Chances are probably pretty good that you heard of the term “prepper” before, but do you know what a prepper really is? If you listen to various media personalities, preppers are wild-eyed and often strange people who are getting ready for the end of the world and in no uncertain terms.
Whether they’re retreating to underground bunkers or installing elaborate, questionable defenses against scarcely believable threats, the label has become something of a loaded term in recent years.
But I’m here to tell you that not only is that label wrong, most of the time, but it is also unjust. The vast majority of preppers are not crazy people. They are just people: your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, your family members.
They are people who have made a point to live a lifestyle of radical personal responsibility for everything that happens to them and their loved ones, good and bad. You might say they live a lifestyle of personal readiness.
You can’t pick them out of a crowd, I’ll tell you that much. But with the way that the world is heading, everybody needs to start prepping.
We’ve all learned painfully in recent years just how fragile society is and how delicate the mechanisms that make it run really are. If you don’t prep, I’m here to tell you that you should and I’ll do my best to convince you why in today’s article.
Prepping Doesn’t Mean Living in Fantasy Land
I cannot get past how badly some people don’t want the term “prepper” to apply to them. The label has become so loaded, so derogatory and so euphemistic for “nutcase” it’s no wonder that it has thrown a wet blanket over the whole idea of prepping.
I maintain that is by design: Corporate and government interests employ fashionable, attractive, and loquacious people to satirize and caricature all the things that they want to move society away from.
So in this case, you can bet your bottom dollar that these government interests and organizations want you helpless, want you dependent, and want you to be a casualty when the time comes. It’s because there’s a whole lot more money in it for them that way, and, ultimately, control.
But, if I’m being honest, I can’t blame people that sneer or scoot away from these so-called crackpot preppers as they’re commonly depicted.
Lots of these poor folks, as earnest as they might be, have an air of crazed desperation about them and don’t seem too tethered to this mortal coil.
I get it. I really do. But I want to impress upon you, reader- Yes, you! – that that’s not what prepping is really about and that is not going to be you when you start.
Prepping is about taking action and making decisions, not turning yourself into a character or LARPing like you’re some wasteland survivor in the latest Fallout game or episode of a “The Walking Dead” spinoff.
Before Life Got So Easy, Survival Skills Were Just Called Life Skills
Another thing I want you to consider, if you’ll indulge me. Do you ever wonder how your great-great-grandparents lived?
Do you ever wonder how people live in parts of the world that are economically depressed or technologically kind of behind the times? Have you ever really wondered what that sort of life looks like, what it feels like to live it?
I can tell you this for sure, having known my own great-grandparents and having read their memoirs. And also thanks to the tales of plenty of friends that travel to the remotest and sometimes bleakest parts of the world.
For the vast majority of these people, the situations they find themselves in, devoid of all of our modern wonderment, are not what they would call survival situations. It’s just called living!
And that’s my point: So many of what we call “survival skills” are actually contextual. If you dropped me or you or anyone else we know in the middle of an unknown and harsh wilderness with very few tools, we would definitely say that we were in a survival situation because we don’t know how to live in that set of circumstances.
But once you know how to live in an environment like that, you’re just livin’, not surviving per se!
And so too it went for our great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents. So many of them lived lives of subsistence, closely connected to the land for their food, however they got it.
Everything was analog, everything took more work, and day-to-day existence was, by our standards a lot harder.
But by looking back to those “old ways” skills, and cultivating them, nurturing them, embracing them, and upholding them, we can insulate ourselves from the dramatic, shocking change of lifeway status that so often comes with tumultuous societal decline and natural disasters.
Prepping Makes the Difference When Disaster Strikes
For instance, if a tornado, hurricane or massive earthquake wipes out much of your town and devastates the surrounding region, life is going to change for the worse, all at once, and it isn’t going to go back to normal quickly.
You won’t have any electricity, no refrigeration, no place to dash out and get food that you can’t scavenge or catch yourself. Your shelter will very likely be compromised and exposure will be a constant risk. Danger will be everywhere.
But if you have prepped, really lived what I am preaching here, you’ll have a root cellar or stash of food room that (hopefully) survived the event; you’ll be able to eat.
You will know how to safely build a fire for cooking, heat, and purifying water. You’ll know how to set up shelter using natural or scavenged materials to keep yourself alive and maybe even reasonably comfortable under the circumstances.
You’ll possess everything you need- skills and tools- to not only endure but thrive under the circumstances.
Prepping is a Moral Obligation to Your Neighbors and Community
By prepping, you can keep yourself and yours alive, yes, but by keeping your family from becoming casualties or dependent on outside aid you lessen the burden on other people around you. It’s also ethically right!
It is your moral obligation to be a so-called “hard target” against disaster and downturn.
When you don’t have to depend on charity, don’t have to depend on rescue, and don’t have to depend on being saved from whatever has occurred, you are freeing up resources to help those people who really do need saving.
Does that make sense? I hope it does.
My Life as a Prepper
I’ve been a prepper for a long time now. A very, very long time. My close friends and family members all know this, but many of my acquaintances, associates, and now-and-then buddies don’t know about this facet of my life.
When these people find out, they always have a look of bemused surprise on their faces. Me? A prepper!? Surely not!
I’m too polished, too erudite, too educated, and just too normal- to be a prepper! So they say… I guess that’s a compliment!
But the truth is I’ve been prepping in a haphazard way since I was a teenager, and prepping really seriously for about the past 15 years.
It started out as being responsible for my own self-defense and that of my family. That progressed to an emphasis on security both in and out of the home.
After that I thought it was a good idea to have a 3-day kit of food and supplies just in case of a tornado, living as we were smack in the middle of tornado alley and overdue, I thought then, to take a hit.
And from there, I kept having bright ideas about ways to expand, ways to grow my own capabilities, improve my own skills and expand my own sphere of perception when it came to risks and dangers.
It really was like a snowball effect; growing and growing and growing and gathering speed and momentum over time. Today, at nearly 40 years old, there’s no practical threat that I am not prepared to at least blunt if not completely overcome.
I’m as ready as I can be while still living the life of a consultant and writer. And best of all, I don’t feel like I’m really living in a “state” of readiness. It’s just part of my lifestyle.
The preparations I make in so many ways are just chores like any other I deal with, and many of them might be rightly considered hobbies of a kind; actively enjoyable pastimes.
It’s funny, in a way. When you start prepping, when you just have to discipline to do it, you’ll notice it in very short order it starts to feel less and less and less like work or doing something that’s “not you”.
Times When Prepping Saved the Day for Me
Very recently, in December of 2021, one of the worst tornado outbreaks in the history of the country scoured many parts of the Midwest, South, and the Eastern United States. Some of the very worst of these storm systems came right through my own part of Kentucky, and fatefully right through my very own town…
It was terrifying, and I am not ashamed to admit as much. But God was merciful, and spared my home any damage.
My neighbors, many other neighborhoods, and much of my hometown was not so fortunate. In some places, the devastation was total. My town was ravaged. Power was out for days in any case.
But I was fine, sitting on top of a mound of supplies, from food to medicine. I had backup power, I had everything I needed except internet for a little while. All I had to do was sit and read a book and wait for the lights to come back on…
Except not really. My neighbors needed help when they ran low on food. Lots of people out there in my town lost everything, literally everything. There were tons of work to do, from clean-up to donations of goods and supplies, to housing people temporarily, and a whole lot more.
But because I was prepared, thank God, I was able in my small way and with so many other generous souls to be a force for good when things were at their bleakest. That is what prepping did for me when disaster well and truly struck, and struck hard.
And, if the unthinkable happened and I was one of those poor people, I would at least have the skills, the grit, and the mindset to start dealing with the situation as it was, not how I wished it was.
Start Prepping, and Focus on Improvement, Not Outcomes
I hope I made a good case for why you should start prepping, and why it isn’t the strange and cringy thing that the media probably convinced you that it is.
But now, I’ll bet, you get that sinking feeling in your stomach because there is so very, very much to get ready for and you have no clue where to start.
You might feel like even if you give it your all, every day, right now, that will never be enough that you’ll never be able to catch up to where I am and where so many other people are. That feeling is a liar!
Prepping is just small choices, very small choices, made every day. Today, you’ll make the choice to start eating better and taking care of yourself to be more physically fit so you can be more capable when the chips are down.
Tomorrow when you go to the grocery store to grab stuff for your week’s meals, you’ll grab just a little bit extra so you have an extra 24 hours of food to put back.
You might not be ready to take the plunge on learning how to use a gun, but maybe you’ll sign up for self-defense classes and buy some pepper spray to keep the bad guys at bay.
These tiny, incremental improvements greatly improve the chances of positive outcomes across all of these domains.
And as days and weeks and months and years roll by, you keep making those incremental smart choices, reaching just a tiny bit farther each time. Before you know it, you’ll look back and see just how far you’ve come.
I’ll leave you with this. Focus on improving your posture of readiness every day, even if it’s just a tiny 1% improvement. Don’t worry about how bad things can get, how far behind you are, or how much farther do you have to go to meet some completely arbitrary and useless standard.
Focus on improving just a tiny bit each day and you’ll get there before you know it. I promise. And rest easy knowing that you have everything you need to get started and grow right here on Survival Sullivan. Thanks for reading my story, and I wish you the best of luck!
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.