Most preppers, Huddleston found, are male, white, and between the ages of 25 and 45. The reason for the racial divide might be self-reinforcing, he notes. “If you see a bunch of white guys in tactical clothing jump out of an armored van, a young black man or woman is not going to be like, ‘Hey, that looks cool. I want to go over there.’ They’re going to run the other way,” he says.
This idea alone was the reason I started prepping in the first place, it was my experience in a flood that made me realize how much I have taken for granted the systems that are controlled by so many others, from transport industries with food and fuel, to power plant operations and clean water. All of this is daily life norms, but when they are switched off, it’s something I was never prepared to deal with.
So Michael Mills at the UK's University of Kent decided to correct this gap in our knowledge. Mills went on an American road trip, spending time talking to (and butchering animals with) 39 preppers in 18 different US states. Rather than rampant paranoia, Mills suggests, preppers are motivated by non stop media coverage of natural disasters, as well as a government that encourages them to prepare for the worst.
Ten months after the election, “Hillary For Prison” shirts have yet to go out of style, but what sells at any given show largely depends on what’s going on in the world that week. “I have noticed the radiation guys across from us this week,” says Mike Nocks, owner of Lebanon’s White Harvest Seed Company and one of the show’s guest speakers. “In years past, I haven’t seen much radiation stuff, but since the Korean guy has been doing more nuclear stuff, I’m seeing more interest in nuclear detectors.”
I bought these candles after we experienced a prolonged power outage. We had headlamps that all had charged batteries so we used those to see in the dark. It became apparent to me that candles are nice because you can place them on a table and have permanent low light where you can sit and work. It is a lot more peaceful than the blinding light of headlamps shining on your face.
Prepping is more about planning, knowledge, and skills than actually purchasing a lot of useless gadgets. I walked away from the consumer lifestyle many years ago and now live on an off-grid homestead. That said, there are always items that preparedness-minded people, like myself, keep their eyes open for. We are always looking for good deals on all things canning, such as jars, lids, pressure canners, and water bath canners. Or perhaps a higher-ticket item, such as a food dehydrator.
What programs like Doomsday Preppers have accomplished, or at least contributed to, is turning sometimes well-informed, sometimes totally unwarranted paranoia into a booming prepper-industrial complex. Each year, swap meets pack hundreds of convention centers and fairgrounds across the nation—they’re like camping shows with a dose of military surplus and hands-on instructional sessions. The September 2017 Kansas City Survival Expo & Gun Show, for instance, had tips on seed saving, “Overcoming 900 Health Diseases” and “A Devastating Street Self-Defense System.” The latter was taught by Norman Cantwell, who inspired Patrick Swayze’s character in Roadhouse. You get the feeling that he and Steven Seagal would be friends.
After there’s no one left to text and no more Instagram, you can still look at your digital photos by charging up your phone with this solar powered charger and light. It takes 12 hours in the sun to juice up the Power+, then its LED light can shine for up to 150 hours, and it will charge up a smartphone in about two hours. It can also charge cameras, MP3 players, and tablets. Plus, for every unit sold, another is donated to a family living without electricity.
I recommend that the very first step you take when prepping is to evaluate the most likely risks specific to your geographical area and your personal domestic situation. Most, if not all, city, county and state governments will have emergency management websites that will help you sort through the most likely disasters to occur in your area. Take advantage of these public resources.
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.
The increased inflation rate in the 1960s, the US monetary devaluation, the continued concern over a possible nuclear exchange between the US and the Soviet Union, and perceived increasing vulnerability of urban centers to supply shortages and other systems failures caused a number of primarily conservative and libertarian thinkers to promote individual preparations. Harry Browne began offering seminars on how to survive a monetary collapse in 1967, with Don Stephens (an architect) providing input on how to build and equip a remote survival retreat. He gave a copy of his original Retreater's Bibliography to each seminar participant.
Mr. Patrick, who lives in the East Midlands region of England, says that people need not stock large quantities of food, and that his family has enough for only a week. “This is a case of having some candles as well as a torch, a battery-powered radio, perhaps a solar-powered phone charger,” he said, rejecting any parallel to doomsday preppers who prepare to barricade themselves in remote places with enough supplies for months or years.
Adam Hadhazy is a contributing writer for Live Science and Space.com. He often writes about physics, psychology, animal behavior and story topics in general that explore the blurring line between today's science fiction and tomorrow's science fact. Adam has a Master of Arts degree from the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston College. When not squeezing in reruns of Star Trek, Adam likes hurling a Frisbee or dining on spicy food. You can check out more of his work at www.adamhadhazy.com.