Top 5 merit badge books to help you survive the zombie apocalypse

From the "Take A Photo With a Zombie Arrowman" booth hosted by Coosa Lodge at the 2013 SR-9 Section Conclave.

You turn on CNN, and it’s official: the zombie invasion has begun.

As the Scout or Scouter in your group of survivors, you’ll be the guy or gal everyone turns to. Are you prepared?

If you’ve read these five merit badge books, the answer’s yes. I’ve looked through all 135 currently available merit badges to find five that’ll help you if (when?) the zombie invasion comes.

Take a look at my list, and tell me which ones I forgot in the comments section.

wilderness-survival-MB-cover5. Wilderness Survival

In almost every zombie-related TV show and movie, the survivors end up in the woods.

So the skills taught in Wilderness Survival merit badge, which was my favorite as a Scout, will be critical to your group.

For example, pages 29 to 33 cover how to build a fire, including info on fire by friction: “an important and enjoyable skill to master” but one that requires practice so that “in emergency situations, you will know just what to do.”

You’ll also learn how to treat water (page 38), including info on boiling, chemical treatment and filtering.

The pamphlet doesn’t say it, but I will: Don’t drink from water zombies have been splashing around in. Speaking of water …

swimming-MB-cover4. Swimming

Everyone knows zombies can’t swim.

If you can, with the help of Swimming merit badge, you may be able to escape those walking corpses. Pay particular attention to the survival skills section (pages 22 to 27).

Maybe you’ll hop into the lake or an abandoned swimming pool while the zombies stagger pass. If the water’s cold, use the HELP position (heat escape lessening posture), which has you float motionless while wearing a PFD and your clothes. Your head is out of the water, and your legs are drawn close to your chest.

If you’re with multiple people, you should huddle together. Either way, when surviving in cold water, remember this tip that should become your outlook for the entire zombie apocalypse: “Maintain a positive mental attitude. Never give up hope.”

rifle-shooting-mb-cover3. Rifle Shooting

The first rule in gun safety: “Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.”

The Rifle Shooting merit badge pamphlet reminds you of important safety rules like this in pages 17 to 19. So while you would never point a gun at a human, good news: zombies aren’t human.

If you’re going to be out on the road battling zombies with your rifle for the next, well, forever, you’re going to want to clean that rifle. Note that this essential step is something they never show in those zombie movies.

“Cleaning is essential when a rifle has been stored for a long time or has been exposed to dirt or moisture,” the pamphlet reminds us (page 30).

Check out pages 30 to 33 for the 10-step rifle-cleaning process and the six basic materials (cleaning rod, cloth patches, soft cloth, bore solvent, small brush, gun oil) you’ll need for cleaning your firearm.

home-repairs-mb-cover2. Home Repairs

Or maybe you’re the kind of zombie apocalypse survivor who would rather board up the windows, reinforce the doors and wait this thing out at home. Could be a lot less stressful than life on the road.

If that’s you, you’ll want Home Repairs merit badge.

While you probably won’t worry anymore about replacing damaged tiles (page 52) or fixing sprinkler heads (page 37), the section on repairing things like doors, stairs and fences might interest you in this new, chaotic world.

Take page 77, about repairing fences. If you have a loose fence post, for example, the book tells you how to bolster it with a fence iron and some nails. Fences are great at keeping zombies out — but only if they’re sturdy.

Let’s just hope you have everything you need in the garage to fix that fence — chances are low your local Lowe’s will still be open.

backpacking-mb-cover1. Backpacking

At some point during all this mess, you’re probably going to have to pack up and head somewhere else. Maybe to the next town over where they’re setting up shop in the abandoned mall. Or maybe to the big city where you hear they found a cure.

Before you go, check out Backpacking merit badge.

You’ll be walking, meaning you’ll have to carry everything you need for the journey. You might be able to raid a 7-Eleven on the way, but you can’t count on it having what you need.

Consult pages 39 to 41 for the outdoor essentials, items that “should go on every backpacking trek, just as they do on any Scouting adventure.”

They are: pocketknife, first-aid kit, extra clothing, rain gear, water bottle, flashlight, trail food, matches/fire-starters, sun protection, and a map and compass.

Good luck out there!

What else?

Which other merit badge pamphlets would come in handy? Use your braaaiiins and leave a comment below.

Others in my Top 5 Merit Badge Books series

Top 5 merit badge books to get you ready for this blizzard (and the next)

Photo: From the “Take A Photo With a Zombie Arrowman” booth hosted by Coosa Lodge at the 2013 SR-9 Section Conclave.


  1. Check out the Zombie Squad:

    “As of the end of the third fiscal quarter of 2014, the zombie eradication business is in a cyclical lull, so ZS has diversified our operations to include educating ourselves and our communities in general disaster preparedness. We focus on importance of having the requisite skills, supplies, mindset and plan to ride out any number of disaster and emergency scenarios. After all, if one is ready for civilization-ending descent of swarms of the shambling undead upon an unsuspecting populace, one is likely well-equipped to deal with a lesser emergency such as a earthquake, flood, hurricane, or widespread grid disruption.

    Zombie Squad furthers this general preparedness goal through disaster relief charity fundraisers, preparedness seminars, educational panels, and encouraging our members to volunteer their time assisting disaster relief agencies and organizations.”

  2. Maybe you could use ALL of the merit badge books. Just bundle them up on the end of a canoe paddle and you have a formidable club! ;^)

  3. Bryan, how did you not include these
    Emergency prep,
    Fishing/Fly Fishing/Fish & Wildlife Management,
    Reading (Why doesn’t any zombie movie or show have survivors go to a local library for books on medicine, hunting, etc…)
    Horse back riding (never know when parts or fuel will become scarce)
    Chemistry (after all someone’s gotta find a vaccine)
    Canoeing/Small boat sailing (Find an uninhabited island)
    Citizenship in the Community/Law (No one wants to live under a Ricktatorship, or God forbid The Govenor.)
    Animal Science
    Archery (Have we learned nothing from Daryl?)
    Fire Safety
    First Aid, Medicine, Public Health
    Sustainability, Gardening/Plant Science (Grow fruits and veggies and maybe genetically engineer some pea shooters or fume shrooms)
    Pulp and Paper
    Safety, Search and Rescue
    Textiles (Unless you want the first Zombie Apocalypse nudist camp)

  4. The first rule in gun safety is “always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.” And in this case, pointing a gun at a zombie’s face is the safest option.

    Although I would think Shotgun Shooting would be more effective than Rifle… or perhaps Nuclear Science (BOOM!).

  5. This Top 5 idea leads to lots of possibilities (had fun making these lists) …

    Top 5 Merit Badges for Stay-at-Home-Dads
    5. Gardening
    4. Dog Care
    3. Home Repairs
    2. Automotive Maintenance
    1. Family Life

    Top 5 Merit Badges for Preppers
    5. Rifle / Shotgun Shooting
    4. Farm Mechanics
    3. Cooking
    2. Inventing
    1. Sustainability

    Top 5 Merit Bandages to be President
    5. Citizenship in the Nation
    4. Communication
    3. American Labor
    2. Salesmanship
    1. Public Speaking

    Top 5 Merit Bandages to work for C.S.I.
    5. Law
    4. Rifle Shooting
    3. Citizenship in the Community
    2. Fingerprinting
    1. Crime Prevention

    Top 5 Merit Bandages for Indiana Jones
    5. Moviemaking
    4. Citizenship in the World
    3. Horsemanship
    2. Lifesaving
    1. Archaeology
    honorable mention: Reptile and Amphibian Study…started, but never finished

    Top 5 Merit Badges for Ferris Bueler…(‘s Day Off)
    5. Digital Technology
    4. American Business
    3. Music
    2. Art
    1. Automotive Maintenance

    Top 5 Merit Badges Clark Kent worked on …
    5. Genealogy
    4. Space Exploration
    3. Search and Rescue / Lifesaving
    2. Citizenship in the World
    1. Journalism

    Top 5 Merit Badges for evil Bond Villains
    5. Engineering
    4. Model Design and Building
    3. Programming
    2. Robotics
    1. Chess

    Top 5 Merit Badges NOT for P.E.T.A.
    5. Animal Science
    4. Rifle Shooting
    3. Fishing & Fly Fishing
    2. Horsemanship
    1. Leatherwork

    Top 5 Merit Badges boys wish they had.
    5. Dating
    4. Muscle Building
    3. Shaving
    2. Using Wikipedia for Homework
    1. Scoutmaster Pranks

  6. Merit Badges to avoid during a zombie apocalypse: Scholarship and Reading. They will just make your brain bigger… mmmm, brains.

  7. Shotgun shooting. Probably more effective a stopping zombies than rifle shooting
    E-Prep so that you can better organize a response and triage the wounded.
    First Aid to treat the wounded
    Cooking so that you don’t starve. You need energy to fight zombies

  8. Yes, I was using your link. I assumed that the BSA would remove any that were discontinued. When dealing with the BSA, never assume 🙂

  9. So per BSA policy: Scouts cannot shoot at any “Likeness of a person”, so we are teaching an instinctive reaction (AKA “Muscle memory”) to not shoot when facing a Zombie attack!

    not to mention only using air rifles or .22 without magazines! Now have you seen any of the heros in the movies or TV shows using air rifles or .22 without magazines?

    I think it is so funny how much people are into the “Zombie” Thing, and yet if this really did happen, how many things in the guide to safe scouting would need to be violated? Laws, Political Correctness would be out and common sense and will to survive will take over.

    I do like the fun and tongue in cheek humor of posts like this.

    I do a lot of activities and jobs professionaly that rely on instinctive reaction (AKA “Muscle memory”) and I just see a lot of what the world is doing is robbing todays youth of this important survival skill.

    If any type of appocolypse happens: If you cannot hunt, fish or forage for food, you will perish! and if you have it, you better be able to defend it, or you will perish. The only other way to survive is to become a thug and loot to survive, but ultimately you will have the deck stacked against you and you will perish!

  10. Is being dead (or un-dead) classified as a disability? Perhaps Disabilities Awareness merit badge could help you better understand the needs of people with reanimated corpse syndrome.

    Rather than picking up a Rifle Shooting merit badge book in fear of those who are different than us, we (especially as Scouts) should be seeking to understand that each person (even the undead) has their own personalities, distinct abilities, different physical features, and different strengths and needs. Let’s be messengers of peace, not survivalists full of violence.

    • Although this is a comedic blog post, and I assume your response here is also somewhat written with your tongue firmly planted in your cheek, I do agree with your sentiments, Kyle K. I find it disheartening that the BSA promotes the idea of “battling” with the use of a rifle (even if it’s in an over-the-top fictitious scenario against the undead).

      Baden-Powell wrote that “boys should be kept away from the idea that they are being trained so that some day they might fight. It is not war-Scouting that is needed now, but peace-Scouting.” Early editions of the Boy Scout Handbook had a much stronger emphasis on the idea of pacifism. I wish the BSA would encourage more peaceful actions and solutions rather than jumping to endorse violence, force, survivalism, militarism, and war (even if it’s just a silly war on zombies).

      I don’t mean to take a light-hearted article “too seriously,” but everything contributes to the overall culture of Scouting — and we can make it a culture of violence and brutality or a culture of peace and tolerance.

  11. Archery, shotgun shooting, first aid, cooking, emergency preparedness, automotive maintenance, swimming, backpacking,. Those should at least get you through the first couple of months….

  12. Keeping dogs alive via the Dog Care Merit Badge would be essential in case you need the pets for future nutrition needs. Sorry, I know it sounds awful. But you never know. ..

  13. I woulda thought SHOTGUN shooting, not Rifle Shooting. Also, I’m in trouble because none of the 38 merit badges I earned were these. I think my top five would include Emergency Preparedness and Woodwork. Zombie films often seem to have chainsaws.

  14. Zombie Apocolypse: well, duh — Nuclear Science. When all else fails to stop the hoards of zombies, you need the ultimate weapon. And maybe Pioneering so you can make a HUGE catapult to launch it.

  15. I would think to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, you’d want to make sure you’re up on your Emergency Preparation merit badge. And to really be safe, you might want to teach your Scouts using the Emergency Preparedness-Zombie Survival Edition lesson plan found at!

  16. I shared this post at a recent Merit Badge University in Elmhurst Illinois. The suggestions from Merit Badge Instructors were endless. Search and Rescue Merit Badge (because someone always gets lost or needs saving), First Aid because someone always gets hurt, Cooking because you have to eat something, Shotgun (does more damage then Rifle) and Archery for more protection. Physical Fitness because everyone is running away, jumping over stuff trying to get away from the Zombies. I loved the idea for this post. Wilderness Survival and Swimming were great. No one can think of Home Repairs as an item on the list but its wonderful because the first thing everyone does is barricade the door! Fun!

Join the conversation