Technology failing to work remains the most ridiculous genre trope of the zombie apocalypse. We’ve seen many disgusted protagonists sneeringly discard ominously “dead” phones: That’s because people in movies do not know much about technology.
Smartphones will not suddenly become useless slabs of plastic and glass after the era of the undead arrives—its utility as a supreme information resource will, ironically, provide the most important weapon in your arsenal against the damned. However, keeping your smartphone running while all hell literally breaks loose can challenge even the savviest of technicians.
This article explains how to keep your smartphone packed with the information and apps that that will save you when the zombie apocalypse comes screaming through your streets.
Top Four Myths of the Zombie Apocalypse
- Without Power All Technology Is Useless: While it’s true that many of our devices cannot function without power, the ability to generate your own power source has never been easier. Solar chargers provide a simple means of charging your mobile devices.
- Once the Cell Towers Stop Working Your Phone is Useless! Why would your most useful possession become somehow less useful during an emergency? While your phone’s 3G radio might lose its signal once the power gets cut, you still have access to a huge resource of information through apps, PDFs and other kinds of software. Believe it or not, with the right apps, your Wi-Fi connection provides an alternative to 3G in communicating with your allies with apps such as Wi-Fi Talkie.
- GPS Signals Go Away In the Apocalypse: Although cell towers might topple, the GPS receiver in your phone will still be able to receive the radio signal broadcast from the GPS satellite. Unless zombies somehow figure out how to launch rockets, you will always know your position (provided you’re not underground).
- A Zombie Apocalypse Can Actually Happen: We all know that a real zombie apocalypse won’t ever happen. Even so, these tips can provide highly useful information in most disasters, such as a hurricane or earthquake. However, keep in mind the CDC’s official guidelines for surviving a zombie outbreak.
Your equipment should protect your gear, be lightweight and minimal.
- Durable cell case: Whether you’re chased by blood thirsty rage zombies or relentlessly pursued by the walking, shuffling dead, carrying a durable phone case is an absolute must. The best cases combine silicone sleeves with durable, hard outer shells. Unfortunately, many phones never receive such high quality cases—fortunately, TPU cases will substitute in a pinch, providing some degree of rigidity with a fair amount of impact protection. Unlike Silicone cases, TPU cases don’t stretch and slip off as easily.
- Carrying case: Cocoon makes a great equipment carrying case called Grid-It. It’s lightweight and durable.
- Solar Charger: Charging from sunlight will provide juice when no other alternative exists.
- I prefer using larger foldable panels—generally speaking, the larger the charger, the faster your device will recover its battery. In this example, you’ll notice that the solar charger is pretty tiny. Learn from my purchasing mistake and invest more money in a crucial item within your inventory. Also, during the winter months, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hand-crank charger might prove a better option than a solar panel.
- Backup Battery: A great complementary item for a solar charger. Backup batteries can charge independently of your phone. So when you’re out scavenging for supplies, the solar panel can trickle charge the backup battery.
- The RavPower battery shown above provides two functions—first, it can charge your phone’s battery. Second, it can function as a flashlight. These sorts of batteries can transfer their own charge into another battery via its USB ports.
- Backpack: Find yourself a durable looking backpack. It completes the essential survivalist look while providing a snazzy place to store your kit and loot.
- Sandwich bags: Sandwich bags remain one of the most important pieces of kit that I keep around during the rainy season. Keeping your electronics dry while on the run in inclement weather will make the difference between life and death in the apocalypse.
- Repair equipment: I carry around tiny Philips and Flathead screwdrivers, in addition to a guitar pick. They always come in handy for fixing tiny equipment. For example, you may find yourself needing to pull a battery from a discarded phone. In which case, it will pay substantially—in your continued survival—by possessing a means of disassembling electronics.
In short, keep your kit as lightweight as possible. Also remember to keep sensitive electronics in water resistant packaging. I’ve heard that unlubricated condoms make excellent water-proof containers. In my experience, though, if you’re expecting only rain, using a lined, rugged backpack combined with double-bagging your electronics provides an effective solution.
OsmAnd: MakeUseOf user, Jeh, turned me onto OsmAnd earlier this year—it’s easily the best offline map program I’ve used to date. In particular, OsmAnd’s ability to access detailed offline maps, while also giving navigation directions, puts it nearly on par with Google Maps—however, purely as an offline map, it’s better than Google Maps in that it packs in a greater selection of useful features. I highly recommend checking OsmAnd’s settings and installing “voice data“, which will enable voice guidance.
For additional information regarding offline navigation, check out my article covering several alternative offline maps . For the iPhone, there’s Stay , which offers both travel guides and offline maps. For those of you with tablets, you may want to check out my article on going offline with your tablet .
EZPDF Reader: A good PDF reader will give you the most utility, considering that it will allow you to access a huge volume of data. Having a good PDF reader can make the difference between knowing first-aid and not knowing it. Soldiers throughout history have relied upon field training manuals. There’s no reason you shouldn’t either.
For more information on PDF readers available on Android, check out this discussion in the Answers section.
(lite version): This app doesn’t require an internet connection or cellular towers to communicate with others. This app, if installed on at least two phones, can facilitate both voice and text chat using ad-hoc mode. Simply install the app on both the dialing and receiving phones to get started. Here’s the iOS version [No Longer Available].
The app, however, possesses some limitations—first, it won’t dial friends who roamed outside of Wi-Fi range. Second, Wi-Fi inherently drains more than your phone’s other wireless data transfer features, although pound-per-pound it’s a more efficient data transfer medium.
They simply must be connected to your local Wi-Fi network—however, the app can operate as a wireless hot-spot, which your friends would connect to.
Serval Mesh: The Serval Project aims to provide an uninterruptable communication technology operating independent of any central infrastructure. In the event of a sudden collapse, the Serval Mesh app, once finished, will provide essentially a Wi-Fi walkie-talkie, an offline map, a chat client and a file transfer service.
Scanner Radio: This app allows you to scan police broadcasts. It won’t provide much use after civilization collapses, but it may give you an early warning on the impending disaster.
First Aid – American Red Cross: The ARC’s first aid app offers a wide array of life-saving tips. Additionally, it’s totally offline, lightweight and functional.
Army Survival Guide FM3-05.70: This guide comes packed with important survival information, ranging from exposure to the elements to methods of finding edible food. Its most salient features include a search tool, index and total offline access.
It’s also a remarkably lightweight app. The guide does not start on boot and doesn’t run your battery down by accessing network resources—a necessity when power becomes a precious commodity.
Believe it or not, you can download a huge number of survival books, for free. While these texts were not written specifically to defend against legions of cannibals, much of the information contained within may save your life, regardless of the kind of disaster.
For example, the Ship Captain’s Medical Guide provides information on applying first aid to the injured. The guide covers over a dozen subjects pertinent to injury, treatment and other disaster related situations.
Another awesome PDF for handling emergencies is the UNHCR’s Handbook for Emergencies. It covers the essential subjects that refugees need to know in a major diaspora-causing disaster, such as a plague of flesh-eating bacteria. Or perhaps a bacterium causing a plague of flesh-eaters?
Several other recommend reads:
- The US Army’s Field Training Manuals
- Raised Beds: A Guide to Raised Bed Gardening (via Reddit)
- Where There is No Dentist (via Reddit)
- The University of Tennesse’s Guide to Canning Foods (via Reddit)
Contrary to what film teaches us, cell phone technology provides the single best item in your possession for surviving the zombie apocalypse (or really any disaster). Keeping it stocked with the right apps, gear and data will make the difference between finding a meal or becoming a meal.
Any additional suggestions for surviving the zombie apocalypse? Let me know in the comments.