Archive for June, 2013


I have been challenging myself recently to ascertain if I am truly prepared to “be able to” survive.

This attitude is different from ensuring I have everything I need to be prepared. I have my bug out bag, the tools and items (such as water, fire implements and food) to help me if needed and have educated myself in those things that I think are important for urban survival; self-defense, fire making techniques, water purification, etc.

Although I have tried to challenge myself and put myself in situations that could test these skills, it proved difficult to do. You simply can not create a realistic survival environment in an occupied city. Yet, I wanted to try and really test my own personal preparedness. The only way to truly do this is to endure an urban version of Les Stroud’s “Survivorman.” Not so easy in our everyday city environment. I learned this the hard way when I tried to start a fire in a public place with a battery and steel wool in NYC and ended up having a long conversation with New York’s finest.

So how does one test their urban survival preparedness? I came up with a few ways and this series will chronicle these experiences. Today, we will talk about testing how I can move around the urban environment without using conventional means. Next week, I will report back on my diet experiment (do you know a city squirrel has 26 grams of protein?) and how that effected my ability to perform critical urban survival tasks.

So, the scenario is that the city is not safe to travel in the usual manner (streets, sidewalks and open areas). How can I get around to obtain the necessities to provide myself with food, water, shelter? More importantly, will I be able to travel this way if needed?

Okay, in the wilderness there may be trees and mountains that can be traversed if one did not want to walk on the forest floor. How can we move off the city floor in the urban environment? The most obvious solution is to go vertical using the buildings that are in every urban environment. Not so easy. Doors are locked and windows are barred and I unfortunately lack the spiderman ability to climb walls. The solution I found was fire escapes. Many building have them but they are especially designed for people to escape fire and go down and to prevent people from using them for going up. There are many versions and Wikipedia has a good article on the variations. If you study them carefully you may be able to figure out how to get the ladder down from ground level. For a more detailed lesson you will have to take my course Zenshin, Urban Survival Tours. I can’t go into detail here because the information can be used to actually burglarize apartments!

The fire escape lesson proved challenging in that it required a lot of upper body strength and more importantly, balance. To help me with developing this skill I took to the ropes. I spend the day at one of the largest rope courses in the northeast. The course uses a tether so it is safe but is loose enough so that it requires you use your core muscles and focus on balance. The workout was surprisingly rigorous and in the end, the practice really gave me the confidence to not only be able to scale up a fire escape but possibly use ropes to navigate around. I suggest going to a rope course that provides many different difficulty levels and several heights. There is a rope course at the palisades mall that is 85 feet high and has over 75 different courses. Take a look at their course and if you are not near them look for one similar in your neighborhood.

If you would like me to try out a particular urban survival technique send me a comment and I’ll give it a try and report back. If you have done one recently, let us know about your experiences.

Next post: the Urban Survival diet.