BURLEY - Galen Bench was living and teaching in Indonesia in 2004 when the 9.1 magnitude Sumatra-Andaman earthquake occurred off the coast of northern Sumatra. The massive tsunami that followed killed more than 227,000 people and left 1.7 million displaced, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Witnessing the devastation moved the Burley native to secure a patent on an invention he'd been working on for years - an all-in-one backpack-tent system.
"He likes to invent things," said Galen's brother Mike, general manager of TentPak. "He teaches and invents."
Galen's idea was that a portable emergency shelter built into a backpack full of other emergency supplies could help people survive for three or more days after a natural or man-made disaster. He patented his invention in 2007 and brought it home, where it became a family business.
He has since moved back to Indonesia. Meanwhile, the business has been taken over by zombies.
TentPak is the maker of the Zombie Apocalypse Pak - a modified version of Galen's integrated tent and backpack system loaded with survival tools. It's marketed toward consumers with a fear of the undead. The zombie packs range in price from $250 to $445, depending on the model. The general packs range in price from $264 to $350, depending on size.
The packs come in various sizes with different size tents. They're embroidered with the company's Zombie Apocalypse Pak logo and are sold bundled with survival items including fire starters, first aid kits, multitools and 18-inch long machetes.
"The zombie people like to have a machete for the chopping off of heads," Mike Bench said.
The idea came in a conversation at a trade show in 2011, Bench said. He and his supplier were talking to a buyer from Overstock.com about "different things that sell for unusual reasons." The buyer suggested creating and marketing a bundled zombie survival pack.
Zombies - corpses that purportedly rise from the dead - have been pop-culture villains since George Romero's 1968 horror film "Night of the Living Dead," but they've become even more omnipresent with more Romero films and other movies, the TV show "The Walking Dead," zombie walks in major cities and the rise of the tag-like Humans Vs. Zombies game on college campuses. In the "zombie apocalypse," the creatures destroy civilization.
So Bench took a swing the zombie-survival market.
They are still selling on Overstock.com. and Amazon.com, he said. TentPak has sold packs to customers in Canada, Japan and England through its own website, but everyone in the family business based in Burley still keeps their regular jobs.
Tentpak still produces a line of identical backpack systems geared to everyday outdoor consumers.
"Not everyone wants a zombie logo on their backpack," he said.