Survivalists versus Preppers: Round 1

This blog post is a light-hearted comparison between preppers and survivalists. Now I know that the distinction is more of a gradual continuum of approaches to prepping, rather than a hard and fast division, but there is still a difference between the two.

As I see it, a prepper is more concerned with keeping to the same way of life before, during, and after a disaster, as much as possible. The prepper plans to stay engaged with society at large. But a survivalist tends to work towards ever greater independence, so that he can live off-grid and, if necessary, apart from society. Since small disasters don’t require this type of near-complete self-sufficiency, the survivalist focuses mostly on possible severe disasters, especially those that might be long-term. On the other hand, a prepper gives more attention to the lesser disasters, because he is trying to minimize the disruption to his life from even short-term limited emergencies.

Now I’m not going to present an exaggerated view of the survivalist approach, like they do on Doomsday Preppers. There is something to be said for the fairly comprehensive self-sufficiency that is the goal of the survivalist approach to prepping. If you are making reasonable preparations for severe long-term disasters, you will have resources that can be applied to lesser problem situations also. But there are some downsides to the survivalist approach.

Beyond a certain point, the survivalist self-sufficiency becomes very expensive. You need a home to which you can retreat, one that has its own power source (wind/solar?), and its own well and septic system, and a very large garden or essentially a mini-farm. Prepping for a power outage that might last a few days or weeks does cost money, but going entirely off-grid is orders of magnitude more expensive. Prepping for a temporary food shortage requires some stored food and a garden. But food production self-sufficiency is another thing altogether.

If you spend too much time and effort preparing for severe disasters, the result is a change to your lifestyle. We have to balance the changes needed for prudent preparations with reasonable limits so that our lives are about more than mere survival. I think the prepper approach has more limits, and so there are less substantial changes to the way that we live. The survivalist might be prepared for a wider range of more severe scenarios. But the prepper has made fewer changes to his way of living. It is a trade-off and a matter of degrees, but I tend to favor the non-survivalist approach.

Another issue is the impracticality on a large scale of any approach where everyone tries to be largely self-sufficient. The human race survives as one large human family because we cooperate together. Going too far in the direction of individual self-sufficiency is perhaps more dangerous for society, rather than being safer.

If you are interested in prepping, you can gradually increase your preparedness. It is not too expensive. The more you prepare, the better you can handle unexpected limited disasters. By comparison, the survivalist approach pretty much requires an all-out commitment. It takes more time, money, effort, and changes to your life to have that high level of self-sufficiency that is the foundation of the survivalist approach.

As you can tell from my comments above, I favor the limited prudent preparations of preppers over full-scale self-sufficiency of survivalists. But opinions vary. Anyone care to offer a rebuttal?

– Thoreau

4 Responses to Survivalists versus Preppers: Round 1

  1. My belief is that prepping can range from hobby to lifestyle. For me, I currently lean toward more short-term, disruptive preparedness. I feel like home construction and the amount and type of real property one owns lends to the duration with which one can prep.

    If one procures ten or more acres, many of which are wooded, a well is drilled, a septic sytem is in place (common anyway), and a home is built with passive solar gain, energy efficient insulation and lighting measures, and green energy systems such as geothermal heating and solar battery power then one can prep with little more than a hobby (mini) farm. This is part of my five year plan, and I feel it is both prudent and reasonable. I have merely postponed it due to an upcoming obligatory relocation necessary for my new profession, i.e. second career.

    Having a secure home stocked with preparedness items, capable of lasting for a duration of the owner’s choosing, and ultimately fostering an increased ability to become self-sufficient is nothing but prudent and reasonable.

  2. Brian – you described my plan of 12 years ago to a “T”. We moved into your house 6 years ago :) Insulated Concrete Form home, passive/active solar, 10 mostly wooded acres off grid surrounded by public land, hobby garden, wood heat, well/septic.

    To the OP, “Survivalist” has had a negative connotations associated with it for as long as I can remember. “Prepper”, to me anyway, invokes a vision of someone that has lots of plans, and lots of shiny gear in boxes. I don’t consider myself either one, although I suppose I’d prefer survivalist over prepper.