A buddy of mine asked me what the difference is between a prepper and a survivalist. I admit it is a good question, and one with no obvious answer since there are no official definitions. Within the prepper and survivalist community, the two terms are often used interchangeably, though prepper is the more popular term (but survivalist has been around longer). So, is there a difference? If so, what is the difference? And, why does it matter?
In my mind, the word survivalist conjures up a hard -core image of a man dressed in camouflage holding a gun, determined to protect his family from approaching danger.
On the other hand, the word prepper conjures up a somewhat softer image of a woman stuffing her pantry full of food, and maybe planting a vegetable garden out back, in order to take care of her family during bad times.
Of course, both sets of images are right and needed. Preparedness and survivalism are about all the above, and more. However, obviously to my mind there is a qualitative difference between the two terms. Though there are a lot of similarities between the two, I think the difference is in their primary motivations.
Survivalists are primarily motivated by a desire to survive long-term and highly disruptive events, whereas preppers are primarily motivated by a desire to prepare for shorter-term and less disruptive events.
Survivalists primarily focus on and plan towards surviving events such as political and economic collapse, severe pandemics, EMP & CME events, civil unrest, martial law, police state tactics, civil war, invasion, and even nuclear war.
Preppers primarily focus on and plan towards surviving events such as an unexpected job loss, local epidemics, a winter storm or hurricane which knocks out power for a week, ordinary crime, and the next recession.
Both can and do look to surviving all sorts of events – long and short, major and minor. But their primary focus and efforts are different, in my opinion. This doesn’t make either one right or wrong. Just different. As for me, I lean towards the survivalist side. And the more I examine the world, the more I lean that way.
Why do the definitions matter? It matters when it comes to communicating with people. Understanding their expectations, and yours, can prevent misunderstandings and hostility. Let me explain:
I’ve written many, many articles over the years. Some of my articles are “soft,” fitting the prepper profile, while others are more “hard-core” fitting the survivalist profile. With my more soft articles, prepper-types (as defined in this article) tend to love them and comment very favorably. On the other hand, survivlist-types often criticize those articles as “too basic,” and the advice given as “not going far enough.” I’ve even been called “naive” for some of the suggestions I’ve made.
On the other hand, with my more hard-core articles and advice, I have often upset, angered, and even offended many prepper-types. They accuse me of being “unrealistic” & “too harsh,” and the advice given as “going too far.” I’ve even been called “paranoid.”
It would behoove everyone, including myself, to remember these differences in dealing with others. Not everyone is on the same page with their goals, motivations, and concerns. And that is iokay. We don’t have to always agree.