• Leon Pantenburg | Survival Common Sense


10 survival items for beginning apartment preppers

Downtown Minneapolis
600 300 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

Suppose you live in an apartment with limited storage space – what are some of the first things you need to be prepared for an urban emergency?

by Leon Pantenburg

One reason I love the wild, open spaces of the west is that I was once an apartment dweller in downtown Washington D.C. After that experience of dense populations, jam packed highways and dependency on urban infrastructure, I think I better appreciate the clean air and lack of dense housing we have in Oregon. But I think about those days a lot and would like to see urban apartment dwellers better prepared for the typical storms or earthquakes.

Even in the 80’s I always had my backpack filled with what I considered survival gear, and it was ready to go on a moment’s notice. But, once I lived for several years in my first urban apartment, I realized I needed an apartment sized kit that was easily accessible for the urban blackouts we experienced at that time. So, I gathered supplies and packed them in a bucket. Yes, a bucket.

A single candle may provide enough lighting in some power outage situations. Check out thrift stores and garage sales for good deals. (Pantenburg photo)

A single candle may provide enough lighting in some power outage situations. Check out thrift stores and garage sales for good deals. (Pantenburg photos)

Suppose you live in an apartment in an area with the potential for natural disasters. (i.e. everywhere!) Storage room is at a premium, but you can start collecting a few supplies to get you by for a couple of days when the power goes out. Or if you have to evacuate from a tropical storm, hurricane or flood warning, you’ll quickly have what you need to throw in the car.


Five gallon plastic bucket with lid: This will serve as a storage container, a water bucket, or even an emergency toilet. In the case where the toilet still flushes, the bucket can be used to haul water to fill the tank. You can store many of your survival tools in the bucket it until they are needed. Bottom line is every apartment needs a good bucket, but most don’t have one.

Spare batteries, extra toilet paper and paper towels: No brainer. You can compress paper towels and toilet paper for almost no weight with a big return. Remember, you may have to evacuate and people rarely remember toilet paper in the rush to get out.

Backpacking stove: A lightweight backpacking stove will give you a burner to cook food and boil water. Any stove that relies on a flame will produce carbon monoxide, so make sure the cooking area is adequately ventilated next to an open window. Also, make sure there is a fuel supply easily available. The propane canisters may be hard to come by, whereas denatured alcohol may be easily found. Check out your local hardware, home improvement and backpacking stores for potential fuel sources and stock up.

Dehydrated food: Include a three-day supply for each person. The shelf life on some of these foods is 10 to 15 years, so you don’t need to worry about spoilage. Get the kind of dried foods where all you need to do is add water, and that don’t have long simmering times. They make some pretty good meals these days. Look for ones that have no preservatives or additives.

Crank cell phone charger: I bought a simple crank charger for about $15. It will re-charge my cell phone and laptop, so communications can continue. Remember those scenes on TV when Hurricane Sandy wiped out the Jersey shore and folks were paying big bucks to charge their cell phones at a local store? Don’t be one of those people.

Crank flashlight: Batteries wear out, so get a source of light that can be re-charged. You’ve got plenty of time when the electricity is out to keep the flashlight cranked up. Solar charged lighting tools or generators might be an option in some areas. There’s a lot of solar technology these days to power most all your needs for a few days.

Candles and lamps: Interior lighting might be a major problem, especially during the winter months when it starts to get dark about 5:30 p.m. Hit the thrift stores and buy whatever candles they have. I keep packs of white short pillars and glass hurricane lamps to project the light. Kerosene or oil lamps are another option. Check out hardware stores for the small oil candles that burn for days.

This combination of water bottles works well. The rigid Nalgene in the middle is used for drinking and the Paltypus soft bottle are used to store extra water in the pack.

This combination of water bottles works well. The rigid Nalgene in the middle is used for drinking and the Platypus soft bottles are used to store extra water in the pack.

Water storage containers: If the power goes out, you’ll need to store some water ASAP. I have been using the collapsible Platypus water containers for years, and they are reliable, durable and compact. Get some of the collapsible five-gallon plastic jugs. Figure on a minimum of a gallon of drinking water per person per day. Better year, you can fill up the bigger jug in advance of the event and put in the bottom of your closet. Read more about water storage here.

Water filter: During a power blackout, your water quality might be suspect, so some sort of water purification method should be considered. There are many filters on the market, and the Sawyer filters have worked well for me.

There are chemical water purification products that are easy for anyone to use – all you do is add them to water. I’ve used Polar Pure and Potable Aqua for years. Don’t leave out this preparedness step – clean water is critical.

Boiling water is probably the safest way to purify it. Once the water is brought to boiling (212 degrees) for a few minutes, everything that boiling temps can kill is completely dead. Boiling water for extended periods of time doesn’t make it hotter or cleaner.

Sleeping bag: At night, a warm sleeping bag will allow you to sleep comfortably. Extra blankets are always a good idea. Use the power outage as an excuse to go camping in the living room with a loved one. It’s a memorable adventure, good for stories that will last for years.

Duct tape and visqueen: These are multi-purpose items. Duct tape is used for everything, and the large sheets of plastic visqueen will allow you to cover a broken window, partition off a room, rig an emergency shelter etc.

As a long-time prepper, this recommendation of gear seems a bit spartan to me. But this collection is an impressive start toward self sufficiency for someone who is just beginning as a prepper.
It’s your choice how to amass the supplies you need. But it’s not a choice whether to do it.

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