7 Ways City Prepping Is Different Than Country Prepping

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Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course

I used to have that idyllic country lifestyle that most preppers dream about. Chickens, goats, acreage, a creek running through the backyard, and most of all, seclusion. It was wonderful. I learned so much about raising animals, keeping hungry deer out of my garden, and being self-reliant to a much larger degree.

But then life happened and that wasn’t going to work for us anymore. My precocious kid graduated homeschool at 16 and wasn’t able to follow her dreams in the state and location where we lived. Obviously, at that age, I wasn’t about to turn her loose to go to school in a different state, so we relocated.

We moved to a suburban area in southern Virginia.  Gone was the acreage and the privacy, but that didn’t mean that I gave up on prepping. No way! I firmly believe that no matter where you live, you can be prepared. You may not be able to have a whole farm but you can still be self-reliant and prepped.

However, city prepping and country prepping are two different animals. Here are some of the ways that it’s different.

#1) You have to reign in the redneck when you’re in town.

When I lived out in the boondocks, nobody cared when there was a faint odor of livestock, mud in the mudroom, and hay in the back of the Jeep. In the city, things are a little different. If I set up an ugly, makeshift greenhouse using a clear plastic tarp and zip ties over a swing set in the front yard, the neighbors would 100% complain. In the country, lots of people have redneck things set up and nobody really cares.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have a greenhouse. It just can’t be in the front yard and it has to be one that looks a little nicer. Heck, you can even have a teeny one on a patio or balcony.

#2) In the city, OPSEC is even more important.

When you live within city limits, you’re bound to have neighbors. That means that OPerational SECurity is even more important than it is in the country, where you have a privacy buffer between yourself and other people.

In the city, you don’t want to be seen lugging in buckets and buckets of emergency food. People will comment something along the lines of “You got a bunker down there?”  It’s a joke now, but if they’re going hungry later, they’ll remember it.

In the city, everything you do outdoors has the capacity to be seen from by a person outside the family. Even if your back yard is fenced, a person on the second floor of another home will be able to see inside. So, your garden and your urban chickens? Everybody will know about them.

#3) In the city, you can’t go whole-hog (literally) on self-reliance.

There are a lot of things you can do in the city to be more self-reliant, but it should more look like a quirky hobby than an effort to set up a full-on homestead.

Your livestock will be limited to chickens and rabbits (if that – check your municipal website to find out what your local laws are.)  You aren’t going to be able to raise pigs or goats, and there will be no backyard butchering station in most cities.

There’s only so much of a garden you can have because there’s only so many places in your city yard with good sunlight where it’s also socially acceptable to plant vegetables. (But if you’re creative, there are quite a few things you can sneak in.)

#4) In the city, there are fewer 4-legged predators and foragers.

When I lived in the country, it was a constant battle to keep things (besides us) from eating our chickens and getting into our gardens. Between the bears, the mountain lions, the foxes, the coyotes, and the deer, raising food in the boondocks isn’t as easy as people expect it will be.

In the city, you are unlikely to have to worry about any of these things. The only trouble we’ve had have been from skunks, raccoons, and groundhogs. I’m sure there is no place completely free of varmints that want what you’re raising, but it really is easier to protect hens and veggies within city limits.

#5) In the city, you have access to a lot of stuff nearby.

This would most likely change if times were really bad, but within walking distance of our home, we have a co-op, a huge weekly farmer’s market, a community garden, and a meat market that sells only local products.

Throughout the growing season, we hit the market right before it closes and cart home tons more produce than we could ever grow, even in the country.  Then, in my nice big city kitchen, I dehydrate, can, and freeze all day Sunday. Sure, I did this in the country, too, but I had to drive more than an hour round trip to do it.

And the shopping is great, too. We have every possible big box store within 30 minutes of us, as well as many grocery stores within that same circle of convenience. Shopping the sales has never been easier. When we lived in the country, we just hit one store that regularly had the best prices, but here I can purchase the loss leaders from 4-5 different stores within an hour or two. It’s made a massive difference in our budget.

There’s a lot of convenience to living in a place where you can get things that you’d normally have to drive an hour to purchase.

#6) In the city, you have neighbors that can help you quickly.

We have been fortunate to have wonderful neighbors, although I know from experience this isn’t always the case. When I was recently recovering from surgery, our next-door neighbors were great about asking if we needed anything from the store, taking our trash to the curb and bringing it back in, and offering rides to appointments. If my daughter had needed help, it would have been right there, seconds away.

When another neighbor’s husband had a heart attack in the back yard, we heard a commotion and were over there helping out immediately while awaiting the ambulance. We took care of their dog and cat while he was in the hospital and left meals in the refrigerator that could be heated up when our neighbor returned home to get some rest after a long day at the hospital.

I know for a fact that country neighbors are great, too. In the city, however, you get to have a network close by.

Also, while I’m not recommending that 911 be your official home defense plan, you generally get a much faster response from police, fire, and ambulances in town. Where I lived before, it took a minimum of 45 minutes for the aid to arrive.

#7) In the city, a lot of your preps look environmentally friendly.

City folks are big into the environment and you can use that to your advantage when prepping. You can compost, you can have rain barrels, in many towns you can keep chickens, and you can do all sorts of things that preppers do while looking like another city hipster.

There is even a massive community garden just a couple of blocks from my house. I have a tiny little plot there, mostly so I can get to know other self-reliant souls.

You can be self-reliant in the city.

City life is very different from country life, but it’s certainly not impossible to be self-reliant. We’ve had fantastic luck with our gardens, we’re allowed to have up to 5 hens, and we can access more stuff much easier than we could when we lived in the boonies. Having neighbors has been a really nice change, and we’ve enjoyed this experience.

To the people who walk past my house to go to the park down the street (with walnut trees and a river, by the way) I just look like a city gal who has some flowering vines and a couple of big dogs. To my neighbors, I’m the friend who swaps my tomatoes for their mulberries (and brings them a jar of homemade jam.)  I have 48 different grocery stores to choose from within 45 minutes of my home, as well as 4 farmers markets and farms with produce stands. (No patterns of buying tons of stuff with all that variety!)

I still can and dehydrate, I still cook from scratch, and I still raise and forage for some of my own food. I have supplies, nearby water sources, and great neighbors. I have a plan for a wide variety of emergencies. (You can check out my new workbook to create your own plan.)

I firmly believe that you can be prepped anywhere. Life doesn’t always plant you in the “ideal” location, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t be prepared.  I’m not saying that city prepping is necessarily better than country prepping but it sure does have some nice benefits.

There will be variables, of course, in any setting, but you can prep anywhere. Don’t let anyone tell you that it can’t be done.

What about you?

I started out in the city and to the city, I returned.  I loved living in the country, but there are also many things I enjoy about city life. And in either place, I am prepared.

Has anyone ever turned up their nose at your location? What do you see as the pros and cons of prepping in different environments? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • Thanks Daisy! My family and I live in a city that is trying hard to build resiliency into its culture. There are active CERT groups training and building their ranks. There is public messaging around go-bags and 2-weeks ready. But there is also a lot of work to be done. Aging infrastructure including water mains and bridges, schools and hospitals not hardened/improved, etc. The thing I want to comment on is the situation were you try to build community with your neighbors/neighborhood and their plan is basically “OK, we will come to your house.” This is a reoccurring issue across many places and you speak to it in #2 OpSEC. It is a delicate balance of community building and privacy. Seems like the only strategy, at times, is silence.

  • Used to live in a city, from anything above a minor week long issue it’s a death sentence. Sure if local you will get help first teowaki and we’ll you are in a rat cage with many competitors for next to zero resources and no way to sustain resource depletion without functioning transport chain. Just think water and firewood where after power out will you get them in quantity you will need?

  • Convenient city life sure looks enticing as long as things keep right on clicking along. But the point behind prepping is to be as ready as can be once the world changes for the worst and the clicking along stops. What would be the life expectancy of a city neighborhood should the trucks stop rolling? If the power suddenly went off for weeks or even longer? If a pandemic caused city services to be severely limited because employees were sick or not showing up for work, or the water gets turned off?

    Rural and urban both have advantages and disadvantages and each of us need to seriously consider what they both are if we are lucky enough to be able to make a choice between the two.

    • Some great points, Les! And I think your last sentence sums it up – “if we are lucky enough to be able to make a choice.” If we’re not able to make that choice, then we have to make the best of where we’re at right now. 🙂

    • Yes, Les, some of us–including me–ARE lucky enough to be able to choose where to live.
      I would like a lot more info about rural prepping, and what locations survived best in Yugoslavia and Argentina and Venezuela the the s’s hit those fans.

      City, suburban, small town, farm communities, middle of nowhere? Each has advantages, but where is survival under teotwaki highest?

  • Yes, I’ve been repeatedly informed that I will die a horrible lingering death by living in a city. The preppers who say this are almost always retired people who can live in the country because they don’t need to work at a job in the city anymore. It also seems to amaze them that I would like to do something other than farming, ranching and hunting. Country living is a lifestyle that many un-retired people can’t afford or don’t prefer even if they could afford it. People can’t live out their lives in someplace they don’t want to be, just in case there’s an EMP etc. A person can prep for most likely scenarios and have a bugout plan for outlandish scenarios.

  • There’s prepping and prepping. If you are focused on getting through a severe weather event or an influenza epidemic urban prepping is as good as exurban prepping for a relatively short term period.. However, preppers need to consider their immediate needs as well as potential long term crises that may not materialize. Short term needs should be considered whenever you are weighing the pros and cons of your location, including proximity to medical facilities and pharmacies. If you are so focused on a total collapse of society that you ignore your need for asthma or blood pressure medication, or the potential for a medical emergency, you’ve kinda missed the point of being prepared for ANY situation.

    • I think you may be mistaken, Miss Kitty. You don’t have to live in Outer Mongolia isolated from all the amenities you mention in order to live a rural lifestyle. I live rural and have everything you mention only a short drive away. Closer, in fact, than some who live IN the city have to drive! Groceries, shopping, restaurants, medical facilities, schools, gym, fuel, entertainment… well, you get the point. We don’t lack for any of that, and they are the amenities Daisy is so fond of. What we also have is privacy, room to grow, harvest, and raise food if we choose to or visit local farmer’s markets if we don’t. Other than my driveway, we actually have paved roads, electricity, and flush toilets indoors! *laugh*

      • I agree. I lived in our county seat. Population not quite 8,000. Our smallest “city” has 35 people; the second largest almost 3,000, in an area of 1,200 sq miles. Some nuns started my town in the 1800’s, established the first hospital, nursing homes, etc. People come from hundreds of miles away because of the hospital and nursing homes reputation. Even have a large Walmart. We are still in the middle of nowhere, with more cows and pigs than people. I live in the middle of the old section of town, in 1/3 acre surrounded by white oaks, and a couple of maple trees. I have a large vegetable garden, a food forest with just about every fruit that grows in Northern Minnesota, and a certified Wild Life Habitat. (Trying to save the bees.) Also my own separate art studio. Closest large city is over 100 miles away. Hick town with all the amenities of a large city. One cv death (from out of town), crimes fall under petty theft, since our number one and two criminals suffered a very untimely death, while targetting a not exactly sane, senior citizen. I sometimes sell at one of our farmer’s market, most of our small towns have their own. Not mentioning where, we are now getting people from the cities, faster than us old folks can die and our homes become available.

  • I will always be glad for the time I was able to spend living in a city, though I was never able to afford more than suburban residence. There are real advantages that you note, and the cultural assets are what I miss most. All my time living in Tokyo, I was always looking wistfully out at the mountains, and eventually moved to the foothill suburbs, where I was very happy. Unfortunately, the urban and subsequently suburban environment wound up making me and my husband so sick that we finally had no choice but to go rural. Thus my denigration of city life would be sour grapes, but I distinctly remember standing atop a hill overlooking Tokyo at the New Year moment a year or two before I left and not being able to conjure a single positive thought about it, and more recently taking the trains in Tokyo and having all kinds of miserable recollections flood back. I really am a mountain cat.

  • Yes, city living has some advantages, but the people can make or break it. I have lived in a lot of different places around too many people who didn’t want to get along with others and they were always trying to start trouble. Either them, or the hateful brats they were raising. For me, if I can find me a country home and push the envelope as far as possible towards self I sufficiency, that is my goal. Society has deteriorated so badly it’s not safe to live around anybody anymore! Sorry to burst your “city is OK” theme but there is also a cold and hard reality about city life that makes me prefer the country.

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