What Does It Mean to Be a Prepper?

By Robert Bellenir and Jeff Goldsmith


If you are new to “prepping” or are trying to figure out what exactly it means to be a “prepper,” then this article is for you. Interestingly enough, there are differing views of what constitutes a prepper.

Wikipedia defines preppers as “a movement of individuals or groups … who are actively preparing for emergencies, as well as possible disruptions in social or political order, on scales ranging from local to international.” A prepper is not the same as a survivalist. A survivalist typically focuses on learning primitive and other outdoors skills and has little focus on actually stocking up supplies and building an extensive repository of every necessity for survival. Whereas survivalists prepare and learn to live off the land, preppers prepare to maintain their current lifestyles, as much as possible. While they are not synonymous, many preppers are also survivalists and are very adept at living off the land. Likewise, many survivalists are preppers and store resources to be able to sustain their standards of living.

The prepper movement has really evolved throughout the last three decades. Prior to Y2K, preppers focused on Cold War concerns and how to survive a potential nuclear war. Preppers used the term “survivalist” to describe themselves. Areas of focus included underground bunkers, food storage and water purification methods. Then in the late 1990s, there was a resurgence of interest in preparedness stemming from fears that computer systems would fail and society would be doomed due to the “Y2K bug”. While it turned out that the Y2K bug had no bite, the world stood on edge at the turn of the century, concerned that society would collapse from a catastrophic computer failure.

The time leading up to the turn of the century saw a huge amount of mainstream people rushing out to purchase a year’s supply of food, fuel and generators.

From a modern preppers perspective, Y2K ended up being a mainstream media marketing gaff, which led to millions of people developing an interest in preparedness, but then moving on when nothing happened. The movement once again picked up steam from the numerous terrorist attacks, including 9/11 and the bombings in London, Madrid and Bali (among other places). These events led the American public to question such things as personal readiness and self-reliance. Further fueled by natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis, the prepper movement gained a lot of momentum. People began to recognize a need to change their lives to be more prepared and self-reliant.

Most recently, the prepper lifestyle was spurred on by fears of the apocalyptic 2012 Mayan prophesies. The advent of prepper television shows and survival-oriented movies has also helped to bring preparedness and self-reliance into the mainstream media and to the forefront of societal consciousness once again. While it is still considered “fringe” by many, even the U.S. Government is actively promoting preparedness through programs like Ready.gov, and many states are developing specific readiness programs.

Modern preppers have strong concerns about natural and man-made disasters, and a major concern about the economic stability of the United States. Preppers are also anxious about other countries attacking the United States through means such as electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) and nuclear attacks.

Prepping these days is most often described as a lifestyle and a way of thinking that facilitates that process of becoming self-reliant through increased personal responsibility. If you have, or are gaining, a personal belief that it is up to you to provide for you and your family in difficult times, then you are on the path to becoming a prepper!

Perhaps the unofficial motto for the prepper movement says it all: Ready for anything.

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