ideal light, multipurpose melee weapon. Straight claws
are both lethal and useful. Couple this with a tool belt and you’ll hardly notice it’s there.
I also like firemen’s axes. Good for splitting heads, but also made for breaking into buildings and such. This pretty well covers any weapons needs for a mobile expeditionary force. If you have multiple members in your party, make sure everyone has their own small backup weapons, but you can have the larger primary weapons split up between folks. You can have ranged and melee “specialists”, if you will. This can really help keep the load down.
Noise and weight are much less important here. I still think it’s a good idea to keep some quiet ranged weapons and melee weapons easily accessible for those occasions where you want to maintain cover, but here we can break out the big guns – literally. We still want firearms with common calibers, but for primary defense, we want weapons with long range and pinpoint accuracy.
I think a .30-06 or 308 Win would be a good choice in semiauto. You might wonder why I don’t choose a fully auto AR here. My reason for that has to do with ammo conservation. Semiauto, I think, is a good balance between rapid fire and ammo conservation. If you can get your hands on a fully auto AR and plenty of ammo during the zombie apocalypse, I think it would make more sense to use that weapon if the walkers get closer to your fortification and you find yourself in danger of being overrun.
I think a shotgun or a few is also a good choice. Something like this model with interchangeable barrels is a good idea. A rifled barrel can be used with sabot slugs for
hard-hitting midrange shots. A smooth bore can be used with buckshot for spread in close quarters. There’s a reason the Hornady Z-Max 12-ga shotgun ammo is 00 buckshot. While the Z-Max label is all marketing (any buckshot will do), there’s a reason they put that label on buckshot. One shell could take down multiple walkers. These would be good to have around in case your fortifications are breached by a zombie horde of if you’re trying to clear structures in an urban environment.
Of course, a .50 cal machine gun or a few mounted high in spots with a good view can be effective against an incoming horde, or against raiding rivals. Having more firepower than the other guys can keep them from causing too many problems and that’s something worth keeping in mind. A lot of weapons will be more useful against the living than against the dead.
This is a common topic of discussion among folks who enjoy talking about these things. First and foremost, you need to ensure that you include the “10 Essentials“. This is a common concept among the hiking and backpacking community, and none of these items really should be all that surprising. I like the following list of 10 Essential “Systems” from the above REI link, but originally published in 2003 in Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills.
- Navigation (map and compass)
- Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
- Insulation (extra clothing)
- Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
- First-aid supplies
- Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
- Repair kit and tools
- Nutrition (extra food)
- Hydration (extra water)
- Emergency shelter
Because of the space and weight requirements of the weapons so important in a zombie apocalypse, I think the items in the 10 Essentials should be as small and light as possible. For navigation, I’d definitely keep towards more basic low-tech methods. If you can navigate by the stars, awesome. But you’ll need some kind of map of the way things “were” before the zombie apocalypse that you can then draw on to update it based on changing conditions. It will at least help you to identify the locations of potential resources or places to avoid. GPS might work for a time after the apocalypse, but expect it to fail at some point afterwards.
I think in the zombie apocalypse you might have more pressing concerns than sun protection. But you won’t have much success if you have a severe sunburn. Sunscreen should be easy to find. Carry some. Wear a hat that covers your ears. Wear long sleeves and pants, if not to protect from the sun, but to block splatter from a melee attack. Sunglasses can keep splatter out of your eyes, too. Use good set with impact resistant lenses and they’re also good safety glasses.
Insulation/extra clothing is a given. If it sometimes gets cold, pack an extra jacket or pants, extra socks, whatever you’ve got. Having a change of clothing so you can wash your other set can help you feel a lot better when things aren’t going as well as you’d like. Rain gear falls into this category, too. If it’s raining, you can begin suffering from hypothermia at a surprisingly high temperature. The same goes for clothing to block the wind.
Illumination – key. Go with LED, rechargeable if possible. Get a solar charger or a hand crank charger while you’re at it. The super high-powered tactical flashlights are great, but they eat batteries like no tomorrow. Good luck keeping something like that fed when batteries are hard to find.
First aid – absolutely yes. In the zombie apocalypse where medical services are nonexistent, a small cut can get infected and jeopardize your life. Medicines will expire in a relatively short amount of time. Get what you can, but most stuff will be no good after awhile so you’ll need to make do. Pick up some books about local medicinal plants and start learning to identify them before you need them. Your med kit should deal with wound care. Various bandages, wraps, stuff to immobilize a limb, and whatnot.
Fire will be important. You may need it for illumination if your primary sources die on you. You might use it to fight zombies, and you will be cooking your food with it and heating your shelter with it. Keep several methods on your person to start a fire. Use lighters while they’re available. Firesteels are great fire starters. Matches will also go bad eventually, so use them while you can. In the back of your mind, think about how you’ll start fires when these items are no longer available to you and learn new ways to start a fire. Sparks from an old car battery, rubbing sticks together, a lens from an old pair of glasses, whatever is necessary.
In the zombie apocalypse, I doubt you’ll be spending much time repairing things until you settle down somewhere. But still, in some cases emergency repairs will be necessary. Stick with the basics. Duct tape, a needle and thread, maybe some glue. You can worry about repairing your stuff when you’re behind fortifications.
In your bug-out-bag, keep some shelf stable food for a couple of days. You’ll need plenty of calories because you’ll be on the move. Military MRE’s are an option, but not the only one. Consider commercial freeze-dried or dehydrated meals (or dehydrate your own). MRE’s are heavy because the water is still in them, but freeze-dried and dehydrated meals weigh less because there’s no moisture in the food. Rehydrate them and you’re good to go. In this category, I think you should consider methods to acquire food on the go. First in this list should be knowledge of edible wild plants. A book would be a good idea to keep for reference purposes. Some plants are only edible after a specific preparation to remove the toxins – pokeweed is one local plant that comes to mind that requires parboiling in at least 3 changes of water to remove toxins. A means to hunt silently should be considered, too. Once you’re in a place to settle down, snares are an excellent method to catch small game. But they’re pretty useless if you’re on the move. Your archery gear will be an important component of your bug-out-bag for obtaining food. You won’t be catching much small game with it, though. Toss in an ultralight coil of fishing line with a hook. Tie it to a stick and you can catch yourself a meal instead of relying on squirrels and rabbits.
Hydration – for this, use what you can get to carry it. But given a choice, I will not be choosing heavy canteens. This is one of my complaints with the Amazon list I prefaced my post with. What’s with the military canteens and whatnot? Natives often used the bladders from the wildlife they killed for carrying water. You don’t want a ton of container weight. I totally agree with that idea. The Nalgene Cantene is great. A few different sizes, they’re light and pack down small when empty. Also worth considering is a hydration pack with a large bladder. A tube to drink from and you’re good to go.
Getting clean water will become an issue when infrastructure is down, though. This will take some serious consideration, because all those rotting corpses will make for a lot of contaminated water. And if zombies come from a virus or bacteria that can survive in the water and be transmitted by drinking the water, you want to be doubly careful about what you drink. Fire and a durable container will be good for boiling, but this takes time and uses fuel. Eventually it’ll be your only method, though, as resources like chemical water purification and cartridges for pump filters become scarce. For a bug-out-bag, though, I’d suggest a pump filter and some purification tablets. Use what you can find after the apocalypse, but make sure your bag has these options before you go anywhere. And probably some bottled water, too, to get you started on your way.
Finally, you’ll need some shelter. What you use as a shelter will depend on where you are. At minimum, I suggest a ground cloth and a tarp. This can be used to keep you dry in an open location. If there are trees around, I STRONGLY recommend a hammock, however. Something like this Warbonnet Blackbird that has an integrated bug net. String this guy up high in a tree and you can sleep in peace out of the reach of any “walkers” that might happen by in the middle of the night. You can stretch your tarp above it to keep you dry in the rain, too.
That pretty much covers the 10 Essentials, but that’s not everything you’ll need. Everything from here on is stuff I think that you’ll find very important during the zombie apocalypse.
You’ll need some tools. I didn’t include it under the repair kit section because I don’t think you’ll need it to fix your gear, necessarily. In some cases, maybe, but you’ll need some stuff. I would start with a basic heavy duty multi-tool for your bug-out-bag. I like a good Leatherman, but Swiss Army Knives and Gerber tools would also be good choices. Knives, pliers, screwdrivers, saw, cutters, etc. You’ll be using this quite a bit. I would probably attach it to my belt so it’s on my person even if I become separated from my bug-out-bag.
Cord/rope. You’ll want something with some strength, but you don’t want the weight. Paracord just isn’t very strong to do much work. I am a big fan of Amsteel. You may have read that I hang my hammock
with it. It’s plenty strong. You’ll need a sharp knife to cut it, too. It’s also slippery enough that you could probably fashion some snares out of it in a pinch.
Don’t forget a bag to carry your gear in. It’s probably the most important component of the bug-out-bag. Obviously you can’t carry all this stuff without a bag. But you don’t know what size of bag you need without knowing what you’ll put in it. I recommend a backpacking pack for this. Not an ultralight model. The extra zombie gear puts us well out of the ultralight category even if all of our 10 Essentials only occupies 5lbs. Find something comfortable that lets you move while you’re wearing it. You might consider multiple bags, especially if there will be multiple members of your party to spread the load.
Which brings me to my last item, and probably the most important one on the whole list. Despite the glorification of the heroic loner on many books, movies, and TV programs, you’ll need a team or a community to make this work. Do your planning in a group. Decide on an early warning system to get the word out to meet at a staging location so you can take stock of your group members, your gear, and share information before setting your escape plan in motion. Set multiple locations for your evacuation so you can have alternates in case of trouble. Early on in the zombie apocalypse, transportation should be plentiful. Fuel may or may not be, depending on how fast everything came down. Make sure you have fuel stockpiled at the centralized meeting location so you can use it to get a head start. Ideally have at least enough to get you to your destination. The faster you can get to a defensible location the better.
Once you reach your defensible location, you will need to make preparations to survive there indefinitely.
Your defensible location needs to have a water source that can be accessed in case of a zombie siege. That will be the first resource to draw you out if you run out. Zombies are infinitely patient. You will need people who have different skills to make this work. You need someone with the skills to build or at least supervise the construction of defensive structures if your location does not already have them. Walls, lookout towers, strong buildings, etc. Start with tents to sleep in, get your walls and lookout structures built, and then get internal structures taken care of. An ideal location would have most of these items taken care of already. It depends on what’s available to you, but it’s likely you’ll have to build or repair something so you need someone with those skills.
You also need people with skills to keep your group fed. That means skilled hunters/trappers/fishermen and those skilled with growing plants. You will need to bring vegetable seeds with you. Start growing them when you can. Until then, you will need to forage. That means foraging from the wild, but also foraging from stores, homes, and using the resources of civilization while they’re there. Use what you can to get through to the planting season. Stockpiling rice and beans will become important early in the zombie apocalypse.
You will need people skilled with machinery. If you want to rebuild once the zombie population starts to drop, you will need someone who can repair and/or build machinery. You can manufacture biodiesel, so you can have cars and trucks, generators, electricity, and the like. Bringing back some civilization will be important to your group. This includes people who have skills with electronics. Electronics gear will be left behind once the power goes out. But when groups begin to rebuild electric grids, things like communications equipment and computers will become useful again. If you have recovered any of these items and plan to use them, make sure you’ve got people who can repair what might need fixing immediately or in the future.
You will need people with medical knowledge/training. Doctors, nurses, veterinarians, whoever you can get. Human doctors will be necessary for obvious reasons. A veterinarian can do many of the same things and in many cases, even more. There’s also a strong chance that you will wind up relying on horses for many things. Dogs may also become very essential with hunting, early warning, and companionship. Cats will be important for their abilities to keep the mouse/rat populations down. A veterinarian will be important to keep them well, too.
If your group is successful and you begin adding survivors, you’ll likely want a spiritual leader and psychologists to help them cope with the stresses of the things that have happened. Just make sure that your group doesn’t become a bunch of religious zealots. Plenty of disaster movies have shown us the horrible things that can happen in these types of situations.
You will need to set up a leadership structure to make sure everything gets done that needs doing. Set it up however you like, but everyone in the group needs to agree on how things will work once the apocalypse begins. I would recommend a method to allow everyone in your community to contribute to leading the community. Transfer of power needs to occur at regular intervals. Everyday people need a voice of some kind, so they are happy and productive members of that community.
Good luck with your preparations. Have you taken any so far, specifically with zombies in mind? What’s in your bug-out-bag? What about general disaster plans? Does your disaster preparedness only happen coincidentally to your current outdoor recreation?