Of course, because most of the people in the group fit the stereotype of well paid tech's, the discussion most often went down the road, of what equipment was the best, what gun(s), Calibers, etc were ideal, etc, The first thought to a solution often seemed to be "What do I need to buy?" Not a lot of serious discussion to physical preparation. Face it, many of the group, ok most, were either very overweight, or very soft/untrained. Of course, we had quite a few vets.…

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