What does every “zombie apocalypse” movie and TV show have in common (aside from zombies, of course)? The pretend reality in which every work of zombie fiction exists, there is one important aspect that would make a world of difference between their world and our real world. This aspect is the fact that, in those fictional worlds, there is no such thing as zombies in pop culture.

I’ll elaborate. Before the outbreak in “The Walking Dead”, Rick wasn’t sitting around every Sunday with his family watching a TV show about zombies. The night before that little girl ate Sarah Polley’s husband’s face in “Dawn of the Dead”, they weren’t cuddled up on the couch, taking in a good zombie flick. I could go on with the examples, but I think you get the picture.

In these fictional settings, nobody has heard of zombies. They haven’t been exposed to zombie-related entertainment for the last 45 years. They don’t know what they’re looking at when they first get exposed to a zombie. They don’t know how to react. They don’t know that you have to destroy a zombie’s brain. And they don’t know the extent to which society can crumble in a short amount of time after a zombie outbreak.

In the real world, we’ve been looking at people trying to survive a zombie apocalypse for decades. If we saw a zombie, we’d no doubt be in disbelief at what we were seeing, and suspect it to be some sort of joke or “zombie walk” or something. But after we saw a few people get their throats chewed out by something that looks suspiciously like what we’ve come to know as a zombie, we’d pretty much know what we were dealing with. In every movie and TV show, those people are 100% unfamiliar with what is happening. That means on every movie and show, they have to start from scratch trying to understand what’s going on and learn how to deal with the problem. Because we’ve been seeing it in popular culture over and over again, we have a HUGE leg up on any of our favorite fictional zombie movie survivors.

This all assumes, of course, that a real-life zombie outbreak would be pretty much along the same lines as any of the outbreaks in popular movies and TV shows. There are some variations between zombie behaviors across the different productions, but they’re mostly similar in the particularly important ways. If zombies acted completely different in real life, or couldn’t be killed in the same way, or were otherwise vastly different than they are on screen, this theory is pretty irrelevant. Then again, if real-life zombies were that much different, they wouldn’t exactly be zombies at all then, would they? This theory applies to zombies. If you were looking for a theory which covers things other than zombies, then you’re in the wrong place.

Let’s expand a little on why an outbreak wouldn’t be as bad in the real world. As I said, it all comes down to us being quite familiar, via pop culture, of what can happen and what we can do to survive. Right now, zombie entertainment is bigger in our culture than ever. People talk to great lengths about zombie survival scenarios. We spend countless hours by the water cooler (or whatever) talking about last week’s episode of “The Walking Dead”.  survivalists run drills on zombie evasion and neutralization. Gun stores and survivalist supply companies sell special edition guns, ammo, and other supplies specifically geared towards fighting zombies (sure it’s meant as a novelty, but my point here is that zombie culture runs pretty deep in our society). Hell, some weirdos even start entire websites dedicated to the idea that a zombie apocalypse is entirely possible, and take precious time out of their busy lives to explain in ridiculous detail how you could try to survive such a thing.

Let’s say, in the real world, a small herd of zombies crops up and starts roaming the streets in some major U.S. city. Chances are that those zombies will be contained before anything close to an apocalypse can break out. Forty cops show up when one crackhead pulls out a gun someplace. Now imagine if it was something as serious as zombies. We’d have police, SWAT, and every armed American on full alert. If the situation did spiral into a pretty serious disaster, society in general would have some amount of foresight to quarantine the sick, barricade themselves indoors, arm themselves to the teeth, and/or take it upon themselves to start blasting anything that seemed to be a hungry zombie roaming the town. With our 24/7 news coverage, Facebook, Twitter, and everything else, it would be world-wide news in a matter of minutes if ONE single zombie actually turned up somewhere. In the movies, they have to make the characters completely unaware of zombies in order to make it a good movie about people surviving zombies.

I believe it would end pretty quickly in a standard zombie scenario. Think “Shaun of the Dead,” or even the “Night of the Living Dead”. It mostly affected one town or city. A bunch of people died, but within a couple days’ time the military and citizenry had the situation pretty well under control. The only real exception to my theory is if the zombies acted more like “28 Days Later” zombies, where they are infected within seconds of exposure and can move very fast. A much bigger population could be turned into an undead orgy in a short amount of time. Nevertheless, I think we would still contain it very quickly. Martial law would be declared, entire cities would be blockaded, and everything would suck for awhile until normalcy returned. But it would be a far stretch that things would so quickly devolve into a “The Walking Dead”, post-apocalyptic hell-scape.

Fanfare and fantasy aside, with the exception of actual undead corpses attacking people, just about everything involved with surviving a zombie outbreak would apply pretty laterally to any major WROL or SHTF/collapse of society-type scenario. You’re still going to need to find a safe place. You’re going to need to secure food, water, and weapons. You’re going to have to defend against marauders and cut-throats. So, it could (and will) be speculated that because of the zombie-survival fascination in entertainment these days, people are in general more aware of at least the very basics needed to survive if
society and key infrastructure crumble.

In post-fall-of-society, survival-centric world, it will be imperative to know certain skills by which to survive. Some of the most essential skills will relate to hunting, fishing, and trapping. While it is legal in most (possibly all) states if properly licensed, trapping in a survival scenario is a very effective and efficient way to harvest food from nature. Rabbits, squirrels, even fish can be caught with a properly-built trap.

My personal favorite small-game trap is the snare. The two most common types of snare are the spring-snare and the dead-fall. The spring-snare relies on some flexible ingredient, most-commonly a young tree (though I’ve seen a fiberglass fishing pole used for this as well). The deadfall snare uses a counterweight, such as a rock or log.

The idea beind either of these snares is that you create a small perimiter out of your snare line, and build a sensitive trigger system over top. If the twig that triggers the snare gets stepped on or moved at all, the trap will engage and slip-knot the animal’s foot or head. The trap engages by either letting the flexible tree snap back, or by allowing the counter-weight to fall.

Rather than try to draw diagrams or describe it with text, I will embed a really good video I found that describes very nicely how to build a spring-snare from nothing more than some sticks, a sapling, and some type of thin line (twine, string, etc).

Most of us are familiar with zombie walks that are held throughout the country each year. But have you been part of a zombie dash? Rather than the undead staggering through city streets, the Grand Rapids Zombie Dash will include survivors – lots and lots of survivors – running for their lives through orchards and woods. Why? Because there will ALSO be zombies, hiding and waiting in those orchards and woods.

This 5K is like no other. You aren’t taking a casual stroll down main street. When you decide to be part of the 5K Zombie Dash, you will run a 5 kilmoeter trail, and you must find essential supplies along the way. While scavanging and running for survival, you will encounter (and hopefully escape from) hordes of zombies lurking around every turn.

Or if you prefer, you can sign up to BE the undead lurking around every turn. Running isn’t for you? You already feel like a corpse living (err…not living) in a live person’s body? Get zombified and do your best to scare survivors and get in their way.

According to the Zombie Dash website, here is the important information you should know if you want to participate:

$28 for Survivors (runners)
$12 for Zombies, with race shirt
$ 4 for Zombies, no race shirt.
Zombies must be in costume and make-up is recommended. Entry fee covers the cost of participation in raffle, costume contest, insurance, etc.

Early check-in, Gazelle Sports: Friday from 11:30 am-1:30 pm and 5:00-9:00 pm
Michigan Blood Be The Match registry event: Friday, 5:00-9:00 pm
Same-day check-in, Robinette’s Apple Haus & Winery: Saturday from 6:30-8:00 pm
Race start (waves): 8:30-9:00 waves, every 5 minutes
Race cutoff: 9:45 pm course cleared
Award ceremony and raffle: 10:00-10:45 pm

Be sure to check the official Zombie Dash site in case this info gets updated any some point before the event day. You can also register online, view a map of the course, and get sponsorship/volunteer information.

As with any tool, weapon, or other gear, there are a million different options when it comes to choosing what knife to carry in a survivalists’ situation. I will break down my thoughts on a couple common types of blades you might consider having at your side.

While movies and video games seem to glorify the machete as the perfect weapon against zombies, I’ve expressed in previous posts how I disagree. Not only is it a terrible zombie assault weapon, but it isn’t very practical for other purposes for which you may need a cutting instrument. In short… forget about the machete (ditto for the Samurai sword).

Tactical Folding Knife
It’s my opinion that a very high qualtiy tactical folding knife should be part of everyone’s ensemble, apocolypse or not. They’re pretty small, they’re lightweight, but (assuming quality is good) they will cut through almost anything you’ll need, and can be a last-ditch defense weapon. I’ve owned dozens of very nice folding knives over the years, but this one is by far my favorite: Kershaw Blur Folding Knife with Speed Safe. It is amongst the highest quality knife I’ve ever used, it’s very comfortable to grip, and it opens lightening-fast with a unique opening mechanism. Some folders cost WAY more than this, but the quality doesn’t make up for the high price. In my professional opinion, this is the folding knife to own.

Hunting / Fixed-Blade Knife
In a survivalist situation, I would also recommend having (if not carrying) a fixed-blade hunting knife. This is a medium-to-large, non-folding knife that you would ordinarily keep in a sheath of some sort when not using. These larger knives can be used for a variety of things that a smaller folding knife might have a more difficult time with. You can use a hunting knife to cut down tree branches (google “knife batoning”), skin/gut an animal that you’ve killed, or if you’re in a serious pickle, use it to kill a zombie by stabbing its head. My personal recommendation for a fixed-blade hunting/fighting knife is the Ka-Bar. Now, I know there are much more high quality knives out there, but they often come with a much higher price. The Ka-Bar is tried and true, and it comes in a few variations (there are many many Ka-Bar brand knives, but I’m referring to variations on their classic “Fighting Knife”. Some variations of the standard Ka-Bar include:

Classic handle with straight blade

Classic handle with serrated blade

Black metal/polymer handle
(with either straight or serrated blade)

Ka-Bar Short with classic handle
(the short is just a bit smaller than the original… it’s a very comfortable size, but is lighter and takes up a little less room

Ka-Bar Short with black metal/polymer handle