Prepper or Survivalist
The following definitions may appear arbitrary, but they are not intended to be
absolute, simply starting points to introduce a new perspective. A Prepper is someone who prepares, obviousy, and
for the sake of this discussion, he prepares for some kind of 'event', such as the collapse of the economy, a
hurricane/tornado/flood, Panet X or an asteroid strike, pandemic, civil unrest and so on. A Survivalist prepares to
be self-sufficient, completely independent of society's infrastructure, so the nature and duration of 'the event'
is less important.
The main difference is that a Prepper expects 'life' to return to 'normal' after a certain
amount of time, and a Survivalist expects such a return to anything resembling 'normal' to take considerbly longer.
The Prepper has stored food and other essential supplies, with the view that he will be able to 'ride out' the
disruption for six months, a year, even two or three years, and after things get back to normal, he will be able to
get what he needs again at his local Trader Joe's or Wal Mart, Home Depot or Lowe's.
The Survivalist has no expectation that things will be returning to normal for the foreseeable
future, so he makes extensive preparations to provide himself with all basic necessities for the rest of his
If history is a guide, and the 'event' is an economic collapse, the return to normal is more
likely to take generations. Argentina's currency collapsed around 1999, and now, more than 14 years later, their
economy is still unstable. Zimbabwe, also in the long wake of economic disaster, faces serious economic challenges.
The Prepper is going to run out of supplies long before they become available again. The Survivalist is actually
preparing for long-term instability and has a far better chance of participating in the creation of a new social
system than the Prepper.
The purpose of this comparison is not to generate clever or even accurate definitions for the
terms Prepper and Survivalist, but rather to compare the two approaches or philosophies of preparation, with a view
to highlighting the most sound and rational approach to follow at this time. What this means is that,
although I consider the Prepper to be incomparably better equipped than the non-prepper, materially and mentally,
to deal with short-term disasters, like floods, hurricanes and so on, "at this time" in the sentence above
indicates that I see our current situation as far more serious than a short-term crisis, hence preparing for such
long-term instability and chaos requires a more thorough approach, which I call self-sufficiency or survivalism.
Even a casual study of the current economic situation of the USA will reveal historically
unprecidented debt and instability - a bubble about to burst. It would not be unreasonable to conclude, after this
study, that the resulting collapse of this bubble will leave a situation so unimaginably disastrous for millions of
Americans that the road to recovery will surely require generations. How many millions will starve and freeze to
death? And, unfortunatley, the economies of the USA and many other countries are tied so closely together that the
collapse of the USA will impact the entire world.
The fedgov and the banks know this, in fact they are helping to create this situation. Oh,
they'll be fine (Too Big To Jail); they've been making their own preparations for a long time: Their own bug-out
retreats, buying lots of gold - they want to make sure they save their own asses. And the rest of us? Well, let's
just say they feel it necessary to get rid of a lot of us, you know, reduce the strain on their natural
resources. There are simply too many people on this little planet, they believe, so they have a plan to fix that.
Get rid of most of us. Worse, they're not even keeping it a secret anymore. Now that they have crafted laws that
make protests by us crimes of terrorism, they can be open about their plans for global enslavement. It's all
spelled out in the UN's Agenda 21 from decades ago. And they are methodically implementing it.
So, regarding making preparations for the future, if you're a Prepper, think about becoming a Survivalist. And
if you're already a Survivalist, spread the word. Need help? Watch the movies Thrive and Endgame and tell
others to watch them.
What, you may rightly ask, is the survivalist doing to prepare that the prepper is not? Ah,
excellent question. Unlike the prepper, the survivalist does not expect a return to 'shopping as usual',
so when his stored food and other supplies are gone, he is preparing to provide all of those necessities for
himself. But how? - you may ask. Is he going to grow all of his food, make his own clothes and shoes, treat his own
injuries and manage all of these things and more without outside help? How does one make toilet paper? And soap,
what about soap and shampoo? In short, how does one approach the huge task of providing the countless things we all
'consume' and use. The first step is to stop thinking of yourself as a 'consumer'.
The survivalist isn't attempting to recreate every little thing that exists in 'normal'
society. Instead, he only needs to provide himself with what he considers essentials. The pioneer families
who came west and settled the USA hundreds of years ago were also survivalists and came prepared to provide
themselves with what they considered essentials, and history shows that many of them survived with relatively few
'things'. So what do you consider essential? When you list the things absolutely essential for meaningful
human survival, the list is actually quite short:
1. Food and water
4. Medical care
5. Education (the meaningful part)
You might look at these five and wonder why other things are not listed, like transportation
(what legs are for), communication (what a voice is for), entertainment (play an instrument and sing) and so on.
After all, the BOB contents list has 14 categories that are supposed to be
'essential'. However, there is a big difference between bugging out with a BOB and setting up a retreat with
essentials for survival. Besides, the 14 categories in the BOB are there to give one an extra good chance
of survival, most of them are included in the first four in the above list, and the five above are extremely basic.
Most survivalists would include other non-essential items for the obvious reason that we humans are not here merely
to survive, but rather to thrive. [By the way, see the movie Thrive.] I
pointed out in the BOB page that it is possible to survive with none of the things listed, and those with survival
skills know this.
Coming back to what the survivalist is doing that a prepper isn't, the focus is on absolute
self-sufficiency, with no expectation that goods and services which were once integral parts of modern society
will ever be available again. Think about that for a minute. Not only no more toilet paper (gasp!), imagine your
life without TV, cell phones, Internet, grocery stores, gasoline, new clothes from a department store, batteries
for all of your gadgets, soap and shampoo, pizza and ice cream, bullets for your guns, ink for your printer, paper,
pens, and nearly all things now being produced in factories (in China), and oh, no jobs.
Wait a minute, just hold on, you say... why would all of these things just disappear? Surely
even if the dollar collapses, some goods and services will still be available. Possibly, but they may only be
available to those living in tightly-controlled cities, where everyone is monitored by a power eite. There is
considerable effort being made to corall (i.e. jail) everyone into cities where they can be 'managed' efficiently,
like livestock. Imagine you own two million cattle, and they are roaming free throughout the county, you have
little control over them. Now round them up and put them within fences, and you have much more control (you do have
to feed them).
The survivalist has no need or desire for life in a city-prison, so he is busy creating alternative ways of
providing himself with essentials and non-essentials, so that he is independent of the larger society and
all it produces. This may sound like a monumental task, but remember that the first step to any kind of
self-sufficiency - food, energy, goods and services - is to decrease consumption and increase
efficiency. How does this work?
Let's take two examples, food and energy. It's common knowledge, or it should be, that eating
at the top of the food chain, like a predator, is highly inefficient, IF it is also possible to eat closer to the
bottom. A tiger cannot live on beans and rice, it requires fresh meat, and it's body and mind are perfectly evolved
for hunting, killing and eating animals. Humans have evolved to eat a wide variety of foods, including beans and
rice, but many of us have tried to live as top predators, consuming large amounts of meat. This is not the place
for a discussion on the harmful effects of a meat diet, but from a purely 'efficient' point of view, humans can
produce about nine times as much vegetable protein per acre of land as animal protein. In other words,
instead of feeding nine pounds of vegetable protein to animals to get one pound of meat, humans can eat those nine
pounds of vegetable protein and survive on far less land as farmers than as cattle and pig ranchers. That's food
efficiency, eating at the bottom of the food chain.
Energy, like electricity, can be produced at home - no need to be connected to the electricity
grid and pay an electric bill. Solar panels and wind generators are becoming common, not just for industrial
applications but for homes and businesses. But before making the change from the electric company to the sun and
wind, it is extremely important to sit down calmly and evaluate one's real needs. It would be a huge
mistake to total up all of one's existing power requirements and then to design and build an alternative
energy system to generate all that power. Why? Because most homes are full of wasteful and unnecessary
The first step, then, is one of conservation: Where can I reduce or eliminate power
consumption? There are appliances specially designed for homes powered by solar and wind, and they consume a
fraction of the power of conventional ones. Why are our appliances so wasteful? One reason is that they were
designed for homes 'on the grid', with all the electricity they need in the next outlet. They were not designed
with energy efficiency as a top priority. Some may have been designed by the electric company. Ever wonder why
calculators run on expensive button cells, when there is enough room inside for a AAA battery at 1/10 the cost?
So one step in this exercise in conservation is to consider more efficient appliances. But wait
- Do I really need a microwave oven? That jacuzzi? Electric heater? So instead of simply finding more
efficient appliances and replacing the old ones, some of them can be eliminated entirely from the home. I
realize this may not be easy for those who are comfortable with all of their electricy-guzzling appliances, so I
suggest a field trip to a Third World country. Don't stay in a big comfy hotel, go to a small town or village and
live there as the locals do for six months. You will be amazed at how few of the appliances you thought essential
are even existing in most of the world. Now that you have survived culture shock, go a step further, to a
house without running water and no indoor toilet. Don't worry, you won't die, and the education you are going to
get will benefit you the rest of your life. Trust me, I've been there many times. One day you will thank me.
The exercise is not simply to survive in such a place, but to thrive and be productive. At
first, you will probably be miserable, depending on how addicted you were to technology, but at some point you will
be amazed how free you feel not to have all those gadgets competing for your attention. Life really is not only
possible but more enjoyabe with fewer electronics, fewer labor-saving devices. You will see just how little you
really need to be content. Now get ready for the bigger culture shock - returning from a world of simplicity and
relative calm to the frenzy and flashing lights we call city life. You thought you were miserable for your first
few weeks of simple living, coming back to the excesses of the West is worse. The experience of a simple life is
humbling, but the life of excess is embarassing.
This is the real awakening, here in the techno-jungle of the First World. It is immediately
obvious not only that our lifestyle is wasteful but that it is excessively so, disgustingly so, repulsively so.
People are huge and getting bigger, they drive huge cars and SUVs, eat big this and that burgers, live in huge
houses and produce mountains of trash. This exercise has immense value for the survivalist who wants to simplify
his life, because he can now choose from among several lifestyles. His experiences - humility and embarassment
- will guide him to a style of life with which he feels comfortable, physically and ethically.
After bathing contentedly from a bucket with a bowl for months, he no longer considers running
hot water necessary in the shower. Instead of turning on a heater, he puts on a sweater. The 100-Watt bulbs in his
house now seem too bright, so he swaps them for efficient LEDs. Instead of gourmet meals, he finds simpler foods
satisfying. He searches for and discovers ways to heat and cool his house using natural forces, like sun and wind,
instead of powered by electricity or gas. He can collect rainwater and store it, instead of pumping water from a
well, saving both the digging of the well and powering the water pump. In short, he is now ready to design and
build a complete off-grid home which heats and cools itself, provides hot and cold running water under pressure and
circulated fresh air, all of which require no power whatsoever. Nothing, not a Volt or a Watt or an Amp. Zero power
consumption. Welcome to my home.
Okay, so what does this awakening have to do with survivalism? Everything! If you can
be content with a simpler lifestyle, you can survive with far less than those who think they need lots of stuff to
be comfortable. So the first and most important step for a survivalist is to learn to be content with less, and
then to reduce those requirements still more, and more, until one arrives at one's own balance of essentials and
Since the survivalist aims for self-sufficiency, let's look at the various ways he would
approach what appears at first to be a monumental task. After all, how does one provide oneself with enough food,
without going shopping? What comes immediately to mind is what one considers 'enough food' and perhaps the amount
of variety in one's diet. Can one really produce everything required for good health? Here, the gourmet is at a big
There are people who eat beans and rice for every meal, day after day, for most of their lives.
Then there are people who don't consider a meal complete unless there are six different dishes, plus desert,
followed by wine. If you had to produce all of your own food, which of these kinds of people would you prefer to
be? Now you can see why simplicity is the key to survival. First simplify your diet and your entire lifestyle, then
the task of self-sufficiency will appear less daunting.
I was looking into the practice of growing cotton, so that I would have fibers to make thread
and cloth, but I soon discovered that it requires about 300 cotton plants to produce enough cotton for one t-shirt!
I was shocked, and it quickly became apparent that it was probably wiser to stock up on thrift shop t-shirts than
to buy cotton seeds to plant. I suppose there are times when the survivalist in us has to surrender to the
prepper. In the same way, I don't plan to be making my own matches, needles, knives and a lot of useful things
that make life easier. The fact is that most of the people on this planet don't have a fraction of the things we
have and take for granted, and they have been living this way for hundreds, even thousands of years. And don't
tell me that we are happier - most of us take drugs to get through the day and more to sleep at night. Remember,
drugs include caffeine, alcohol, sugar, nicotine and so on.
I used to reach for a band-aid often when I got a cut or scratch, you know, to keep it
from bleeding all over and to keep the wound clean. Now, and for several years of living close to the land, I just
let the blood clot and form a scab - no band-aid. The scab is actually better, I found, and never needs changing.
Okay, it looks strange to some people, to be covered with scabs, but I'm no longer trying to make an impression.
I'm more comfortable just being myself. And, I've nearly eliminated another thing I don't have to buy. I say
'nearly' because there are still times when I don't have time to wait for a scab to form and blood is getting on my
clothes or the cut is on my hand and I have to use my hand. So, I use a band-aid. Or I wrap a scrap of cloth over
it - that works. We have to find ways to deal with everything when there are no more band-aids, matches, needles,
candles, batteries, bullets, toilet paper, salt, tweezers, scissors and so on.
I suppose the real difference between a survivalist and a prepper is the prepper plans on a
return to normal and the survivalist doesn't need or expect normal to return. He has either found ways to
provide himsef with everything he needs or he has learned to do without things he thought he needed.