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Top 10 Things You Need To Survive The Streets

This is the first in what is going to be a series of lists on surviving the streets. Living on the streets is not an easy thing – it can be as arduous as a full time job. Therefore it is essential that you carry only the most important things with you. Unlike a camping trip, you have to live light. You can’t carry a backpack with all your worldly goods – it is simply not practical. So, what do you need when living on the streets?

10. Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag – preferably one made of down because it is lightweight and very compact. This is the most vital piece of equipment you will need. You can either stash the bag, or carry it with you. Carrying it with you makes you more mobile because you can sleep wherever you end up. If you can’t get a good quality down bag, double bagging two poor quality ones will do the job (though definitely not as well).

9. Matting

Matting is also needed (preferably plastic and lightweight) – you must keep your sleeping bag off the ground away from the damp. If you can’t find or buy matting, at least make sure you put your sleeping bag on cardboard – putting it directly on the concrete will result in you feeling like you are sleeping on a block of ice. The cold can cause your back muscles to freeze up and numb and the result is that when you stretch in the night you can tear them – potentially leading to months of difficulty walking (and walking is what you need to be doing every day).

8. Backpacks

A backpack – consider keeping a smaller backpack for use during the day and a larger one that you can stash. You should keep in mind that some states in the US have “camping bans” which make it illegal to walk around the city with a large camping backpack. One homeless man was even refused service at Denny’s because they “do not serve people with backpacks” – clearly discrimination against the homeless – but you need to be aware of this. A small day backpack will spare you all of these problems.

7. Toiletries

You will need: soap, a toothbrush, razors, at the very least. These you should keep with you in your day backpack. It is also worth trying to score a mirror of some kind; just because you are living on the street doesn’t mean you can’t take care of your appearance – you will certainly find life easier when dealing with non-homeless people.

6. Useful Items

Some extra small items are very handy to have when you live on the street. For example, you will want a needle and thread to fix minor tears and loose buttons – this can save you a lot of trouble trying to find new clothes – especially in winter. You will also probably want a couple of pens or pencils (you never know when you might need these). It goes without saying that an essential item is a can opener – without one of these you limiting the types of food you can buy (and canned goods are often the cheapest). You will also want a pair of scissors which you can use for trimming your own hair, cutting your nails, and for any other task that may require the use of something sharp. A bottle opener and / or a corkscrew is also useful. And finally, a box of matches or a lighter is essential.

5. Clothes

Most homeless people prefer to layer their clothes. This means you wear all of your various layers of clothes during the night, but as the day progresses, you can remove each layer successively. This allows you to keep cool when you need, and warm if it gets too cold. A good pair of leg warmers is recommended for wearing under your pants. In addition, you will need a good scarf and a hooded sweatshirt.

4. Headwear

In summer you will need a baseball cap to protect you from the sun – this is essential to prevent you from suffering sun stroke and even potentially getting skin cancer from overexposure. It can also help to conceal a head of hair badly in need of a cut which can be very off-putting to people you may need to deal with. In winter you will need a good warm ski knit hat. A lot of the body’s heat escapes through the head, therefore this is one of the most important things you will need in winter.

3. Shoes

You absolutely must have a good quality pair of shoes – especially in winter. If you have a hole in your shoe and your socks get wet, you will have a miserable few days with wet feet – this can, of course, lead to health problems that you want to avoid. If you do not have quality shoes, forget buying beer – use all the money you can muster to get good shoes without holes. Make sure you wear socks – shoes rubbing on the skin can cause lesions. One homeless guy in the local soup kitchen had been wearing dress shoes that were ill fitting without socks for months – his ankles were covered in festering sores which were being scraped by the shoes every time he walked. It was too late for him to do anything about it – don’t let this happen to you!

2. Bags

Plastic garbage bags are essential to life on the streets. They will be raincoats in winter, and protection from the sun in summer. You can use them to protect your matting from the wet ground. A tip for getting free bags: janitors in large buildings often keep spare bags under the garbage can for easy replacement when emptying. If you make sure you take just one or two per garbage can no one will notice and you will have a constant supply on hand. You will probably also want to keep a few smaller bags on hand just in case you have a need for them.

1. Miscellaneous extras

It is very important that you travel light – you want to keep your belongings to a minimum and the items above cover virtually everything you will need. Having said that, you should consider carrying a few other smaller items that can be invaluable. For example, priority mailing envelopes (free at the post office) are great for storing things and they are durable and water proof. You may also want to keep a bottle or two to store things like coffee. Forget things like flashlights – they are heavy, the batteries run out, and they show everyone exactly where you are – and you probably want to remain fairly anonymous and blend in on the streets.

Other Survival Lists

If you enjoyed this list, you might also like our other survival lists:

Top 10 Prison Survival Tips
Top 7 Zombie Survival Tips
Top 5 Tips for Surviving a Bear Encounter
Top 15 Shipwreck Survival Tips

View Comments

  • ok iv ben homles and the ferst thing i ever get is a tarp and trash bags it realey helps take care of your stuf geting derty plus you geting wet then find the nerest church and tell them whats going on thay will normaley help you with the expensive stuf and strat away look fore work it will work out go to farmers houses hitch hiking throu explane that you need work and wi above all stay honest if you tell somone you need food use it for that


  • it breaks my heart to know people dont have the things most poeple take for granted . i will do what i can to make sure i get some stuff to give out .

  • The hell? If you have all these you probably won't be homeless, thus eliminating the need to live on the streets.

  • Bullshit! This is just shit like your stupid opinion, man! It seems you have never lived free. It's a real junk.

    • I agree completely. You appreciate life and things so much more on the streets and people are really dumb to think they can judge when they have no idea where we are coming from. Especially if you have a dog or look too good. They think poor animal its not eating, what a shame blah blah blah. we never run out of dog food on the street and just because i may look nice dont mean i smell good :).. my dog and i keep eachother alive. we live to protect and have fun on our journey. keeping his mind occupied and content is all i need to be happy. I used to model and bartend, but what kindof life is that. Stuck, making lots of money that don't matter, buying fancy things. Fuck that, people shouldn't feel bad and bless us, pretty offending for we choose the way we live and to be quite honest to be able to do what we do takes a lot of strength and courage. Its like if your house burns down and you are left with nothing. You adapt and use what you can to survive. no need for that material bullshit keeping you grounded, get the fuck over it and live. Open your eyes and give hope to those who cant. but if you let your house burn down and all your going to do is cry about it and let it kill you, you are weak. its a shame the hold all that material shit has on you.

  • flashlights are a must esp when you gotta squat somewhere and be very quiet... they have the ones you can shake, a knife for protection and for various other things is very important..you will have a lot of time to learn how to use it, and with speed. there are small flat can openers as well so dont end up lugging a full one around. a notebook, small and zip bags to keep items safe and out of the weather. Don't take anything that has value with you. from experience i know how that goes. and us girls wanna feel pretty, so only essential makeup which doesnt include powder foundation ect. One nailpolish color does great. It gets tough having to wait days to months to be able to washup a little, even in a public bathroom. any advice let me know

    • I have food stamps, being homless they are very easy to get on as well as peoples handing over leftovers which are sooo daymn good in the big city. food is never a problem, we have been given a garbage bag of various donuts that were still good to fancy leftovers on the street. It all comes with a positive outlook.

    • It's not easy but I enjoy that lifestyle. We live as a pack and share everything with one another, some people live by certain pack rules, some don't. There are all types of street people out there and it's worth the experience. I am more the frreee hippie type so i couldn't take the aggression and fear my ex pack brought, just have to feel your way around and find your comfort.

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