Rural vs Urban Survival

rural survival
Picture of Selco


I am Selco and I am from the Balkan region, and as some of you may know it was hell here from 92-95, anyway, for 1 whole year I lived and survived in a city WITHOUT: electricity, fuel, running water, food distribution, without any kind of organized law or government. The city was surrounded for 1 year and it actually was a real SHTF situation. Our allies were our enemies from one day to the next. Today I’m prepared and share my experience on this blog.

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Urban vs. Rural Survival

It is discussion without end, and there will always be people who prefer one over the other choice. We have pretty interesting discussion about if survival in urban setting is even possible right now in the forum.

It is OK, we all have opinions, and there should be nothing wrong in discussing opposing opinions. It is good to do that, because we can spot some things that we did not think about and somebody else did.

I prefer to find myself in rural settings when SHTF. I am subjective with that opinion simply because I experienced urban survival in urban setting once and can not imagine that it can be worse on country side. In fact, relatives who survived in rural setting simply had much better time.

But we all need to consider the actual pros and cons of choosing between these two options and we need to be objective, it is hard but we can try.


What you have with you is what you gonna have for some time if you find yourself in urban survival scenario.

If you have stored food and water most probably you can count on that only for some time, before situation changes or you manage to find some more supplies.

There are ways to obtain resources at the beginning of SHTF in the chaos, but it is not like in the movies, and you can count on the fact that mostly you will be late for these events and more organized units such as local gangs control who gets what when looting. It is high risk, medium reward and most of us prepare to not have to risk anything in this chaos.

Some greedy prepper will still head out to get that bit of extra and if you know my story from my time in war, that we looted the alcohol factory was very helpful in the weeks and months after. But we were not prepared. Big difference.

Better organized groups will control looting so this is no real benefit for urban survival.

Count on the fact that being in a city when SHTF means too many folks and way too little resources, and when that happens you can expect bad things.

Being in rural settings gives you advantage of having some (if not all) resources, of course with some planning ahead.
Trees in forests close to you or some small creek will mean a lot to you when SHTF. Not to mention animals, and food production from land of course.


No matter in what kind of house or apartment or whatever you are living in urban area, sooner or later you will be forced to defend it.

It is hard job, simply because you will not be sure who is your enemy, or in other words, you gonna have too many possible enemies.

When you have too many hungry folks everyone is your possible enemy. Can you imagine how much effort and time will this fact cost you? You gonna need to be alerted and ready to fight-defend at every minute and after you see true nature of most people trying to survive (and doing whatever necessary) there will be very few friends left.

Being in rural settings does not mean that you do not need to be prepared do defend yourself, but it is gonna be much easier because as I said less (unknown) people mean less troubles and less very desperate people mean people stick together more.

If you planning ahead to be in rural setings when SHTF you should have your group of people that you can trust, family or friends and neighbours, together with plans how to defend yourself. This is big ideal for most of us and just having bug out location and plan to get there is not enough.

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Now please, you need to understand that I am not saying that in case of SHTF it is impossible to survive in the city. I survived. I am just saying that in most of the SHTF cases it is gonna be MUCH HARDER to survive in the city than in some small rural community.

Of course I am talking here about real SHTF event. I know there are opinions that in some cases of SHTF there is gonna be much safer to stay in the city where there is some kind of law, and where that law still can protect you.

There are opinions that in distant rural places most of the murders, robbing and rape will happen because law is gone first in more remote areas. All this still makes rural settings much better in my opinion.

If you compare it to the normal life that most of us have today of course my relatives who survived war on the countryside had some hard time. They lost electric energy, almost all ways to make money, people who worked in cities lost jobs, it was war and situation was hard.

But point is that they had RESOURCES all around them, land for growing food, woods for fuel, animals for hunting etc.

And as you can imagine some old skills were in use again. People started to make juice from fruits, older folks remembered what kind of wild fruits and berries were used in hard time of WW2.

Folks simply „re-invented“ for example very old style wooden press for making jams and syrups from different kinds of fruits. It looked funny, it used very long skinny trunk (timber) as a kind of leverage, from the distance it looked like someone want to launch something from old Roman catapult.

But it worked, and it was not nothing new, people used that thing for centuries maybe, just it was forgotten maybe because it is easier to buy jam, or to make it with electric devices.

Horses were put in use for plowing fields, tobacco was grown etc. But what was most important is fact that people stood together much much better in small rural communities, they were in many cases relatives, or simply people who know each other for years.

In cases like that security issues were easier to solve, people were better in any kind of organisation.

One of the guys I know started getting rich at that times. He simply grew potatoes in big amounts, and had good connections for smuggling them to places where price was many times higher.

In short, resources and security are much easier to have in rural settings than in urban settings. Urban survival matters a lot but do not forget that all our goal should be to just need it until we left urban areas.

It is not some hard rule, but there is gonna be much more fighting for small amount of resources in urban settings, while there are many more resources and probably less fighting for it in rural settings.

What is your take on this? Share in comments below.

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41 Responses

  1. One comment you made that intrigues me, that in what you and your relatives/friends went through there were still animals to hunt in the rural areas. It is my belief, though it may be misguided, that when things go south here (Alaska), that within a few weeks, months at most, all the game will have been shot and eaten/shared/stored/etc., and there will be nothing left on the hoof. From what you said, I may not be thinking correctly on this matter. It may not be as bad in that department as I have imagined.

    Fish I’m convinced will be another matter. I don’t think all the fish will be taken, and there will be a steady supply of Salmon when the runs occur. One may need to take them under the radar, but there will be some available I believe.

    Thanks for your posts, and I agree wholeheartedly, that resources will be more readily available in rural areas than in cities/towns – even if you will have to defend them with your life.


    Son of Liberty

  2. It boils down to math. What can the area support? Urban, rural… how many mouths to feed, how much safe/clean water, sanitation… sewage, bodies, disease… Lower population density raises you odds of survival… assuming you have skills.

  3. Wholeheartedly agree that the place NOT to be when the apple cart turns over, is in ANY urban setting whatsoever. When water stops running, toilets are going to stop working and back up. Revisit the plague years of old, when folks did their business in handy receptacles, and then threw the contents out the front door. Folks wll be using buckets and such, and dumping the waste in large trash receptacles, sewers, etc. It will take Cholera no more than 2 WEEKS to set in.
    Elderly, small children, handicapped and the vulnerable will fair very poorly in an urban setting, where survival of the fittest will quickly become the norm. If you cannot compete for resources, you will not make it. I bought a piece of property with a creek running through it on purpose! House was built on top of a hill with a 400 yard field of vision all around. Woods at the rear of the property with deer and game running around all over the place. I don’t like the idea of taking chances with the safety and well-being of my wife and daughters. If i’m wrong nd nothing happens, no harm , no foul. If t DOES happen, we’ll be in a better happenstance than most. Planning is everything! Better to have it and not need it, versus the alternative……

  4. Am not looking forward to a bunch of “preppers” showing up with their “bug-out bags”, expecting to use the resources I’ve produced and preserved here in my rural/frontier setting. They’ll be considered just as much a menace as gangs from the city. Might consider joining and contributing to the place you plan on bugging-out to. Those who live here now will be the only ones we care about.

  5. I live in a rural area, and I am of the opinion that most of the people who think they will hunt to survive don’t know enough about hunting to put meat on the table. It’s not as easy as a lot of folks think.

    1. You are SOOOOO right on the money with that observation. I have plenty of experience with hunting and fishing, and realize that it doesn’t matter how much experience you have, a certain measure of luck is almost always involved. Have been looking into trapping, as traps work 24/7 and are silent. People hear shots fired, and sometimes can find the shooter, and in a SHTF situation will likely rob the hunter of game and weapon–might even kill him. Nobody will hear a trap. I’ve trapped birds to eat using rat traps on the flat roof of my house when things got REALLY bad. In warmer months, you might prefer leg hold traps so the meat will be alive and fresh when you find it, in winter, snares or body grip (Conibear) traps would be useful. A good resource for articles about trapping, as well as books, DVDs and traps is here:

      This guy even has recipes for Beaver, Raccoon, and other non-traditional animal protein sources.

  6. Alaska is very different than most other states. Here in michigan less than 10% of the population knows how to hunt or own weapons. so there will be a lot of starving people trying to figure out how to use a rifle they found and going hungry. You have to remember a very large swath of the population has zero clue how to feed themselves outside of ordering at a mc donalds. Those people will be wiped out within the first 30 days.

    1. I agree 100% Tim. We have so many different regions of Michigan, which I categorize as “Up North”, The Detroiters, and the Suburbanites. I’m NOT looking forward to the possibility (probability) of the flood of refugees out of the D.

  7. I agree with you. I think, from what I have read from Selco, was that the army had penned people in. In the US (where I am), I suspect there will be a diaspora of people migrating out into the more rural areas, limited by fuel. I think any type of rural area near a freeway or major highway will have significant troubles from outsiders.

    All that being said, I live in a city in the south with murders and a riot nearby. For a true SHTF type of event, trying to make it out to the country would be a necessity.

    Oh, another issue to ponder about regarding rural areas, in the US, quite often prisons and mental hospitals are located in those areas, as well. It is something else to look out for.

  8. @ Tim Gray, another thing you have there is winter, which would provide a good kill off and create some breathing space after the winter. Down here in Florida, it will be a lot of fighting, and as others have pointed out, disease, as well.

  9. Wherever you are and whatever you choose or gets chosen for you (cause you might not be home when IT happens) make the best of it and have a plan for both. Might be a while before you get home from that “hour” drive (3-5 days walk) to the city back to your country bunker.
    Might find yourself burned out of the farm and passing thru town to get somewhere or vise versa.
    I don’t know bout you all but I live life and don’t stay holed up in the fraidy cat bunker.
    Train now, not Internet training but real training. It allows confidence to venture and live.

  10. I live in a good sized development, but it is far from an urban setting. We live on the side of a mountain, which is mainly State Game Land. We have deer in our yard every single day. We even had a bear a few weeks ago. The nearest town is almost 10 miles. So are the highways. I hope we are far enough from any major avenue of flight for the “Golden Horde”! My family is “Bugging In”. We have been storing beans, bullets and band-aids for a few years now. We cannot move all our supplies. I have a Bug Out location selected. It is a somewhat secluded, wooded area. Shelter could be an issue. Any type of movement in a TEOTWAWKI scenario would be VERY dangerous.

  11. urban areas = trash/waste, rodents, insects, easily transmitted disease, non-renewable necessities(except in very limited quantities – food, water)… NYC some years ago experienced a brief trash-collectors strike… the result of those few days was a nearly overwhelming amount of trash build-up… rodents inevitably greatly multiplied as unprocessed trash is their #1 breeding ground… you’ll burn it, you say..??? really..?? imagine a place like NYC with everyone burning their own trash… won’t happen… not when you have to remain inside hiding for days on end…

    now, let’s consider the non-flushing toilets in a multiple-occupancy high-rise… multiply that by the number of high-rises in YOUR city…

    you see, your “bug-in/out” philosophy must include factors which will effect society on the whole – not just those of your own circle of being… considering even the small city I live in, when the signs of total break-down are apparent, we’re gone… no second thoughts, no looking back AND CERTAINLY NO NEW “FRIENDS” to have to provide for…

  12. It can be quite confusing to be quite honnest with you.

    When in the city or urban area, there are alot of people who will cut throats just for a loaf of bread.

    We must consider this possibility;

    In the city, as before mentionned, has limited ressources. The situation will eventually be similar to locusts. They will jump from one area to another, plunder and consumme at they’re whim. Once the area is devastated, where will they go? Most likely in the suburbs and then proceed in the rural area.

    Honnestly, in a long and protracted SHTF, we are all doomed. Wether we like it or not. Marauders will be only getting worse and unless we can definately find a place away from scrutiny, there is never a safe place.

    I firmly believe that being part of a tightly knit community is essential for survival. In psychology, i’ve learned that a human can remember 150people. Anymore will be too much. This can be a blessing and a curse unless a firm governance can be set, however very difficult to maintain without internal strife from flaring up.

    I prefer taking my chances in the country, however “they” (Scouts and path finders) will be looking. If we are to be safe, we must never let safety become a comfort.

    Always prepared, always ready, even when theres nothing.


  13. A possible response to someone saying, “Well, when SHTF, I will just come over a to your place.”

    My Response: “Well, what supplies and skillsets will your be bringing along to assist my family and me to survive and flourish in this SHTF situation?” and

    “Being the “System” is still up and going at this time, certainly you wouldn’t mind providing me with a State and Federal background check (limited, due to the fact that many prisoners are just political prisoners who were honest and not willing to commit the fraud upon their fellow man, i.e. Yehshua[Jesus] wouldn’t even pass one of these background checks, eh?) on yourself, along with many character references with which I can converse, regarding you, ahead of time, eh?

    Always the very best, and “have a good interview.”

  14. The US is very different in that we have large areas that are suburban, neither urban nor rural. We have a little of both situations! For example, my area used to be small town/rural, but the suburbs expanded and now we are virtually cookie cutter. (I can;t complain – I was part of the suburban horde.)

  15. If you have never read the book ‘Nine Meal To Anarchy’. Farrell Kingsley is the author and he really covers in depth surviving day to day in both rural and urban settings. He also outlines in a very realistic way how to gain a “Force Multiplier” advantage in both scenarios. Based on his book I have stocked quite a few things I wouldn’t have such as night vision gear and a box with 250 feet of Razor Wire. It all fits in one little box 3″ by 3″ all rolled up as well and only cost me $165.00. That’s just an example. If you haven’t read the book you really should.

  16. Don’t forget fires (both accidental and intentionally set) that will likely occur during a SHTF event. Whether you are in city or the rurals, having a plan to get and stay away from fire would be wise.

  17. Consider finding a rural area, purchasing a small property and prepositioning supplies in a container u can lock & camoflage.
    The military does this.
    Within 90 days most of the population of urban areas should be gone
    Lack of electricity, water and sewage or garbage, not to mention food would make most large cities uninhabitable.
    Think also of evacuation to safe areas within or outside your country. When evacuation not possible diversify stockpiles of supplies hide them.

  18. Too much good night vision equipment out. If you don’t have it you are fair game.Your hideaway will be surveyed by a cheap drone that you cannot shoot down and you will be put on someone’s list of assets to be taken by planning and at leisure no matter where you are. There are people and groups planning these actions as we speak.

    Anyone who thinks that things will go even remotely as planned is seriously deluding himself. Some things have changed since Selco’s experience.

  19. Rural vs. Urban survival is often talked about but I haven’t seen much discussion regarding those of us who live in small towns, villages or even suburbs. I live in a small town of about 1,957 people. A river runs through our town as well with a fair amount of woods. I live in a large house in town. I don’t have the money to purchase land to have a bugout location. My plan is to board up my windows with either 3/4inch or 1inch plywood on the first floor and block off the doors as well. Additionally, I am planning on making some hidden rooms in my house as well as there are many spaces that can be closed off and turned into a hiding area. About 5.5 miles to the north is a larger city of about 32,000 people and about 12 miles to the northeast is a city of about 72,000. Both of those cities have an urban population, and the city of 32,000 was actually listed in the top 10 most dangerous small cities in the US, based mostly on property crime. About a half hour away is an even larger, more urban, more crime ridden city, but that city has a lot of suburbs and small cities surrounding it, for the vagrants to scavenge from.

    What do you think, Selco, and others on here, of my situation? Is small town survival different from, similar to or a mix between urban and rural?

    1. Hello Chris!
      I think it is good number for small community. Especially if you have or plan to have some kind of network of people or some group. I think in town of that number of resident you are pretty much know folks around you, and that is important.
      Close distance of bigger city is bad thing. We can make theories about what is best but you got to work with what you have.
      Hidden rooms are good idea, and hiding place is must have.

  20. I live in Victoria BC Vancouver Island. And I live in an apartment and it is sad to say that I do not even know my neighbors names! Now if it came down to the bottom line my family comes first and god help anyone that try to break into my apartment.

  21. Selco, any idea what they did with the prison population in your shtf time,did they let them loose,let them die in their prison cells,or did they move them else where? What about the hospitals, were there still some doctors or nurses there, or did the patients that couldn’t be taken care of by their family just die in there beds? I of corse don’t expect you to know everything that happened.

    1. Lot of them were mobilized in different groups and promised freedom in exchange for their loyalty, in worst periods and places everything simply stop to work.

  22. i am south of you in canada. you are absolutely right in my opinion. 1 poacher can decimate 250 square clicks of game within about 5-10 years.

    now throw in everyone with the hunter gather idea, every legal trapper, every legal hunter, AND all the poachers on top of un regulated pollution and you can bet with confidence your last US dollar there will be zero big game within 12 months to two years. Never mind the beattle kill that is finishing off what we have not logged out… and the subsequent fires…

    they can barely keep the numbers up as it is right now… What you will most likely see is groups of “hunters” not only hunting and trapping… but behaving territorially towards outsiders…

    as much respect as i have for selco and this website course in general, rural in north america is different than rural in europe and eurasia…

    in my opinion… rural in north america would more or less turn into what rural africa is right now… namely large territories controlled by “militia”.

    and believe me… as i am no genius, that there are much smarter people out there who know that already.

  23. if you are in an appartment when shtf, you r main concern is going to be fire… not burglars…

    ive cleaned apartment fires after the fact… on average every 10 appartments contains one psycologically screwed up hoarder ( ppl who save bacon grease and 10 year old newspaper, you do the math.)

    i shit you not we found three hoarders like that in a three story apartment building with about 40 family sized apartments.

    1/10 was obvious drug addict flop house
    1/10 was obvious senile old person
    1/10 was a sex addict of some kind, dildos hidden in couches etc. other really weird shit.

    the other 6/10 kept clean appartments. god knows what they where up to…

  24. I see the fundamental question as one of supply and demand.

    When supply chains are fully blocked or broken, urban areas have zero resupply. Even your city, Selco, had airdrops coming in. If nothing else, that lowered the pressure on gangs to root out the last caches of food from those hunkered down. ‘Relief’ such as it was, arrived after a year… if the crisis had been permanent, how long could people have held out? Either they go under or relocate to rural, anyway. Or maybe, given enough time, the urban becomes rural. Historically, the cities were abandoned.

    Rural environments are ‘open’ (vs ‘closed), with renewable food available at many levels (grubs, tree cambium, roots and greens) even without fish and game. True it takes knowledge and adaptability to get along, but sooner or later, we’ll need it if relief never comes.

    Rural supply is large, independent and renewable. Low concentrations of people mean relatively high supply/low demand on all resources.

    Urban supply is small, dependent and not renewable. High concentrations of people AND hard limits mean relatively low supply falling toward zero/high demand rising toward infinite. This is a no-win, nightmare scenario in which the smallest scrap is worth any cost.

    That seems to me to decisively point rural.

  25. Regarding game being hunted out in rural areas:

    This is certainly possible, but is it likely? Especially in areas with remote and/or extensive, low population back-country (e.g., Alaska, Bayou and swamp country, Okenogan, most of Canada, Yosemite, or Cascadia, considering only N America)?

    In my experience (SE Alaska) most ‘hunters’ are from an urban setting, which they will have to survive. I’d bet the vast majority decide to bug-in for various reasons, with a high attrition rate. Bug-out decisions, I’m guessing, will be later than sooner for most, and the opportune moment may well pass them by.

    Active hunters are a small percent of the population. Of that portion, most are not preppers, and have made no provisions for bugging out far enough to hunt. Few have skills to thrive indefinitely in the wild once town supplies are gone (think meat and potatoes without the potatoes). The planes and power boats necessary to most are targets in SHTF, and may not be available options to late-goers. Shelters are few and mostly well-known (competition). Once in the field, most are focused on big game, without skills or means for taking smaller, more plentiful game. Preserving the catch all but assumes refrigeration. Once out of ammo or line or hooks, most will be all but done.

    So I’m expecting the cities and towns to have a short, nasty period of adjustment. Adjacent areas will likely lose their big game, and maybe smaller, too. Most hunters making it deeper into the field won’t be able to preserve their take, nor can they transport meat back to towns, so heavy predation is pointless.

    Those who make it and learn to live in the field will soon learn to hunt successfully within natural limits or starve. In any case, the take will be proportional to needs in the field (not feeding the town). And THESE guys and gals are likely to become allies and trading partners.

    That’s my best guess, anyway..

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