Mobility means Survivability
To armor up or not to armor up is a much debated and sometimes heated topic amongst zombie survivalists on the internet. The majority seem to think a fully protected body is essential, while the minority contest being heavily armored is not advantageous. For those who believe in it, what to wear spans the gambit from the realistic to the ridiculous. On one forum, I read a poster’s opinion that chain-mail is the best body armor to bear.
If we lived in a perfect world, we’d all be prepared for a zombie apocalypse — knowing we will cease to be the apex predator and be meat for the mindless, ever-ravenous undead — and have the perfect escape vehicle stocked with an abundance of food, water, weapons, ammunition and survival gear to get us away from the zombie menace and safely to our bunker. But, in reality, the majority of civilization has not prepared or planned for any kind of doomsday scenario, let alone one filled with mindless flesh-eating zombies.
For those of us who are ready, we know that no matter how much we have planned and prepared, there will always come the unexpected. Vehicles break down, traffic congestion can hinder a timely escape, and there is always someone who will panic and cause chaos. Now in our imperfect world, with zombies running amuck, you could find yourself on foot trying to make it to a safe haven. Here is why I believe body armor has the potential for causing your demise:
In a 2004 study by U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick, they stated that, “It’s weight, not capabilities, [that] wear out troops.” And according to a study conducted during Operation Enduring Freedom III, it was found that a rifleman’s average Emergency Approach March Load for a mission (duration of 48-72 hours) was 127.34 pounds, when required to march through terrain impassable to vehicles or where ground/air transportation resources were not available.
While these soldiers were resupplied each day with 2-3 MREs, up to 8 liters of water, (and, when under fire), their basic load of ammunition of 180 rounds, you won’t be. These Emergency Approach March Loads were deemed to be easily carried by well-conditioned soldiers. Granted, the load included ballistic armor, helmet, boots, clothing, weapons and munitions, but consider the weight you will be carrying and whether you are conditioned enough to do so.
First is the weight you will be carrying without armor and with no re-supply, starting with your survival backpack. There is no average weight for a 3-day survival pack, but consider this: Army Ranger candidates conduct much of their training while carrying 65-90 lbs of equipment on their backs. A well-stocked survival backpack should contain at least three days’ worth of food and water—3 meals per day and a minimum of 1 liter of water per day, in a moderate environment. You should also have a change of clothes, a jacket, a poncho, emergency medical kit, a water purification kit, fire starting kit, firearm cleaning kit, at least 300 rounds ammo for your carbine or shotgun—not including any ammo for your sidearm—550 cord, a personal hygiene kit, a flashlight with extra batteries and other sundry survival items.
So, let’s say your backpack weighs the minimum Army-Ranger-candidate weight of 65 pounds (mine is towards the middle weight range, for such). Now let’s add up the other potential items you may be wearing (based on my preferences): 12” knife, 10 oz; machete, 1 lb. 15oz; lightweight handgun, 31 oz loaded; M4 carbine, 7.5 lbs loaded; clothing, 2.5 lbs; boots, 3 lbs; multi-tool (19 tools in one), 9.6 oz and a tactical tomahawk (as an entry tool/wood cutter), 24 oz. Your load-bearing weight is now 83 lbs and 15.60 ounces. For an average person that is a lot of weight to carry, even for a short period of time while walking at a moderate pace.
Now let’s move onto the heated topic of body armor. After visiting many internet sites, I’ve compiled a list, with weights, of what many think to be necessary body armament (not including gloves) to prevent being bitten, infected from splatter during a melee, and/or ballistic threats from hostile survivors. We start with the head and move to the ankles: a (large) ballistic helmet, 2.98 pounds; full face mask, 14 oz; fully-equipped outer tactical vest with all its components (front, back & side ballistic plates with collar and groin protectors), 30-35 lbs; elbow pads, 1 lb; and shin/knee guards, 2 lbs. Your load weight has now risen to nearly 125 lbs, just short of that Emergency Approach March Load.
With all that weight you are hauling, you have now seriously impeded your fight or flight capability. Let’s go back to you walking on that road trying to make your way to your destination. You are fully geared up and ready for any hostile threat. However, you suddenly find yourself surrounded on three sides by a horde of zombies that haven’t eaten in three minutes. The hungry minions begin to close in, starting to cut off that only exit route. The window of opportunity is minimal; you must escape before you are completely enclosed. You must run! You try to bolt, only to find that all the weight you’re carrying has made you slower than a Romero zombie and the gear that is supposed to protect you is about to harm you.
If you manage to avoid the initial grasp of the undead, and if the window of opportunity has not yet closed, what will be the first thing you’ll do to lighten your load in order to avoid your demise? You will drop that heavy backpack and run for your life. Well, now you’ve just dumped your life-line for survival…and potentially, only postponed your death.
Evasion tactics are the best defense when it comes to the undead. There is no place in a zombie apocalypse for bravado or stupidity. If you can’t evade, you must have the ability to run. Shooting zombies, whether necessary or not, only attracts more of the undead or potentially those rogue, hostile survivors you may be concerned about. And the last thing you want to do is to engage in a melee with any group, especially if you are burdened down. My opinion: forget the body armor, stay maneuverable, and stay mobile.
In an upcoming article I will discuss your alternate armor choices for this who still insist on head-to-toe protection. In the mean time…
Just remember, whatever you may choose, think smart, shop wisely, stay vigilant, and be safe.ely, stay vigilant, and be safe.