Date Published: 2015-09-15

The Difference Between Preppers And Survivalists


By Adelia Ladson

There’s a lot of folks out there who use the words “Prepper” and “Survivalist” interchangeably because they don’t know that there is a difference. Now, I don’t really blame them because both groups have some things in common. However, there is a difference in the overall philosophies of living.

Foraging Survivalists learn skills to live off the land.
Foraging Survivalists learn skills to live off the land.
Let’s go ahead and talk about the similarities in being a Prepper and a survivalist. The overall goal of both is to be able to survive in an adverse situation. I think that this overall goal is what makes people assume that they are the same. Also, both groups of folks work to learn skills and acquire knowledge that will assist them in the event of an emergency or catastrophe. In a nutshell, they want to be ready to face the worst and come out okay on the other side of it. Another common thread that runs through both groups is that they don’t want to rely on the government for help. Some, people may think that a Survivalist or Prepper is a negative individual that sits around and worries about death and destruction but I find the reality is that they are people with “can-do” attitudes that are rather positive and believe they can survive the death and destruction by being self-reliant. This is really close to the way generations past thought and lived their lives.
After researching several sources, I have come to the conclusion that the main difference in philosophy between the Preppers and the Survivalists is what and how much they deem is necessary to survive. A Survivalist wants to be able to live on the least amount of supplies as possible by learning to live and survive off of his environment. Whereas, a Prepper wants to stock up on as many supplies as they deem necessary to live on in any given situation so that they are able to maintain as “normal” a living situation as possible. So, to me, the Survivalist motto might be “Less is more” and the Prepper motto might be “More is better.” This difference in beliefs on stocking versus foraging is in direct relation to the difference in the amount of money a Prepper will spend over a Survivalist.

Stocking up Preppers make sure that they are stocked up.
Stocking up Preppers make sure that they are stocked up.
As I said above, the Prepper stocks so that they can maintain a somewhat normal existence by having what they need including things like matches and candles, potable water, an food staples. A Survivalist focuses his energy on learning primitive skills like building a fire without matches, finding and purifying water and hunting and trapping, along with building a shelter. I guess, I think of the word “maximize” when I think of Preppers and I think of the word “minimize” when I think of Survivalists.
Another difference in philosophy, which is obvious, when you take the above into consideration, is the “sheltering in place” mentality versus the “bugging-out” mentality. Preppers are expecting to stay in their homes because they are stocked and ready with everything they need to survive. And, barring a reason that prevents them from doing that, will survive the catastrophe right where they are. On the other hand, Survivalists are ready to leave at a minute’s notice to escape to a safe haven, or at the very least, as safer location. They have all that they need with them and will use what they have at hand when they get to where they’re going.
Even with the differences in approach to facing a surviving a catastrophic melt-down of society or just a natural disaster, many individuals are a little bit of both – a Prepper and a Survivalist. There are Preppers who learn primitive survival skills and Survivalists who stock supplies. So, that’s probably another reason why folks think they’re the same and the division between them is a little muddy. When it comes down to it, though, probably blurring the line and being a little bit of both isn’t a bad thing. We could all probably take a page out of the Prepper book and the Survivalist book and incorporate it in our own lives. Be prepared!


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