Survival School: The Shirt Off Your Back


While first aid kits, food, and water purification tablets are well and good, none of us would have a good time trekking through the wilderness with zombies on our tails without a stitch of clothing…


Packing for the zombie apocalypse isn’t like packing for a week-long trip to Disneyland. Trust me, I have loads of experience with the latter. The former? Not-so-much. Early in the Zombie Survival Crew’s creation, each of the commanders drafted a basic packing list for their go-bags—the pre-packed backpack or duffel bag we’d snag on our way out the door. Then, as with most others providing similar survival advice, the focus was on items needed to survive outside of one’s home for roughly a week. While first aid kits, food, and water purification tablets are well and good, none of us would have a good time trekking through the wilderness with zombies on our tails without a stitch of clothing on.

Personally, I’d rather walk barefoot across broken pine cones. Which may happen to anyone who hasn’t set aside the proper clothing.

The best way to determine what you’ll need is to know what the weather is like around the areas your escape routes will take you through. Sure, a backpack will only fit so much, but there are a few key items that can be layered or stripped down to adapt to the elements.

Here’s a few basics:

  • Straight-legged denim jeans – Not necessarily fashionable, but highly adaptable. They can be worn tucked into tall socks or boots to keep creepy-crawlies off your legs. Or if the weather turns up the thermostat, rolled up to the knee. Thick denim will protect from thorns, rocks, and anything else that can scrape/cut you during a hike.
  • A basic cotton t-shirt – Again, we’re going for function, not style. Cotton is durable, wicks away sweat, and can retain a moderate amount of heat when used in layers. Pack extra t-shirts to use as emergency bandages, washing rags, water strainer, and to layer with in case the temperature drops. Yes, they leave your arms bare, but focus for layering should be on the torso where vital organs are. Gotta keep them toasty and in working order.
  • A hoodie – Preferably a pull-over, since a zippered hoodie leaves a line for cold air to get in right down the center of your torso. Go for a good-quality hoodie in a dark color. Dark because it’ll absorb heat better, allowing you to bask in the sun like a lizard and warm up. Better yet, a hoodie can be tied around your waist, saving room in your go-bag.
  • A beanie – Along with keeping your torso warm in the cold, keep your head covered. A nice heavy-knit beanie will keep your brain from freezing inside your skull. We’re not making zombie ice cream, guys.
  • Socks – Lots of socks. The thicker on the bottom, the better. Your feet need extra cushioning on rocky, uneven terrain. And be prepared to change socks a couple times a day. Fresh socks are better than a massage break for re-energizing your barking dogs. There’s no spa trips when the undead are creeping closer. (Pro tip: Wash your socks and safety pin them to your backpack to dry while you walk.)
  • Underwear – Need we go over this one? Not only will undies keep your jeans cleaner longer, but they’ll keep dirt and who knows what else off your private parts. Showers are a luxury in the apocalypse. Don’t want to get an infection down there when all the doctors were eaten for breakfast.
  • Boots – A good pair of sturdy combat, EMT, or hiking boots will get you much further than sneakers. Don’t even think about packing flip-flops. Make sure your emergency boots are broken in and pack them alongside your go-bag with a pair of socks inside—just in case you don’t have time to change before you run. (Pro tip: Buy a half-size larger and put a pair of high-impact work insoles in your boots. It’ll double the hours you’re able to be on your feet.)
  • Heavy jacket – This may be considered a luxury item. But if you live in a climate known for being ridiculously cold, make sure there’s a coat strapped onto your go-bag. Roll it up in your bedroll. Lash it to the side with para-cord. Don’t care how you pack it, so long as it makes the trip out the door with you. Leather is ideal. It absorbs heat from the sun and a fire. Plus, it traps heat inside, much like our own skin. A thick wool coat would work, as well.

One or two changes of clothes will get you by for a while. However, the wear and tear of life on the run won’t be kind to them. Stow a small sewing kit in your go-bag with ample amounts of safety pins. In the age of YouTube, there’s no reason to not look up a quick how-to video and learn a few sewing basics. You’ll love yourself even more when you can fix that hole in your last pair of jeans instead of braving a zombie-infested store to chance finding a new pair in your size.