The end is nigh—that is, if you believe the Hollywood hype. Turn on your television to watchThe Walking Dead tonight 7.30pm AEDT on FX or crack the cover of World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, or rent the classic Night of the Living Dead, and you’ll begin to feel like the undead are waiting at our doorsteps.
While there are instances of parasites taking over the brains of other creatures in nature, there’s no evidence that undead humans will begin rising from their graves. Still, it can’t hurt to be prepared.
Training for catastrophe doesn’t need to be a sombre experience though. Many of the skills needed for your favourite adventure sports will prove useful in the so-far-unlikely zombie apocalypse. So get outside, get adventuring, and get ready.
TURN UP THE HEAT
A fire will keep you warm, fed, and safe—whether you’re roughing it on a backcountry camping trip or wandering outside to evade the undead. Learn how to start one without matches or a lighter, and you’ll be far ahead of the rest of the world’s survivors. You can carry a flint and steel set with you, learn a challenging friction-based fire-building method, or use a lens to focus the sunlight. Either way, this is a skill you’re going to need, so start practising now.
Plus, if all else fails, a fire can signal your need for rescue or burn down a field of zombies—both potential lifesavers.
Nobody wants to fight off a stomach bug in the middle of the apocalypse, so boil your water.
The CDC recommends boiling for one minute (or three minutes if you’re above 6,562 feet in elevation). Waterborne illnesses are no joke, and any adventurer worth their salt knows the dangers of catching one. Avoid this hazard by understanding the guidelines ahead of time and sticking to them, regardless of the unnatural distractions you’ll be facing.
A pair of hikers heat water over a camp stove while climbing the rocky ridge connecting El Diente to Mount Wilson in Lizard Head Wilderness, Colorado. - PHOTOGRAPH BY KENNAN HARVEY, AURORA
GET DOWN AND DIRTY
An experienced forager knows just how much the Earth can provide. Understanding which plants can kill you and which ones will keep you alive could be the difference between surviving the slow destruction of society as we know it and succumbing to the perils of its downfall, so get a guidebook that covers the flora in your region. Learn your mushrooms and greens now, so you can confidently enjoy a toxin-free salad in the comfort of your post-apocalyptic safe house.
A forager searches for wild mushrooms in the United Kingdom. - PHOTOGRAPH BY MATILDA DELVES, GETTY IMAGES
LEARN TO CATCH YOUR DINNER
If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat until the water supply is so polluted by the zombie virus that all the fish become inedible.
Until that day comes, though, fishermen are going to have one up on the rest of us in terms of food supply. Hone your own skills now, study up on which fish are poisonous to eat, and learn what works best in different aquatic environments—fly fishing, spearfishing, angling, or netting, so you can ensure you’re well fed when doomsday arrives.
A fly fisherman casts his line into Utah's Provo River. - PHOTOGRAPH BY WRAY SINCLAIR, AURORA
BE A GOOD HOUSEKEEPER
Backcountry campers are used to carefully setting up and cleaning campsites to avoid attracting wildlife—and there’s nothing wilder than the undead. To avoid both, don’t camp in the path of unwelcome creatures and keep anything that smells like food (or you, in this case) far from wandering noses. Follow these rules, and you just might get a decent night’s rest—if the nightmares of your new reality subside.
GET YOUR BEARINGS
You may be off the grid for a fun adventure or because there isn’t a grid anymore. Either way, you should know how to manoeuvre through your environment without your phone or GPS. While most of us can read a road map, take your skills to the next level by understanding the details of a topographic map. This rendering of elevation is used by backpackers, campers, skiers, and geologists—and anyone who wants to escape the undead in a mountainous region.
A hiker uses his headlamp to read a map of the Sierra Nevada mountains. - PHOTOGRAPH BY COREY RICH, AURORA
BUILD UP YOUR ENDURANCE
When you’re out of weapons and at the end of your survival rope, you’ll only have one option left: run.
If you’ve been cursed with 28 Days Later zombies, who sprint and solve simple problems, you’re probably out of luck. If you’re facing the typically conveyed zombies, who ramble and trip, your trail running skills will help you escape their grasp. The speed and skill in avoiding impediments on the ground required to race through the woods will be a welcome gift when evading the undead.
And the longer you can run without tiring, the more likely you are to survive, so get training.
Two trail runners cross a ridge in the Italian Dolomites. - PHOTOGRAPH BY PATITUCCI PHOTO/AURORA
A runner carries a light across the ridge of Pen y Fan, the tallest peak in South Wales, as a photographer captures a long-exposure image. - PHOTOGRAPH BY N-PHOTO MAGAZINE, GETTY IMAGES
DON’T BE AFRAID TO GET HIGH
The zombies we see on screen are certainly frightening, but there are skills we have that their persistence can’t match, like climbing. The pop-culture-portrayed undead just don’t have the mental capacity or physical competence to ascend a rock wall. Lucky for us humans, we do. If you can make it to a cliff, set aside any fear of heights and take advantage of that opportunity.
Rock climbing will get you out of the path of the undead and, if you can manage a portaledge—a hanging tent system used by climbers on sheer cliffs, a highline hammock, or a tree tent, you’ll maintain that safety through the night. If you’re not used to sleeping in the sky, you might feel a bit unsteady at first—but it’s better than being eaten.
Highliners rest in two hanging hammocks in South Tyrol, Italy. - PHOTOGRAPH BY SEBASTIAN WAHLHUETTER, AURORA
If you’re a downhill skier or snowboarder, you need to be nimble and flexible on the mountain. You have to think quickly and change routes as you barrel full speed down a snowy run to avoid unexpected ice and obstacles. The mental agility required to stay alive and awesome on the ski hill will help keep you alive and awesome in the apocalypse.
If you can adjust your journey down a steep mountain in mere seconds, you can adjust your journey through a horde of the undead. Move fast. Think faster.
A skier plummets down a run on the Arlberg mountain range in Austria. - PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRISTIAN VORHOFER, AURORA
CHANNEL YOUR INNER DARYL DIXON
Mastering a bow may seem like a long-dead summer camp activity, but there are people around the world who continue to use the tool for hunting and wildlife management. Banned in certain European countries, bowhunting is a skill that just might get a revival in the apocalypse, when firepower will likely dwindle as time goes on. Unlike bullets, you can retrieve your arrows from the corpses of the undead, making it a sustainable option for all your zombie-fighting needs.
Balancing on a stand-up paddleboard, a man uses a bow and arrow to fish near Blacksburg, Virginia.? - PHOTOGRAPH BY TREVOR CLARK, AURORA
USE THE RIVER AS A HIGHWAY
Paddlers of the past used bodies of water to move heavy cargo, travel far distances quickly, and cover tracks when evading people or wildlife. Though most present-day kayakers and canoers hit the lakes, rivers, and sea for enjoyment, these benefits are still very real. When the (so far unlikely) zombie apocalypse arrives, you’ll be thankful you know how to navigate the aquatic “roads” of the world.
A kayaker paddles over a waterfall in Iceland. - PHOTOGRAPH BY CEDRIC SCHANZE, AURORA
A woman paddles through the rocky cliffs of the Grand Canyon on the Havasu River. - PHOTOGRAPH BY GABE ROGEL, AURORA
PRACTICE THE ULTIMATE ESCAPE
No one expects to be stuck on the roof of a building in the middle of a decimated city, but, if disaster movies have shown us anything, it’s that it’s bound to happen eventually. Most of us don’t have plans for how to escape tremendous heights—but paragliders do. With just a parachute, harness, and helmet, you can ride the wind to safety.
Soaring above the undead is probably less dangerous than trekking past them, so if you’re able to hone this adventure skill ahead of time, your survival chances might rise with you.
Not everyone is an expert paddler, but terrain that’s difficult for people to traverse will be even more difficult for the undead, so save your feet a few miles, grab a boat, and hit the water.
The sun shines on a paraglider soaring over France's Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. - PHOTOGRAPH BY TRISTAN SHU, AURORA