Getting up close and personal with the walking dead

Zombie survival camp a treat

Preparing Canada for invasion of the undead

Dominic (The Butcher) Etynkowski and Diedter (The Soldier) Stadynk run the Zombie Survival Camp near Orlillia, north of Toronto (IMG_1495-edit)

Zombie culture has exploded in recent years with the popularity of The Walking Dead, the box office smash World War Z, and an outbreak of zombie walks across the continent. Enter the Zombie Survival Camp.

It’s a three-day event that teaches participants how to properly survive a zombie apocalypse, says Dominic “the Butcher” Etynkowski, an instructor for the camp. “We teach archery, hand-to-hand combat, field craft — how to maneuver and survive in the wilderness tactically, how to create a fire, and what kind of berries you can eat in the wilderness,” Etynkowski said. “We also teach weapon training — how to create and use weapons against zombies, a seminar on bungle gear, essentially what kind of tools and gear can help you survive out in the wilderness for weeks on end.

Although the camp is focused on fending off the living dead, Etynkowski said these skills can be applied to any sort of disasters. “We cater to the zombie crowds, though that is just the fun part, the fantasy of surviving. What we teach, however, can be used for any sort of disaster situation ranging from tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis.” Now in its second year, the camp has grown substantially from where it started. Deidter “The Soldier” Stadnyk, an instructor for the camp and five-year veteran in the Canadian Armed Forces, was doing a documentary for third-year university on zombie apocalypse culture he came across (the Zombie Survival Camp),” Deidter said. “After I finished the documentary I went up to them and said, ‘This is a really cool idea,’ I think I got some skills, and that’s how I became an instructor for them.”

The camp has grown dramatically since it began last year. Two new camps have popped up in Alberta and Saskatchewan, copying the Orillia camp model. Furthermore, the increase in its popularity has brought greater revenue and increased publicity. “For our second official (fall) camp we have CTV coming in to cover the event,” Dieder said. “It’s great because with greater exposure the camp will grow. When Space TV covered our first event we were able to purchase new recurve bows, training knives, and targets to make the camp a lot better. We’re hoping that after this camp we can expand even more.”

With great feedback and a high turnout just two years in, the camp’s outlook is encouraging. For Etynkowski, there is a clear-cut plan. “The next step is to find a permanent location. Get some more gear and equipment so we can improve what we teach,” he said. “The hope is for this to become my full-time job. We expect to be doing a lot more corporate events, team-building exercise for companies, bachelor parties, weddings, birthday parties. Any group that is interested in zombies would love this weekend.”

The zombie camp organizers, after the success of their fall camp, will be running a summer camp, the date and place of which has yet to be determined. So how would Scarborough fare in a zombie apocalypse? Not well, according to Etynkowski. “Scarborough would be a terrible place to be during a zombie infestation. It does not fit the description of an urban fortress. High population density, not a lot of of easily defensible positions, plenty of places for zombies to hide or surprise attack. If you stay in Scarborough you’re pretty much guaranteed to be a zombie.”

For more information, visit the camp’s website at  zombiesurvivalcamp.ca.