It all started with one off-hand remark about how paddlers are more prepared for a zombie apocalypse than the general public. After that, every major morning show was eager to have me on. Instead of chatting about the latest camp gadgets, I was the new expert on the latest trend: zombie survival kits.

Since the classic 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead, zombies have been the focus of hundreds of movies and have invaded every corner of pop culture in the past decade. Ten million of us fans watched cable television show The Walking Dead religiously. Pre-teens stay up too late, killing corpses on their game consoles. The undead have even infested the classics, including revamped novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the silver screen hit, Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that zombies have crept into outdoor marketing, too.

The past few years have seen a surge in zombie apocalypse survival kits from outdoor companies. Their contents are a mix of traditional camping products and survival gear, accompanied by a tongue-in-cheek ad campaign.

Here’s a sampling: survival essentials manufacturer SOL (Survive Outdoors Longer) rebranded their cornerstone survival kit to create the SZL (Survive Zombies Longer) kit. It’s covered in blood splatter graphics, of course. Gerber’s got citizens covered, “if the Dead walk,” with their Apocalypse Kit, which features an array of machetes and knives. And if you’re looking for helpful tips and gear recommendations for the dawn of the dead, they’re on offer at Goal Zero’s zombie-themed microsite,

Sales reps certainly seem to be having fun with the rebranded products. “We’d rather promote bivy bags, survival knives and our solar charge flashlights for zombie protection than some other, more serious, end of the world scenario,” says Barna Robinson, a sales agent for Goal Zero.

When it comes to end of the world scenarios, canoeists, I believe, are more prepared then anyone else. Zombie survival kits boast a mix of rope, water purification tablets, first aid supplies, shelters and waterproof matches, all tucked into a durable pack. I’ve got all that, and so do you. Axes and multi-tools aside, a quick trip to the gear attic can supply enough bivy bags, solar kits and ponchos to last at least a dozen zombie attacks. Add to that dehydrated chili packs and homemade jerky, cooked on non-petroleum cook stoves, and we’re set for the onslaught.

As backcountry paddlers, we practice for the apocalypse for days at a time. We’re used to eating dehydrated food, schlepping heavy supplies through the bush, foraging and fishing for dinner, warding off predators and traveling without leaving a trace. Best of all, we’ve got the means to travel to remote, zombie-free islands.

The truth about zombie culture, why the newest zombie movie outsells the last, is not the fear of the brain-eating zombies themselves. Instead, most of us have a deep desire to see if we could survive living in an untamed world. Well, I’ve survived the sweepers and five hellish portages on the Kopka River during blackfly season without DEET. Bring on the zombies, I say.

Kevin Callan’s bug-out bag includes two machetes and a bottle of the hard stuff.

Illustration: Lorenzo Del Bianco


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