Most zombie survival plans entail at least some degree of scavenging. But really, how long will you be able to scavenge and hoard? Most food will last anywhere from a few days to a few months, though canned and dried goods will last years if stored properly. A lot of this depends on how many people are left in your area. If only a few are left, there will be more supplies for a longer period of time. If you are isolated and the zombies never came to your area, it will all be hoarded within days and the majority of it will be used up in weeks. Of course, in an isolated area there will be less supplies to begin with. I’m talking about consumables ammo, fuel, food, and to a lesser degree non-consumables such as tools and vehicles. Remember that things break and will need repair, and the parts and materials won’t last forever. Scavenging is important, I’m not going to debate that. If supplies are stockpiled beforehand and scrounging is done quickly and efficiently, you can survive on it for a pretty long time, especially if you are only trying to supply a small group. However, you can’t rely on scrounged supplies forever. The answer is to live in a sustainable fashion. I’m not talking about your environmental impact here. Perhaps a better term would be “self-sufficiency”. Hunting for meat or growing vegetables is being self-sufficient, and sustainable. Running on solar or wind power instead of using fuel for a generator is being sustainable. It could be as extreme as mining your own ores, smelting them, and then forging them into tools, using homemade charcoal. You don’t have to be that extreme, at least not right away.
I do realize there are articles that cover things I will cover below; this is just a nice summary.
Levels of Self-Sufficiency
Like I said before, it could be as little as growing your own food or as much as making knives from scratch. There is a middle ground. Think those Coke cans are useless? Melt them down and cast some aluminum. Want electricity and all the modern comforts? Run off solar instead of using a generator. I’m going to divide it into levels, to make it easier to understand.
This is the ultimate goal. Things are pretty much back to what they were before, maybe a little better. Maybe it’s not quite the same, maybe not as many people and the borders of the new nation are smaller. However, the cities are rebuilt, the power plants are running, the lights are on and the oil refinery is making fuel. It will probably take several generations to get to this stage.
Complete means complete. You can produce ALL your own food. You can make weapons and tools from the raw materials that you collected yourself. If a dome was placed around your settlement, you could survive indefinitely. To achieve this, you WILL have to step back several hundred years in technology, with all the disadvantages it entails. You will be vulnerable to disease, crop failure, and raider attack. This stage occurs after the resources run out and before civilization is rebuilt to a major extent.
This one is a bit more broad. For the most part, you can produce your own resources, including food and water. You don’t produce things start to finish, but you do recycle. To be at this level, you should at least be RELOADING your own ammo, although probably not making it from scratch. Basically, you can provide your own basic needs, but still rely on scrounged, manufactured goods to some extent. This is probably the best position to be in for as long as possible. Eventually, you will either be forced to become completely self-sufficient and take the hit in technology or have already rebuilt civilization and be able to keep going as you were before Z-day.
You grow some food yourself, you can at least provide water. But you are reliant on scavenged supplies as well. Unless you have an uber-fort built before Z-day, your colony will probably be at this stage for a period of time. You will either move on up the sustainability ladder or die.
A convoy is a good example of this. You need fuel. You don’t grow food, although you might kill a deer here and there. You must stop to get water. How long you will last at this stage depends on several factors, but you will either die or move on up eventually.
Being Sustainable and Self-Sufficient
Complete self-sufficiency is hard. Not only does it require a lot of effort and time, but it also requires a lot of sacrifice, which could lead your settlement to its destruction. Therefore, we are shooting for resource self-sufficiency here.
Power is a luxury. You don’t need it to survive, although in theory you don’t need guns, either. My point is that you can do without power, but it is very useful. It can be used to pump water out of wells, charge batteries for radios, and run safe electric lighting. You probably won’t be running electric stoves, refrigerators, or powering TVs unless you have an excess of SUSTAINABLE power.
You know all those useless-sounding “Alternative Energy Solutions” that you see on the internet? Those are your best friend here. Solar, wind, and even micro-hydroelectric are all potential sources of power. I won’t go into the details, but basically a system consists of the solar, wind, or other power source, batteries, and electronics to control the whole works. Usually there is a generator as well, just in case.
Such a system won’t last forever. However, if you can keep extra parts, it will last at least a few decades. They are expensive now, but they will probably be easy to find after the apocalypse. After all, do you think scavengers will take the boxes of ammo, or the big heavy solar panel?
Water is the first necessity of life, at least as far as I know. Forget about settling down in the desert, there’s no water. The tundra DOES have water, in the form of snow, but you need good shelter and a way to melt water. Rivers, streams, and lakes are freshwater. However, some are full of bacteria, scum, and pollutants. Some may be safe to drink as-is, some will be okay with boiling, and some just flat-out undrinkable.
Collect rainwater! You know those gutters that you always have to clean? Clean them and repair them if necessary. Put a rain barrel of some sort under the downspout, and you’re good. If you live in a desert, this would be very pointless. The rainwater itself is clean, the gutters not so much. It’s probably drinkable if you boil it or treat it, though. And great for irrigation if you need to do so!
Humans have been digging wells for thousands of years. If you live in a rural area, you probably have one! Ground water is water that has soaked into the ground, filling the spaces between rocks and soils. A well is probably the best source of water. Well water is usually clean enough to drink, but it may be contaminated with microbes or high levels of minerals. Chemical pollution is a problem now, but probably won’t be after the apocalypse. Water can be extracted from a large well with a bucket, but a modern deep, narrow drilled well needs a pump.
More Information: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/privatewells/pdfs/household_wells.pdf
There are plenty of articles on hunting, fishing, growing food and raising livestock on this site and others, so I won’t go into details. You need to produce enough food to feed your colony. Storing some for winter is essential as well. Ideally one would want a good variety of food for proper nutrition, but it may not be possible. Bottom line: Produce your own food! Hunting is not the best option, you need to raise livestock and grow food!
Fuel is a hard one. To make your own gasoline or diesel, you need a source of crude oil and an oil refinery, and probably a bunch of chemicals as well. Fuel goes bad; it doesn’t last forever. I believe diesel lasts longer than gasoline, but I’m not a hundred percent sure on that.
Obviously, you’re going to have to conserve fuel. Forget a convoy; it’s a waste of gas. You need to stay in one spot. Near a major source of supplies, such as a city, may be a good idea. Multiple settlements need to stay relatively close for efficient trade, but if they get too close, it could create supply and crowding problems. More fuel-efficient vehicles generally are smaller, with less off-road capability and range.
Alternative means of travel should be investigated. Horses are good for some things, but they are relatively slow and can’t carry much, and they require food. Bicycles won’t get you very far or carry very much. Sailing may be an option if you are near the ocean, not so much inland. You could just walk, but not for a long distance or carrying a lot.
For sure, don’t run a generator. Have one, just in case (say you’re under siege, it’s the middle of the night, no wind and you’re batteries are flat and draining fast) but not as your primary source of power. Use solar, wind, micro-hydro, even hamster-wheels if you have to.
Biofuels may be the answer. Ethanol isn’t that hard to make, but it requires you to use grain which would otherwise be used for food, which may or may not be an acceptable tradeoff. Biodiesel requires vegetable oils, used or new, which is common today, maybe not so common after the end of the world as we know it. It also requires methanol. However, both can be made at home (or in a survivor colony).
There are useful articles on reloading ammunition that you should read. Reloading is one way to extend your ammunition supply, but you will eventually run out, especially if you get attacked a lot. You will need alternative weapons.
Melee weapons may seem like an obvious choice, but they are dangerous when used against infectious zombies, and useless against raiders with automatic weapons. Ideally, you want ranged weapons. Normal bows and arrows are effective in the right hands, not as good as firearms but you can make your own ammunition and even bows! However, commercial bolts/arrows and bows or crossbows will still be superior most of the time.
As odd as this may sound, post Z-day is the perfect time to bring out your homebuilt weapons, including your potato cannons, flamethrowers, and even electrical weapons. I don’t recommend using a potentially unreliable weapon when you don’t have to, but a potato cannon would be great for defending a base, and even crude flamethrowers are effective at close range. The best part about improvised weapons is that they can be made out of materials that few scavengers would grab.
Making your own gunpowder is definitely something to pursue. The ancient Chinese did it thousands of years ago, so it is definitely possible to do post Z-day. Gunpowder arms aren’t as effective as modern firearms, but still pack a punch. Perhaps it would be more useful in cannons or bombs. For safety and legal reasons (as well as sheer laziness), I won’t post instructions here.
- Don’t give up scavenging and scrounging! Even if you can grow your own food, every little bit helps!
- Conserve and try to Reduce the amount of supplies you use, be it food, fuel or ammo.
- Reuse what you can! Make a radio out of electronic junk, melt down cans, etc.
- You guessed it, Recycle! Although this is pretty much Reuse all over again.
- Excess resources can be traded, but don’t trade too much or you’ll regret it.
- McDonalds may be good for you after all! Raid the grease bin for some waste oil.
- Be creative! Useless junk may be useful! One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!