Survivalism - Preppers, Survivalists, Homesteaders, & Zombies
Economic uncertainty, social unrest, global instability, movies, and television shows are just a few of the main factors driving the current survivalism movement. Definitions of survivalism may vary depending on who you ask; but basically it is a movement in which people are preparing for disasters and emergencies both natural and man made.
Preparation for emergencies and disasters is the common goal among the different groups participating in survivalism, all of which go about preparing in different ways. Most individuals will fall into one of these four categories: Prepper, Survivalist, Homesteader, or The Zombie Resistance. Each group having their own unique approach to emergency preparedness and who collectively make up the modern survivalism movement. While there is undoubtedly overlap between groups, there are some definite trends among the various types of people who prepare. We'll take a look at these each of these classifications individually and assess each groups strengths and weaknesses.
At first glance many people think of the term prepper as a more friendly, and perhaps more politically correct term for survivalist; however, in general there are several noteworthy distinctions between the two groups. Preppers are generally more focused on gear and supplies than their survivalist cousins. Many preppers try to insure their life will continue relatively normally in the event of most disasters; with generators or alternative energy often a high priority to keep things running smoothly. Also, large stockpiles of food, water, and other supplies used on a daily basis are the cornerstone of a prepper's emergency preparedness plan.
Pros - Most seasoned preppers are well able to make it through the most common disasters like power outages, and storms with a minimal amount of disruption to their everyday life. While living in comfort isn't often thought of as all that important in survival situations; keeping a sense of normalcy especially for children shouldn't be overlooked as the mental aspect of survival can be as important as the physical challenges. Preppers also generally tend to be both well organized and supplied; often having carefully thought out contingency plans with well stocked bug out bags and predetermined bug out locations being incorporated into their strategy.
Cons - While short term disasters can be prepared for relatively easily; long term situations can present more of a problem because stockpiling enough fuel, food, water, and supplies for extended periods of use requires a lot storage space, money, and planning. Next, preppers if not careful can also become too reliant on their gear and supplies; not taking the time to learn the basics skills of survival should they find themselves without their equipment. Finally, many preppers simply do not take the time to learn to use their gear effectively or efficiently.
While the prepper tends to focus more on gear and supplies, the survivalist tends to direct their efforts more on learning survival skills and improving their knowledge base. They are less concerned about living life the same as they do now, and more focused on being able to survive whatever comes their way. Bushcraft and wilderness survival skills are also more prevalent among the survivalist crowd than other groups; and they are probably the most likely to bug out to remote and rugged locations. Finally, survivalists often take a simple and low tech approach to their preparedness, preferring basic tools and gear that will be reliable in all conditions over more modern equipment which could potentially have limitations due to electronics, batteries, circuitry, etc.
Pros - Skills are lightweight as the saying goes; and being able to survive with what is available and adapt on the go puts the survivalist in a good position to face a disaster with whatever tools and supplies are at hand. Next, because the survivalist is less dependent on gear and stockpiles than the other groups, they are generally more willing to bug out should the need arise. With a large knowledge base and honed set of skills the practiced survivalist generally has a pretty high confidence in their ability to survive whatever scenario they find themselves in, which is very important in developing a proper survival mindset.
Cons - While confidence is important for a good survival mindset, over confidence can be very dangerous; the 'live in the woods until things blow over' mentality is probably the most prevalent in this group, and is something far more difficult than most people realize. Also, consider that the vast majority of likely emergency situations wouldn't require hiding quietly in the woods for months on end while living off the land. Lastly, survivalist have a tendency to look down on technology that "might" fail and therefore at times make things much more difficult on themselves than need be.
One of the key components of survivalism is self sufficiency; and out these four different groups, homesteaders seem to be the most focused on this aspect. Homesteaders are often big on growing as much of their own food as possible; and frequently raise livestock as well as manage a garden. This group also tends to be skillful at food preservation techniques like canning, dehydrating, and smoking. Homesteaders often choose to live a simpler but more self sufficient style of life in more rural areas, and are often well versed at a variety of useful trades such as carpentry, mechanics, fabrication, etc.
Pros - The simple life style that many homesteaders lead combined with their generally higher level of self sufficiency make it easier for them to weather a long term event like an economic collapse. Next, often times the sense of community is stronger in rural areas where everybody knows everybody; which again works to their favor in a variety of long term situations because they have a large established network of contacts for goods and services at the local level. Finally, many homesteaders aren't nearly as dependent on the grid for their energy needs as most people; woodstoves and passive solar homes are a couple examples of how they commonly reduce dependency on electricity and liquid fuels.
Cons - While aspects of homesteading can be done in a suburban setting most homesteaders prefer a larger piece of land with fewer restrictions on their activities; this leads many to purchase a remote property which can be a difficult adjustment for those who have grown accustom to the conveniences of urban life. Also, the homesteader lifestyle isn't for everyone as animals, land, gardens, etc. require a big time and work commitment and cause the homesteader to be pretty tied to the land. Finally, in some cases it may still become necessary to leave or bug out; and walking away from years of hard work, and animals might cause people to be reluctant to leave it all behind even when the circumstances dictate that bugging out is the right choice.
The Zombie Resistance
The zombie hunters/squads/teams etc. are an interesting bunch that has merged their fascination of zombies with emergency preparedness, taking an overall approach most closely related to the prepper crowd. The zombie restistance tends to focus heavily on equipment, generally on weapons and more tactical style gear, preparing for the zombie apocalypse or a zombie outbreak. While they don't actually expect these events to occur, they do tend to focus on the major man made type of disasters oftentimes with zombies representing large mobs, gangs, or military forces. Despite taking their preparations seriously, these zombie fans often join online teams, forums, and even participate in conventions, and zombie related events.
Pros - While some people consider the zombie crowd as too far out, it has brought a lot of people into the survivalism movement that would not have probably otherwise been interested. Also, one of the best things about these zombie fans is that they have brought a much needed element of fun to a serious and often grim topic of surviving major disasters. Furthermore, the playful and fun manner in which this group has approached the topic has allowed for a pretty relevant and open conversation on how to deal with large crowds of rioters, mobs, gangs, and opposing forces without drawing all the political correctness and scrutiny such talk would normally attract.
Cons - The zombie crowd in general tends to focus more on the major TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) type scenarios and be less prepared for more common disasters like extended power outages or severe storms. The zombie group is also a little more likely to get caught up in the fantasy aspect of Hollywood style survival and not have a balanced realistic approach to many survival situations; however many zombie teams/clubs/squads are actually very prepared for a wide variety of scenarios so again these are general observations.
Which are You?
While there is undoubtedly overlap, and generalization in these groupings; ultimately most people will fall pretty solidly into one of these categories. By now you probably have identified which group you fit into; hopefully you will have some ideas on what weaknesses to be aware of for your category, and can start working on shoring up any soft spots you may find. For example, a prepper might want to take a wilderness survival course, a survivalist might work more on building up supplies for bugging in, a homesteader might work on a practical bug out plan, and a zombie resistance member might spend some time on planning for natural disasters.
The Ultimate Survivor
And the winner is ...... just kidding; all the groups bring some unique strengths to the table. However, if I was to put together the ultimate survivor, I would start with the skills and adaptability of a survivalist, then add the gear, supplies, and planning of a prepper, followed with the high level of self sufficiency and strong community ties of a homesteader, and round it off with a healthy dose of weapons, tactical gear, and fun from the zombie resistance.