Apartment Dweller Prepping- Part 1, by AKM295

Precious metals, dehydrated food, bug out cabins, and surplus everything are some of things that may spring to mind, thanks to pop culture and the media, when you mention prepping to someone who isn’t familiar with the topic. Those were the things that I thought of too, when I first began looking into how I could be more prepared for an emergency or disaster I might face back when I was fresh out of college.

When I Moved To A Big City

Back when I was a naive graduate who moved to a big city with student debt on my back, one room in a small shared apartment to call home, and extremely limited resources, a lot of the information I was finding did not apply to me or my living situation. I’m not starting a homestead or prepping a house for a family. I was one guy in his early twenties sharing an apartment and just squeaking by.  I had to cherry pick as much knowledge as I could and figure out how to make it work for me. Some information proved vital while others made me second-guess why I felt it was important in the first place.

What I’ve Learned From Experience

With several years of a preparedness mindset under my belt and experience in several long-term power outages and natural disasters (including Hurricane Sandy), I’d like to share what I’ve learned with other cash strapped, apartment dwelling, urban preppers. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s simply one man’s take on some highlights as to what he has found helpful.


When you might be lucky to have 150 square feet of private living space to yourself, stockpiling isn’t really an option. You have to work within the limits of the space that you have.  It can be difficult to find a balance for where you can comfortably work and live day to day but also have room for things you might need in an emergency. Nobody wants to live in a room surrounded by prepping gear and storage totes, so you have to figure out a solution that will work for you.

With one small closet and a bedroom to work with, I found I was able to get the additional storage space I needed by using generic bed risers along with some creative organization. These little accessories raise your bed five to six inches off the ground and give you some extra room to stash things out of sight and out of mind.

This gave me the extra room I needed to stack gallon water jugs and emergency storage bins against the wall the bed was aligned against. These larger items were then easily concealed with things like a small dresser, other organizing bins, and the general clutter that life brings your way.

Storage Section Summary: Find ways to maximize your storage space within your limited living area.


When thinking about food storage and prepping, it is quite easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole. Dehydrated food and MREs are heavily marketed to the prepping community. Somehow you aren’t ready for a disaster unless you have emergency food in mylar pouches ready to go at a moment’s notice. Or perhaps the image that comes to mind is a pantry the size of a living room stuffed to its gills with canned goods. That would be living the dream for sure.

While dehydrated meals and MREs serve an important role in rounding out a layered system of food for a long-term emergency, the problem I found was the costs associated with purchasing food like this while trying to make ends meet. I couldn’t wrap my head around paying several hundred dollars for food I may not eat or need when I had a week of meals to plan and groceries to buy. And as much as I liked the idea of a dedicated pantry room, when you share an apartment you tend to just get a shelf in the fridge and the pantry and not the whole kit and caboodle.

What “Pantry” Means To An Urban Prepper

I learned that a well-stocked, conventional pantry really is an urban prepper’s best friend. “Pantry” becomes an all-encompassing word to mean the kitchen and wherever you might have spare space in your room if kitchen space is at a premium with your roomies. Having cans of food and vegetables I regularly would use in my daily life were things I could use in an emergency. Dry goods like rice, beans, and pasta are things you can eat during those tough times or when they are not. Some of these non-perishable items would live in the kitchen for regular use, while others lived in a storage tote under the bed to be rotated in.

During Hurricane Sandy we lost power for a week and were lucky to have gas to cook with. We never lost access to it. If you live in an area where you have an electric range or want to backup your gas range, it may make sense to consider alternative options, like a portable butane burner or a propane camp stove. There are inexpensive options for both that can keep hot food coming. You will have to use your best judgment on which is the best fit for your living situation.

Food Section Summary: Stock up on food you regularly eat at the grocery store that has a decent shelf life. Have a backup means to prepare that food.


A row of 55-gallon water drums lined up in a garage is a fantasy for someone who doesn’t have a garage. Water bricks and the like are an option, but these can be expensive and take up more room than we might have available. Plus, with a lifestyle that might involve moving to a new apartment frequently, they make an awkward logistical issue.

I found it was easy and convenient to keep a week’s worth of water on hand by simply hitting the local bodega or grocery store and snagging a gallon container of water during each run. In a couple of weeks I had enough water to get me through a week. I discovered that gallon containers in the shape of a cylinder were worth buying, as they were easily stacked compared to water in a milk jug-like container. The built in feature with storing water in this manner is that in the lead up to a move, they can be rotated in and used for drinking water before the move. You can keep a few on hand to stay hydrated during a crosstown move and restock as you get settled into your new place.

Extra Source for Household and Sanitation Water

For those with a tub in their living situation, a bathtub water container, like a Water Bob, is also a great option when you have a bit of advanced notice to your particular emergency. I have used it when the apartment I lived in had a tub. When the apartment didn’t, it packs away extremely easily, making it easy to move with. Simply fill it and use if needed. These bathtub shaped water bladders can hold a ton of water within the confines of the tub. Designating this water for household, kitchen, or sanitation purposes opens up options and is more appealing than tapping into stored drinking water for similar purposes.

Water Section Summary: Hit the grocery store for simple gallon jugs of water and keep enough on hand for at least a week of drinking and household use.

Tomorrow, we will take a look at security, finances, energy, the bug out bag, and more.

See Also:

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been part one of a two part entry for Round 74 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  7. Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
  8. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
  7. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
  6. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).

Round 74 ends on January 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


  1. Another area to consider when looking for more storage in a small apartment is your furniture. There’s a lot of wasted space under couches, chairs, tables, etc. If you’re at all handy with wood and tools you can build your own furniture with tons of built-in storage – just use your favorite search engine to search for things like ‘diy storage couch’. You could also spend some time researching the work being done with tiny houses – they have tons of clever ideas for maximizing storage.

  2. When I lived in high rise apartments in the city they had fairly large storage areas in the basement (large area broken into small rooms by walls of wire fencing framed with 2x4s , with each apartment having a small storage room with a door that could be secured with a lock. The storage room being roughly the size of a large walk-in closet.)

    New York City is more limited on space so I don’t know what they have there but obviously most apartment dwellers need to store a lot of stuff other than survival supplies so one might check with the building manager.

    Apartments with balconies let you store a Coleman camp stove with a grill’s large propane tank (needs adapter hose). If you only need to do the equivalent of boiling a pint of water a day, that tank could let you cook for 3 months or so –without smoke exposing your location. However, a hibachi lets you cook out on the balcony with twigs gathered from the parks.

  3. PS Most cities are beside large rivers. A water filter system like the Sawyer All in One plus a 5 gallon bucket would let you screen out bacteria and you could add clorox to kill any viruses in the filtered water. This could give you a water supply in addition to what you store. Used in the Third World.

    Plus water supply systems in cities under stress can degrade (no money to pay employees or buy water purification supplies) and tap water can become contaminated.

    One advantage of the US Army’s old Alice Pack system is that you can put a cargo shelf on the bottom of the pack and carry 5 gallon water containers like the Spectre.


  4. For preppers on a budget, rather than buy dehydrated food or MREs, you can simply buy a few more cans of fruits, vegetables and meats. Sure, they’re heavier than dehydrated, and best suited to those who Bug-In, but they minimize waste and can be part of your normal cycle of use.

  5. I call it food assurance rather than insurance. And I agree with the buy-more-food-than-you-need concept.
    Props to Steve.

    Thinking back to my apartment days. I learned then than my favorite size boxes were called bankers-boxes. You would see them in places like OfficeMAx purchased for the intention of archiving business taxes or sales-deals etc. I’ve only bought them new-full-retail once and all the rest of my boxes are 2nd hand from business going out of business or moving.

    Keep your goodies in these heavy duty boxes designed for paper, and your friends won’t balk when they help you move as it all weighs the same.

    If you plan to need 3 cans of beans buy 5 every payday cycle and go for the generic brand and pay close attention if there is a sale bogo 10% coupons etc. I usually wipe out a large chunk of the stores inventory of tuna when it drops to .75 a can.

    None of this makes any difference if you don’t have that vision or dream out in front of you. You can do it. Survival is optional and you have what it takes. Stay the course and stay alive.

  6. Water BOBs – if there’s no tub, some plywood sheets held together with ratcheting tie-downs can make a “temporary tub” and the plywood lays flat between uses (between bed frame and mattress, or box springs and mattress is good). To get fancy, attach sides to base with hinges, knock out hinge pins to stack the flats (put hinges on outside to avoid sharp edges cutting the bladder). Check how much weight the floor will hold first – 80 gallons of water is 665 lbs.

    Propane/hibachi grill on apartment balcony – most jurisdictions prohibit this by requiring combustibles be used a minimum distance from a dwelling.

    Can storage – ThriveLife.com makes great adjustable FIFO can storage but it’s not as space-efficient as boxes – 12X9X9 box (Staples, $18.50 for 25, free ship-to-store) will hold 24 standard 15.5 oz cans and can be stacked, each is about 27 lbs. Put in 8 protein, 8 fruit, 8 veggie, tape a few P-38s under the lid, fill space between cans with plastic cutlery and it’s a grab-n-go food unit. Date all the cans you bring home, date the outside of the box you put them in, rotate boxes for FIFO. Use several as closet foor, put cardboard or plywood on top. Stack a bunch, cover with tablecloth, plywood sheet on top, call it an end table.

    Amazon has extra-high steel bed frames, they’re surprisingly cheap, assemble quickly and knock apart easily to make them easy to move, even comes with a plastic hammer for assembly/disassembly. 16″ under-bed height allows for std 5 gallon buckets.

    A hollow plywood coffee table, assembled with screws, can hold a lot of stuff, can be disassembled easily for moving, same for hollow end tables. Cover with a tablecloth for decor.

  7. One of the mant prepper items I have been reading about in magazines like Recoil, Offgrid, and American Survival Guide is collapsible water containers. Some can be folded up and some, most, can be rolled up. These are not the ones of ‘ol, no these are made with bigger, badder, awesomer plastics that will last a long long long time before they wear out. They in many different sizes. I currently own 20 of them and are part of my water prepping both long and short term. They are very lite, compact, when empty, and very easy to store. REI and Sportsmans Warehouse both have a entire rack designated just for them. I was able to get all 20 with a combination of sales, on line coupons and a couple of in store gift cards, one I got as a B-day gift the other I started my self and half of my recycled cans/bottles money to that way I always have something to buy at least from Sportsmans Warehouse from, all in all I was able to get all of them for almost half price. Oh … and invest in a proper cleaning kit for them with the proper brushes and cleaning solutions to keep them from getting nasty, growing bad thing that can make you sick, and/or if you need or accidentally cross contaminate them. Prep wisely and plan accordingly. Enjoy!

  8. Good Job so far!

    Get youself basic skills like basic carpentry by hand, or how operate a forge, This will be beneficial in any post-collapse society.

    Obviously location, location, location; Get out of this city as soon as possibl, for your Physical Health, and Well Being.

    God Bless,

  9. Concentrate on being able to bugout,and a location to go to relative/friend/groups cabin/farm/acreage maybe preposition supplies there and use for weekends/holidays/vacations. Think multiuse.

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