I feel compelled to write this guide, not because I claim to be an expert in survival, but because there are a lot of idiots out there. Videos where people are filling half their backpack with knives and handguns or instant ramen noodles make me hope they arent taking that seriously. 72 hour bug out bags? Dont ignore those, but I feel that if you use a bigger backpack, that extra room might as well be used for longer term survival. If the world ends, youre going to need something more than a couple paracord bracelets and freeze dried calorie packs. I dont personally believe an apocalypse or complete social collapse scenario is likely to happen within my lifetime, but it doesnt hurt to at least be knowledgeable about what to pack and some basic survival techniques just in case. If anything, this stuff is kind of fun for me so it serves as a sort of entertainment.
Surviving an apocalypse is a true test of endurance and mental strength. You will be challenged in many areas constantly throughout the day. While a zombie apocalypse is extremely unlikely to happen, others are possible. You will even find this guide useful for camping or natural disaster scenarios. While this guide is aimed specifically for mobile survival, I do occasionally mention survival at a shelter or colony of other survivors. This guide will cover many areas with a serious, practical tone (aside from the occasional mention of zombies). Remember that sometimes ingenuity is your most valuable asset.
--Weapons-- Well, ill just say it. No .50 caliber sniper rifles, flamethrowers, or swords. Sure they may be cool in video games, but in a real life post-apocalyptic scenario, they are very impractical. I dont know about you, but id rather live than look "cool" to myself. You want to lug around a machine gun with the rest of your gear? I dont. For the vast majority of people this isnt an option anyway unless you happen upon an unguarded military base.
Melee - Swords actually would be fine, but not for mobile survival. They just take up too much space on your person and can get in the way when climbing through the urban or forest environment. If you want to keep swords at your shelter or at the colony, go ahead. They arent useless, just not preferable. Against zombies, you are far better off with a blunt force weapon. With blades, there will be blood involved. Lots of it. A good fighting knife is mandatory. Be it a machete, kukri (such as
<product no longer available>
), or longer bladed knife (like the Smith & Wesson CKSURG Homeland Security Tanto Knife, Green), youll need some sort of bladed weapon and a backup to that weapon. If you run out of bullets, youll be thankful you have it. Sometimes they are even preferable over guns. A smaller bladed weapon is preferable over a sword because its more maneuverable and takes up less space. When you are on the go, space is extremely important. Dont forget some sort of sharpener. I recommend a quick use knife sharpener as a whet stone, while ideal, takes too long to use. If you have the space and knowledge on how to properly use one, a whet stone will work great.
Having backups to your knives is a good idea. Dont fill up half your backpack with them, but having a few extra wont hurt. Just in case your main weapon gets damaged beyond repair or is lost.
Ranged - Certainly bows and crossbows will work. They've worked for thousands of years (just as swords have). However, they are impractical for mobile survival. Eventually, the world is going to start running out of bullets. Knowing how to make arrows and an effective bow is invaluable knowledge. Bows require more than just strength to use, so if you decide a bow is the right weapon for your situation, practice every day. Pay attention to your aiming technique so you can actually hit your target, but also pay attention to your drawing technique. An amateur archer of equal strength to a master archer will have a more difficult time drawing the same bow simply because of drawing technique. Concerning draw weight, 35lbs will cause some damage and most people can draw it back, but your range and power are severely limited. Using modern, razor sharp arrows, you can use it to hunt small game and maybe even larger animals. If you are using a traditional bow with traditional arrows, be aware that they require more strength to use and more skill to aim. In medieval times, archers were using bows with draw weights ranging from 80 - 150lbs. THOSE can cause some damage. Unfortunately, the average survival enthusiast is not strong/skilled enough to use these bows. But if youre in it for the long haul, it might not be such a bad idea to train to do so. For now though, carry firearms you are comfortable and competent with. Im not going to say which gun is superior to what. The main issue is what YOU are comfortable with. You also need to take ammo availability into consideration. Choose a gun that chambers a common, easy to find round. One of the biggest drawbacks to ranged weapons is limited ammo, so you will want to have the security in knowing you'll be able to find your ammo somewhere. You can shoot a gun chambered for 7.62mm Nagant or .50 Beowulf if you really want to, but you will need to conserve ammo much more than someone shooting 5.56x45mm or 9x19mm Parabellum. I recommend carrying a pistol and a rifle. You can replace rifle with shotgun if you want, but dont carry more than one long firearm as it takes up too much space. Even if you can comfortably carry another gun, you probably wont have enough room for the ammo on top of the rest of your gear. There is no need to have an armory with you on your journey. Ive seen various zombie survival guide videos and many of them involve carrying several guns and many knives. This is a waste. Magazine fed, semi-automatic handguns are preferable over revolvers due to their faster firing speed (just in case) and larger capacity. However, if you are choosing a revolver for your sidearm, carry one that is able to chamber more than one type of round. Yes, it is possible. A .454 casull revolver will chamber .45 colt, .357 magnum will chamber .38 special, and .44 magnum will chamber .44 special. This is similar to the "choose a gun that fires common rounds" philosophy. If you run out of, say, .357 magnum ammo but happen upon some .38 special ammo, it is still useful to you.
Also recommended would be pepper spray as it will deter an attacker without killing him. I personally wouldnt kill someone unless it was absolutely, positively necessary so pepper spray will be preferable than shooting or stabbing someone. If it comes down to it, be ready to use lethal means of deterrence, but dont kill if you dont have to. Cold Steel Inferno 3.5 oz. (112 gram unit) Pepper Spray is highly effective and also affordable for the amount of spray. Im not here to impose my morals on you, but just because society has collapsed doesnt mean we should all go on a killing spree.
* Be comfortable with any weapon you are using, not just guns. Be well versed in combat techniques in using your weapon. You dont have to be a master of such techniques, but understanding and knowing even basic combat techniques will put you ahead of the average joe who knows nothing. * As I said, make sure your guns are chambered for common rounds. However, you should also conserve ammo. Dont shoot unless you have to and you have a good chance of hitting your target. What I mean is, dont empty an entire magazine shooting from around a corner. Sneak around him, hide somewhere, and take the enemy out without him seeing you. A sniper will survive much longer than a heavy gunner. If your gun takes a magazine, save them. Ammo is more common than spare magazines and if you dont have any left, youll have yourself a single shot gun. * Also, dont neglect hearing protection. Ive never heard any video or read any guide or book that mentions this. Sure, its not necessary for survival and countless soldiers have fought battles without hearing protection, but that doesnt mean you need to leave your eardrums unprotected as well. Choose hearing protection that can be easily taken on and off. Dont bother with those squishy in ear types as most of them are disposable and you shouldnt use them more than a few times. Choose ear muffs and/or in ear plugs that have a band connecting them. This way, you can keep your hearing protection around your neck and quickly put them on (or in) as soon as trouble arises. * There is a downside to the above mentioned advice. Hearing protection not only reduces the dB rating of a gun blast, but reduces your acute hearing considerably. You wont be able to hear that guy with the knife sneaking up on you. Keep this in mind. However, there are some hearing protection devices that not only activate when your gun is fired, but amplify other sounds. This means that you can not only hear the guy sneaking up on you BETTER than your naked ears, but they wont be damaged when you shoot him. A major advantage.
--Food and Water-- No matter how many weapons you carry, you will never survive without food and water. Water is even more important than food. You will need a minimum of 2.5 liters of water per day. More than that if you want to stay in peak condition or you are in a hot environment. Dehydration can have detrimental effects such as impaired mental ability and delusions, eventually leading to death. You can get away with drinking less (and many people in their normal, everyday lives do), but lets try to stay healthy here. Carry with you at least 10 liters of water in canteens, bladder pouches, or bottles. Find the room, you need it. G.I. Style 2 Quart Bladder Cover (Olive Drab - Green) or Platypus Soft Bottle with Closure Cap should work quite well, especially the platypus bottle as it is collapsible when nothing is inside it. 10 liters will give you roughly 4 days worth of sanitized, drinkable water. That way if you dont come across any for a few days, you will be fine.
As for food, dont worry about how many calories you need to eat per day. Calories mean nothing if you are eating extremely little nutrition. Do some research on the calorie restriction diet to see how little importance calories serve. Its nutrition that you should worry about. When choosing what food to carry with you, choose the food that has the most nutrition density per calorie. Instant noodles wont cut it, kids. Carry with you enough food to last you at least a week, 1 meal per day. This is survival remember. As long as you're alive and have enough energy to do the things that keep you alive, you are surviving. Make sure you have a mess kit and spoon/fork tool such as Coleman Aluminum Mess Kit and SE KC5006S 4-Inch Camping Steel Detachable Knife. They will make your post-apocalyptic survival dining experience much easier. A knife used specifically for your food will help as well. Make sure it isnt the same knife you are using as a weapon or utility knife.
While you are walking along, you will probably come across food and water. Consume these first before you consume what you are carrying. You never know when you will see more food and drinkable water again. You may choose to consume what you are carrying, but be sure to replace it with what you find as soon as you find it. You may also want to carry seeds. They barely use any space, and if you find a permanent shelter, having a garden will be highly useful. Know how to grow them.
You will need a way to purify water, whether that be a filter bottle, purification tablets, or boiling it. Once you have a permanent shelter, you can begin to make larger filter/purification system such as an ozone generator. Never trust exposed water even if it looks clean. You cant see pathogens without a microscope.
* As I mentioned, nutrition is vital. However, sometimes you may not find proper food. You may not have food at all. I recommend taking a good multivitamin every day, preferably chewable (I have difficulty swallowing pills, but you may not). Look at the label and see if that particular multivitamin has enough of the nutrition you need, though be aware that it wont be perfect. Look at the amount it contains, not the percentage. Usually the percent is based on an average sized person and a 2,000 calorie diet. Since you are surviving on less than 2,000 calories and may not be of average size, the percentage amount wont be much help to you.
--Backpack/Tactical Vest-- Choose a backpack with a lot of room and is comfortable to wear, even when hauling a lot of weight. Hiking backpacks are made for this. A good survival backpack not only has plenty of internal space, but outside pockets and compartments. Your backpack MUST be comfortable because you will be wearing it all day. How cumbersome your backpack is falls into the comfort part as well as a practical side of survival. If its too large and heavy, you wont be able to maneuver very well.
A tactical vest is also highly useful for carrying your ammunition and knives. In a firefight, you wouldnt want to take off your backpack and rummage around for spare ammo.
--Clothing-- I do recommend carrying a few extra pairs of underwear and socks. Maybe an undershirt or two. But as for your main outer clothing, its not important that you carry extras because you likely wont have the room. Choose pants that are durable and have plenty of pockets. Choose a shirt that is breathable and light, and a coat that is warm and has plenty of pockets as well. If you cant afford or find any waterproof hiking boots, runners shoes should be fine. Remember that all your clothing should fit properly. Tight clothing is not recommended, nor is overly loose clothing.
--Temporary Shelter-- You may not come across a good building for shelter. Maybe you are even in the woods. I advise you to carry a small, one person tent. There are tents that can be folded small enough to fit into a backpack. Rather than a blanket, you could instead also carry a compact sleeping bag. Some are small enough to fit in a backpack with plenty of room to spare. When setting up your tent, choose a location that is not obvious. Keep it hidden. No one wants to be robbed or killed while they are sleeping. If possible, set up traps. Keep your weapon by your side and ready to be used as well.
--Light-- Hand crank, hand crank, hand crank. Dont rely on batteries. With a hand cranked flashlight, you will have a much more reliable light source. Batteries take up space and eventually will run out of energy. While you could trade batteries with other survivors for supplies, only carry them if you have the room.
Id find a way to attach your flashlight to your weapon or even your backpack. That way you have a free hand.
--Hygiene/Sanitation-- Dont neglect this. You're body will thank you. Toothpaste/toothbrush, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and nail clippers. Your nails wont stop growing just because the world has ended, nor will your...well, lets just say I personally dont want to go without toilet paper. Dont pack the rolls though. Unravel them and fold them into squares to save space. These things arent technically necessary for survival, but will make life more comfortable. Imagine never again brushing your teeth, wiping yourself, or clipping your nails. I dont have a comb or brush listed here because hair maintenance has nothing to do with hygiene. If you dont mind having messy hair (or neglect method dreadlocks if this apocalypse is permanent), dont bother carrying a brush. If you can fit it in your backpack, sure go ahead and bring it, it just shouldnt be a priority.
A good medical kit is essential. If youre bitten by a zombie, there is nothing you can do. However, it is inevitable that you will sustain some level of injury by other things. Make sure your kit is small, but packed with tons of things namely bandages, rubbing alcohol, and burn ointment. First Aid Only Outdoor First Aid Kit, Soft Case, 205-Piece Kit should do nicely. Remember to replenish your kit any time you are able. If you have allergies, it would be a good idea to put some medication for that in your kit. Think of anything that could medically happen to you and put the appropriate counter item in your kit.
--Communication/Reconnaissance-- Radios are important in post-apocalyptic environments in case someone may be broadcasting. You never know, someone may need help or is advertising a colony for fellow survivors. You might even come across a Three Dog-esq radio DJ providing music from a time less deadly and...dirty. If you can find one, a hand crank radio is preferable. A reliable CB radio would be great for a vehicle and its always a good idea to carry some reliable walkie-talkies, preferably the type that will work with other walkie-talkies.
Signal flares, mirrors, and even fireworks can increase your chances of being spotted by other humans. Be careful though as the humans that spot you may not necessarily be friendly. Use caution when doing anything that will advertise your location. You could even use signal flares and fireworks as weapons or means of distraction.
Binoculars are important for a variety of things. I think its obvious what you should be using them for. Try to find a pair that is light, compact, and water proof.
--Currency-- You will need items for trade that you wont miss. The most likely items that people will be wanting to trade for are batteries, alcohol, and cigarettes. Money and seeds may be traded for as well, but this is less likely. Money is far more likely to be traded earlier in the post-apocalyptic world, but eventually people will realize that society wont be restored any time soon and will regard money as useless. Some raiders may be bought off with money as they may be more concerned with looting before law and order is restored than seeing the reality of the situation. Seeds can be useful as currency, but you generally want to save them for yourself unless you can get a good deal. Batteries will be especially useful as currency. Remember why I mentioned hand crank electronics? To avoid the problem of relying on batteries. Not everyone will be so clever, giving you a perfect opportunity to trade them your useless batteries for something you actually can use. They will eventually run out, but you will still be cranking away.
Now on to alcohol and cigarettes. First off, you need to get rid of any addictions you may be having, whatever they may be. I dont care how much you love your cigs, they will only slow you down and make life very uncomfortable when you arent getting your fix. Unfortunately, there are tons of people who smoke cigarettes. However, there are fortunately tons of people that smoke cigarettes. Use this to your advantage and offer to trade your's for something. If they are a heavy smoker, your cigarettes will be highly desirable to them. Use this to your advantage. Alcohol may also be traded. Not everyone is an alcoholic, but the majority of people do still drink. While it can arguably offer some benefit to you, it has more value as a trade item. Sometimes even more so than cigarettes and batteries. People are easily tempted with alcohol. Use this to your advantage. If it isnt beneath you, you could even try getting everyone drunk enough to steal their stuff. Alcohol can even be used as the perfect bait for a trap. Be careful with these items, however. Some people may consider them more valuable than your life and try to forcibly take them from you. Never advertise you have any highly desirable item to anyone unless its necessary.
Axe - Keep it light and small. An axe can be used to break open crates, split wood, or even be used as a weapon.
Rope and Duct Tape - Also an obvious item. Youll find a lot of uses for these things. Make sure the rope is heavy duty and can hold many times your body weight. Be aware that not all paracord is actually real, military grade paracord.
Mousetrap - For catching food.
Towel - Dry yourself off, soak up sweat, or handle hot cookware.
Flint & Steel - Dont rely on matches or a lighter. You will run out of them and flint & steel will last much longer. Fire is essential.
Can Opener - Dont waste your knife's edge cutting into cans you find along your way. Carry one of these. Theyre light weight and barely take up any space.
Gas Mask - Make sure the one you buy is actually functional and can protect against nuclear/biological/chemical agents. Not completely essential, but it largely depends on the cause of the apocalypse. Dont forget extra filters and remember that they have a limited lifespan. Not only will they expire after awhile (10-20 years), but if the seal is open, they will quickly lose their effectiveness (typically 4-8 hours). If you are in a situation that requires a gas mask, you do NOT want your filter to be dead.
Goggles - Make sure they are highly durable (like airsoft/paintball goggles) and have fog resistant lenses. If they have UV protection, thats a bonus.
Balaclava/Shemagh - Protect your face from dust, blood, and the sun. Or cover up your greasy hair because you probably havent washed it in several days.
Literature - Without The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead your apocalypse survival kit just wouldnt feel complete even if you arent preparing specifically for zombies. You will also need edible plant guides unless you already know exactly which plants are edible. Survival books would be great as well. If you happen to be a religious person, taking a religious text and/or object of your preference would obviously help for your morale. If you can spare the room, fiction still has its uses. Survival doesn't have to be boring.
Condoms - Just in case.
--A Final Note on Supplies-- Be smart with how you pack everything. If you cant fit it all in your backpack, try rearranging things. How your stuff is arranged should also be done with ease of access in mind. Things you may need to get at quickly should obviously be put in spots that are easy to get to.
==Fitness== If you are overweight and out of shape (or frail and very skinny), you wont have as much chance at survival as someone who is athletic. Get in shape. You dont have to go to the gym, just work out and exercise in your free time at home. Loose that extra weight, build up muscle, and make sure you can jog for awhile without being excessively winded. If you cant at least lift yourself up, how can you expect to traverse the wilderness or get in and out of locked up buildings?
==Human Psychology & The Reality of a Post-Apocalyptic World== It wont be a friendly place. It will be tough and it will be dirty. Survival of the fittest definitely applies in this setting. If you arent cut out for this type of life, you will die. Period. There is a really high chance you will have to deal with raiders or gangsters at some point and they wont be looking for friends. Society has enough baddies as it is, so imagine a world without any real government or legal consequences. Really, try to imagine such a world. It will be terrible and even the Fallout games might not capture how things will turn out. Watch the movie The Road [Blu-ray] to get a good idea of what it may be like. This is one of the more realistic depictions of a post-apocalyptic world I have seen, and I will tell you right now...its downright depressing. Not the fun and games you'd think it would be. I advise you to watch this movie because it can help with what to expect in a real-life scenario. Some post-apocalyptic movies are fun and entertaining...but they aren't real. You need to prepare both your body AND mind if you want to survive at the end of the world and expecting it to be a world just like today, except with less people around and more freedom, youre going to be quite surprised.
We humans are also very subjectable to mob mentality. This means that if a large crowd is engaged in something, you are likely to join them (though not guaranteed as not everyone is the same). Always prepare for the worst and you wont ever be surprised. Sure, you may find people who actually have some sense of compassion, but unfortunately not everyone is like this and many will be too distraught or greedy to give your well-being any consideration. Being around good people will be your most valuable resource and still is even today, actually.
Find comrades. People you can trust and who can trust you. Safety in numbers, friends. The lone wolf image that we all grew up with in video games or movies probably isnt too practical. While it may start out that way, dont shoo away those who will help you. Not everyone is to be trusted, so use your own intuition. Preferably, find friends and family to travel with right from the beginning. Even if none of you are skilled in combat or carrying an intimidating weapon, you will feel safer simply by their presence. Its part of our instinct to feel that way. Its also instinct to avoid being outnumbered, so traveling with a group could deter some of those baddies mentioned earlier. Unless you are a loner, you will also find value in company and a collective intelligence. You cant do everything yourself, so the more people with you means more muscle for physical things and more intellectual variety for mental things.
Learn diplomacy and increase your charisma. No, im not talking in video game terms, all I mean is to make yourself more convincing. If you can persuade would-be attackers to stand down, thats a good thing. If you are with a disorganized and disorderly group, great benefit will come about from you being a strong leader.
If an apocalypse happens and worldwide society has collapsed, you may start to lose hope. As long as good people remain, society CAN be restored if those people dont give up. Find a secured and prosperous area, gather determined and compassionate people, then start building a village. Establish trade and diplomacy with other villages. Build on from there and before you know it, youll have a flourishing community. Try to think of the end of the world like a forest fire. All those dead and diseased trees will burn away, allowing new trees to grow. Society will have a chance to redesign itself and (hopefully) become greater. Give up on this ideal and you might end up a lifeless, rotting body or become one of those heartless raiders. Its your choice, but the end of the world doesnt have to truly be the end.
For advice on vehicles in a post-apocalyptic world, please see my other guide, "So you want to build a post-apocalyptic vehicle". I will eventually start another guide concerning building a colony and turning it into a village or town. I will update all of my guides as I think of more things to add, so keep checking back.