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The Zombie Apocalypse, Part 12: Do Your Shoes Match Your Bag?

Papa’s got a brand new bag! ~

Jonathan Glazer, 13 May 2016

If you have been reading this series faithfully, I hope you have come away with the observation that this is more of a practical discussion of surviving the zombie apocalypse aimed primarily at people who haven’t devoted their lives to every aspect of survival. za-12-magsWhen I was in Junior High School, I began reading survivalist magazines and that started me on the path towards building the right mindset towards being able to live through a variety of trying circumstances. I also thought that my parents would agree that stockpiling food, water, weapons and all the other stuff needed to be one of the few to help repopulate America Mark II would be a great idea.

As it turns out, I was not as persuasive as I thought. They were more focused on paying the mortgage and making lunches for us every day. As I “matured”, my interest in survival continued, but I realized that there was no way I could prepare for every eventuality and guarantee that my family and I would be one of the few that continued on with a full belly. If I lived in a rural area, my commitment to the cause would be greater because the lower population density and the ability to grow my own food would make hardcore survival into a real option. I have spent my entire life in a suburban environment which means my access to land and proximity to other people makes long term existence in dire times distinctly more difficult.

I decided that it was practical and desirable to stockpile resources sufficient to weather a short to medium length catastrophe. Anything more than 90 days and help from the cavalry would be sorely needed. Again, this was my personal belief regarding the length of the storm which I could ride.

The first time that the love of my love came to my apartment, she noticed a trunk in my living room and asked what was inside. I told her to look and she saw all my supplies, including water, canned food and sterno. She thought I was nuts. That changed when we lived through hurricane Sandy and an 8 day power outage. Now, she gets it.

We have a continuing dialogue about what we need to keep in storage to help our family live in as much comfort as possible during times of trouble. And that trouble could be any combination of power outage, civil commotion, terrorist attack and yes, undead hordes seeking to kill and eat us. After a 3 year hiatus, I recently started working in Manhattan again. That means that my home is over 40 miles away from my office with at least one river crossing required to get here. We are now tackling the question of what do I need to get home when good times go incredibly bad.

One reader suggested I write about what are essentially portable survival kits. There are several variations on the theme and they are known as Bug Out Bags (BOB), Get Home Bags (GHB) and I’m Not Coming Home bags (INCH). Each would have largely the same contents but with a different mission.za-12-bags

  • The BOB is designed to be grabbed on the way out the door if something catastrophic happens very quickly and you need to evacuate fast. It would have enough supplies to allow you to temporarily be away from your home until you were able to return. Personal choice would dictate exactly what type of supplies and how much of them should be in there.
  • The GHB is a bag with supplies designed to allow the individual to safely get home from another location, typically their place of work. The idea is to provide the means to traverse some distance and not need to procure anything along the way.
  • The INCH bag could be kept at work or in your vehicle and should have enough gear to allow you to sleep and eat on the road as you travel towards your new life. This assumes that your home is destroyed or occupied by hostile forces and there is no hope of retaking it.

There are online groups that focus on creating each of these kits and they share their ideas regarding what kinds of goodies to put in there. For those of us with an interest in survivalism, it makes for interesting reading. They post pictures of the gear with descriptions of why each piece is important and what function it may provide. One friend of mine calls it “Doom Porn”. The tone of their posts suggests that they would be pleased to have society end and then need to use all of the stuff they stockpiled. Kind of a giant “I told you so” to everyone else.

Survival plans are like underwear. Everyone has their own preferences. As a man with a family, the INCH bag is just not an option. If horrible things happen, I will be coming home. Leaving to save myself without knowing what happened to my family just is not an option. The BOB bag is also not realistic for me. If I am leaving home, I am heading somewhere else. It might be another family member’s home or temporary shelter provided by the authorities. And I am bringing my people with me. Regardless of the catastrophe (flood, quake, riot, blackout or undead human flesh eaters), leaving my home is a pretty bad option. I will lose most any means of defense and will be dependant on external sources of aid.

The Get Home Bag might seem to be an extremely useful tool for someone who works 40 miles away from home across several counties. I have created similar packs in the past, but my experience during the blackout of August 2003 made me see things differently. On August 14, 2003, the power went out in most of the Northeast and stayed out for a couple days. Without going into the full story, I walked for about 6 hours with a small group of people across the 59th street Bridge from Manhattan into Queens where we were able to get a lift back to Long Island. We were fortunate to be able to get the ride because one of our group started feeling ill from dehydration so we had to stop walking. I had a backpack with my work laptop in it slung over my right shoulder for most of the walk. This resulted in my back going out almost the moment I walked into my house and I couldn’t move for 2 days afterwards.

My takeaway from that incident was that in order to cover the distance required to get home, the less you carry, the better. Also, you need a comfortable pair of shoes and water to drink. Beyond that, there isn’t much that would be worth its weight. Your smartphone will probably not work if the catastrophe is bad enough (or if the cell tower operators get eaten by zombies) but most people will be reluctant to ditch it, even under the worst of circumstances. It does make sense to carry a small flashlight. Once the sun goes down and streetlights are not working, a source of illumination will be your best friend. A small knife is also a good thing to have as it serves as a tool for lots of different situations. If navigation will be an issue because of being in the woods or not having visual landmarks to orient you, a compass would not be a bad thing to have. I keep a knife and a flashlight with me at all times at work. The knife is small and unobtrusive and does not appear threatening in any way, so having it is not a huge risk in these politically correct times. I also have a pair of sneakers at my desk to use if I need to go for a long hike. Other than grabbing a few bottles of water to bring with me, I see no need for anything else to weigh me down as I take my trek home. And if I am bringing a backpack with me, I will not take my office laptop and I will use both straps.

My point is not that preparation and equipment stockpiling is a bad thing when planning for the times when good turns to bad. Preparation is good. Just be realistic about what you are doing and how it is going to be helpful for you. Unless you are hunkered down in a reinforced location, mobility will be the key to continued breathing so the less you have to carry, the better. Even water, which is essential for life can only be carried in limited quantities due to have heavy it gets. If you want to put together survival supplies in one spot, knock yourself out. Just don’t think that you have that much of a better shot than everyone else. Remember that after a full year of a nationwide blackout, academics who study such things believe that 90% of the population will perish. And unless you stockpile a full year of supplies for you and your family, you may run out sooner rather than later.

Just make sure you pack some chocolate. What fun is the zombie apocalypse without chocolate?


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