Apocalypse Survival Bag

For those who haven’t been following along, this blog is dedicated to the apocalypse.  We just finished a round of alien invasion, this week we interlude with an elephant migration, and will soon be exploring the world after a…  Well, who knows.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to give myself a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream: create a zombie survival kit. I think this desire stems from my packing obsession.  I really, really love packing.  I love making organized lists of which items should go where and daydreaming, yes–daydreaming, about where my boxes will go when I arrive at point B.  Unfortunately, two weeks of organizational good intentions into a move I invariably have collected 47 containers in which I have packed a mere 30% of my belongings.  The rest I throw haphazardly into laundry bins at the last minute when the UHaul arrives.

Hence, my hatred of moving.

A zombie bag however has all the perks of packing, but none of the hassle.  You’re not supposed to fit your entire life into a rucksack–only the bare necessities.  Or, to be perfectly honest, the necessities that are both necessary and somehow awesome.  And, since the Zombie Apocalypse has a low statistical likelihood of occurring, and there’s even a lower chance I’ll survive the initial infection, the Zombie bag is completely error free.  I’ll never use the bag, so it doesn’t matter when or how I actually fill it.

Thus, long have I dreamed of filling my apocalypse bag with Hello Kitty stickers, or Powerade bottles, or leathermen multi-use tools (only probably not as they are a bit out of my fictional zombie budget price range).  But since the apocalypse never feels imminent, this dream has gone unrealized.  Sure, anytime I wander the aisles of a West Marine I think “Hmm… could I use this as a weapon?”  but I never actually buy the collapsible paddle.

Until today.

Today I fill my Zombie bag.  Well, my Zombie / Alien Invasion / Elephant Uprising / Dragon*Con weekend bag.  And because I fully encourage the purchase of completely superfluous items in a weak economy, I invite you all to play along.


After half-heartedly scanning numerous survivalist websites for the ultimate “at all costs have this” lists, I’ve found them lacking. A real apocalypse bag should be suited for multiple apocalypses.

Aside: This is a bag.  Not a stash.  Or a hoarder’s discount shampoo and off-brand macaroni cave.  If you’re really thinking about long term survival, this bag isn’t for you. Buy yourself a nice bunker, a 20 year supply of MREs and a chemical toilet and move in today.  Otherwise you’re just asking to be on vacation in Sweden when Patient 0 bites the ears off a car salesman in Wichita.

The generic purpose of the traditional ‘bug out bag’ is to contain the necessary items for 3 days in the wild.  But since I’m not a hiker, an Alice Pack or other backpack which are recommended for such uses isn’t going to be very practical.  The first rule of the apocalypse is flee whatever it is that’s doing the apocalypting.  Remember that scene in the Joy Luck Club where the mother’s hands fell apart because she was pushing a wheelbarrow through ALL OF CHINA?  Now think of your shoulders rubbed raw because you wanted to bring your Harry Potter Hardcover set.  This bag has to be light.  Light enough for you to run with–and climb trees with and sling off your arm dramatically and smack someone unconscious with.

Plus, and lets be really, really honest here: You want the bag to be attractive.  This is a bag that you need to be able to casually keep with you at all times.  Just think of the conversations you’d have if you walked down the street with military gear:

“Do you serve?”


“Your spouse?”


“Family member?”


“Are you an evil traitor who stole the gear off a wounded soldier in some sort of mockery of the American way?”

… And now camping:

“Are you going camping?”


“Are you homeless?”


“Are you a dirty hippy who stole the gear off a wounded soldier in some sort of mockery of the American way?”

It’s not like you can explain that you’re just prepared.  For the zombies.  And that you’ll shoot the heads off of anyone who tries to bite you.

So the bag has to be… casual.  Messenger bags work well for this purpose–particularly if you happen to be a graduate student and you carry one of your books around with you in your arms like a precious baby.  The assumption is that the bag is filled with “Calculus Made Easy” or “Surgery for Dummies” or “Torts and How to Find Them” not your homemade shotgun shells and iodine tablets.

For myself, I chose the Broken-In Canvas Backpack from the Sundance Catalog.  I picked it because as a backpack, it will leave my hands free for shooting things and canvas is both lightweight and durable.  Some of you may be thinking that’s a bit much to pay for a zombie bag and yes, yes it is.  But I’m a law student who carries around 50 lbs of books (the official unofficial use for this item).  You can’t put a price on absence of back pain.

Aside: When my bag is in use for school, my car becomes my zombie kit.  It holds a lot more stuff and is also, you know, mobile.

Necessary Necessities

Now to fill it!  As previously mentioned in this post (about 10 years ago) food and water are the first things to consider.  Plenty of sites will sell you MREs (Meal Ready to Eat) but I hear they taste like things that are bad (I am a writer; admire my similes).  There are other versions of the same idea: survival food kit with 3600 calorie nutrition bars, petrified pasta, etc.

This is my question to people who buy those things: the world has just ended, do you really want to compound your misery with food that tastes like moldy cardboard?  Hell no.  Is there a solution?  Hell yes.

As a frequent dieter, I’ve become quite familiar with various nutrition bars.  Some of them are quite good.  This is because people who are dieting are dieting because they like food and tend to eat too much of it.  In order to get them to switch to something less caloric, companies need to make the bars taste like candy: chocolate, peanut butter, coconut, mint, whatever.  Personally I hate anything other than chocolate and mint–but I hear other people like other things. Right now the Zone Fudge Graham bars are my personal favorite.  My co-author thinks they taste chalky and strongly prefers the Special K brand.  My advice is to go to the diet section and sample a few.  Find your favorite.

And keep it stocked.  The reason people buy MREs and other kits is the 5+ year shelf life.  But you don’t need to worry about shelf life if you’re stocking with something you eat regularly.  These bars are full of protein and other nutrients–you can survive several days on them no problem.  Anything more than that–well, see earlier aside about buying a bunker and moving in.

Water: You drink it.  It’s clear.  I used to keep a 24 pack of Aquafina in the back of my car.  No, it wasn’t because I bought it for a float trip and was too lazy to bring it in the house.  It was totally for apocalypse planning.

Practical Necessities

If you are out in the wild, fending for yourself, the thing you’re most likely to die from (other than zombie alien elephants) is exposure.  Your body temperature is 98.6 degrees–the air (especially at night) is usually less than that.  You could carry fire starter and plan to make yourself a cozy little camp–but when the zombies and bears show up for smores and story time, you’ll wish you had instead brought along a space blanket.  It’s like a snuggie, but reflective and made with NASA technology.  I’ve heard unconfirmed and completely fictional reports that the blankets are made out of Neil Armstrong’s soul and it repels heat purely through the force of manifest destiny.

Weather Radio: Assuming the NOAA is willing to give undead sighting reports, this could be useful.  If not, there’s always the 30 seconds after a power outage in a thunderstorm that you think “I have a weather radio!  They can describe the weather outside while I look at it through my window.”  It’s also a flashlight.  Good for entertaining cats.

VHF / CB / UHF Radio / Scanner: To organize the resistance and/or eavesdrop on your bunker neighbors.

Para Rope: Samwise Gamgee spent half of Lord of the Rings bemoaning the fact that he didn’t have any rope.  At some point he really needed some rope, or maybe he just really thought it would’ve made things easier for him and he either had it or didn’t and the plot was either moved forward or not… I don’t remember.  Clearly impressionable impression aside, if Tolkein can devote 107,278,000 words to an item, I can list it here.  I also suggest you get it in pink because no one steals stuff that’s pink.

Weapons: If you do not know how to properly handle a gun, then do not buy a gun (I’m looking at you, unnamed Arizona State Senator).  You’re more likely to shoot and kill yourself before the zombies even rise–heck, this might even make you the first Zombie.  And then won’t your mother be proud.

A machete is a more practical item: it can be used as a defensive weapon, plus you can use it to chop down doors and tall grasses like a badass.  Try to avoid slicing off your fingers though.  Blood attracts sharks.  Undead land sharks.

First Aid Kit: I’ve kept a first aid kit with me at all times since I became a SCUBA Instructor.  I used to even keep an Oxygen bottle with me.  Other than the basic band aids and disinfectant, I recommend: Extra Strength Tylenol, Extra Strength Ibuprofen (two of each is roughly equivalent to a prescription pain killer according to my dentist aunt), Goody’s Headache powder (tastes like burnt chalk, but acts quickly), sunscreen (don’t want to survive the Cylon attack and then get skin cancer), eye drops, tampons (in a pinch can be used as bullet wound stuffers)

Duct tape: Because it has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the universe together

Wool socks / Sturdy boots: Tip: break them in before the apocalypse.  I once had to duct-tape my feet due to excessive blistering

All the stuff I purposefully left out: A typical bug out bag presumes that the world is still more or less in one piece.  This is a bag you use for natural disasters or for a hard core camping trip.  Fire starter, multi-vitamins, cash and coin–these are the luxuries of the status quo.  My bag is one half fun, one half show, and one half ‘Well actually that might be useful generally’ but since I don’t want to spend $5000 filling it, I’m going to cull when and where I can.

Apocalyptic & Other Necessities

Iron Bar and Salt: For fairies, demons, ghosts

Surgical Mask: I don’t know exactly all the methods of zombie disease spreading, but I bet swallowing infected blood isn’t good.  Generally it’s probably better to go with a full face gas mask in case there are biological/chemical weapons used by the military in a counter attack… but I don’t know where to buy one of those.

Reynolds Wrap: Alien mind control deflection

Scotch: Because

Robert’s Rules of Order: When civilization attempts to reassert itself, you can be there with the proper parliamentary procedure.  Also recommended:

Bespectacled scapegoat not included

Maps: I don’t mean ‘Oh lets take the scenic route through Canada’ maps, I mean ‘Here is a map I have specially prepared that highlights all of my previously planned food and weapons caches, abandoned missile silos and excellent antique stores at which I will finally now be able to get a decent discount.

Telescoping Paddle: Do you remember that scene in Dante’s Peak where they’re in the boat in the river of acid and their engine disintegrates and they don’t have a paddle and the grandmother jumps out to pull them ashore fatally burning herself in the process?  Yeah.  Don’t kill your grandmas: bring your own oar.  My brother pointed out that a shovel would be equally useful and could double as an acid water transportation method in a pinch.  Both can probably be used as weapons, though will likely not be effective against cylons.

Face paint: Greatest scene in Zombieland is Bill Murray’s reveal that he’s survived Hollywood by dressing up as a Zombie and walking around the undead completely undetected.  Unfortunately (spoiler) this may get you killed by an uninformed survivor.

Color Coordinated Clothing Items: (see aside)

Aside: You heard it here first.  After Ever After is developing the “Zombie Survivor Code” for signalling to non-zombies while in costume.  The Code will be a color coordinated system to indicate non-infection and other basic information.  For example: Red Hat means that the individual is probably not a Zombie, but a zombie incognito.  A Red Hat with a Yellow Shirt means that the individual is probably not a Zombie, but is a lone survivor.  Red Hat with Blue Shirt means he or she is a member of a group.  Red Hat, White Shirt, Green Pants and Plaid Shoes means that the individual was in a group but then killed them all.  Or is a former professional golfer.  We’ll work out the details later–but if you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them.

Dental Floss: The end of the world is no reason to neglect your gums.

Water Gun: For fun, and/or vampires (note: would also need a priest or Jesus).  Plus, I could imagine a scenario when you need to get someone’s attention really quietly or trip some trap and your small pebble aim is lousy.

First Conclusion

For those of you thinking that I just wrote a post about Zombie bags because everyone writes about Zombie bags and I would never actually fill said bag… Surprise:

I cannot be trusted at Target.

The List (not all of which is pictured; not all pictured will be listed)

Telescoping paddle
VHF Radio
Hand crank radio
Leatherman Blast
First Aid Kit: Bandaids, Neosporin, Benadryl spray, heat pack, support bandage
Jesus mints
Water gun
Reynolds wrap
Mini notebook & mini address book
Multi-use hammer (has nesting screwdrivers)
Pill box
Rubber band ball: Because when you need one, you really need one; it also bounces
Gum, Altoids
Dinosaur & Bug ID books
Two pairs of shoe laces (para rope is on order)
Camping soap (comes in little sheets, just add water)
Mini fan: Unfortunately it doesn’t work very well–will likely order one online since Atlanta in September is ungodly hot

The Pill Box: This was probably my most brilliant idea.  The problem with bottles of drugs is they’re wasted space.  So I bought a small tackle box from Target and used masking tape to label the individual compartments.  As my doctor friend pointed out, they’re incredibly redundant.  However, there’s a certain placebo effect with the association of certain brand names and conditions, i.e. taking Midol for muscle aches even if it’s functionally the same as Motrin which you take for headaches…

Ah who am I kidding.  I never take anything except headache powder and Vivarin.  The real reason I bought 18 bottles of pills is I am incredibly OCD and I wanted different sizes, shapes and colors in order to make my zombie apocalypse pill box aesthetically pleasing. Look at it!

See how pretty?

I also wrote the maximum dose in a 24 hour period lest anyone accidentally start eating them like candy.

Other fun stuff:

The Hope magnetic poetry was actually something I bought as an emergency law school graduation gift (as a Southerner I am required to carry along extra presents; this way if someone I did not expect gives me something, I avoid the awkward).

As for the book, ‘The Great Fires’ is not a novel, as most would bring, but a collection of poetry by Jack Gilbert.  This is the book I bring with me every place I go; I may actually have to buy a second copy in order to keep one in my zombie bag and one on my person.  Other contenders: House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, Dune by Frank Herbert, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card… That could actually be a poll in and of itself.  The world is ending, which books do you bring with you?

This of course does not include your Kindle–if power weren’t an issue I would just start stocking up.  Err… stocking up more than I already have stocked up.

But ultimately, if I can only have one book in the entire universe, one book to last me all the rest of my days… It’s the Great Fires.  It’s not even a competition.

The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart

How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
Get it wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not a language but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses and birds.

The aliens want to read your brains, the zombies want to eat them, velociraptors are turning the door handle but you have Jack Gilbert squeezing every last ounce of beauty out of nouns.  That is the way to end it my friends.

And finally, as a reminder to myself:

Second Conclusion

This posted ended up being far longer than I ever intended it to be.  So I think I’d like to conclude finally stop writing by asking you what is in *your* Apocalypse survival bag.  Extra points for responses that are surprising, and yet intuitive.

P.S. Conclusion

I also have in my bag a telescoping marshmallow pick.

I do not know why.


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