Yet the preppers he worked with are in many ways not what most stereotypes suggest, Huddleston adds. They are generally well-educated and fully employed: “Lots of tech, computer programmers, web developers, that kind of thing,” he says. Most of them care a great deal about giving back to the world. They host information sessions on how to deal with radiation poisoning, for example, or teach people how to make “bug-out bags” (backpacks that contain emergency items for 3–5 days) in case of evacuation. Even though many of them are personally motivated by ideology, they are careful about staying out of political debates, explains Huddleston.
There are two scenarios everyone—prepper or not—should count on: losing power and being stranded in your car. I’m a big believer in backup power. I keep an emergency power supply plugged into an outlet in my apartment; it has a trickle charger so I can forget about it until my block goes dark. In my car, I keep extra blankets, a LifeStraw portable water filter, lighters, and Millennium energy bars. It’s not the Four Seasons, but at least my family will be able to survive 48 hours in our Honda Pilot. One thing to consider: You need to be with your gear when a disaster strikes. When Sandy hit in 2012, our whole family was in Connecticut while all my gear was in Manhattan. My wife had a good laugh. These days, my everyday bag is a waterproof Showers Pass backpack where I stash a small set of screwdrivers, multitool, glass breaker, three flashlights that use the same type of batteries, and a spool of Kevlar thread, all sorted in plastic bags. There’s a spoon and fork in there, too, because if I have to eat an MRE for dinner, I might as well look civilized while I do it.—Wylie Dufresne, Michelin-starred Chef, Owner Of Du’s Donuts, Prepper
Pense was born in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. He was 5 years old when the bombs fell over Pearl Harbor. His food was rationed. He got bronchiectasis during Black Sunday as an infant and “forgot to tell” the Army so he could serve; he stayed in the service until the doctors found out. He’s a product of a generation when people were prepared, not because it was stylish or social, but because it was what you had to do. He tells me all this as his still-strong arm puts another log on the fire, and I can’t help but wonder what the world will be like when resilient people like him are gone.
Nygaard is a busy woman: In addition to working a full-time job, raising chickens, and growing sweet corn, potatoes, and peppers, she runs a blog called Living Life in Rural Iowa, where she shares bits of wisdom that she’s learned on her prepping journey. Looking back, Nygaard says becoming a prepper encouraged her to develop new skills, including the sorts of home repairs and outdoor work she once counted on her husband to tackle. “Before you get divorced, you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s outside. My husband can take care of that.’ And then when you become a single parent, you’re like, ‘Wow, I have to do outdoors and indoors — why did I think he should take care of all that?’ You have that sense that you can do just about anything you set your mind to.”
For example, have you considered the need for feminine products? What about canes, walkers, and manually operated wheelchairs? Pets need food, crates, and toys to keep them occupied while the rest of family members are recovering from chaos. It will be impossible to cover every contingency but be aware of what those needs are now then prioritize those that you deem most important.
Personal hygiene is even more important in emergency situations than during everyday life. We have so many conveniences at our disposal in our society. Yet many people don’t realize the challenges when those conveniences are no longer available. Personal hygiene is really about keeping clean and avoiding unsanitary conditions that can lead to illness.
The difference between the male prepper stereotype and this softer, more feminine strain of survivalism, Mitchell explains, is that women’s work never stops being useful. “We don’t need the pickup truck and the chainsaw and the assault weapon every day, but every day someone must love the children,” he says. “Every day we must feed ourselves and care for ourselves emotionally. There is no crisis that can possibly exacerbate the [need for] women’s traditional roles, because they’re always needed. Do we need the men? For practical purposes, maybe not.”
Personal defense items – such as rifles and heavy firearms – are going to be increasinly hard to manage the farther you move from steady supplies. Ironically, it’s firearms that help acquire more food, provide personal protection, and deter others from attacking. In a SHTF scenario, heavy armament is only good within fortified areas. If you want to stay highly mobile, switch down to a .22LR polymer rifle such as the Savage survival rifle or similar. Lightweight, collapsible, and perfect for hunting game. Loaded with subsonic rounds, it can also be a lot more efficient than heading off a target with a loud 30-06.