zombie-kit-2Kevin Callan

I just finished being interviewed by a series of morning television shows about the latest trends and camp gadgets for the upcoming season. It was a lot of media attention, especially since spring has just officially arrived. But one simple remark about how campers are prepared for a zombie apocalypse and every major morning show in Canada was eager to have me on.

Zombie culture is definitely on the rise — including in outdoor marketing. Since the classic Night of the Living Dead these flesh-eating soulless corpses have been the focus of countless movies (Shaun of the Dead is my favourite); millions of fans watch the cable television show The Walking Dead religiously (including myself); pre-teens stay up late killing zombies on their game consoles; the undead have been added to classic literature, including  Pride and Prejudice with Zombies; and there’s now a major surge in zombie apocalypse survival kits from outdoor retailers. That’s right. You can equip your own “Bug-Out Bag” with basically the same camping equipment stored in your attic, adding an extra brain smashing machete or two.

The love of zombie movies, TV shows, books and video games all make relative sense — everyone love zombies. What’s not to love? The idea of your neighbour transforming into something that should be stored on a morgue gurney is kind of cool. It’s childish fun. But does the same go for a major marketing campaigns directed towards surviving a zombie apocalypse?

Outdoor companies such Adventure Medical Kit, Gerber and Goal Zero recently created fresh online campaigns by simply re-packaging their camping products into zombie apocalypse survival kits. When talking to reps from the companies, all said sales went up because of it. They also said they had fun doing it, stating that they’d rather promote their bivy bags, survival knifes and solar charge flashlights for zombie protection then some other more serious end of the world scenario.

Doomesday models have haunted us for thousands of years. The Romans freaked out when the mythical founder of Rome, Romulus, was shown by 12 eagles — predicting the world would end in 754 B.C.. The New York Times posted a front page story in 1910 of massive extinction caused by cyanogen gas from Halley’s comet. There’s also the Malthusian Theory, the Y2K bug and the more recent Mayan 2012 predictions. The prophecies are endless. None have happened but the paranoia continues. And more and more camping equipment is being bought just in case one of the prognostications, whether it's zombies or comet gas, actually comes true.

The ugly truth about zombie culture, why the newest zombie movie outsells the last, is not the fear of the brain eating zombies themselves. Even Brad Pitt protects his family from a zombie apocalypse in the new movie World War Z.  The undead are merely the catalyst. It’s the paranoia of surviving a zombie apocalypse that’s created the interest. Most of us have a deep desire to see if we could survive, live in an untamed world where you make your own rules. Staying alive during a zombie apocalypse is pure fantasy and much less scary then if a real natural disaster did happen. Look at the movie 2012 where the climate shifts and the entire planet as we know it changes. Many people believe this to be a possibility — that’s why the film 2012 boomed at the box office.

This is the same reason survival shows have been on the rise. The only difference is that by putting zombies into the picture there’s more entertainment value for a wider audience. Thousands have watched Bear Grylls drink his own urine or Canadian icon, Survivorman, dodge polar bears. But throw a herd of zombies into the picture and Les Stroud would be more then a Canadian phenomena — he’d be a super star.

Here’s what I would pack for a basic “Bug-Out Bag” from all my assorted gear storied in my attic, besides the obvious Duct-Tape and a splatter mask.

Goal Zero Guide 10 Solar Kit — for when the power goes out.

Goal Zero Bolt Focus Flashlight — because zombies attack at night as well.

Adventure Medical Kit Escape Bivy Bag — sleeping on the go.

Adventure Medical Kit First-Aid Kit — for any non-bite injuries.

Emergency Colman Poncho — perfect to camouflage yourself with blood and guts.

Outdoor Research Advanced Bivy — when the abandoned farmhouse is taken over.

Leatherman Multi-tool — an indispensable gadget whether you’re running from zombies or not.

MSR Hyper Flow Water Filter — getting clean water on the run.

Light My Fire Firesteel — matches and lighters will eventually run out.

Silva Ranger Compass — satellites will be down and your GPS won’t work.

MSR Trail Lite Duo Cook Set — a great lightweight cook set.

Kelly Kettle Trekker — a stove that runs on twigs.

Gansford Bruks French Trade Tomahawk — good brain smasher (and wood cutter).