In a general sense, would it be better to equip troops with plate carriers, body armor, etc. if they’re fighting against zombies?

Right now, my Troopers (what someone in the US Garrison is called) who are not grunts (AKA infantry) are all issued this modern ALICE-like pack, especially for the Troopers who fight and work in a combat support role, which is what anti-zombie operations fall under. Infantry Troopers have the more typical and traditional plate carriers, Kevlar body armor, etc.

For anti-zombie Troopers, they wear the MOLLE-ALICE-like packs due to the need for speed and mobility because anti-zombie Troopers typically operate at the squad and platoon levels. Anti-zombie doctrine also states that even though these zombies are slow (imagine The Walking Dead zombies) and can only speed up to a light jog at their fastest, Troopers must be able to move and fight faster than these zombies.

Meanwhile, bulky plate carriers and body armor inhibits their ability to move faster in relation to anti-zombie doctrine, which is why the ALICE-like battle harnesses shown above were adopted. Plus, due to the need to conserve equipment and military resource, only infantry Troopers and those directly serving on the frontlines are issued a proper plate carrier and body armor. To make up for for the loss of protection, anti-zombie Troopers are issued a special set of uniforms that are pretty much exactly like their regular everyday combat-utility uniform except for the fact that the uniform materials are reinforced with lightweight bite-resistant fabric able to withstand the force of a dog biting down hard.

The only personal piece of protective equipment that anti-zombie and infantry Troopers share is the Enhanced Combat Helmet in order to promote mobility while also offering some protection from falling debris, shrapnel, bites, scratches, etc.

Also, keep in mind that although anti-zombie Troopers primarily fight and operate against zombies, they can and have also fought against hostile human enemy combatants. And according to Garrison doctrine, all Troopers are trained as basic infantry rifleman before all else (a la the Marine mantra of “every Marine a rifleman”).

But would this make sense? Would it just be better to give them regular plate carriers and body armor or would what I currently have work?

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    $\begingroup$ We can't really answer this question because you don't tell us anything about your zombies can do. How fast are they? How strong are they? Are scratches dangerous or just bites? We can't tell you how to solve your problem unless you actually describe it. Almost 90% of your post is just describing your solution, but you don't tell us anything at all about the problem you're trying to solve. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2020 at 22:27
  • $\begingroup$ @MorrisTheCat I’ve said in my post how fast they are. $\endgroup$
    – user69268
    May 12, 2020 at 22:28
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    $\begingroup$ @MorrisTheCat I’ve said in my post how fast they are. As for how strong they are, they’re not very strong save for the newly-identified Enforcers who are more “human”-like. They’re still slow and can never catch up to a human running but they have the mental capacity of a 6-7 year old and are more physically strong than the regular zombies. And yes, scratches as well as bites are dangerous. $\endgroup$
    – user69268
    May 12, 2020 at 22:30
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see why you need any of that then. Human bites aren't very strong and human fingernails and teeth aren't very sharp. Motorcycle leathers, hell, even thick canvas would be plenty. The primary risk to your troops isn't getting bitten, it's getting grappled and immobilized. Armor of any kind is entirely counterproductive. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2020 at 22:32
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    $\begingroup$ Key thing to note about fighting zombies on foot at close quarters is that it is the ONLY method of fighting most zombies are any good at. So if you avoid it you will win by default and any casualties you get result from failure to avoid it. Any realistic military anti-zombie doctrine or operations would focus on controlling the engagement distance and keeping it open and avoiding putting your soldiers facing zombies on foot. Most zombies are not very good at tactics, so this would typically be easy to do and the military would win in a matter of days with minimal casualties. $\endgroup$ May 13, 2020 at 22:48

5 Answers 5


In World War Z, trying to treat zombies as a "military" threat is what got most of the army killed to begin with; so, if you're going down that rabbit-hole, you will want to reimagine everything about what it means to be an anti-zombie trooper vs regular infantry. Your ideas may be good for scouting areas that may or may not have zombies, but actually clearing a zombie infested zone would demand a very different military doctrine and equipment.

For starters, stopping a bite does not take heavy armor, but zombies can bite in a lot of different places; so, what you want more than anything is complete armor coverage. Instead of giving your zombie squads military grade body armor, give them something more akin to a shark bite suit. At only 18 pounds, you get 100% body protection for the same weight as most bullet proof vests (sans any ballistic plates). Even this may be overkill, but if your zombies have any inhuman biting strength (as they often do), a bite suit will break their teeth before you have to worry about being bitten.

Now the armor will prevent a bite, but the sheer size of a zombies horde provides another threat which is often overlooked: crowd crush. If you organize your anti zombie teams like modern military squads where you spread out to prevent your whole team from being mowed down by gun fire, then your team members will be individually surrounded, trampled, and eventually ripped apart no matter how well you armor them. You can fix this by replacing 21st century military training with some late roman republic military training instead.

Modern riot control teams often study Roman maniple warfare because it solves many of the problems involved in how to prevent a large pushing force (like a Greek phalanx, rioting protesters, or zombie horde) from overwhelming and trampling a smaller maneuverable force.

I would also not give them same Enhanced Combat Helmets as the grunts. Romans used open faced helmets because it helped them see and coordinate better than the narrow openings of the older Corinthian style helmets and because they did not have any transparent materials that could actually stop the weapons of the day. Modern soldiers use open faced helmets for the same reasons. But modern riot teams use plexi-faced helmets. These give the same perception advantages as an open faced helm, but also protects the face from any bites, scratches, bludgeonings, and infectious spattering fluids from the zombies as well. If you opt for a single ubiquitous helmet, I'd chose one with a plexi face that regular soldiers may not need rather than one with an open face that would leave you zombie killers under protected.

Key aspects of this include:

  1. By giving your team riot shields (basically modernized scutums), you can create a flexible wall that makes it much harder for the zombies to pull your soldiers out of formation or tackle them to the ground. This is because your out-held arm acts as a shock absorber, and a shield is harder to get a solid grip on than an appendage.
  2. By standing shoulder to shoulder, you only need to fight one zombie at a time. If you have a shield, melee weapon, and armor, and they have their teeth and fingernails, your odds of loosing such a 1-on-1 fight is next to nil.
  3. The person behind you can brace against you and help pick you up if you fall which will further prevent your formation from being overrun.
  4. By using short single handed weapons you are able to rotate out your front line as they get exhausted allowing them to catch their breath and return to the fight later a full strength. While a pike wall, or riffle teams with long bayonets may work great on the short term against zombies, they make rotating out your front-line impossible because you have to break formation by lifting all your weapons to let your own people through; so, if you are too outnumbered your front-line will be forced to fight until exhausted at which point they will be easy pickings. Short weapons also makes it much easier to reorganize your battle formation if you need to expand or contract to fill a gap, or move through complex urban environments. They also pair better with shields than longer weapons because your shield can hold your enemy where you need them for a shorter more accurate weapon to find its mark.
  5. You can open and close gaps in your formations intentionally to allow small numbers of enemies into your back lines where you can surround and more easily kill them. This will be particularly important if your setting includes any "super zombies" that might otherwise trample right through your lines like a war elephant.
  6. Bullets not required. While arming your troops with guns will be a good way to safely kill small amounts of zombies at a distance. Zombie hordes can be huge, and there is no guarantee you will have enough bullets to finish the job. A maniple is organized to be able to fight for hours on end without breaking; so, if you run out of bullets, you can just keep knocking skulls in until the job is done.

A modern riot team of a few hundred men using such tactics can control tens of thousands of rioters without taking any significant injuries, and they are not even allowed to kill the rioters. So, controlling a zombie horde with lethal force is going to be overwhelmingly effective.

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As for weapons:

While the Romans preferred the Gladius for its ability to thrust at gaps in the enemy's armor, they were not ideal for penetrating skulls. For zombies you will specifically want a more front heavy weapon. A warpick, hatchet, or hammer would do a good job, but the ideal weapon may actually be a khopesh. The khopesh has the weight profile of an axe making it good for penetrating the skull, but the extended cutting surface means it would also be really good at lopping off zombie hands that try to pull your shield away.

enter image description here

For your firearms, low calibre handguns allow the most ammo for their weight and cost. Since zombies don't have guns, you don't need to engage from really far away to have the reach advantage; so, high powered rifles are a bit wasteful. Instead you wait till you can "see the whites of their eyes", and go for headshots. The pile of bodies from the zombie's front line will create a barrier; so, as long as you have a solid firing line, you can hold the whole horde at bay at relatively close range meaning you don't need more than handguns. To this end I suggest any plain 9mm police issue sidearm with a lot of spare clips. An M16 with 45 rounds has about the same weight and cost as Glock 22 with 120 rounds of ammo.

Modern police are trained on and issued a wide array of weapons and defensive gear, and only bring what they need based on the threat. Likewise, your anti-zombie legions may have M16s they are trained on for fighting off human raiders, but if they are being deployed to fight zombies, they will leave the rifles at home and bring the right tools for job, just like cops don't bring their assault riffles to a riot.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Even a shark bite suit is probably overkill. Sharks have a MUCH more powerful bite and much sharper teeth than humans do. I don't see any particular reason why motorcycle leathers wouldn't be more than enough to handle any bite a human could dish out. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2020 at 22:28
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    $\begingroup$ If we're doing a "pitched battle" against a horde of thousands of zombies then you should really be launching explosives at them from behind the front line, or from nearby buildings, and using the troopers as defense. Remember we have much better weapons than the Romans! $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    May 13, 2020 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ My only concern is large zombies groups. Just sheer mass pushing against the riot shields. Knock one guy over, 8 zombie pile on. Riot police are scary, and hurt. Zombies don't worry about that. But love the idea of being in anti-zombie riot line. $\endgroup$ May 14, 2020 at 12:04
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    $\begingroup$ @quasi this is why Roman scutums are rounded and swat shield are much more flat. Flat shields control a riot better, but rounded shields deflect polearms between your ranks where they become trapped and useless. So, if your zombies are too dumb to use polearms then the flat shields are fine, if they are not, just adapt by rounding them. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    May 19, 2020 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ @HarryMu Zombies don't bleed. Their brains won't swell due to trauma. Thus most of the concussion damage paths don't apply. $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2023 at 16:45

In any combat, your enemies and their capabilities dictate your response, such as weapons, armor, and tactics.

Modern body armor and weapons are designed to make gunshots "survivable" so WIA can be evacuated to field hospitals and be treated, while doing the same (or worse) to the other side. It'd be mostly worthless against zombies hordes, assuming WWZ type, much like Starship Troopers (the movies) against the bugs.

Assuming that zombies are relatively weak, not that fast, does not really "melee", and has no range, except if they manage to bite you or swarm you... they keep coming until their brain stem was severed, and they have huge numbers.

The obvious answer to that would be equipping combatants with all-around bite protection and little else to keep them highly mobile. Probably multi-layered clothing that can block bites but still air-permeable and easy to move around in, with no exposed skin. They will probably be equipped with more melee weapons, as those will never run out of ammo, probably one-handed thrusting type as to be compatible with shields. And a tower shield so a group can form a testudo in case they are surrounded.

Do they need an ALICE-type pack? I don't know. What do they need to carry besides shield, melee weapon, and so on? And how far are they from supplies? And what kind of comms do they have? Is there drone recon support? Sounds like they will be running everywhere, so except for water and emergency rations, I don't think they need a pack. A riot shield and melee weapon are heavy enough already. Modern soldiers carry large packs because they usually ride something (HUMVEE, trucks, helos, etc.) into combat and they expect to be gone for hours or days. Given the anti-zombie squad needs to move fast and probably not that far from home base, I'd say they can go without, just carry whatever they need on LBH or battle belt.

They can probably each carry pistol with 2-3 magazines as backup, but will probably not use them. Maybe one or two guys in the squad can carry a long-gun for sniping work, but it's not their primary job to shoot things.

Long-range weapons would be shot from headquarters, mostly mortar or howitzer deployed minefields (conventional, bouncing betty, claymores...), regular artillery (or mortars and grenades), and area effect weapons. Drone can be armed, but would probably be armed with phosphorus and/or cluster bombs.

I would not send anti-zombie teams out on anti-human work. Different armor and all that. If they encounter human bandits, their job is to disengage and call for backup from the regular combat soldiers, whose weapons and tactics are optimized for anti-human combat.

  • $\begingroup$ Extended melee fighting will use up a lot of energy. Resources permitting I would send them with firearms and only melee if they have to. And phosphorus weapons wouldn't do much to traditional zombies. $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2023 at 2:17

It depends what the zombies are armed with, and how accurately they are able to fire.

Ceramic plate armor is only useful if they are firing relatively high-velocity or large caliber weapons at you. Otherwise Kevlar should be fine.

If your concern is protection against bites, then a standard uniform is no use, as it leaves exposed areas. A bite-proof uniform would have to cover everything with no gaps at neck, wrists, ankles etc.


Ok, I admit, this is not really an answer on your question. But, it could give you new insights.

Zombie camouflage

Wouldn't it be more interesting to equip them with some equipment that makes they are not perceived as food by zombies?

For example, if in your world zombies feed on brain, why not make them emit a scent of lavender strong enough that they can pass in front of a hungry group of zombies without getting noticed?

Same as if the zombies only attack on heat levels, why not conceal that heat? Well, actually, zombies would prefer to eat cows and horses then.

(As @NuclearWant points out, those two examples are very bad, but I hope you get my point.)

Zombie baits

@KaseyChang proposes in a comment to use zombie baits and that is a very good idea.

This may be more feasible in areas with a lot of zombies than camouflage. For example, it could be something that can be shot from a gun. Like a big shell with a strongly concentrated dopamine. If dopamine is the reason why zombies like to eat human brains, then there is a big change they would prefer human brains over other those of species. https://www.sciencealert.com/key-hormone-dopamine-could-set-us-apart-from-apes

Develop more your zombies to find their weak points

Also, kids of 6 - 7 years are quite intelligent. The can communicate well, make elaborate strategies, use and create tools, and so on... That's a nightmare if your troops need to fight against them in an urban environment while being outnumbered. With that degree of intelligence those zombies can use guns and armours of fallen troopers. Make slingshots, catapults, bows, and more nastiness. (as set traps and much more)

I tend to agree with the comment of @MorrisTheCat, you should explain more about your zombies. Not only their physical traits. But why do they want to attack humans? Is it food? Because they're plain evil? Or maybe intolerant against life?

And don't forget: the best defence is.... not being attacked

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    $\begingroup$ Hiding a heat signature will probably be tough. If you have insulating armor, the soldiers will quickly overheat. Any refrigeration method will have to dump the excess heat somewhere. You could pack yourself in ice for a short while, but it'll require constantly swapping out your heat sink. $\endgroup$ May 13, 2020 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ So basically, anti-zombie camouflage? Or remote controlled zombie bait? $\endgroup$ May 13, 2020 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ @NuclearWang, Very good point. I was giving some over simplified examples. As I do not think that lavender can take away the smell of brain to zombies. But that depends of the world rules of this particular project. $\endgroup$
    – quasi
    May 14, 2020 at 11:07
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    $\begingroup$ So more of a grenade then, kinda like tear gas or similar dispersal pattern. Thrown or from grenade launcher. $\endgroup$ May 14, 2020 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ @quasi I admit I got it from Atom Zombie Smasher. store.steampowered.com/app/55040/Atom_Zombie_Smasher $\endgroup$ May 14, 2020 at 16:11

I would wager going medieval is probably the best bet.

If you are facing zombies only, they only attack like uncoordinated infantry even if they have some sort of minimal intelligence. Sticks, sharpened sticks, rushing, scratching, biting, A quality linen gambeson could take care of. Even this is assuming that the soldiers may come in range of hand to hand combat. (kevlar gambeson would be resource intensive but it would also provide some insurance against being "fragged" in battle i.e. someone backstabs you and shoots you while you are battling zombies)

Front line troops (the ones that might get into hand to hand range could probably do with pistol-riot shield combo or even baton-shield combo with long gambeson and anti-bite pants or kevlar body panels stitched to jeans or smth.

Rear, long ranged troops can just do away with armor except for maybe kneepads and some sort of gloves just for protection from rough movement (falling, climbing, kneeling, etc.)

side note: A well disciplined medieval army in the medieval times would probably make short work of a zombie outbreak, call it a curse, and might even quarantine like done for the black plague.

People are the most dangerous during a Zombie outbreak

Sabotage, raiding for resources or what not, it stands to reason that you will come up against human opposition.

For that, a standard military garb is probably best. Plates and all.


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