The 5 Nations that (Might) Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

Five years post the zombie apocalypse, countries we haven’t called countries, will be leading the ashes. For my criteria, I first tried to think about the nations, or rather regions, would have the greatest strategic advantages against a walking horde of the undead. The greatest of these were geographic. I went into greater detail on that in my answer to What would be the worst and best possible types of places to live in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse? There, I determined that if you had to be stuck anywhere, the best place to be would an island, very far removed from any floaters seeking to undo your happy existence.

After geography, I looked at overall population. A strong enough population will have to exist with which to provide crucial services after import, export systems collapse. This was followed by military capacity and the potential for armed security. This is an obvious boon to any survivors, providing the capability to stay grounded, and eventually even project outward, re-securing territory from the hordes or even rescuing survivors. After this is perhaps the most important, food security. Food and water independence will be vital to survive, even if the zombies aren’t fighting to take what you already have.

That said, I’ve intentionally ignored several extreme examples of several tiny island nations, because they are so small that they simply aren’t interesting enough to talk about. One day the radios stopped working after a big commotion and then no more ships… ever. For example, small communities like the hundreds of tiny islands surrounding the main islands of Indonesia, won’t experience any of the devastation wrought on their home islands. At best, they will see a relative explosion in refugees, but will likely be unchanged. Micronations like Tuvalu, Nauru, the Falkland Islands, or Tristan, literally the most isolated island on the planet, are just too boring to talk about. Thousands of islands exist that together don’t equal a population of more than a few million people. They have no long term significance as they will never be able to help create a world fit for humanity after the Age of the Undead. The best they may do is one day recreate the double outrigger and colonize a few more islands. 10,000 years from now, they might be able to colonize the mainland again… having completely forgotten the most historic event in the history of humanity – it’s destruction. That said, they might go completely unaffected by the calamity, but because they were so insignificant to begin with, I’m just not going to talk about places like Tristan Island anymore, but focus on places that might actually be meaningful after the apocalypse.

5) The Democratic Republic of Puerto Rico

  • Population: 3.548 million (2014)
  • Military: Reliant on US, but consists of high retired veteran population and several large facilities capable of refitting.
  • Food Security: Reliant on imports

Currently a territory of the United States, assuming the effective destruction of the continental superpower giant, Puerto Rico would no doubt seek independence with haste. Who they would declare independence to, won’t really matter, as everyone will have bigger problems than worrying about it. Surrounded by water, the island state is guarded by numerous high cliffs, which have already been fortified by a history of military significance to the Caribbean. The island nation will be able to hold it’s own from both the random zombie caught adrift, or the horde of American, Central American, and South American refugees the tiny island will likely be pushing away.

Add to this the presence of a more than 2000 acre former naval base on the island. Roosevelt Roads provides the means for the Puerto Ricans to create a last refuge for stranded American Naval vessels searching for a secure port. Given this, Puerto Rico may soon find itself the inheritor of the Atlantic fleet. Following this, the new Nation state may find itself with the power and influence to leverage strength for the imports it will soon be desperate for by becoming a leading naval power.

Where Puerto Rico fails is in production of food. The island can support much more than it is currently producing, but given it’s near future calamity… it’s going to need a lot more.

Agriculture constitutes about $808 million US$ or about 0.8% of the island’s gross domestic product (GDP). [44] However, Puerto Rico imports 85% of its food even though most of the land is fertile. Only a mere 6% is arable; a fact that poses a direct threat to Puerto Rico’s food security. [45][46]

After initial growing pains, and once resolving bids for power among the surviving islands of the Caribbean the country stands a good chance of not just surviving, but thriving in the post apocalypse new era.

4) Iceland

  • Population: 323,002
  • Military: Military consists of less than a thousand members of the Icelandic Coast Guard
  • Food Security: Wealth of agricultural surpluses

Iceland ranks low on the list for several critical lapses in its Zombie Preparedness Plan, but will able to leverage certain advantages few other nations can.

First, Iceland is a relatively barren place to live. 78% of the island is unfit for farming and agriculture, and of the rest, only about 1% is actually used. Most of this space is used for feed crops such as hey, and the rest for potato and other subsistence foods.

Militarily, the island has nothing to brag about. Geopolitically, it is centered in a part of the North Atlantic so far north that it has little strategic value to anyone. For many years, the only military presence was that of the US military, tasked with being the sole defense force for the tiny country. After 2006, the US forces left, leaving Iceland with no real projection power at all. What remains is a coast guard, consisting of around a few hundred people, juggling three ships and four aircraft.

Iceland is very far from any populated regions, like the UK and Scandinavia. Crossing the freezing waters of the North Atlantic won’t be easy for even hardy survivors, and the few ships capable of making the voyage will be few enough that the tiny Coast Guard Forces may possibly be able to manage the inflow of refugees.

The refugees, as well as their boats and planes, will serve well the underpopulated island by provided much needed labor to fill the needs they are very quickly going to have. But with every new soul, a mounting problem is going to become more evident, a theme we will see more and more, not enough food.

Iceland, however, does have something that most other nations don’t. It is capable of harnessing vast amounts of the Earth’s geothermal energy to heat its homes and provide power. This will help make up for the small national population, but also provide something few other surviving populations will have, a valuable and rare commodity resource. Five years down the line, the world is going to be desperate for power, as few means exist for coal, nuclear, and there is no where left to produce the vast manufacturing structure required to build solar and wind power, nor repair the massively complex offshore oil rigs. Iceland’s survival depends on harnessing and communicating this power, as it will provide the economic power to make Iceland one of the world’s most valuable exporters.

3) Panama

  • Population: 3.9 million
  • Military: No military, but 12,000 members of the Panamanian Public Forces
  • Food Security: Wealth of agricultural surpluses

Panama is the sole exception to the island rule of zombie survival. That is because of its incredibly unique geography. Panama, though technically forming the narrow land bridge between North and South America, is effectively an island. The thick jungle and high mountains mentioned in previous sections describe why never in history has a major land invasion involved walking troops from either North or South of Panama and into the neighboring continent. The nation is just too hostile to land traffic. This has been traditionally very bad for Panama, isolating it between impossibly large and wealthy landmasses, a wall rather than a road. Of course, one day a zombie apocalypse happens and what was once its greatest weakness, is now the nation’s greatest strength – a geography hostile to foot traffic.

For survivability, the Panamanians hold food exports as a major industry. From fish to fruit, the country will be able to care for its own with ample resources while defenders are able to hold back the few walkers at the periphery until, eventually, Panama can play a major role in reconnecting the shattered world via its famous canal.

It’s greatest weakness, however, is that the country lacks any formal military. Panama is the second country in Latin America (the other being Costa Rica) to permanently abolish standing armies. All that remains is a 12,000 strong members of the Panamanian Public Forces. This para-military group lives on standby for civil disturbances and general policing. They will be completely unequipped to handle zombies who behave much differently than a peaceful protest no one wants to turn into something bigger. If only that were all that stood between the Panamanians and the oblivion, then that wouldn’t be enough, but adding in the natural boundaries of both inhospitable jungle and impassable mountains, along with the advantage of how truly few people would be required to defend the two narrow borders, and we can begin to see why they would survive where others wouldn’t.

2) New Zealand

  • Population: 4.471 million
  • Military: 11,440
  • Food Security: Wealth of agricultural surpluses

New Zealand is a large island chain of high mountains, defensible valleys and a stable population and economy. Perhaps its greatest advantage, at least for this question, is its isolation. Though most maps place New Zealand relatively near Australia, in truth, nearly all of the Continental United States could fit between them. New Zealand is alone in void of the blue. Normally, this would be a bad thing, but zombies change things. It is so far out that it poses little risk from floating zombies drifting about, nor does it suffer a great risk of refugees overwhelming the island, some which may even be infected. Once planes stop flying, travel by boat will allow anyone showing unusual signs such as necrotizing fasciitis or spontaneous fits of cannibalism will be vetted and done away with long before reaching port in Queensland.

The active duty military is nothing to brag about, but high mountains also make for defensible terrain. Whether facing invasion from the dead or whoever else is left, a New Zealand Defense Force would have the means to hold up years fighting whatever comes from the sea.

Perhaps most importantly of all, the country has a large food surplus, taking in over 14.8 billion dollars in agricultural exports. This is the true saving grace of New Zealand. Other nations may survive the zombies, but they won’t survive the hunger. New Zealand will survive both, and in fact, may become one of the wealthiest nations on the planet very, very soon, as they supply sustenance to the rest of the world’s small island survivors deeply lacking in basic nutrition.

Noteworthy Mentions:

The Japanese State of Hokkaido

Hokkaido is the northern most island in the Japanese Island chain. While still posting a large and modern population, it is centered in with high mountains and cold winters. It is however, very distant from the more populated islands to the South, and since it is not part of the same land mass, will see refugee traffic required to pass through the whole of Japan before reaching Hokkaido. The military tradition of Japan will also see use as they defend themselves from the horde of Japan, not only of zombies, but refugees no doubt pouring over over from lower Japan, the Koreas, and even China and Southeast Asia. These refugees will serve as the greatest obstacle to Hokkaido’s Japanese sanctuary from the horde. Given the billions of people who may seek shelter there, it may be a distinct possibility that they will prove too much.


I’d love to say that Madagascar would do well. It has a large population, good terrain and is an island nation. There are two reason I don’t see it doing well for this question. First, one problem it faces is the same that it has in this world already. It is a poor nation with inadequate government. That means that the government isn’t quick or efficient at responding to major events. Assuming that the crowded island nation doesn’t succumb to the zombie horde itself, the other horde it will have to deal with will be coming from Mainland Africa. This will be Madagascar’s second major problem. When refugees begin flooding in from all across every part of the continent through the relatively narrow Mozambique Strait, that will be too much for the overwhelmed government. I see starvation and chaos, and that is if there are no walking dead.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a relatively modern place. It even boasts a fairly large military, relative to its small landmass. It even has land to grow crops, and supply its people. What does it have against it? If you’ve caught on to the pattern of the last two… it’s neighbor, the second most populous nation on the planet.

As well prepared as a tiny state might be, no nation on Earth will be prepared to suddenly accept the fleeing mass of a country of over 1 billion people. Whether they manage to cross the narrow and partially submerged land bridge connecting the two bodies, or through thousands of rafts floating across the sea, Sri Lanka will, in a matter of days, be inundated with millions more than the tiny island can support and more than the government can manage. In the end, I didn’t add them because of how well they would do, but how every clearly they would spell the exception to the rule of the safety of the tropical island, if everything else is stacked up against you.

Finally, the nation which will do the best following a zombie apocolypse, one of the few who may actually see an increase in power and influence in the future to come, isn’t a nation at all today, but would quickly become one once the end becomes a reality for everyone else. That nation is…

1) The Independent Hawaiian State

Population: 1.42 million (2014)

Military: Very large military population and immense US Naval assets.

Food Security: High food producer, but also heavily reliant on food inshipment.[1]

The nation of Hawaii boasts many natural barriers to a zombie plague. Surrounded on all sides by thousands of miles of ocean, Hawaii’s greatest defense is the great blue barrier of the Pacific Ocean. Any zombie lucky enough to accidentally drift in the wrong direction for such a long period of time will be cursed with the ravages of coarse salt water, and months of decay as its body dissolves into the sea.

Should it be possible for Hawaii to fall victim to one of the blighted, the mountainous isles lend themselves well to defense against the undead.

In the unlikely event, the chain even has the extraordinary fortune of escape, where all or most of the survivors can quickly evacuate one island by either air or sea, both safe from zombie interruption, to a clear island not far away. This provides time for survivors to be organized, defenses to be manned, and a means for the retaking of any lost island in the chain.

The survivors of Hawaii, however, will face a different battle than most of the world. Their struggle will mostly be an effort to provide a balanced diet. The island state is a major food producer for many various staple fruits, vegetables, and meats, as well as sugar. It’s agriculture, however, is geared toward specialty items and they have to rely on imports for the difference. Early in the apocalypse, Hawaii will face the singular difficulty of having an overabundance of certain foods, while being completely lacking in other nutritional requirements. There are much worse states to be in, but the state will require some time to readjust their agriculture to a structure more geared toward food independence.

Given that, the key factor for the survival of Hawaii is its other great asset of pre-apocalypse strategic importance as an important naval installation. Hawaii bases afforded the United States Navy central staging points for seaborne operations overseeing half the planet. Following the fall of continental bases, most ships out to sea will have little else but to set sale for the last operational command in the United States Navy. Given the overwhelming strength of the US Navy today, commanding more Super Aircraft carriers than the rest of the world combined, Hawaii will not only be able to survive, but be transformed into overwhelmingly powerful Pacific hegemon. Given the number of naval ships and Marines stationed on Hawaii, it will serve not only as the greatest source of internal security, but be one of the only remaining nations capable of force projection, and in time, be the leading force in reclaiming earth from the Zombie horde.

What are the Best and Worst Places to Live in a Zombie Apocalypse

I was researching for an answer to the question What would be the worst and best possible types of places to live in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse? and in my quest to figure out the places that would do the best, I wanted to think first about the places that would do the worst. My first goal was to think about the nations, or more accurately, the regions, that would offer the greatest inherent strategic advantages against a walking horde of the undead, either in slowing them down or aiding the defenders and survivors. As with military strategies, the greatest factor is always geographic. The rest of this list evaluates the most common geographic regions of the planet and their potential as either safe havens or death traps.

The first place we have to start is always the, highly urban centers.

We are just going to brush past the obvious. Ravenous monsters running down streets grabbing and biting everyone in an exponential decline of madness. Crowded cities are zombie all you can eat buffets.

Disregarding the crowded cities’ inherent weakness to viral infection, particularly the sort of infections that make their hosts into auto-ambulatory, semi-sentient, predatory cannibals, cities are also highly reliant on imports, producing almost none of the basic requirements to maintain themselves on their own. Given a general collapse of civilization, and the arteries of fresh produce and products, these city centers would be left void as much by desertion, as by the zombie hordes. This will end life as we know it for metropolitan Europe, the United States East and West seaboard, China, India, densely packed islands like Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, much of Central America, as well as nations dense around major rivers, such as Egypt and much of the Middle East.

Temperate forested regions will be next. The heavy cover will prevent most efforts to guard against the lone zombie stalking through the woods. Survivors can easily face danger while fleeing in these thickets, unwittingly running from one threat, immediately into one much deadlier, hidden in the veil of green. The ability for a single zombie, or even a massive horde, to remain hidden only a few miles, or even a few hundred feet from population and strategic centers means that these areas may provide the illusion of a safe haven from fleeing urban refugees, but will soon visit upon these souls a grisly fate. Millions more who survived the initial infestation will find the dark embrace of eternal night within rustling of leaves. Most of the Eastern United States, what remained of Europe through to central Russia, as well as large and particularly populated regions of Asia and Australia.

Next are the grasslands. While more secure due to the wide openness and lack of a host population than cities, the major plains of the world provide little to no defensive advantage to those who live within them beyond sight. A lone zombie may creep across the plains, able to be put down by trained rangers, but the onset of a horde, will afford survivors no strategic advantage. The open terrain may provide time, but it will not provide safety. At some point, those who make it to the grasslands will be uprooted to survive the hordes. This interruption to daily life may recreate the nomadic lifestyle of the Native Americans and Bedouin peoples, but the quest to follow sources of food is much different than the quest to avoid becoming it. This won’t be a long term survival strategy. If annihilation is avoided from zombies, it will surely overtake them via starvation. If an external source of long term security isn’t met, these nomadic colonies of scavengers will not last indefinitely.

Gone would be the Central North American continent, large tracks of South America, All of Central Africa, the remainder of the Middle East through the Central Asian steppes, India, and Australia.

The tundra provides humans who live there the possibility of being aided by the environment. The intense cold will slow movement of the zombies allowing greater time for defense and culling operations to occur. The danger of the tundra is, however, as it has always been, the in-hospitality of its very nature. The intense cold makes life hard and food scare. No longer able to rely on imports, many of these regions will be worse off from the collapse of self sustaining civilization, than from the few half frozen dead that arrive at their doors. The world in the cold will return to a lifestyle it existed in 500 years ago. If people weren’t able to live then, they won’t be able to live without civilization today.

Once we reach the deserts do we start to experience regions where humans have the advantage. Like the plains the deserts offer large offer a wide area of security where it can be seen if one comes to a settlement. Unlike the plains, the desert itself serves as a weapon to the zombie. Arid heat will dry out the dead walker as shards of sand slowly grind the being to collapse. Once the dead have dried out, they will soon deteriorate to join the sand and the dust of the desert landscape.

It will be said that the desert populations that exist today won’t be able to survive as they do now. Some regions, such as Arizona and Saudi Arabia, have become food exporters through the importing of vast amounts of water, artificially pumped or funneled from far away or by draining their natural, and limited aquifers. These feats were only achieved through incredibly complex technological operations. With a collapse of society, these systems will collapse, as well. Assuming they survive the zombies, many won’t find survive the hunger, to say nothing of those who run out of water. Those that do may see a return to a Bedouin life of nomadic wandering, serving as the vital trade network keeping the last few desert environments surviving just above subsistence.

Jungles will fair well for those who can just plain survive in the jungle. The dense vegetation will make traversal by way of mindless dead nearly impossible. Fighting off deadly predictors, rot, or simply being swept away by floodwaters will see most of the dead plague disappear into the heavy growth. Even bugs will become the defenders of mankind in that environment. The jungle, however, proves just as much of a burden to defenders seeking to protect populations. In much the same way that human warfighters were defeated by the ravages of jungle living in World War II all the way to Vietnam, rangers set to defend regions from zombies will have to learn to survive in the jungle before they have to learn to survive the zombies. That said, like with the temperate forests, one wrong move could put you at odds with a dead man’s bite. Fortunately, these instances will be one off misfortunes, not the type of exponential collapses to society we see in other parts of the world.

Given that the jungle also provides a wealth of vegetation and even suitable cropland, small communes of villages could spread throughout the jungle terrains, providing sanctuary for millions of people. Rather, millions of survivors. We may see hardy bands of villages reform all across the equator as humans cower in the jungles. Places like the Gold Coast of Africa into the Congo may see massive die offs once the cities are emptied, but their people may survive the apocalypse if enough of them find their way to the jungles. Northern Brazil and Southern Venezuela just the same. The jungles of Asia, including the Burmese, and those the Indonesian island chains are problems, there, they have such massive and dense populations (Burma is a country smaller than Ireland or Virginia, but with a population equal to Russia, and Indonesia is the third most populated nation on Earth) that they would face unimaginable carnage before anyone reaches a deep jungle haven. Even once they did, I’d imagine the undead saturation would matter far more than jungle rot, snakes, and giant spiders.

Mountains. Almost the best location to be will be those centered high in the mountains. Providing difficult terrain to navigate and highly defensible natural barriers, they will form virtual fortifications for those who dwell inside.

The only burden to those within the confines of the high altitudes will be food. Places like the United States state of Colorado, Europe’s Switzerland, or Asia’s Afghanistan may be highly weaponized populations and able to provide for their own security, but being that all of these exist as part of a globalized network of partnerships for goods and services, they will be without certain valuable, in some cases, live saving commodities. Without some access to large quantities of fresh food, either through subsistence or protected conclaves of agricultural, they will do little better than those who live in the tundra.

So, we’ve eliminated virtually any place on the planet from being somewhere where a nation might do well to survive the end. There is, however, one geographic type which provides those who live there the best set of strategic advantages to survive, both as a population, and without suffering the onslaught of the zombie horde. That would be the islands.

Islands, such as the island of Tristan (the world’s most remote island) can be miles, sometimes thousands of miles from the range of the walking dead… or anything else. Though the dead are dauntless in their trudge across the land, when water comes into play, they suffer the ravages of salt water corrosion, as well as the rotting effects of something saturated in water for days. Presuming a zombie even could walk across the bottom, or perhaps float to the shore, but it would likely dissolve in a matter of days, or be eaten by some unlucky dweller of the deep long before that. Given that, the horde of undead coincidentally all emerging from from the sea to overwhelm a lonely victim seems incredibly unlikely.

Islands also possess another advantage to their inhabitants, being a long field of view. Many islands in the sea are really just the peaks of massive underwater mountains, mountains which reach up above the water and sometimes, high into the sky. These mountains, as previously stated, offer a wide view. Seeing out miles and miles to the sea gives their inhabitants hours to prepare for what little may be able to come, where others living in places listed above, might have only minutes, or even seconds, to deal with a mountain of very, very bad things.

Last, and perhaps most important, many islands are sustainable by growing fruit and vegetables on their own. This means that those who survive, can afford to last a while, at least until plans can be made. Granted, most islands today sustain their large populations thanks to huge amounts of imports… so that’s going to be rough to get through, but a slow starvation of some isn’t the same as becoming food for others. That said, many islands are capable of self-sustainment, as they have been for generations before the dawn of modern shipping. Those that can make the transition, we will see them do well in the Age of the Undead.

Month End Funnies: I Have an Irrational Fear of Zombies and am Buying a House. Any Advice?

Dear Jon,

I have an irrational fear of zombies. I am buying a new house, and don’t know what I should. I want to protect my family from the elements as well as the impending apocalypse. I’d also like to provide them with a good home, without sacrificing the basic comforts of home. I’d like all this, but don’t even know the minimum height that the concrete wall around the back yard should be. Please help!


Apocalyptic Annie

Dear Annie,

I’m so glad you reached out. The last thing anyone should be without is a secure home. We all want the piece of mind in knowing that our family will be safe, even if that safety is from the undead horde. Let’s make no mistake though, the eternal feeders bring with them much greater dangers than your common burglar or pesky kids selling popcorn. You’ll need to have a much more developed security plan than high walls, which I will outline for you. Don’t feel bad, not everyone thinks about this stuff. Frankly, I’m just proud that you cared enough to ask an honored that you would put the future of your family in my hands. Having said that…

The first thing I would advise you in is that you need to rethink your concrete wall strategy. Perimeter walls are a crutch and a waste of money if you haven’t already installed the collapsible window and door fortifications.

This is the Safe House by Polish architect Robert Konieczny of KWK Promes. It’s a fortress. There really isn’t another word for it. The Safe House is a giant concrete cube whose walls were designed to move, collapse and secure in the event of, well… it doesn’t really matter what, you’re going to be fine.

Yeah, and it isn’t the old musty sort of fortress we all knew growing up. Yeah sure it has all fundamentals of a quality castle, collapsible drawbridge, courtyard (which doubles as a detainment and quarantine area) and your walls by the way, but it also comes with a lovely patio, steel kitchen appliances and even an indoor pool. Also, as a bonus its massive concrete walls make it incredibly energy efficient, so that after the horde dies off, the environment doesn’t as well.

Honestly we should have seen this coming from Poland. I guess it really takes someone raised in a place with a history of being literally the first place where the world goes to hell in a handbasket time after time after time to be where someone would invent the first truly zombie horde proof home.

And yes… it’s real:

And if that isn’t really enough evidence, a wall won’t help you no matter how high it is. According to Max Brooks, author of the Zombie Survival Guide, says that if zombies really set their minds to something, err… minds… either way, if they really set their minds to overcoming an obstacle they’ll just climb over one another in some sloppy random fashion of a pile until your barbecue is burned.

Don’t you let anyone make fun of you Annie. Irrational fears are only irrational until they aren’t and then who’s laughing? You’re doing the right thing in being prepared. After all, a man’s home is his castle and if your castle doesn’t have a collapsible drawbridge, then you don’t love your family. Best of luck Annie!

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