Scavenging is the act of searching abandoned areas for food, weaponsand ammunition, or other necessities. This is possibly the least hazardous of the three primary ways of gathering supplies, others being Raiding and Looting.

Tools of Scavengers

Although there are some items that survivors should carry on them at all times when outside their safe zones (weapons, ammo, etc.), there are a few things that scavengers should make absolutely sure they have.


Bags are a crucial, and often overlooked, tool of a successful scavenger. Bags are necessary for a scavenger to allow them to bring back more than a few handfuls of supplies, and what separates a scavenger from a scout. Duffel bags and large backpacks are ideal because they hold a lot and are easy to carry. But in a pinch, any bag can be utilised. If reduced to using plastic shopping or garbage bags be sure to double them up to improve durability, and tie the handles once the bags are full.

Light Sources

We often take electric light for granted, and forget how dark the inside of a building can be without it.During daytime in buildings with large windows, the sun provides little light. Naturally, a successful scavenger would do well to provide his or her own light. Flashlights are the best choice for scavengers, since they were designed to search for things in the dark, but lanterns are useful in the sense that they can light up an entire room. Headlamps can keep you hands free, but are not as easily pointed. They also pinpoint your head to anyone who care to aim a firearm at you.


When trying to gather a large amount of supplies from a potentially high-yield place, a vehicle is a blessing to scavengers. It saves you the trouble of carrying the loot back to the base and allows you to make multiple trips into the building. If unforeseen event occur, a vehicle can provide a quick getaway.

Pathway Markers

The simple act of leaving a glowstick at every corner or drawing chalk arrows that point to the exit can save your life if you need to get out fast. Bear in mind, however, that marking your path lets others know where you are, which may or may not be in your best interest.

Markers can serve other purposes as well. For instance, using duct tape or spray paint to draw an “/” over doors of rooms and buildings as you enter and as you leave. Places already looted can be identified, sparing future scavengers the wasted effort of a fruitless search.

Choose your pathway markers based on the mission. If you’re looting a dark office building, use symbols that show up in the dark, like reflective tape or glow sticks. If you’re searching an outdoor mall, colorful chalk or paint may be a better option. Make sure your entire group knows what symbols and markers you’re going to be using before the mission – it could save lives.

Breaking/Entering Tools

Tools that can be used to gain access to locked areas or items include:

Bolt cutters
Cutting torch
Lockpick and tension wrench
Spare Keys

Scavenging a Building

Scavenging is a fairly straightforward process, but no two scavenging runs will ever be quite the same. An effective scavenging team is well-coordinated and ready to improvise. Having a plan and sticking to it will help you avoid making foolish and potentially lethal mistakes.

Recon the area. Learn all there is to know about the target and the surrounding area. How many exits are there? Are there any nearby buildings you can escape to if unforeseen event occur? How many floors are there? The smallest detail can save your life. It is preferable to obtain a map or blueprint of the target for study. Your main concerns should be of zombies, survivors or structural damage.

Make a plan: As with any mission, planning is crucial. In a group setting, this rule is doubly important. Plan out the groups now, and divide up the tasks. Decide who’s going to search what parts of the building, who’s going to be lookout and guard the car, and what time everyone’s meeting up to go home.

Get inside: Getting inside can be tricky if the door is locked. Remember that if you can’t go in one way, there’s almost always a back door. Do not boost someone through a window to unlock the door, because then that person is trapped inside with no way out. Beware of burglar alarms, especially on large glass windows and doors. If you set off an alarm, it’s best to swiftly vacate the area.

Scavenging: Once you’re inside, stay together. Avoid splitting up into groups smaller than three people. When you enter a room or area, check for zombies, then go loot. Don’t forget to check your corners. In buildings that consist of a single giant room, such as grocery stores, check the entire place before you start scavenging. In buildings made up of several small rooms, like apartments, you should secure the that level before searching each room. When scavenging, grab everything important you can – you may not be coming back.

Encountering Zombies: Chances are you’ll come across zombies in the building. If you do, kill them before investigating, preferably quietly to prevent attracting more. If a few zombies got in, there could be more. If you find a lot of zombies, leave immediately. There’s nothing worse than fighting hordes of zombies in an unfamiliar building, and no amount of loot is worth your life. On that note, if you need to escape quickly, drop your bags. They’ll only slow you down.

Leave the building: This is fairly straightforward. When you’re ready, just leave the way you came in, but do so carefully as your activities may have attracted attention. It is advised to make sure everyone is accounted for at the end.

High priority targets

Although any building is worth searching, there are a few that should be considered high-priority. Bear in mind, as they are high-priority, the risk of encountering zombies and/or other survivors is drastically increased.

Grocery Stores

Grocery stores are, of course, the go-to place for food and cooking supplies. However, grocery stores are picked clean in the early stages of infection, and are a likely base for survivors.

Items of interest:

Basic medical supplies
Bottled Water
Lights and Batteries
Non-perishable food
Pots and pans

Convenience Stores/Gas Stations

Like they are today, convenience stores are a good place for quick supplies and are less targeted than Grocery Stores. However, for a much safer and more successful trip to a gas station, avoid places in the city – these stores are robbed frequently without the threat of zombies. By driving a couple miles out of town, you’re much more likely to find a well-stocked gas station.

Items of interest:

Bottled Water
Juice and Energy Drinks

Hospitals/Medical Clinics

Hospitals are almost always the first places to fall in a zombie outbreak. As a result, you are guaranteed to find zombies here. An attack on a hospital is more trouble than it’s worth, unless one of your party members is a skilled medical professional who knows how to make use of the equipment found there.

Items of interest:

Defibrillator unit
Protective Gloves, Eyewear
Surgical tools

Gun Stores & Police Stations

They have guns and ammo, radios, and even riot gear for further protection.

Camping/Military Surplus Stores

These stores are unique in that they sell equipment geared specifically towards survival – which is exactly what you are trying to do. Much of their equipment, from heavy-duty flashlights to crank-powered radios, is designed to survive the elements and never let its user down. These stores are also some of the best places to acquire weapons. And to top it all off, these stores are often overlooked by panicking mobs during the initial outbreak.

Items of interest:

Animal traps
Bullet proof/Flak jackets
Camping Stoves
Canteens/Water Bottles/Camelbaks
Combat/Hiking Boots
Fishing Gear
Knives, Machetes, and other blades
Military Clothing
Propane bottles
Radios and Walkie-Talkies
Hunting Rifles
Sleeping Bags
Tactical vests
Winter clothes

Traffic Jams

When large numbers of people try to escape the infected area by driving away, large numbers of cars cause a jam, sometimes even outside of cites. The people waiting often become prey for zombies or infected people amongst them. These traffic jams can be both a blessing and a curse. What is found there depends on the people that were running. Some cars might contain weapons or survival equipment, while in others simply nothing. However, most will have fuel still. Before scavenging one should be sure that the fleeing survivors have attracted the largest hordes far away. Always be aware of possible zombies stuck in cars or other places. Do not attempt to scavenge any traffic jam in urban environment.

Hardware Stores

In a zombie apocalypse, a hardware store is a blessing and should be a priority to scavenge. It contains nearly all the supplies necessary for base modification and an abundant trove of tools, many with a good anti-zombie ability. Many nowadays even have a little cafe.

Items of interest:

Axes, Spades, Chainsaws etc.
Fuel (propane and gasoline from parked cars.)
Gardening/Farming tools
Hammers and Nails


Before entering a large building/area set a time limit, using watches, sun’s position etc. It is generally best to be out before dark to prevent stumbling about in an unfamiliar place.

Although you should throughly check a building for activity, do NOT take your time. Cans will keep food fresh for longer. Check the seal to see if air got in or anything has happened to it, shake it and listen for a sloshing sound. Also, keep in mind that when cans go bad, they swell. Generally, anything inside a non-swelled can is still good. Nonperishable items should be your top priority. Silence is golden. The noise from talking, rummaging, or dropping items can bring unwanted attention and danger.

If you plan on doing a lot of searching in a particular area, draw or find a map of it and plan where you’ll go, crossing off places as you clear them. This is a handy tactic in malls or shopping centers.

Do NOT take refridgerated items. Cooking oil has high energy per mass and can be very useful. High strength alcohol can be used as disinfectant, antifreeze, explosive and fuel. Drugs in general will become extremely valuable. With no more farms, labs, or factories committed to their production, individuals with access to them will quickly become rich off of the surviving drug addicts, diabetics, the sick and people who need painkillers

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Written by Frank

Dutch guy living in Finland. Founded Zombie Guide Magazine in 2012 as a hobby project.. Which is still is to this day. Besides writing, my passions are fitness, the outdoors and good food.