When the Dead Walk: REI Hosts Zombie Survival Class
Story and photos by Casey Minter
When the dead walk, will you know how to survive? That is a question many Eugene residents asked themselves on a foggy Thursday night. Packed into the 2nd floor of the local REI, a diverse crowd awaited instruction that would help them live through a pandemic of pallid, prying, people-eaters. The event, “ Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse,” was hosted by REI, and drew a wide range of zombiephiles: from restless children looking to display extensive knowledge on the gory subject, to middle-aged couples arguing between the most effective strongholds to hide out in, to several elderly women debating the most effective, and least messy, use of a crochet needle to incapacitate an attacking zombie—which they decided was to go in at an angle through the eyeball right into the brain.
Wayne Beckwith, a shorter man with a bulky, well-kempt beard, seems like the kind of man comfortable with living off the land. An REI Outreach Specialist, Beckwith is knowledgeable in the field of wilderness survival. Despite this, however, he had to attend a special corporate training at REI headquarters earlier in 2012 in order to teach the Zombie Preparedness class. He is, by all means, a zombie-expert. Well versed in the literature of the undead, as well as the ‘science’ behind surviving the hypothetical zombie apocalypse, he was willing and able to teach the crowd these desirable skills.
“When I heard about the zombie class, I was thrilled,” Beckwith says, “It’s supposed to just basically prepare people. The idea is to bring people in who normally wouldn’t be interested in, say, an ‘Emergency Preparedness Class’ and teach them some vital survival skills.”
The class covered the basics of surviving in the wild: necessary equipment, fire safety, first aid considerations, and other useful tips and skills. The overarching theme of zombies carried throughout, and the participants were treated to multitudes of strategies in hand-to-hand combat, clever tactics to remain unseen and uneaten, the safest places in Eugene to hold up in, and ways to avoid infection from gushing bodily fluids—“gaiters” do wonders if you want to keep your socks dry and clean from any curb-stomped zombie brains.
Participants attended the class for an array of different reasons. One gray-haired woman, who had a tiny, yapping Bichon Frisé on her lap, responded, “I’ve been infected already. I’m just hoping to learn the best way to avoid getting salmonella from eating fresh brains.” Another stolid, barrel-chested man was just looking for the best gear he could buy—or pilfer—once the apocalypse finally came. Beckwith was able to answer the latter of those two. His suggestions included gear from REI—an ice ax being his close range weapon of choice, as well as several kits found online. For a measly $349.00, anyone can purchase the Gerber Apocalypse Kit which includes seven survival tools: a camp hatchet, two machetes, a wicked looking parang, an infantry knife, a serrated knife, and a more mobile “titanium nitrade-coated blade” which Gerber promises will “repel the toxic residue of the undead.” After all, one wouldn’t want the copious amounts of zombie blood and bits to corrode the weapons.
Knives, axes, picks and bludgeons are great, but for the average zombie killer, a little distance would be appreciated. Guns, however, are not the best choice though. Loud, unwieldy, and capable of doing a lot of damage to allies and oneself, guns can lead to more trouble than they’re worth in a zombie infested world. They have their place, but must be used carefully and sparingly. Loud noises draw the unwanted attention of the flesh-craving horde.
“I’ve always wondered why the heroes in zombie movies never used silencers,” Beckwith laughed, “The mobsters in the movies use a pillow, come on guys do something!” Beckwith suggests a more antiquated approach: bows, crossbows, thrown spears, knives or whatever is at hand to keep the fast-approaching zombies at bay. But in the end, the best way to stay alive is to stay away from any potential biters.
The most important thing to remember in order to stay alive has nothing to do with bashing brains or headshots. Surviving is more about being prepared, and maintaining constant vigilance. “You have to keep a positive mental attitude,” Beckwith emphasized. One must always keep a calm and clear head. A fire is an important tool in the dystopian world. It provides a circle of flickering mental safety, soothing panicked people and giving comfort when a group needs it most. Also, it is imperative in purifying water, which is even more of a necessity in the case of a zombie apocalypse. The zombie virus could travel in many ways, so be sure to boil water for at least five minutes before consuming it.
However, there are several things to remember. “Keep the firelight blocked as much as you can, build your fire up against an overhanging cliff in an area surrounded by woods,” Beckwith advises. “That way you’ll get heat reflecting back to you from the rock and be less noticeable.” Even a drama queen would agree that attention is never a good thing to draw when there are wandering packs of bloodthirsty cannibals about. Also, one must remember that flames are a very ineffective weapon against the undead, as they will not stop an enemy immediately. “Zombies are bad, but flaming zombies are worse,” one participant said.
Despite the lighthearted manner of the class, it was an entertaining look into a possibly terrifying future. It, along with other REI courses, was able to teach many people vital skills that may help them in the future. For more tips on surviving the zombie apocalypse, look at REI’s infographic or check out the official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention webpage on Zombie Preparedness. Always remember, the dead walk, but the living run!