We all know the ideas about the "ideal zombie shelter" stocked with food, water, and ridiculous amounts of ammunition, hidden somewhere up in the Rocky mountains far from cities. But what about Suburbia? What items that one could reasonably expect to be in an upper-middle-class home would be most helpful in a zombie apocalypse scenario?

For this, assume zombies in the World War Z vein (spread virus by biting, not overly intelligent, but decently fast). Our family lives in White Picket Fence House #31 in The Suburbs. At 6 pm one evening, the news reports the apocalypse is starting, although not yet in full swing. The family of four (two teenage kids) have an hour to grab everything they can cram into their minivan before hightailing it to Grandpa's cabin in the mountains, about an eight hour drive away. What do they grab? (Additionally, is there anything they might not have but would be worth the ten minute drive to the local hardware store to obtain? Society hasn't completely broken down yet, so the roads/stores are somewhat usable for the next 12 to 16 hours.)

Note: it's reasonable to expect that they might have some sort of prep, especially given that we seem to be living in the end of the world already. But this isn't a military family, and the extent of their specific prep for disaster AT MOST would likely be a mediocre "bug out bag", and probably a couple of firearms.

Edit: I am primarily looking for what sort of "normal" household items would be useful.

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    $\begingroup$ The book World War Z addressed characteristics and supplies that survivors had in common, including what happened to the bug-out folks when their food ran low. It wasn't pretty. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Sep 25, 2020 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ @user535733 that is a fair criticism of the zombie description, I will edit. $\endgroup$
    – Jimothy
    Sep 25, 2020 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ Zombie repellent, obviously. Doesn't everyone have some of that? $\endgroup$
    – Jedediah
    Sep 25, 2020 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ An overdose of sleeping pills. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Sep 25, 2020 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ I think the question is too broad. It would be better if we know what they want to accomplish. For example if you are in a hot city but your cabin is in a freezing location then blankets would come before kitchenware. However say the cabin is stocked with most things except entertainment then getting a console and books is more important than other things. And so on $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Sep 25, 2020 at 20:25

5 Answers 5


(I live in a small town, basing the answer on what I got in my garage)

Simple gardening tools would already be helpful. Why? Zombies are melee combatants who are easy to kill due to them not defending themselves properly but also able to take you out in a single hit. So fighting them at a distance is preferable using shield and polearms.

Break a hedge scissors in two, strap them to the poles of some rakes and you got two effective easy to make spears. Shovels are good for digging...because zombies are as many stated stupid...it will take some time but if you can dig a trench around your safe zone they will probably run in one by one, get stuck and then it's just a matter of poking them down safely.

A small box of nails, a hammer and a saw are also something you don't want to underestimate because the power to repair your weapons/home or construct traps/additional fortifications is a lifesaver in the long run. Don't waste time and space on power tools, seeing electricity won't be reliable and the noise is pretty much a lunch bell. Best is to go full medieval on them.

Something that might be unconventional but also useful, the lids of some trashcans. Both he plastic and metal versions are light weight rather sturdy and sometimes come with built in handles, if not they can be added.

Reason for that is that a normal person person would not able to punch through it so zombies would logically lack the same strength. This would again come to play with the whole Shield and spear doctrine I am advising.

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    $\begingroup$ #1 thank you for the answer, #2 "the power to repair your weapons/home or construct traps/additional fornications" is an all time great typo ;) $\endgroup$
    – Jimothy
    Sep 25, 2020 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Jimothy writing on my phone, this ducking autocorrect will one day be the death of me. $\endgroup$
    – A.bakker
    Sep 25, 2020 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Jimothy just collected my trashcan form the street and thought of something new haha. $\endgroup$
    – A.bakker
    Sep 25, 2020 at 18:54

Assuming you have everything in the BOB checklist in your bug out bag, and you're running so far away from society that you are unlikely to see zombies for a very long time (and have firearms for when you do). I'd suggest food and water is going to be a problem before the zombies do.

Hopefully grandpas cabin has a water tank and downpipes. You may wish to buy a water filtration system for it with your last purchase. Otherwise I'd be buying seeds for fast growing year-round veggies that grow in your local climate. Live chickens if you can get them (turns grass into eggs!) And perhaps a solar powered pump to pump water from the nearby creek up into your veggie patch.

If there already is lots of food and water there, my last purchase at the hardware store would be a few rolls of barbed wire, a solar powered electric fence energiser, and a few big fence posts. Many of those electric fences play a tone when zapping, allowing them to double as proximity sensors so you can gun down any that make it past.

After your edit saying the BOB bag is mediocre: Handheld tools. Shovels. Axes. screwdrivers. Hammer. Nails. Files. Chisels. If you're organised enough to keep your tools in a toolkit take your whole damn toolkit. Everything in your garage that doesn't plug into a wall socket is going to be useful. If not as an improvised weapon it allows you to create other useful things.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer! I edited the question bc I think it may have been unclear, I am mostly looking for what household items would be best, not assuming they have a great BOB at the start. $\endgroup$
    – Jimothy
    Sep 25, 2020 at 18:19
  • $\begingroup$ Great edit thanks, +1 $\endgroup$
    – Jimothy
    Sep 25, 2020 at 18:30
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    $\begingroup$ The bug-out bag checklist is a good start but that's for short term survival. What the OP really needs to look up for inspiration is TEOTWAWKI ("The End Of The World As We Know It") preparedness and look for common household equivalents. A lot of people have given an absurd amount of thought to that kind of thing. $\endgroup$ Sep 25, 2020 at 18:31

Source of fire

Matches. Blowtorch. Cigarette lighters. Something. Anything.

Carpentry tools

You're going to spend a lot of time channeling your inner Mythbuster or A-Team fanboy/girlism. A cabin without a secure perimeter will get you killed.

First aid and sanitary supplies

Bleach and Everclear will be your friends. Antibiotic ointment is also a big deal. Sterile gauze, band aids, over the counter finger splints, and in general over the counter medication will be very useful.

Nonperishable food

Needs no explanation.

Printouts of Internet how-to guides

The internet contains a wealth of information that will very rapidly disappear. How-to carpentry-for-dummies videos. Text describing how the ren-faire reenactors and doomsday preppers make handmade stuff. You'll be glad to have what little you'll be able to save.

Windup alarm clocks

Zombies are stupid and easily distracted, especially by loud noises. Set the alarm a few minutes into the future, wind it up, throw it far away from you.

Hunting stuff

Gear, like a bow and arrow. A how-to guide for how to fletch your own crossbow bolts. Dressing an animal for slaughter for idiots: A reference for the rest of us.

Ways to communicate and attract attention

Battery-powered megaphones. Battery-powered walkie-talkies. Road flares. CB radios, if you have a generator.

Scrap metal

Let your inner MacGuyver go nuts. The more scrap metal you have, the crazier the stuff you can build.

  • $\begingroup$ Print outs of how-to articles cannot be emphasized enough. You're probably going to be without internet access for a very long time. I would add any small solar panels you can find and any rechargeable batteries, as well as a print out of basic electronic maintenance. $\endgroup$
    – abestrange
    Sep 25, 2020 at 21:27
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    $\begingroup$ My issue with this awnser is, a lot of the items listed aren't common in a suburban home. Like what suburban household has bows, crossbows, arrows, road flares, walkie talkies and megaphones. Also scrap metal is not easy to carry arround when on the run and easily salvageable along the way our from surrounding areas after creating a staging area. $\endgroup$
    – A.bakker
    Sep 25, 2020 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ You'd be hard pressed to find all this but some is reasonable. Walkie talkies/megaphones are uncommon but cheap & enough folks have uses (say mom's a track&field coach). Bows? Archery's not a common hobby anymore but not unheard of. Hunters use them, too. Road flares are an emergency item many will have. As for scrap metal, think outside the box. It's everywhere. Empty soda cans. Kitchen appliances. Extension cords. Computer cases. Canvas your house. There's a lot more than you might think. You can replace the furnace filter door cover after the apocalypse. If you're still alive, that is. $\endgroup$
    – Ton Day
    Sep 26, 2020 at 3:23

I would think the primary thing not commonly in a bug-out bag would be unpowered tools of all types: construction, gardening, and camping, e.g. saws, hammers, nails, shovels, axes, hoes, etc. There's a cabin perhaps but they'll still need to maintain it, erect fortifications, dig latrines/wells/etc., build additional structures, gather firewood and other natural resources, do farming, if they're planning on that, etc. Multiple of each is mandatory since they'll be using them hard and there's no way to replace them if they break; anything they have access to in the suburbs is likely to be meant for casual gardening, not heavy use.


Plywood, for windows.

traffic jam


Depicted: traffic jam of people trying to evacuate the Camp Fire in 2019. Once this is on the news it will be too late to get out of town. It will be too late to go to the stores. Both WWZ and Walking Dead had memorable images of the giant traffic jams that resulted from people trying to flee the cities. They are more likely to get shot by other citizens than they are eaten by zombies.

These folks need to board up their windows or cover them with foil or sheets, and keep quiet. If this happened in my house, I have some big trash bags. I would fill them with water while the water was on. I could make it to PetSmart on foot from here. We would all go and would bring back all the kibble we could carry. The fancy stuff, now.


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