How to Survive Winter is Coming – Project Zomboid

How to Survive Winter is Coming – Project Zomboid 1 -
How to Survive Winter is Coming – Project Zomboid 1 -

And maybe learn a thing or two along the way!


Winter is Coming is (at least in my opinion) one of if not the hardest challenges in Project Zomboid, behind only a really CD DA. Faced with a cold, endless winter, blizzards, scarce resources, and an ungodly amount of zombies, making it even a few days in this challenge can feel impossible, much less a month or more.
As someone who wanted to best this challenge, I spent a lot of time grinding through it, getting good at the game, and learning some tips and tricks until I finally managed to make it to a comfortable point. Given the lack of documentation on this challenge, most of it outdated anyway, I decided I would make my own guide now that B41 has officially dropped, with fresh up-to-date information and my own tips and tricks.
Wrap up warm survivor.
How to Survive Winter is Coming - Project Zomboid - Introduction - 3686A3C8D

Challenge Details

First of all let’s understand what we’re working with. It’s mid July, but it’s growing mysteriously cold, and in 3 days time the temperature will drop below freezing and start snowing. Understand though, that the cold will be the least of your worries with this challenge.
The main challenge point comes from two things: scarce resources, and an incredibly high zombie population.
As if the main game wasn’t bad enough, zombie population in this challenge (and all the other ones, IIRC) are set incredibly high, meaning that simply making your way around the neighborhood will require careful movement and consideration to avoid or deal with the vast zombie hordes. Urban life is virtually impossible in this challenge.
Ma*sive amounts of zombies are bad enough, but unfortunately it gets worse. Resources of all types, but especially food are much harder to find. Kitchen cupboards are poorly stocked, and even if you manage to get into a grocery store, what remains won’t last very long. Perhaps most crippling is that all perishables start out rotten. You will be living off canned food and butter and you will like it.
In addition, everything is overgrown, and the freezing temperatures will make farming difficult if not impossible*.
* – I’ve admittedly never tried, mostly due to not surviving that long. I have seen pictures of people doing it, but I believe the temperature does have a big effect on growing speed. Don’t count on it.

Character & Traits

Alright, traits. Player preference plays a big role here of course, but I want to highlight a few that I think will make your time easier.
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I would go so far as to say this challenge is impossible, or at least, painfully difficult, without Outdoorsman. This decreases your chance of getting sick from poor weather by 90%, and decreases your chance of getting scratched on branches while walking through the forest by a whopping 99%! Only forego this trait if you don’t think this challenge is hard enough already.
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Allows you to find medicinal plants and identify poisonous plants. The exact same effects can be gotten by reading the Herbalist magazine, but given how much rarer loot is, as well as the struggle of trying to safely get to a bookstore at the center of town, this might just be worth the 6 points to sidestep that struggle entirely.
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My go-to for basically every playthrough, and even with it, i still have trouble finding good loot in this challenge. You may or may not want to take it with that in mind, but in a world where items and resources are so much rarer, a 10% bonus chance to find rare items sounds good.
Graceful & Inconspicuous
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4 points each, but both serve similar uses. Inconspicuous halves your chance of being spotted by zombies, and graceful reduces the sound you make as well as makes you far less likely to trip while vaulting over fences. With the higher zombie numbers, staying hidden is more important than ever, and taking one or both of these traits helps a lot.
Negatives are player preference of course, but for ‘free points’ I generally choose pacifist and slow reader.
Occupations are also personal choice. I tend to forego them entirely in favor of more points, but if you must, lumberjack and park ranger are good ones for the increased movement speed through vegetation. Park ranger gives a nice starter bonus to foraging and trapping, while lumberjack gives plenty of axe skill and an extra level in strength.
Now that you have your traits, don’t skip over the character customization screen. Clothing will be abundant on account of the zombies, but you still shouldn’t ignore the chance to be fully dressed in clean, untarnished clothing since it does start slightly cold out and will only get colder. I recommend long socks, jeans, long sleeve shirt, choice of tank top, and an overshirt (female characters have access to denim shirts in this screen, for some reason.).

The First Day

How to Survive Winter is Coming - Project Zomboid - The First Day - A1304D5D7
So you have your character all figured out and spawned it. Without exception you will spawn in this house marked in red on the northern edge of Muldraugh. Go ahead and get your bearings and search every inch of the house. Grab any food, books, tools, anything that might be remotely useful. Take the curtains from the windows too. Do not leave the house without a weapon. Doesn’t matter if it’s a proper weapon or just a flimsy bread knife. You won’t be fighting with it, but gaining entry to your garage and the nearby houses should all the windows and doors be locked is essential.
Once you’ve finally left the house you should find out real soon just how overrun the neighborhood is. It’s not as bad here as the center of town, but you will have to move carefully and be on your toes to avoid attracting too many at a time. Move from house to house carefully, if there are even a few zombies outside, lure them away 1 by 1 if possible, and dispatch them before moving on. I cannot overstress how important it is to be careful, as the thick vegetation combined with the huge number of zombies means you may quickly find yourself overrun or attacked from behind.
That said, don’t panic if you get a large group on your heels. If they become too many to handle, re-enter your starter house, shut some doors behind you, and lose them by sneaking out the opposite side of the house.
Below is the rough path I follow for looting this neighborhood. Following it exactly is optional of course, but these are the houses I’ve found to be relatively safe to loot without too much moving around. The entire circuit can be completed within a day, with plenty of time left to head north to the farmhouse. If for whatever reason you take too long, any one of the houses in the south can be slept in safely once cleared out.
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The farm to the north will typically have some inhabitants, but are fairly easy to dispatch of. Once you’re safe, sit back and cook yourself a nice meal, then go to sleep. The hardest day of this challenge is behind you.
There is a chance, of course, that you will trigger a house alarm. If this happens it might be easier to restart depending on how many houses you’ve looted and if you’ve found anything particularly good. The amount of zombies it attracts will essentially render this portion of the map unusable for the foreseeable future.

Second & Third Day

If you have nothing else to worry about, you’ll want to start thinking about where to settle down. Player preference of course, but I’ve highlighted in blue some good potential locations, all out of the way of zombies, while still being fairly close to some lootable areas.
How to Survive Winter is Coming - Project Zomboid - Second & Third Day - B7B9745BC
In the top-left corner of the image, far removed from all the other locations, is a small cabin in the woods. It crucially contains a well, which will provide an infinite source of water year-round. When the water shuts off, water will quickly become a problem everywhere but here. The main downside is the long walks to and from anywhere else. The closest location is McCoy Lumber to the south in green, but this place, like everywhere else in town, is also overrun, although it may be worth it for the vast amounts of industrial supplies secured within. This place also has an old stove, every Zomboid player’s dream.
The farm where you may currently be settled, is another prime choice as well. Being a proper house with sinks, bathtubs, and toilets, water will not be an issue here for a while (mind you, you will inevitably run out eventually though!). It also has a large amount of storage space, a refrigerator, oven, and is the closest to town should you be brave enough to attempt reclaiming it or trying loot runs.
Halfway between the farm and the Dixie trailer park (in red) is another cabin. The layout is identical to the cabin in the north, minus the well. Water will become an issue here quickly, but it also has an old stove, and is marginally closer to Dixie for looting runs.
Just south of this, is a small house and a trailer home. Both of these are more one-time loot targets than anything, but you may still consider it a place to hunker down due the proximity to Dixie and the railyards to the south (purple arrow). There are some sinks, as well as a refrigerator and an oven, but no old stove.
Any one of these locations makes for a good permanent, or even temporary base. You may choose to leave some supplies behind in all 4 as rest stops between locations, especially when blizzards make long journeys difficult. Pick one, all, or none of them as a base location, but these are perhaps the best, at least for the early game. Do note that the cabins at least will make the helicopter event (yes, that will still happen) much more manageable.
Otherwise, you may want to spend your 2 days training a vital skill…


That’s right, despite it being cold enough for blizzards to roll in, you can still forage for berries and mushrooms, even with snow everywhere, even with the new foraging system. I’m not sure why you still can, though I a*sume it’s something to do with it technically being July at the start of the challenge.
Devs if you are reading this, please never fix this or else I fear this challenge will actually be impossible
Once your meager supply of food runs out, and raiding kitchens becomes too dangerous to be worth it, foraging will consist of the bulk of your diet. Mushrooms and berries are easy to find, although they have a chance to be poisonous. Unless you’re bold enough to risk taste testing them to find out which won’t kill you, get yourself a copy of the Herbalist magazine, or take it at the character creation screen.
Either way, you’ll be searching the forest floor eventually, and you’ll have plenty of downtime to train this skill. All things considered, this is an easy skill to train, even without skill books, and even with the newest update. If you’re for some reason playing previous versions, this is a simple process. Right click patch of forest, select forage, filter to whatever it is you’re looking for, and wait.
With the official release of B41, there is a new foraging system, one requiring the player to be much more active, and have a bit of luck, but still easy to learn. If you’re not already accustomed to this system, find an area you want to forage in, and look for the magnifying gla*s icon on the left side of your screen. Clicking this will open a small window with details on where you are and what kind of items you can find, as well as a button to enable search mode. Clicking this will blur your screen except in a small area around you known as your search radius. Sneaking makes this area larger, so do that and start walking around. Eventually you will see an eye icon above your character, stop and let this fill in, and you’ll see an arrow pointing to an item on the ground. Right or double left clicking will pick this item up, and you’ll receive XP for both finding it, and picking it up. Initially this icon will be a question mark, but as you level up it will start showing you what the item actually is. You also have the option of discarding an item upon right-click, but this will still give XP.
The first two levels of foraging should come easily within a day for each, a*suming nonstop foraging. Subsequent levels may require skill books to make timely progress, but the danger posed by trying to find them, and the fact you should have plenty of free time, means you may want to simply grind the levels instead.
After foraging level 2 is acquired, you have a small chance to find wild vegetables such as leeks, or cabbages, which as far as I know are identical to their non-wild counterparts, and can be freely added to food recipes.
Other basic materials such as stones and branches are acquired through foraging (duh). With the exception of ripped sheets, which are in endless supply thanks to zombies, you have everything at your disposal to make your own tools, be they axes, hammers, or knives. Find a saw and some nails, and you’re on your way to making your own houses or fortifications, if you’re in need of that.
The Zomboid wiki currently says black and blue berries are never poisonous. I have confirmed with just one playthrough that this is false, at least for blueberries. Don’t take chances, get the Herbalist trait.

Important Items and Where to Find Them

If you want to survive even a week, these items are basically required. Some you may already know about, others might be a little trickier.
Well…duh. Unless you get lucky though, you’ll be fighting with a rolling pin, frying pan, or maybe even a metal pipe. None of these are particularly bad, they will certainly do the job, but you’ll have to raid a warehouse or get quite lucky if you want anything good. If you have woodworking materials, craft some spears, and if you have duct tape and knives, some even better spears. Spears are OP, use them. Guns? Don’t even bother. Even if you manage to find the ammo, the noise does you zero favors.
Hammer Saw & Axe
If you’re looking to starting fortifying an area or build something, all three of these are required. If you just need a way to chop logs, you’ll need an axe. Either way, all 3 can be found fairly commonly in warehouses. Tool sheds and sometimes even house closets can have them. If you are out of options, hammers and axes can be fashioned from foraged materials, with the exception of ripped sheets which are also in no short supply due to the number of zombies.
Matches & Lighters
Inevitably you will need to start a fire, be it to cook food, or simply to stay warm. All the kindling in the world won’t help you without at least one of these. These can be found in kitchen counters, but you’ll have much more luck searching vehicle glove boxes for them. If you are truly desperate you can use a knife or screwdriver on a plank to make a notched plank, and then a sturdy stick (requires a saw) to make a rudimentary firestarter that may require a lot of tries to be successful.
Tent & Campfire Kit
Want to travel long distances without a car? You’ll need these both. Basically a portable home on your back. A campfire can be easily made with a plank or log and any flammable material. Tents are a little trickier as they require a tarp which can be uncommonly found in warehouses and similar, 4 stakes (tree branch + knife), and 2 sturdy sticks. You may also get lucky and find a tent kit in one of the cabins.
Animal Traps
The most basic trap you can make, and probably the only one you’ll need, is a stick trap. Easily made from sturdy sticks, it also requires twine which is surprisingly common in vehicle glove boxes and can also be found in warehouses. Bait can be easily foraged for. The only tough part is acquiring…
Recipe Books
Won’t lie, these are a ♥♥♥♥♥. Can basically only be found in residential areas in bookshelves or mailboxes, so for the love of god, check all the mailboxes you can. You also have a very, very small chance to find them foraging, but don’t count on it. The large number of magazines available make the main challenge being trying to find the ones you need, instead of just any recipe book.

The Long Term

If you’ve made it this far, you might be running out of things to do, or are looking to start making your own decisions. This is good, but before you go wandering off, there are plenty of things to consider.
First of all, the zombie population will never get any better, even if you devote a lot of time to clearing them out. Towns will remain virtually uninhabitable, and you may find yourself shocked by the number of zombies hanging around rural farms as well. It may be tempting to try anyway, but unless you’re lucky, sneaky, or have a way to clear out vast numbers of zombies rapidly, it’s not worth it.
Secondly, weight will quickly be an issue. You may consider starting off overweight or obese to buy some time, but surviving off berries and mushrooms alone is not enough, and you will lose weight rapidly. Meat is required in the diet to get a large number of calories, fat, and carbs easily. Farming is theoretically possible. Trapping is a good way to ensure meat, though requires luck, and you likely won’t be catching more than birds due to the difficulty of finding a steady source of bait. Also keep in mind that trap materials, bait, seeds, and relevant recipe books are variably difficult to find.
A vehicle is not necessarily a good choice, unless you plan to be driving all around the map. Assuming you’re lucky enough to find a car with key (or have trained the skills necessary to hotwire), you will also need to acquire gas. Additionally, any unpaved road will be near impossible to traverse, and with the ridiculous amount of zombies on the map, a car is basically a dinner bell. That said it may still be worth it for the shortened travel times and protection from the elements (car heaters are important!), but acquiring one will require a lot of preparation and care.
If a car isn’t your style, consider traveling with your home on your back. A tent kit and campfire kit are relatively easy to acquire, with a tarp being the only tricky item for the tent. If you get lost or have to embark on a multi day trip, being able to set down a warm camp anywhere is vital.
If it hasn’t already happened yet, the helicopter event will happen eventually. Hopefully you aren’t in or near town while this happens, otherwise it can be safely ignored as mentioned earlier.
If you aren’t keen on trying to deal with Muldraugh, there are a number of locations around to be considered for loot runs:
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Here’s a larger map of the same area, potential bases marked again in blue.
The big prize is the Dixie trailer park in red. Be warned, this place is also crammed full of zombies, though it’s slightly better than Muldraugh, much smaller overall, and has dense vegetation surrounding it for easy escapes. Trailer homes can be moved between with relative ease, and the town contains a diner, grocery store, gas station(!), and a few shipping containers with crates. Just north of this is a crossroads marked with the smaller red circle. Here you will find another gas station, a clothes store, a restaurant, and a used car dealership. Dixie is an attractive looting target if you’re hanging out in the cabins near it, just don’t underestimate the number of zombies.
In purple are the aforementioned railyards. Hardware should be abundant here due to the number of shelves and crates, but be warned that this place is also overrun with zombies. The large gaps between buildings may help or hurt, just don’t get yourself cornered. Don’t expect much, or any food here.
Similar to the railyards is McCoy Logging in green. Again, overrun, but the buildings here are stuffed with crates, almost guaranteeing something of good use. Far south of these near the crossroads, and marked in black, is a number of warehouses, and a small restaurant. Expect zombies, but plenty of good loot.
Much further west, past the most isolated cabin are vast farmlands, with the Pony Roam-O animal supply store marked in orange. Zombies will be in more manageable numbers here, and if food is getting tight it may be worth it. There are also some sparse warehouses, and if you follow the road marked in pink westward, you will come across a rural town containing everything from a police station, to a doctor’s office, and a bookstore among other things.
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Blizzards are no joke

Written by crono23

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