Homeless survival: Practical tips and advice derived from personal experience


This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest  by Urban Nomad

These days, “survivalism” has come to mean preparing for great events like nuclear holocaust or total government collapse. But disaster may come on a much more personal level. Individuals can suffer catastrophe as surely as nations can. When they do, it can be even more distressing because individuals feel alone in their suffering. I am talking about personal financial ruin and homelessness. Thousands of people across North America, indeed the world, have already experienced it following bankruptcies and foreclosures.

Whole families have been evicted from their homes, some quite forcibly. We see dozens of tent cities appearing across America, and more people ordering storage containers to live in. What we don’t see are the “hidden homeless” – those forced to survive by couch-surfing or moving back in with family. If 47 million Americans now live below the poverty line, that means 47 million who are either homeless or in imminent danger of becoming so. And the number is still growing.

When I lost my own job a while ago, I was not overly concerned. I had enough savings to live on for over a year. Then the economy self-destructed. It became exceedingly difficult to score a job interview, let alone an actual job. As the months of unemployment dragged on, my savings dwindled until I was forced for the very first time to consider homelessness as a real possibility. What would I do if worse came to worst? How would I live? Not being a “rugged” or “street-smart” person at all, I knew from the outset that I could not follow the prevailing wisdom of living as the homeless do and trying to blend in with them. Sleeping in bus shelters, eating from dumpsters, and staying in homeless shelters was not for me. I feel that joining the homeless population, as many recommend, severely limits your options, especially if you hold out any hope of ever rejoining society.

My only survival experience comes from camping and backpacking. I’ve survived for days or weeks with just the supplies on my back. So I tried to adapt that same knowledge to an urban environment, envisioning a new kind of “home-free” lifestyle. I prefer to call it “distributed living” or being an “urban nomad” because it lets you have most of life’s necessities, just not all in one place. It’s based on the backpacking model of carrying everything you need with you and being self-sufficient. It does require some resources and preparation. A plan like this must be undertaken before you actually become homeless, when you still have some money and credit to draw on.

Fortunately, homelessness is more easily anticipated than some other disasters. You often can see it coming months in advance. But even those who do may prefer to live in denial. You may think it cannot happen to you. But it has already happened to thousands who thought it could never happen to them either. Nobody plans to end up in a homeless encampment. But lately, this is where more and more of the former middle-class are landing. Even many famous celebrities have had periods of homelessness.

If you’re one of the lucky few who have nothing to worry about financially, remember that poverty is not the only cause of homelessness. Things like chemical spills, radiation leaks, brush fires, mudslides, arson, water main breaking, and civil unrest could all force you from your home as surely as mounting debt can. Natural disasters can strike anyone at any time. Hurricane Katrina rendered an entire city’s population homeless within hours. So have tornadoes in America’s heartland and nuclear meltdown in Japan. In such situations, people with vehicles and bug out bags ready will be survivors. Everyone else will be refugees. With that in mind, the following suggestions should be helpful to many, whether facing imminent homelessness or not. They can also be used in partial disaster scenarios where much of society still functions, with only some residents being displaced.


Obviously this is the main problem faced by the homeless. Those who stay in the city are restricted by laws against putting up any kind of temporary shelter. This is why the homeless are so often seen huddling in doorways, alcoves, tunnels, etc. Many cities have outlawed sleeping outdoors, which gives police the power to harass anyone they see lying down with their eyes closed. In fact, as long as you can be seen by anyone at night, your safety is at risk.

Homeless shelters may be no better. Filled with drugs and mental illness, they can be more dangerous than the streets, and many transients know enough to avoid them. Similar problems exist in tent cities. Diseases and parasites can easily spread when many people, all with poor hygiene, live close together.

Wooded areas appear safer and can be found throughout cities in the form of ravines, forests, valleys and parks. Some homeless build shelters there using tarps, plywood, cardboard boxes, or whatever else they can find. This may work for a while. But authorities keep tabs on these encampments and sooner or later come to take them down. Also, any shelter can be a target for thieves and squatters when you’re not there. Its mere presence during the day tells everyone that homeless person is living there.

I get around these problems by using a relatively inexpensive “pop-up “camouflage dome tent found online. A pop-up tent can be set up and taken down extremely fast, with very little effort. The idea is to find a secluded area in the woods or a local park, put up the tent at sunset, and then take it down again at or before sunrise the next morning. There is no campsite for anyone to find because it does not exist during the day. This is also known as stealth camping and many long-distance cyclists use it to avoid staying in motels. They camp on public or private land and take off before anyone knows they were there.

Your safety will come from being totally hidden. For anyone to see you sleeping at night, they would have to enter the forest after dark, leave the path at the right spot, and see through your camouflage. Even in broad daylight, a camo tent amid foliage is hard to spot. I have spent several nights in city parks using this method and haven’t yet been detected. A tent is one of the best possible temporary shelters you can use and gives a sense of security, even if it is mostly psychological. It does need a relatively flat, clear area of ground to be set up, so scout locations before you need them and clear them of debris before nightfall.

An even smaller shelter that fits practically anywhere is the bivy sack– essentially a zippered bag just large enough for your body, made of waterproof, breathable material. Some fold down to the size of a water bottle. A bivy will keep you dry and sheltered but won’t have room for anything else, like changing clothes. Some come with a framework that holds the fabric away from your face for some breathing room.

Satellite images on Google Maps are great for finding dense woods in your area. You want areas that are more “wild” and overgrown, not those which are obviously mowed and well maintained by the parks department(though if you are very diligent about always taking your tent down at sunrise, you should have no problems either way). Find spots which are totally hidden from both the trail and the street. At the same time, they should not be too far from places you want to go during the day. Eventually you will have memorized a few ideal spots around the city and can rotate between them so that you never camp in the same place too long. I use a heavy camouflage tarp as a groundsheet, protecting the tent floor from sharp debris. This can double as a cover for your gear, keeping it dry and hidden in the forest while you go about your daily business.

Do not try to weather a serious storm in a tent. At such times, train stations, bus stations and airports are better choices. They are open24 hours a day and are designed for people to wait in, with ample seating, bathrooms, snack bars, and sometimes wi-fi. In bad weather, some people will be sleeping in their seats or on the floor due to transit delays, and you can blend in with them. Keep a travel book from the library across your chest or some old boarding passes sticking out of your pocket. If you are in an airport with multiple terminals, change terminals every so often. Lingering in one place too long may attract the attention of security(though I have heard of one woman living for months at the airport before anyone caught on). Hospital waiting rooms may be almost as good.


As an urban nomad, pick your outfit very carefully. It must not only protect you from the elements and carry what you need it to carry but also fit into an urban setting without looking odd. In my opinion, black should be the color of all your items, including bags. Black looks right at home in the city, can go longer between washings without looking dirty, makes your bags and pockets look smaller despite being packed with stuff, and will render you practically invisible at night. My all-black outfit consists of:

  • waterproof hiking shoes
  • paratrooper or cargo pants (lots of pockets)
  • alternate pair of waterproof pants
  • turtleneck
  • hoodie sweater
  • expedition vest filled with pockets
  • waterproof coat with hood
  • baseball cap with built-in LEDs (like the Panther Vision power cap, for hands-free lighting at night)

Add to this a week’s worth of clean socks and underwear, as well as duplicate pants and hoodie so you’ll still have something to wear when doing laundry. In cold weather, I add wool socks, thermal insoles, wool turtleneck, wool long underwear, waterproof mitts, and a balaclava.


Huge packs made for backpacking may look odd in the city. I use a large size army surplus ALICE pack to carry bulky items such as sleeping bag and sleeping pad, with tent strapped to the outside. Choose a backpack that places the weight on your hips, not your shoulders, as the ALICE does. Urban commuter bags and messenger bags also work well for the city. You should be able to carry everything yourself when you need to. At other times, leave some of it stored or hidden and carry only what you need for that day. As backpackers know, the level of fitness required to carry everything you need on your back is not inconsiderable. So get in shape.

A compression sack may help fit everything in. Used by the army, this is a sack meant to be carried inside your pack. Fill it with compressible items (usually sleeping bag and clothes), then squeeze everything down, usually by sitting on it. At the same time, tighten all the straps around the sack. It will retain its smaller size until opened again.


Besides clothing, this is the other area that gives homeless people away. Though cities are filled with public bathrooms, it is hard to find one private enough to do anything more than use the toilet and wash your hands. So I recommend carrying a collapsible pail (found at camping stores) and a magnetic mirror (from a school supply store or dollar store). Collapsible pails fold down flat to take up very little space in your pack. Fill one with warm water from the sink and bring it into one of the stalls. Set the pail atop the toilet tank or hang it from something if possible. Stick your magnetic mirror to the stall wall and use the pail as your sink. Now you can shave, brush teeth, and scrub your armpits in relative privacy.

Avoid bathrooms frequented by the homeless which tend to be the filthiest and most dangerous (eg. those in subways, public squares, certain restaurants, etc.). Clean, even elegant restrooms can be found in upscale shopping centers, colleges, theatres, airports, office buildings… places the homeless generally avoid. In hot weather, it may be possible to bathe in the same lakes and rivers where people go swimming.

When only a hot shower will do, visit a gym, YMCA, or university athletic center for the day, all of which have well appointed locker rooms. Fitness centers on college campuses may just be the cheapest, cleanest and safest, and are usually open to the public. A year’s membership will likely cost less than one month of rent, and may include perks like free wi-fi, towel service and a locker. It also provides a place to work out, rest, and socialize. Keeping suit clothes in your locker will allow you to go for job interviews. Beaches and campgrounds are other places to look for showers.

The travel section of dollar stores is a good place to pick up lightweight hygiene products like mini shampoo, mouthwash and toothpaste. Don’t forget plastic containers for your soap and toothbrush, and pill boxes to carry Aspirin, vitamins, and any medication you need. I keep all toiletries in a mesh bag which lets them air out after use. Replace your regular towel with a small, super absorbent one from a backpacking store. A battery-powered travel razor will let you shave just about anywhere, any time. Get one that runs on AA batteries as opposed to a plug-in rechargeable. Look for any way to save space, for instance using a bottle of camping soap also as dishwashing liquid and shampoo.

Facial cleansing cloths, wet naps, and hand sanitizer can keep you clean without water. If given any at a restaurant, save them until needed. Use those wet naps on your armpits and groin if necessary, where bacteria flourish. Use a high SPF sunscreen to avoid the telltale sunburn that many homeless people have. And if the look suits you, shave your head and forget about all the maintenance that comes with having hair.

Always practice good hygiene and grooming, not just for your own health but to keep blending in with civilized society. If you look and smell like a bum, you will find many doors closed to you.


The homeless survivalist does not have the option of storing food long-term or buying in bulk. You can only stockpile what you can carry – which amounts to maybe a week’s worth of sustenance at most. Peanut butter is an excellent choice, being easy to carry and eat, high in calories and protein, and needing no refrigeration. Trail mix is another. There’s a lot of energy in nuts and seeds, and most of these mixes now come in resealable bags. Think like a backpacker, keeping heavy items like canned goods to a minimum and removing any unnecessary packaging from foods to make them lighter.

Dried (dehydrated) foods are the lightest. Foods that are simple, won’t spoil quickly, and require little to no cooking are well suited for the urban nomad: think beef jerky, granola bars, raisins and other dried fruits, corn chips, banana chips, buns, bagels, raisin bread, peanuts, instant soups, etc. Again, dollar stores are good places to procure these items cheaply. Because your diet is sure to drop in quality, take a multivitamin daily as well.

Carry your food in a reusable cloth shopping bag and you will simply look as though you’ve just been grocery shopping. Also keep a length of rope in this bag for hanging it from a tree when in the forest. Never keep food in your tent or your pockets at night, especially in city parks teeming with raccoons.

You should still have some means of cooking food. Needless to say, a big open fire in the woods would give away your presence. My personal choice was a Jet boil propane stove, with an Emberlit stove as backup. The Jet boil may be the fastest, most efficient means of boiling water outside, making it good for preparing instant foods and purifying water. The Emberlit stove is a wood stove. It folds flat, taking up almost no space in a pack, and its fuel is essentially free. It lets you cook with a very small fire well suited to stealth camping.

Look into the ultra-light, compact kitchen utensils that backpackers use. Such products are designed to fit inside each other and take up minimum space. I fit my two stoves, fuel canisters, two bowls, pot, mug, cutlery, can opener, and even a Steripen water purifier into a bag less than 9” wide by 11” tall.

Cities usually have places to fish. Take advantage of this free food source by carrying a compact fishing rod. The smallest rods fold down almost to the size of a pen. For tackle, all you really need are a couple of floats, some hooks, sinkers, and a lure or two, all of which will fit in the palm of your hand. Add a package of scented Power bait, or some similar product, to always have bait on hand. Look for live bait beneath fallen and rotting logs, or use pieces of food like bread or corn.

I’ve heard you can cook and eat practically anything that walks on land or flies. But be very careful with plants and eat only those you can positively identify as safe. (The color illustrations of plants in the pocket version of The SAS Survival Guide can help with this.)


This should be the least of your worries. Drinking water is readily found throughout cities. You should carry at least one 1L water bottle andget in the habit of topping it up every time you come to a tap or drinking fountain. Once you get used to water, you need never pay money for drinks again.

In the woods, large rivers are the preferred water source and you’ll want to camp near one if possible. A fast moving stream will be cleaner than a pool of standing water. Of course any water drawn from such a source must first be purified, just like in the wilderness. That means boiled, filtered, or treated with tablets or UV light. Water purification tablets (easily found at camping stores) are the easiest way to treat water without additional apparatus. River water should never be your first choice for drinking, but is good to have nearby when you run out of water collected from the city. Remember that almost all purification methods will remove the biological pathogens but not the chemical pollutants.

If rain is forecast, leave your collapsible pail outside to collect it. This water will not have to be purified.


Internet access is essential even when homeless. It is how you will look for jobs, send resumes, learn survival tips, and keep in contact with the wider world. You may even use it to earn money directly, using something like Amazon Mechanical Turk, or to offer your goods and services on EBay or Craigslist (the “gigs” section of Craigslist contains short-term odd jobs that pay cash). Under normal circumstances, this would hardly be enough to live on. But without rent or utilities to pay, the economics of a nomadic lifestyle are somewhat different.

Fortunately there are more and more places to use the Internet for free, especially if you can provide your own laptop, iPad or netbook. Find out all the freewi-fi zones in your vicinity. There will be some in places you never knew or expected. Large district libraries and reference libraries can be ideal. There you can find computers, cubicles, outlets to plug into, and some portable chairs to sit in all day. (Note: When using public wi-fi, always use a Virtual Private Network or VPN, like the free service Hotspot Shield, when entering passwords.)

The online environment looks the same whether you are homeless or not, and so can be a source of comfort and consistency as your living conditions change. When immersed in online activities, it almost doesn’t matter where you are. Even a homeless person can spend the day playing online games, watching shows, listening to music, writing a blog, and reading the news, much like a normal person would. If you have the need and the money, consider a rugged computer like the Panasonic Toughbook. Able to withstand drops and freezing temperatures, with a waterproof keyboard that glows in the dark, this laptop line is practically built for homelessness.


You should have a radio, like any survivalist. The lightest might be something like an armband radio for joggers, with readout showing the time and an alarm. Use it to check weather reports daily, and choose your attire and shelter areas accordingly.


Cellphones make having your own phone number as an urban nomad very easy. Remember to charge it and your other wireless devices whenever you come across an available outlet.


If you need to receive mail, one choice is renting a PO Box. There are also services that can provide you with a real street address if you want people to think you have one. You will get an address like “99 Paladin Street #1” where the number actually refers to your box. This is useful when you have to give your home address to obtain services.

This is the essence of “distributed living” – your shelter in one area, your shower in another, your mailbox in yet another. All are components of your “home”, you just need to travel a bit to get to each one.


Your own two feet may serve as your primary mode of transport. For this reason, don’t skimp on your footwear and make sure it fits perfectly.

If you can still afford gas, auto repairs, parking and insurance, then by all means keep your vehicle as both transportation and shelter. If not, consider a bicycle as a substitute. Having a bike makes everything seem much closer than if you were walking, and will expand your range considerably. I already cycle everywhere and now prefer it to the often poor and overcrowded public transit system. Add a Bob Yak trailer, or almost any child bicycle trailer, and you can bring all your survival supplies with you. Some child trailers turn into strollers when detached from the bike. You can then push your belongings along the sidewalk in something a little more stylish than a shopping cart.


Not everyone will have concerns about winter, depending on where they live. For me, the problem of surviving a Canadian winter without a heated shelter must be treated with deadly seriousness. Many homeless people die on the streets of cold countries every year. Throughout Europe, we have just seen how extreme cold can strike even in unlikely places and kill hundreds without warning. Without going into all the details of winter survival, here are some tips:

You must test out your cold weather gear before trusting your life to it. For example, camp out in the backyard during a deep freeze. Winterized sleeping bags have temperature ratings but their effectiveness varies depending on the user’s own body heat, metabolism, and clothing. Sit in the park for several hours in your full winter outfit to see if it’s enough. The amount of insulation needed for sitting still in the cold is greater than what people typically wear for dashing from one heated structure to another. Dress in layers and always cover your head, even when sleeping. Wool is arguably the best material as it insulates so well, even when wet.

A sleeping pad is just as essential as a sleeping bag. This item is easy to overlook, but without it you will get cold no matter how great your sleeping bag is. The ground has a way of conducting the heat right out of a warm body. (For the same reason, never sit directly on the ground without a thermal cushion like hunters use or some such insulating barrier.) The warmest sleeping pads are also the bulkiest and cannot be carried inconspicuously. I chose to focus on the smaller self-inflating pads and get the one with the highest ‘R-value (insulation rating) I could find. Without a sleeping pad, you will have to sleep on cardboard or newspapers just like the homeless do, or use pine boughs when in the wilderness.

From what I’ve seen, gadgets like electric sleeping bags and propane space heaters are not practical or effective. And building a fire is usually out of the question. So you will be relying on your own body heat for warmth. Don’t lose it by leaving your shelter at night. If you have to relieve yourself, use a bottle instead. Study the survival tactics of winter campers and arctic explorers. Anything that does not take well to freezing – laptops, cell phones, water bottles – should share the sleeping bag with you, down near your feet. Some winter sleeping bags have extra room at the bottom for this purpose. If you fill your water bottle with hot water before retiring, it will help warm you. Use extra layers of shelter if you have them. For example, using a bivy sack inside a tent may seem redundant but it will increase your bag’s effectiveness against the cold. So will using a tent inside a larger structure.


The U.S. Army Survival Handbook adequately covers the wilderness side of homeless survival. It takes into account the soldier’s need for stealth and concealment when stuck in enemy territory. Where other survival books tell how to remain visible and attract the attention of search parties, this one shows how to conceal your presence, move stealthily over terrain, and to build fires and shelters so that they cannot be spotted by the enemy. (For our purposes, “enemy” can refer to anyone – police, park rangers, security guards, neighborhood watch, etc. – who tend to make life extra difficult for the homeless.) This no-nonsense guide also has surprising and innovative ways to treat your own injuries and illnesses in the field using common materials.


Thanks to odd jobs, credit cards and help from relatives, I remain housed for now. But the threat of homelessness still looms large. My debts are such that I do not know exactly where I will be living three months from now. But even if homelessness never strikes, I won’t regret the time and money spent preparing for it. The increased confidence and peace of mind have been worth it. I know that, whether housed or not, life will go on. Even the idea of spending winter without a permanent shelter is no longer unthinkable, and that is an amazing thing. Preparing for homelessness has incidentally prepared me for other scenarios, like the furnace breaking down or a sudden evacuation. And I can go camping or backpacking at a moment’s notice.

Homelessness has to be one of the gloomiest things to think about, let alone prepare for. But realize that not thinking or preparing will make the reality of it worse. If you do find yourself out on the street, having a plan of where to go, what to do, and what to take with you can make all the difference. If it helps, don’t think of yourself as homeless but as a nomad practicing an alternative lifestyle. Without such an attitude or plan, you will start to resemble the typical bums who wander without direction or purpose. Who have nowhere to go, nothing to do, and nothing to hope for. Homelessness does not have to look like that. Develop the skills of the urban nomad and practice distributed living. Keep your basic needs met and your mind clear, and you can always live a dignified existence whatever your situation may be.

This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win:

First Prize) Winner will receive a Stealth Body Armor Level II vest courtesy of SafeGuard ARMOR™ LLC and a $150 gift certificate for Wolf Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner.com   A total prize value of over $600.

Second Prize) Winner will receive a Wise Essentials Kit courtesy of LPC Survival and an EcoZoom’s Versa Stove courtesy of EcoZoom stoves.. A value of over $300.

Third Prize) Winner will receive copies of both of my books “31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness” and “Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat: One Man’s Solution”  and a Katadyn Siphon Water Filter courtesy of Mayflower Trading Company.  A total prize value of $107.

Contest ends on June 5 2012.


  1. One homeless guide I read suggested if you are going to keep your car, which they recommend highly, that you can attract less attention in it when you sleep, by getting a car cover for it. Find a place to park that looks like you are storing a car (not on the street) and the car cover will hide you, any steamy windows, and keep the sun out in the morning. You will have to learn how to exit the car under the cover; or perhaps you can alter it and put Velcro so you can get in and out easier.

    • cosmolined says:

      Penny Pincher:
      As an ex-resident of a camaro, ABSOULUTELY NOT! Being able to see what’s coming at you is most essential. I always envied the folks with pick-ups and camper shells. Now That Is Invisibility! When it’s 95 degrees and you’re sweating in your car, a car cover will make is a sauna. (Healthy for the pores, but you Will die.) Cos

  2. Also, there are many good suggestions for van living at http://www.cheaprvliving.com. If you can trade in the car for a van, you can stealth camp in style.

  3. worrisome says:

    Wow! Not only is this great prep info, but it gives insight into a world that all of us see, but never really acknowledge! I pray things get better for you soon!

  4. An excellent article Urban Nomad. Timely and practical advice. Too many people are in complete denial about SHTF situations like you mentioned and could use to read this (if they aren’t in too much denial to do them any good).

    Again, the best advice comes from people like you, who have been there and done that. I will be referring back to this article and have bookmarked it.

    As a side note, I liked your section on the radios having had an experience where a radio came in very handy for me (not like yours though, but handy enough): http://rednecksurvivalist.com/index.php/entry/product-review-the-crank-radio-tool-that-saved-my-butt

  5. village idiot says:

    urban nomad, I loved this post. It reminds me of the times I spent hiking along the Ozark and Ouachita trails when I was a young man. Many of the skills are transferrable, but your advice and knowledge of urban terrain, and how to survive and prosper there, are a revalation to me. I printed this up, and will send it to my son who lives in a city. If something happened and he couldn’t get home, the things you learned could be invaluable. Thank you, sir.

  6. Well presented article. I have read a couple of fiction books that talk about being an “urban nomad”. I’d like to think that I won’t have to worry about this, but one never knows what conditions will be, and you should be mentally prepared for any situation.


  7. Hi Urban Nomad,

    What a frightening and yet uplifting article to enjoy with my first cup of coffee. I see the tent cities and they worry me. Not the obvious worry but the darker one of concern for those forced to live there backed by the thought that I too could end there. In the recession of the early 1980’s I was on the verge of homelessness with nothing prepared.

    You offer some amazing ideas for those financially able to prepare! While we like to think there’s safety in numbers, I think in an Urban Nomad setting, safety is in invisiblity.

    About a year ago my mom died and it was at her funeral that I faced a homeless woman. The small service for mom was over and my family was serving food. There was a rather shabbily dressed woman (not that you had to dress up) sitting in the back of the church. None of us knew her. She plated a sandwich, ate it quickly then returned for more. Following my mom’s lead, I loaded several plates with mulitpul sandwiches and topped it all with a plate of cookies. The lady thanked me, turned and in a blink was gone. Oddly fitting with mom’s life and funeral.

    Homelessness requires a level of creatitivity that your article clearly reveals. Prayers for you and all the pack.

    • debbie, your post made me cry…there are so many people in need right now – God bless you for being kind to someone…that person was possibly someone’s mother, wife, daughter, sister etc…we are all connected…cheers.

    • debbie, your post made me cry…God bless you for being kind to that woman…who may have been someone’s mother, sister, wife etc. We are all connected. cheers.

  8. Wow a world of information here. Many of these tips are useful and we all should prep for natural or other desasters that could leave us without a home.

  9. SurvivorDan says:

    Very informative. I started out intending to only scan your article. But, it held my interest as it is well thought out. A good plan for a circumstance that most of us would never think to plan for. Hope you stay housed and safe.

  10. Wow – I have read a lot of ‘urban survival’ type literature and you have done an absolutely top notch job of outlining what real-world, contemporary nomadic city living looks like. Obviously you have spent a great deal of time meticulously thinking about all of this and preparing in a practical way. I loved your post, and wish you all the best. I’ll be watching for more stuff from you in the future.

  11. I do have one thing to add about trying survive Canadian winter or anyplace where cold kills… well, more about migrating.

    Look up how to ride freight trains. My information is at least 20-30 years out of date depending on when the books were published, but apparently one of the best ways to travel that way was to find a train transporting automobiles so you can ride in style.

    I’m glad that I have time before street living is even a question. I have family that can take me in, and it might even be beneficial for them.

    • Anonymous says:

      Remember Snowbirds…..they travel south during the winter….Don’t try to stick somewhere that the cold will kill you when going south will make your chance of survival better

      just sayin….

    • Do not try to use the trains. They are death traps, the days of the wandering Hobo are now gone.

      There are thousands of people who die or disappear every year on the trains. I saw a few documentaries last year on this subject.

      The Rail Police will beat you to a pulp a lot of times and dump you in the middle of nowhere, then you have to deal with gangs that roam the trains as well. Gangs that roam the stock yards, all in all way to risky.

      • WO,
        In the US there is another reason to stay away from trains – there are federal charges that go with getting caught. That can mean a few months in federal prison or even year or more. That may give you shelter and health care for a while but getting a job afterward is an even bigger problem.

      • WildernessReturn, glad I mentioned the books were outdated then. I remember one of them mentioning that railroad personnel tended to be friendly or at least civilized.

        • Kelekona,
          Back in the days you’re talking about the rails were quite a different story, and society was also quite different. We tend to be much more urban now, and someone jumping a train and getting hurt can file a lawsuit against the railroad company and hit the legal lottery. Never mind that they were trespassing on RR property and trying to illegally catch a ride. If they get hurt doing this, then society tells everyone that it has to be someone else’s fault, and if the someone else has deep pockets, the lawyers come out of the woodwork to help cash in. You really can’t blame the railroads for trying to protect themselves in our litigious society.

  12. That was an absolutely outstanding article. Terrific information, well done. Best of luck to you.

  13. Great article. Black clothing is great, but you might want to consider muted colors that will blend in more with the crowd during the day with black jacket or shirt at night. Solid black does stick out in some communities.

    In the American West, maintaining a vehicle, even if small and inexpensive might be the best bet. It is possible to live in many state and National Forests for about 10-14 days at a time without being disturbed and a vehicle would allow you to move from one camping area to another to avoid being rousted. If taking temp jobs and gigs a car might allow you to take jobs you would otherwise have to pass up if public transportation does not go there.

    • Anonymous says:

      And a bike carrier and bike will keep you from having to burn gas going to and from work…

      just sayin….

  14. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    Loompanics had a book written by a person with pseudonym name Ace Backwards named HOW TO LIVE ON THE STREETS WITHOUT GOING OUT (or something like that) which was a good read. You might try looking for a copy of it, I found it interesting.

    Good article, the homeless right now live in conditions that many will find themselves in later on.

  15. village idiot says:

    Oh, yeah, urban nomad, I did forget one thing I intended to ask you. There was very little said in your article about security and self-defense. I realize that most cities in Canada do not allow carrying of firearms, but many cities in the so-called red states in the US have concealed carry laws. Have you given self-defense any thought? Pepper spray? Knives? Firearms? etc.

    • Urban Nomad says:

      Yes, I contemplated a section on self-defense but realized the different laws in each country would complicate it. I use a black Teflon-coated “Rambo” knife which is too long to be legally carried in the US but is legal in Canada. (Bought mainly because it looks menacing. It would of course be concealed when in the city during the day.) Also carry a tiny can of pepper spray that fits in a pocket. Both were bought online. Would like to try some thin body armour under clothes, but have no experience with that yet.

      Another thing I forgot under “Clothing” was a bug shirt that covers your head. The mosquitoes can be voracious deep in the bush at certain times of year.

      Thanks for reading! Hope your son never needs to use it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Hey urban
        great article – have you thought of a walking stick (think 5 foot staff) or a hachet in the pack

        just sayin…

      • Urban Nomad says:

        btw, being skilled at martial arts would probably be more valuable than any weapon. I’d also do the opposite of what homeless people do and completely avoid the seedy areas. If you wouldn’t go there normally, why would you go there when homeless?

  16. mindyinds says:

    Urban Nomad, this is a very powerful and well-written article. For me, most of the punch in it is your attitude: firm resolve added to uncompromising understanding of the facts of survival. It is those of us who can plug into this attitude who will make it in a TEOTWAWKI future.

  17. Hello Urban Nomad-
    You have all of my respect for the thoroughness and detail of your post. I have seen those whom I now realize were most likely urban homeless on their child-cart towing bikes full of things other than children, other folk too old to be students tapping away on their laptops, who were not overly hygienic (but not horrific, either), perhaps others seen in airports or train stations, libraries and shopping malls. Self-respecting modern homeless who are not without education and not suffering from mental illness or obvious substance dependencies, doing the best they can to survive day to day.
    Very, very eye-opening insight into what may going on in the lives of people we see around us, and getting more and more common every day.
    Thank you for writing this.

  18. Very good information . I hope nobody here has to put it to use . Being homeless is a nasty situation , but the only good thing is that if you had to be homeless , better to be that way in the US than homeless in less developed countries .

  19. I read a story like this online somewhere a few years ago. The author did this as an experiment for a long time. I knew a guy in college that did this to avoid dorm / apartment costs. He lived in a tent in a nearby park woods and showered at the gym every morning after he worked out. When he was not in class, he was in the library or student center and headed to the woods only after dark every night. My dorm was on his way there and he would often stop in and visit. We thought he was a little crazy at the time, but I recall it all worked out for him.

  20. Thank you Urban Nomad. Very compelling and invaluable information. You, MD, and the contributors here are all a blessing to many. God bless you.

  21. Encourager says:

    Thanks for a great article, Urban Nomad. I, too, am concerned about what you do to defend yourself. Also, I cannot see how a woman would be able to pull this off from a safety standpoint. Any input?

    • JedRebel says:

      This is JMHO Encourager but I think a woman could do it if she was smart, tough, decisive, motivated and had a good positive attitude. The reality is you’re not at that much of a disadvantage. If three or four guys jump me, without some type of weapon I’m in real trouble. Same as a woman. This ain’t boxing with weight classes it’s survival. If I was a woman and had to do it I’d have pepper spray in my left pocket or on a clip on my belt, BEAR spray in the water bottle pouch on the left side of my pack, a pistol on my right hip with a spare mag, and multiple knives. Carry a fixed blade in the small of your back. A boot knife is good cause it’s easier to reach if someone is on top of you. Then number one thing is being smart about where you go, what you do and who you do it with! Staying alert to the point of paranoia and simply avoiding bad places will go a long way. Seems like women often get into trouble more because they’re too trusting than because they’re too weak. That’s all JMO on it, obviously I don’t know anything about being a woman.

      • village idiot says:

        Jed, I won’t speak for encourager, but one problem I see for women trying to pull this off is that they can become a target just because they are a woman. I was in San Antonio recently, and as I waited on my wife and daughter to complete their shopping, I watched several men alter their paths, sometimes turning around and following attractive women. I observed one guy actually wait for a woman he was following to complete some shopping and leave a store. After she exited the store, he continued to follow her. I alerted the bicycle police to this behavior, but they didn’t seem to be concerned. I will say that a woman who dressed more conservatively than these women I referred to would not likely attract as much attention, but the rapes in the Occupy encampments don’t leave me confidant that women wouldn’t be targeted. That’s not to say some women couldn’t pull this off, but it would be much more difficult. And very dangerous. jm2c.

        • Urban Nomad says:

          A woman may opt to spend more time at the airport/train station and less in the wilderness, and to dress in loose, gender-neutral clothes. And I’d guess that the women-only shelters are a lot nicer and safer than the regular ones. As a woman, you have certain advantages. Due to society’s bias, women are regarded with much less suspicion and distrust than men are. A man in need of housing can’t easily get a job as a live-in caregiver, maid or nanny with free room and board.

          I used to do security for a summer festival downtown, guarding the alcohol and equipment every night for a week. We saw tons of homeless people pass through. I don’t recall a single female one. That suggests women are being looked after by society. They aren’t homeless for very long before other women or aid workers step in and give them the help they need. Statistically, men are by far the biggest victims of both homelessness and violent crime.

          At least all this has given me much more sympathy for the homeless. Though I’m no longer in any position to help them, here’s an idea for those who are. Buy some $5-$10 gift cards at a grocery store, restaurant, Starbucks, Walmart, etc. Keep them in your wallet and give one to any homeless person who asks.

          • Being a woman and having gone through this myself, the train station can be just as dangerous if not more. Each city has a different atmosphere in their train/bus/airport stations, and it is necessary to observe them for safety. When first arriving in any new area, find all exits, restrooms, find the police and security, and information booths. These all will be your new friends, if there is a situation. I’ve chatted with security and police for a few moments, so that they are aware of me. This is for protection. A single woman alone in a homeless situation has the usual homeless issues, plus the usual single woman alone issues. I have been stalked, and followed. The police have stepped in, so have security. Do not run away by yourself away from the lights and people, thinking this is safe. I did that once, and well, you can guess how it turned out. Carrying a weapon is ‘double-edged’ because it can be turned on you yourself. Knowing simple protection moves, helps (such as martial arts or SING), can help. Picking up anything and using it with force helps. (creativity – think bruce lee or jackie chan)

            Aide depends on the area one is in. I have been to two crisis centers where i was turned away while homeless, without any support or back-up. Other places offer networking for aide, and it takes time. The YWCA is generally a good place to start if there is one in your area, if not, go to an area that has one.

            The situation is quite serious with all of the families now without homes. There are still some that feign homelessness for a buck; but there is such a significant amount of real homeless – who need food and socks, and a kind word. They matter!

            • sparrow, thank you for posting your experience…and glad to hear your circumstances have changed for the better…I can’t imagine what you must have gone through – and yes, people matter, all people.

              Shocking that places turn people away – like Mt woman writes, lets keep love in our hearts…things can get worse – for any of us…I am so grateful that I have a place to return to each night and rest – and don’t take my circumstances lightly…am so appreciative.

              Sparrow, good luck and may God continue to bless you. cheers.

    • Encourager…for me, mastering a form of martial arts is key. For 40 years have known no other way – however I don’t put myself into scary situations purposely.

      Yes, have had 2 physical altercations in Europe – both Southern Europe where both times 2 men were focusing their attention on me as I was walking. What did I do as they closed in on me…took one out – I struck first before his arm/hand could grab me – no rules in a street fight – so, no mercy is expected nor given. The other idiot backed way off.

      Another time – deep southern Europe…walking in broad daylight in a main street with lots of people around…again 2 guys…gave them both fair warning to move away from me…they persisted – so, threw the closest one to me into the street – he was so close, was an opportunity too good to pass up…no more problems after that.

      Other instances have been verbal exchanges…last episode frightened my DD – had never seen me behave in that way – in public at Rome railway – again broad daylight and lots of people around –

      male was threatening and trying to intimidate and back me into a corner and wanted my money and other valuables – an exchange of shouted expletives ensued – he quickly moved out of my reach when he realized I was not the easy mark he had hoped for – these punks take on women – so women need to serve it back to them – hard, fast and no mercy…and then get the hell out of there before they get back up on their feet. (They may just pass on attempting the same thing on other women in the near future).

      About 1 hour later, DD and I are on a sightseeing bus – and we meet up with another mother/daughter – strangers – told me they had a similar encounter – but the mother was unable to give as good as she got, result being that the male punk got all the cash they were both carrying – and forced her to an ATM where she had to then withdraw the maximum daily amount on her card. They had already purchased their bus tickets for the afternoon bus run. When I heard the mother’s story – I just turned and looked at my DD, as my DD had been embarrassed at my uncouth behaviour – and had told me so.

      So, it doesn’t matter where you are…in your home, work place, socialising etc – if there is a threat – act immediately.

      Women, please, get some training – take the whole family to a martial arts centre/dojo…just start training – and make sure the training is reinforced at home daily – just 30 minutes will suffice – and then back to the bi/weekly classes, regularly.

      Your pepper spray may get knocked out of your hand, your purse with gun/knife/spray may be taken/lost in a scuffle, knives/guns can get grabbed off you, and used against you.

      Carry a stout umbrella – and be prepared to swing it hard enough to break/bend the metal with your FIRST strike/blow to attacker’s body…no half measures…

      break that umbrella against attacker’s neck, or front of face if possible – will make the eyes water – give you a chance to get away – make sure you can connect the handle to an attacker’s ear etc. Practice at home now with a wooden dowel or heavy stick – practice, practice, practice.

      Be aware that you will need to stay on balance – when there is a huge shift in your body – have to know how and where to place your feet to ensure the maximum force is expanded with your exerted physical effort.

      Practice feeling the recoil when you strike a tree trunk in your yard with a wooden dowel/staff…keep the grip on the staff or dowel..and wouldn’t hurt to always practice 2 blows in quick succession – one armed high, the other low – and mix it up…and strikes should be practiced both from the left side, and the right – make it a habit.

      Encourager…this is a long response…didn’t realize, but so important to know how to defend oneself…and to stay alert, cheers.

      • cosmolined says:

        Feel free to call me a good boy from here on out. God Bless! Cos

        • Cos…yes, you are definitely a good boy…re Mt Woman.

          and just realized – from browsing other sites…that using lower case in someone’s name is apparently disrespectful in blogspeak…so, from now on, hope I remember to use caps…however, I don’t mind if my handle is still all lower case…it is just easier and faster to type…and I just got back – had to finish off some paperwork – and logged in…cheers.

          • chloe,
            I don’t think it’s always disrespectful. The convention I have always seen used is to use the name in the way the poster used it, whether lower case, upper case, or both. The only netiquette I’m really familiar with is the use of all CAPS, which is considered SHOUTING. The other option for a reply is an obvious shortening of someone’s name, such as rr or RR for riverrider or OP for me. In most case, at least from what I’ve seen on this forum, folks generally don’t get too upset over trivial things like this, since we are generally more focused on content.

            • thanks Ohio Prepper – and yes, we are definitely focused on content…that is what I focus on…cheers

      • village idiot says:

        Amen, chloe! That’s the spirit.

        • VI…am LMHO right now…

          and can I ask…no need to reply…is your family attending martial art classes…or at least learning some defensive moves from you…wouldn’t hurt…all part of prepping you know….cheers.

      • Encourager says:

        Chloe, Thank you!!! You rock!! You are right, one needs to practice, practice, practice. I took a self defense class one time but had no one to practice with. I do remember some of the stuff, but in an emergency, would I? That class left me black and blue but much wiser. One practice was what if someone forced their way into your car? What would you do? First we were told, then shown then we practiced. For some reason, that scenario got my adrenaline pumping and when it was my turn to practice in the car, I kicked the attacker completely out of the car and he ended up against the light pole. I was horrified, he really was a nice guy, but when I apologized he sternly told me NEVER to apologize to someone who meant you harm.

        I need to learn how to use common things as a weapon. Where could I go to learn this stuff?
        Your daughter should be proud of you. I hope she learned a valuable lesson.

        • Encourager…in a life and death situation, and you’re exchanging or defending yourself from blows…your body is going to get messed up – yes, bruises – and much more than during say a 2 hour training session with a ref and 2 side refs.

          firstly – start gaining some muscle strength – use resistance training – use any items you have already …and strengthen and train arms, legs, back, neck (because if you are pushed to the ground with force, you need to be able to keep your chin tucked into your chest so it doesn’t hit the ground/pavement…let your body/back/shoulder take the impact…

          just lay on floor and see if you can hold your head off the floor for 3 seconds, then 4 seconds…only needs a short duration…also, if you have any medical issues…get this checked out before you start any kind of fitness/strengthening regime…

          I remember a nursing collegue…bending over to lift a newborn out of the cot…and she put her back out…ended up on a hospital bed for ages – just like that, no warning – so, keep your body strong. swimming is excellent.

          common things as a weapon…BROOM – if your husband doesn’t need it for sweeping – use it against a thick tree…practice swinging it into the tree from your left side, and then from the right side…wear gardening gloves, eye protection – because, you will split that wooden handle eventually…then, once all your brooms and mops are broken, you will resort to strong branches that you find when walking – once they have been split and useless – throw them in the fireplace…mine go in the BBQ.

          breadboard – wooden or those skinny plastic ones- practice throwing them at an object in your backyard…don’t laugh…and once your aim is good – who knows who will underestimate you.

          got any old irons around, you know, the ones your husband uses to iron clothes with…now be careful…and give yourself plenty of room…and no spectators, because you won’t be able to keep an eye on them as well as what that swinging iron is doing – and start swinging it with a SHORT length of the cord…BEFORE you contemplate using a longer grip – and this iron can never be used for ironing clothes again…(that is a good thing) –

          use your imagination on how you can use this…or, just keep it in the back of your mind…and then, if a life and death situation presents itself – and happen to be in the laundry area…can then grab your good iron for a useful purpose.

          Got any old metal camping plates…use them like frisbees…practice…start from 3 metres away from the garbage bin you are aiming for…when you can hit it every time – with both left and right hand throws – move the bin further away in increments to 5 metres…that is a good distance… you may be camping one day…someone steps out of line…throw them a plate…be inventive…have fun. costs nothing, and will make a huge difference.

          can you throw a knife into a tree trunk – have a go – have fun…

          how far and accurately can you throw things…anything…baseballs are hard…got a few hanging around to practice with.

          once you know you have the strength to launch objects – anything within reach can be used to defend yourself with if you are in danger. Measure the distance you can throw a ball now..and then practice, and then measure again in a few weeks.

          even a wooden coathanger…if you can’t maintain a fair distance from your attacker – then how about a few quick jabs in soft places – not the 1 meat and 2 veg area…maybe the neck, nose etc.

          Yes, my daughter is proud of me…I had her on the mat when she was 3 y/old..had to cut up the smallest sized judogi to fit her and cut the belt as well…SIL has 2 black belts from 2 different martial arts disciplines, neither judo…so, they spar regularly…and also box, when I find boxing gloves at thrift shops, I get them all…

          Also, one exercise you can do right now…for the whole family – is to have 2 people wearing one sock on one foot…say the left foot, and then, next time around, the right foot…and they are both on their knees on carpet…careful, because they will get carpet burn…then, they face each other…and each tries to get the sock of the other…and the winner may get an extra hour of laptop time, or the other gets to go some of the winner’s chores…you choose, make it fun – and see if you can get the sock of your husband’s foot…

          One time, I was still recovering from surgery and not up to standup techniques, but groundwork was okay…so, thought I could do the above exercise – and one of my student’s fathers couldn’t help himself…wanted to have a go – I lost…I was going gentle so I wouldn’t hurt this non-player…but the competitive streak in him was strong…all the kids laughed when he waved my sock in the air – and then they all threw themselves on him – to get his sock off.

          Think you can use a cast iron fry pan – better get stronger first…may only have the strength for one well aimed swing – so, practice…

          In a nutshell – have a go, have fun…

          We are all mindful of our anonymity and opsec…so, can’t post a youtube etc.

          so, be a resourceful and forward thinking prepper…and no doubt you will come up with a plan…let me know how you all go with that sock exercise…should be a riot…cheers.

          • Encourager says:

            Wow, Chloe! Thanks! I copied your reply into a Word doc and saved it. Lots of great ideas there. When camping and cooking, that cast iron dutch oven top would be a formidable weapon – and it would be hot! Also the lid lifter.

            At my age, some of what you suggested would be hard, but worth trying.

            • Encourager, I am Cos’ age…resist the aging process by keeping your body strong and flexible as much as you can…with steady stretches – whether standing or sitting, while watching news on TV maybe.

              Find an old inner bicycle tube to use to stretch – hang it somewhere that you pass often during the day…start with one stretch only…next day, do 2 stretches…just make it a habit…

              I always have a tube in my car – if stopped at roadworks – I just practice my hand grip…have you noticed elderly people lose the strength in their fingers and hands.

              or just practice holding a heavy object up at shoulder level…like a cast iron skillet….let me know how long you can hold it up the first time…can tell you may only be 5-10 seconds….hope this helps.

              Also, sometimes traveling with a male is not to be relied upon as one’s defense strategy…let me give you an example…

              my husband and I were traveling on the London Underground…we both knew how many stops before we had to get off…however, I saw my husband edging closer to the doors – and what did he do..he got off one stop too soon.

              And I couldn’t get through the people so I could also get off before the automatic doors closed again – so, I told him to just stay where he was, and I would get back to him…and I did.

              So, had I been traveling hoping that my husband would be there as my sole means of protection from any physical threat…I would have been unprepared to deal with any potential threats…

              We laughed about it later.

              You’re stronger than you think…as the mind must be trained first – then use that discipline to strengthen the body…and as you are a prepper – you are already mentally stronger than many others…

              so don’t sell yourself short – will be amazed at how small changes in one’s life can gather momentum…just like those stores steadily grow in size – a little bit, regularly, is achievable…cheers.

          • Awesome! 😀

            Thanks Chloe!

  22. arkieready says:

    Once upon a time, i lived in a car. With my bf (later married, had kids, then divorced). At age 20 it sucked a little, but not horrible. Really cold, really hot. Pretty dirty. Boring. Now? Ack no freaking way. Too old. But i learned it can be done. wish i had some of this knowledge then. we bathed under park water hydrants after dark. restroom sinks. but this was in the SE more rural regions. cities & crowds creep me out, i would not like it there.

  23. cosmolined says:

    Urban Nomad:
    Overall, a good article. As someone who’s been there, I can say this much. Peanut butter and a loaf of bread will allow you 3 sandwiches a day for about 10 days. I lost 18 pounds in 4 months. (Maybe we can call it the Peanut Butter Diet?)
    Dressing solely in black may not be the best in my opinion. Long term homeless clothes are all BLACK. If you can afford laundry, you can afford to look “normal”.
    Looking for a job of any level without a phone and address was futile in 1984 when I was between a rock and a rock. (I have B.S. Degrees in Chemical and Electrical Engineering but was unable to get work as a dishwasher…)
    When I had enough for a cup of coffee, I’d go to the local Dennys. They had hot water so I could shave and running water to brush my teeth. I’d take my toiletries in as a small carry bag so I didn’t stand out.
    When the Police would roust me in my car, think Spot Lights and guns drawn, I would always place both hands on the steering wheel, fingers extended and tell them before I made any move. Having my framed degree behind my seat always seemed to prove that I wasn’t up to no good, just a poor schmuck from Wyoming who came to the big City.
    As a side note, one of the things that sticks with you after this kind of thing is you always buy extra food….
    As for defense, I’d always park under a spot light in a County Park. Bad Guys hate the light. Once I got enough work to buy gas, I’d drive about 30 miles into the Kalifornia “mountains” to sleep. Village, I always slept upright in a bucket seat with a .357 under my leg, hence the polite response to LE. Hope this adds to Urban Nomad’s article. God Bless the Pack. Cos

    • village idiot says:

      Great story, cos, and the kind of experience that builds character. That tells me a lot about you, all good. I notice a lot of people now parking in Wal-Mart Supercenter parking lots at night, so people are still seeking the light, cos. I spent the night huddled in the front seat of my truck one time. I was camping at a crossroads near Douglas, Wyoming, when 70 mph winds blew our camp about a quarter mile away in the middle of the night. I learned the real meaning of “rock and roll” that night, I’ll tell you. And that camp coffee I had the next morning was the best coffee I ever had, even if I had to pick a few grounds out of my teeth. God Bless You, cos.

    • cos, when I was driving back from Ayer’s rock in 1994 – was so tired, and long distances between motels – was getting tired, and late – so I stopped at a 24 hour service station – nothing else for miles – in either direction – and parked under the huge light just past the pumps…I went in and asked if it would be okay if I slept in my car until morning – no problem…so my DD and I laid our front seats back and slept.

      In the morning, we paid $4 for a hot shower, and had a cooked breakfast in the restaurant – and then continued our journey home.

      I think when it comes to the crunch, we will all do what we need to do to stay as safe as possible…and I thank God that so far I have not had to experience what so many people are already experiencing. cheers.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Great Article – On the subject of stealth camping – I have been reading up “just in case” – one of the items I found interesting was that Wal-Marts tend to allow a RV or camper to “camp over nite without wassle at the edge of their parking lots – – Also another place that tends to allow restroom priviliges is hospitals – just keep a respectable look and your golden

    just sayin…

    • Anonymous says:

      Also – If you can afford Side Window Deflectors for your vehicle they are awesome – you can crack your window and rain doesn’t leak in and its hard to see its cracked open at all – you can hear outside and your windows don’t steam up

      just sayin….

      • cosmolined says:

        That is a really GREAT suggestion! My windows always steamed over after it cooled off. Cos

  25. Urban Nomad…first, thankyou for sharing your experience and insights.

    And glad to read that things are looking up for you now – and, you now have the added benefit of skills and experience – ensuring that you will continue to survive no matter what…it must be a good feeling to have.

    Regarding fitness – you are so right about the fitness level required by backpackers carrying their packs with all their goods in it…and good shoes to support ankles and knee joints. On my last backpacking trip – 5 weeks duration – every time I could find a baggage depository at the railway station – I gladly dumped my pack for a few hours.

    For me the most important thing I have gained from your article is to remove my large (4” thick) mattress from my swag/tent and only keep one thermarest inflating mat, and one top inflating mat – and that is it…am going to give it a try next time am out in the bush. (with my big mat inside the car, just in case). I’m still a long way from being able to do what you have managed.

    And definitely agree with you regarding black clothing – and that reminds me that too many of my jogging shoes have all those reflective bits on them…

    Your article makes so many excellent points – thank you. Fri 17:25hours – …Cheers.

  26. karla from colorado says:

    Great article, well thought-out — and something (or things!) I’d never thought of before! It would be, perhaps, easier than bugging out to blend-in in an urban setting and the advantage would be that you would be close to the supplies and conveniences needed to survive.

    Thanks for your words and ideas – and hope things improve for you soon!

  27. With regard to food a lot of churches have pantries that give you food for anything from one meal to several days. A church in our small city has a mid-week meal and program. For several months a homeless man came in for the meal and was never turned away. He actually began staying for the program. Eventually found work, a place to stay, and attended the church fairly often. Not all churches would do that, but more do than most people think.

  28. Pineslayer says:

    Good post.

    Avoid self-inflating pads, heavy and they get holes. They are great for car camping, but the regular foam pads are sturdy, weight half as much, and can be repaired with duct tape.

    Security, difficult and getting worse. Here in CO, open carry, I always have a fixed blade on my hip. By putting in my pack, I have just broke the law. I have a CCP, but can’t put a blade longer than 3.5″ in my pack, stupid. So if you were playing the travelling homeless role, any visible weapons are a signal to be harassed and if you put it in your pack you are asking to have your stuff confiscated or worse. Hope that you blend well and don’t get in any situation where LE would want to bother with you.

    Also, I am a big fan of umbrellas, quick deployment, good for wind, sun and precipitation.

    I love my van! Tinted windows and curtains. I have spent the night in various locals with no problems. Remember light and noise discipline. Lastly, bikes, easier to carry your stuff, faster than walking. Downside, like everything has, can be stolen easily when not in your sight. Anybody here ever travel or live with their motorcycle?

    • Pineslayer…the only experience with my motorcycle was riding back from Childers to back up north…my chain broke just outside Bowen..so I had to push the bike (250cc Yamaha) the whole way into the town -which is well off the highway – and kept pushing that bike right up to the RACQ office, attached to the mechanic’s workshop – and then, booked myself into a motel for the night…

      so, not a survival experience – but, definitely not just sitting around waiting for help – just had to do what I had to – when office opened in morning, got new chain put on, and was on my way again.

      However, the interesting part is that when I then walked to the nearest motel to where I had left my bike – I had trouble getting a room…carrying my helmet and gloves, and duffel – couldn’t understand what the problem was…the clerk was just not interested – I showed her I had cash for the room etc – then I saw my reflection in the mirror…

      I looked a fright – all sunburnt, hair disheveled…and completely exhausted from riding since early that morning, and then pushing the bike for miles in the afternoon sun. After that episode, only rode bike on short trips for years.

      So, people do treat you differently, depending on how you are dressed, and mode of travel…stereotyping at its worst. cheers.

  29. Build one of these and you never need to be homeless

  30. Great urban survival tips, Urban Nomad.

    May I add in cold winter, a complete Snowmobile Suit is the ultimate shelter. I got one living where it gets 45 below zero, tested and proven at 40 below and it is great! It includes double mitts, insulated overalls with suspenders, an insulated jacket, insulated waterproof knee-high boots. I had to use it when my power and furnace went out, during snowstorms, walking to get to stores when no car or truck could move.

    I have been homeless and broke years ago and sought food or shelter at churches as Mary mentioned. If they find your intentions good, members may take you in or give you a hand up to find work.

  31. Thanks for the excellent article Urban Nomad. Two items; I recently purchased a Swiss Ranger Volcano Stove Set from Cheaper Than Dirt at this URL: http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/WX130-1.html and have found it an excellent survival stove. I’ve used it with a small Sterno type fuel can and also a wood fire started with a pine cone and vasoline impregnated cotton plus adding small pieces of wood. It comes with a one liter water bottle and a cup with both of them designed to use the actual stove. One other item is that recently, there were some homeless folks that were camped out in a wooded area near my subdivision who could have used your advice. They used blue tarps to cover their tents and they stayed way too long. I also noticed one of them surveilling our subdivision one morning. Not a good thing ever. Folks who are travelling through should not be doing that and avoiding obviously posted property.

  32. Great Post UrbanNomad

    I’m glad you wrote this – my experience was similar – came from a nice suburban setting and suddenly was on the street after some unfortunate events. I took it on like camping, it was summer when i started, so sleeping in a hammock in reservoir areas gave me privacy, safety, and a good water source. I tried suburban areas, but police patrol was about and i had less and less excuses. The mall is a good place to hang out during the day; parks can be slept in during the day, with a picnic blanket. The library also is a great place to do research on their computers, as well as sleep with a book in front of your face. They have restrooms that are ideal for the above collapsible pail and mirror strategy.

    I used a large coat in winter as my tent. I carried a roll of plastic garbage bags, which provides groundcover, and can be cut, wrapped, taped for any purpose, from insulation to rain protection, to burying and storing belongings. And great hiding/sleeping areas can be large overgrown bushes.

    I found that the Mailboxes Etc, and other mail services do the ‘address’ look on envelopes, so as to give one a physical address. It costs about $100 for a year.

    I love the collapsible pail and mirror idea. Never did that. I found that if i stayed clean – used minimal water from water rations and a washcloth, kept me clean enough most times. Kept my clothing neat by not sleeping in them if i could avoid it. Then used the restrooms in places like the Hilton, and nicer hotels. If one looks presentable, there are no questions asked; and no one staying at such hotels uses the lobby restroom unless there is a restaurant in the lobby also. Gives much time to clean up extensively as in wash hair in the sink, shave, complete sponge bath, wash clothes and put in ‘plastic bag’ for hanging dry later; and filling up hot water bottles for keeping warm for sleep. Campgrounds are becoming more guarded and keeping bathrooms locked.

    I agree with the one purpose soap. I had something called ‘Miracle Soap’ which cleans everything from body to clothing, containers, dishes, washes windows and clothing. It is a concentrate that one adds water too and hardly any soap is used at all. It is non-toxic and biodegradable.

    As far as the sleeping in winter goes – whatever the sleeping bag says it is warm to – subtract 30 degrees for the actual temperature. As if it says it is rated for 30 degrees – it means 55 degrees or so. Use a hot water bottle in your sleeping bag at night, with covering on your head, and you will stay warm, in most weather to 30 or so.

    Glad you got out. I did too. Keeping a positive attitude helps. It seems the futility gets into some people, and thats where it starts to go down. Drinking makes it worse, so does drugs. We are resilient beings, capable of much courage and determination. We can accomplish that which we need.

    • wow Sparrow…amazing…lots of good info in your post…

      also, most people don’t realize just how cold it gets when sleeping outdoors…our houses are so insulated, and can barely hear it raining at times..yet when one is out there with only a thin sheet of plastic or nylon tarp…the force of the rain hitting the tarp and side of tent is tremendous, as least here in the tropics…

      I love camping, however, I know that I have a sheltered home to go back to and that makes all the difference…could I do it full-time – am still trying to get to that stage, so that I can feel at home either inside 4 walls or the open spaces.

      I take my hat off to you who had to do it without any backup…truly amazing…will be thinking about this homeless article this weekend as will be camping and trekking in the scrub for 3 days…

      so glad you posted this, as I responded to your post above…and good to hear you are in a better place now…cheers.

      • Thank you Chloe,
        Life has weird turns sometimes. Being grateful is a virtue that gets us through, also guts and determination. I think practice can only get us so far, its more what we are made of, and our attitude in life. I keep finding new things I know nothing of. It is okay to be scared, its honest. It is okay to cry, it is honest. Being angry is also. When there are no attachments to how we are ‘supposed to be’, then we have the ability to see the way things really are. That gives us options, and the ability to act in a situation.

        I see you practice this already with your martial arts stories, and your sharing compassion. (So awesome! Inspiring too :) ).

        • Sparrow…much profound insight in your post…hope you keep posting in the future…am sure with your life experience and insights you have much valuable info for others. Take care and God bless you…cheers.

  33. Urban Nomad,
    While none of us expect to be in a homeless situation, and in my case I would have to fall through many layers of people and resources, this is good information to know, and can give one perspective on living in or traveling through the urban jungle. I think a lot of these concepts could be used as part if you’re GHP (Get Home Plan). Too many folks have a GHB and assume that they’ll be able to make it home either by vehicle, bicycle, or on foot. For the bike or on foot traveler, these techniques could be valuable, especially when your trip home may cover days instead of hours. I often talk with people who have plans that make certain assumptions and because of those assumptions are too rigid and perhaps prone to failure when it can be least afforded. Having contingencies like some of those mentioned in this post would allow a plan to be more flexible and dynamic, and because of that, give the plan an overall better chance of success. Good post & good luck.

    • OhioPrepper, very good point re using some of the ideas as part of a ‘get home bag/journey plan’. Perhaps our greatest physical asset is our reasoning/problem solving brain – cheers.

Commenting Policy:

We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Our community is built on the sharing of information via the comments section below, but before you post your first comment please read our "comments policy" carefully. Also some comments are moderated depending on the content and while we try to get your comment published as quickly as possible, sometimes it may take several hours before your comment appears live.