Survivalist, prepper and homesteader – is there a difference?
There are two labels given to people who want to prepare for disruptive situations like peak oil, natural disasters and other calamities.
No – nutcase and weirdo are NOT the labels that I mean!
One group is called ‘survivalists‘ and the other group is called ‘preppers‘. They’re the same, and yet not the same, and they certainly overlap. You probably fit somewhere in there. Let’s take a look at what both terms mean.
Recently, I was on the phone with a reporter, talking about moms who are also preppers. She wanted to know if I had a lot of guns and if I refused to use normal stuff like washing machines or let my children watch television.
Questions like that get complicated very quickly.
A survivalist wants to make sure she has the knowledge to survive potentially deadly short-term situations.
She knows exactly what to do when disaster strikes, and she has a detailed plan on where to head if her home becomes uninhabitable.
Depending on where she lives, the survivalist is probably loaded for bear, too, and can get a chipmunk in the eye at a hundred yards. A lot of former military people who get into preparedness are die-hard survivalists, and wouldn’t be fazed at spending a week in the woods with nothing more than what’s in their ever-present backpack.
My friend Daisy is a survivalist. Oh, she writes about a lot and calls herself a prepper (because she’s that, too!) but when I think of her, first and foremost, I think of her as a survivalist.
In a zombie apocolypse or when there’s a mass shooter on the loose, Daisy’s the one I want on my side! (We just won’t talk about politics!)
The survivalist has her emergency backpacks (Bug Out Bags) ready and waiting at all time, with at least three days’ worth of food, water and clothing, as well as the means to provide or make a temporary shelter if she can’t get to her safe retreat.
If the situation is temporary, and normal order will soon be restored, the survivalist is absolutely the woman you want with you! If you have a spot in her bug out vehicle, you can be safe in the knowledge that she will protect you, hide you and ensure that you survive until the deadly situation has passed.
A prepper wants to prepared for more than just short-term survival.
His goal is self-reliance.
He has little desire to pack up the dog and children and spouse into the bug out vehicle and head off – if a disaster occurs, even if it involves emergency shortages of vital resources, he wants their life to continue as usual.
Just another day – while the world outside their self-reliant home (or homestead) goes up in flames.
The prepper wants to hear on the radio that power is out all across town and then send one of the children down to the storage room to get a bag of sugar so they can make some hot chocolate and start working on the day’s schoolwork.
If he has to pack up and go, though, he usually has ANOTHER self-reliant safe place somewhere with a wood stove and necessary supplies, and his family spends time there regularly so that it feels just as familiar as their regular home. If you are told “If things get bad, meet us there,” then you are a trusted, lucky person – and you should take it as a very serious offer.
The prepper wants to be prepared to survive, ideally at home, for an indefinite period of time. Regardless of how short or long a time it takes the world to get back to normal, he wants to be able to take care of himself and his family.
The prepping mindset says that the only one he can count on for long-term survival is himself. So he gets ready to ensure that he is not reliant on outside forces for anything necessary for life.
This means that he takes steps to remove his household from the often unreliable (and certainly vulnerable to attack) electrical grid, turning to geothermal heat, solar power and other alternative methods.
Instead of relying on prepackaged emergency food supplies, preppers have gardens to sustain their family, goats for meat and milk, chickens for eggs. They usually have seeds – saved from the heirloom plants that they grow – to keep their gardens going. And the food that they grow is preserved at home and put into storage in their deep pantry.
Another friend of mine, Shelle of Preparedness Mama, is a prepper and focuses a lot on building her garden, pantry and self-reliance. Her articles a lot less scary than sniper attacks and nuclear war, with stuff like Food Scrap Gardening and Make a DIY Natural Cleaning Kit.
If that looks a lot like homesteading, it’s because many preppers decide that homesteading, urban or rural, is the best way to ensure a sustainable source of food, safe shelter, electricity, and other necessities. These prepping homesteaders know that the three most stable, safe forms of wealth are exactly the same today as they were a hundred years ago.
Does it seem, in fact, as though prepping, survivalism and homesteading all intertwine and overlap? After all, if you read through the blogs of my two friends, and here on Just Plain Living, you’ll find talk of Bug Out Bags and terrorist attacks, gardening and keeping house.
They don’t have to intertwine, but they usually do.
In the ten years in which I’ve been prepping, I have met only a few people who are strictly one or the other. They certainly exist – those survivalists who regularly practice sleeping in dug out trenches in the woods but have no idea how to plant a seed (“but I have my emergency seed bank!”), and the preppers who would be lost if they ever had to evacuate their stash (“but this IS the safest place I know!”).
But most of us do some of it all even if we have areas where we lean.
Homesteaders prepare for short and long-term emergencies and might even store a MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) or two.
Survivalists put in gardens and raise chickens.
Preppers create 72 hour bug out bags and set up a bug out plan in case the family needs to quickly evacuate and leave the stockpile behind.
Don’t get too hung up on the labels – just get your family prepared for the future.