How To Survive The Zombie Apocalypse While Backpacking

Whether heading out for a quick getaway in the desert, a couple weeks on the John Muir Trail, or a couple months on the Pacific Crest Trail, we hikerfolk like to prepare for any number of things leading up to the main event: permit red tape, excessive heat, sub-freezing temperatures, snow, ice, bears, mozzies, mountain lions, lightning, and raging rivers, to name a few. However, there’s one thing most people overlook in their obsessive planning:

Zombies.

Just imagine that you spent countless nights archaically faxing away to the National Park of your choice to score the permit of your dreams. After driving yourself nuts coordinating logistics, you’re finally relaxed deep in the backcountry, happily lounging at some secluded alpine lake on the trip of a lifetime, when – BAM! – the zombie apocalypse descends.

Ugh, bummer.

Not to despair! If you’re a well-prepared backpacker carrying the all-important Ten Essentials, you’ll have at your disposal an array of tools that will help defend against the undead hordes so cruelly interrupting your peaceful wilderness vacation.

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Fire-Starting Materials

Conventional wisdom says that it may be important to be able to start a fire for warmth and/or to signal rescuers if you’re stranded out in the wild. Conventional zombie wisdom says that flames really don’t do much to harm or deter the stumbly wumblies from attacking you. However, fire does provide a bit of caveman comfort, and if you can gather enough backpackers around yours, perhaps you can rally the troops for a rousing rendition of “99 Bottles of Beer,” which is sure to bore any attacking zombs into submission.

First Aid

You never know when an accident might happen on any trip, so you should definitely have at least a small kit on hand whenever you hit the trail. However, you may want to augment your stock a bit when prepping for a potential clash with the undead: you’re going to need some tourniquets, a bunch of Neosporin, and a lot of gauze – like, a lot of gauze – in case the zombies start eating your flesh and stuff. Best to be prepared in case things get bloody.

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Food

Yes, it’s important to maintain a small stash of extra food to keep your personal furnace fueled should your rations dwindle, but in the extreme scenario described here, you can also use those extra vittles to attract bears, who will then rise to your defense in gratitude. (Please note that this only works with black bears; grizzlies will likely just eat you right along with your candy bar, which I suppose spares you from having to endure the zombie apocalypse in the first place).

Extra Clothing

In the classic sense, carting along some extra layers is the key to staying warm once the mercury plummets. However, this is also useful once the apocalypse explodes, especially if you’ve been out in the wild for a while. Put on every stinky layer you have on hand – your own insufferable body odor is a first line of defense. Proof: a mountain lion once crossed my path and continued on its merry way; my friends commented that I smelled too bad to eat. Maybe this works with zombies, too.

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Light

Headlamps and flashlights are clutch if you’re ever benighted in the wild, but they also come in super handy once the sun is obscured by a heavy black fog of death and decay. If you want to really add to the doom and gloom, flick your bulb to the red setting. Might as well roll with the punches here.

Navigation Tools

There’s nothing like the good ol’ tag team of map and compass to help you stay found as you saunter around the wilderness. These classic navigation tools also allow you to avoid cornering yourself in dead-end canyons and instead seek out terrain that might be inaccessible to less-dexterous zombs, who just lumber around the place all herky-jerky.

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Repair Kit

It’s a great idea to carry some duct tape and a knife in your pack – you never know when you’ll have to perform emergency shoe repair or slice off a slab of tasty cheddar. These are also excellent tools in your fight against the undead. Now, this isn’t West Side Story – you don’t want to face off with André Q. Nightwalker while thrusting a tiny pocketknife at his decomposing bod. Instead, you are going to duct tape that sucker to the end of a trekking pole and buy yourself a little bit of space (and distance from the foul stench of his rotting corpse) while you wag a candy bar in the air and wait for a kindly bear to come to your assistance.

Shelter

Having a (nylon) roof overhead provides both shade and rain protection, but probably won’t make a sliver of difference when your campsite is being overrun by zekes. Instead, you need to fashion yourself a full-on compound from available materials – mud, boulders, fallen logs. Make it cozy, because this thing could take a while.

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Sun Protection

Sure, this is the stuff that prevents you from turning into a literal and metaphoric rock lobster in the mountains, but it’s also basically like trail mace. I mean, do you know how much it sucks to get sunscreen in your eyes, especially when it’s mixed with sweat and bug spray?! Yeah, you do. Aim for their glazed-over eyes and squirt/spray with abandon. Then run.

Water

It’s always best to carry more agua than you need while hiking, but especially so if caught in the fiery inferno that swoops down over the land like Dawn Of The Dead, World War Z, The Walking Dead, and other fine zombie-centered entertainment forms have illustrated over time. It’s gonna be sooooo dry out there when everything burns to a crisp, you guys. Bonus: if a thirsty-looking zomb heads your way, you’ll have something to offer her to drink instead of your own bodily fluids. Score!

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Hopefully, this guide proves helpful if the zombie hordes should ever descend unto your backwoods bliss!*

*Of course, hopefully, that never happens.

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Shawnté is a curiosity seeker with a taste for wild spaces. She currently serves as Senior Writer for outdoor website Modern Hiker, and is deep in the throes of penning and photographing a Pacific Crest Trail guide for Mountaineers Books. When not scribbling away or snapping sunlit landscapes, you'll find her grunting up granite cracks, cranking out delicious taco fillings, and cuddling with her feline friend, Eddie Cat Halen. For more of her ramblings, head over to shawntesalabert.com.