A few years ago, I started researching the increasing phenomena of individuals whom look to be ready for a possible collapse in society. The cause of this meltdown may vary significantly however, the motive and ideology remain the same.
Prepping (which comes from the term preparedness) generally follows the notion of pre-empting a disaster (man-made or natural) by putting into action a specific survival plan and executing this through the combination of acquired relevant skills knowledge and resources. Those who follow this ideology have come to be known as preppers. Preppers will often take the time to learn traditional and trusted survival skills, stock up on key supplies ahead of the disaster, as well as exchange ideas among peers on how best to improve their chances for survival should the worst happen.
It’s also quite common for those preppers to formulate plans for a future way of life following a hard reset of contemporary civilisation.
Whether you find any personal gravitas for this practice or not, the purpose of surviving the possible extinction of mankind is immaterial when we consider how the same mindset can help us better manage day-to-day tasks and perhaps curb some of our less glorious habits.
While there are exceptions to the rule, many preppers steer clear from hoarding unnecessary items or gear. Certainly the boy-scout mentality ‘to be prepared’ can be open to misinterpretation and encourage concerned households to stockpile multiple, identical items under the belief that ‘some day this (insert: item/spare part/tool/food stuff/etc. of your choosing) will be useful’…
However, by the same token, the prepping ideology at its’ core relies on followers being as efficient as possible. So, if your shovel can, collapse into a more portable item, double as a hammer, unfold into a saw and moonlight as a defensive weapon – and do all of these things well, then it’s possible to streamline against unnecessary overstocking of similar tools. Who would have thought that prepping could assist in the declutter of your possessions?
But it needn’t stop there. Many preppers take to forums to discuss with others, the pros and cons of an item of gear; often shining the spotlight on how it is made, where it’s manufactured, the materials used and possible actions that could be taken to improve performance and boost functionality. Many of these tips include the modding (modifying) to amend faults and/or improve user experience. So prepping can be a good method for not only recycling (decluttering possessions) but also up-cycling (improving upon an item’s original design and applications).
On the whole the majority of prepper content online appears to be largely successful in educating audiences by providing them with a solid foundation of knowledge to make better informed consumer-based decisions.
As most of the products and services that this user-based content revolves around concern those that a person would entrust their lives to – the prepper methodology of accurately identifying qualities like: immediate to longterm usefulness, durability, value, etc. has very practical applications within our everyday consumer behaviour.
Many preppers choose to educate themselves on specific areas e.g. how the item in question is manufactured, materials used, the pros and cons of these and compare this with other makes to decide if the item is worth the money and whether it will provide them with a competent solution.
One could go as far to argue that if more western consumers displayed a fraction of the thought and interest that the majority of preppers appear to display, our entire consumer landscape would be radically altered.
Increased awareness and opposition to cheap manufacture outsourcing along with demonstrating support for local industries, would help to eliminate the throw-away culture that has engulfed many of our high streets and online stores. A greater respect for manufacturing and the raw materials required may help us to question whether we are ready to invest in products that will need replacing quickly, and which have a greater impact on the environment than their alternatives.
It’s not just knowing a little more regarding the processes involved to produce the items that we consume, it’s also important to note the solution-based focus that those prepping utilise to make one item fit another purpose, one that it was not originally intended for. This is often referred to as ‘survivalist hacking’, ‘hacking’ or ‘life-hacking’ in the wider sense, the latter you may have come across in self-help advice or motivation talks.
Again, modding an item to fulfil an additional role is smart, improves understanding for how something is made and, if universally desirable, may encourage manufacturers to create solutions where demand actually exists rather than invent ‘spin’ to convince us that we ‘need’ a new product in our lives which we really do not have a purpose for.
If we adopted a sense of practical restraint on the specific volume of possessions we were looking to purchase, as preppers often impose on themselves e.g. the weight limit for transporting a B.O.B (a bug-out-bag, used for carrying crucial life-preserving gear away from an area of danger to a place of safety), we could ensure a more healthy cap on our carbon footprint as well as avoiding the trap that the excess of belongings bring upon ourselves.
After all to coin a phrase, the: “…things we own end up owning us…” where we start to get caught in the vicious cycle of purchasing unnecessary products, then worrying about their well-being and security – to the extent that we spend more time and money in an effort to worry less about them (such as taking out extra home content insurance) and well, for items that bring neither love, joy or use to our lives – it quickly becomes a huge waste of our energy.
For the stuff that preppers do own – there exists a great desire to personalise and make the items they do own, their own. Often this involves learning a new skill(s) to do so.
An example may be to fashion a leather sheath for a recently acquired bushcraft knife. Acquiring the creative know-how, along with the sense of self-improvement which this instils, is by far more life-affirming than most of our fad-based purchases.
Indeed the self-sustaining aspect to the prepping ideology is likely to save you money. Self-efficiency spreads to all other areas. What about self-employment?
At home, this also can take the guise of subsidising some of the weekly food shopping through gardening and growing fruit and veg where possible. And why stop there? DIY – when done correctly, would certainly help to save you money in the long term, perhaps making better use of recycled home materials in the process?
Recycling is not limited to only reusing the leftovers from consumerism, it can also be the motivation to invest in seeking out viable ways to implement sustainable alternative sources of energy, such as new greener ways to power your home and your car.
Returning to the idea of looking after your home and your household covers a broad range of areas. Security can cover so much more than simply stockpiling defensive weapons or fitting further sensors and alarms. What about an alternative source of income? If the economic climate looks troublesome or worrying then perhaps a backup job could be something to fall back on if things start to get hairy?
The notion of being slightly more future-focussed, as in line with the prepper mindset, expands to your own longevity too. Being prepared to have to relocate at a moments notice, not only helps to curb your spending, it also places a greater emphasis on your’s and the health of your loved ones . Staying fit, being able to trek, climb, swim etc. is going to give you a longer, improved quality of life even if the end of the world or disaster never materialises.
That last point is an important one, crucially the idea that the worst is not likely to happen is the main barrier that nay-sayers use to reject the prepper ideas and their applications.
However, when you consider what we have discussed here so far, then you realise that to get hung-up on the idea that the worst is unlikely to happen – largely misses the point. We all stand to gain a lot more from adopting the prepper approach than by not. If we indulge the doomsday preachers for a moment, we realise that the likelihood of some tragic circumstances are much greater than one might initially suspect. The end of the world can come in many different forms to a range of people.
Having your home washed away by a flood, shaken to the ground by an earthquake or losing all worldly possessions to a home fire can be the end an individual’s or their family’s life, even if they initially survive the tragedy.
In my own life and as a by-product of researching this area, I myself have started to pick and choose the areas of prepper philosophy that matter most to me.
I have a bag packed with essentials to leave my home quickly should the need arise. I have increased knowledge in how to fix things around the house, I have donated unwanted items to charity and auctioned off others to put a bit more cash back into my pocket. I now do a great deal of research when I buy anything, to make sure I need it, that I make a good choice and to see if buying it means I can ditch other similar items to help pare down my possessions and waste.
I have a long way to go but the more time I spend doing so, the greater I learn and the richer the quality of my life becomes. My advice would be to give it a go, and not feel under the obligation to follow the approach to the letter but to take what makes sense for your own use.
Finally, I would like to respond to a common misconception that to prepare is to introduce and solidify a sense of unnecessary fear. I believe it is actually the opposite, just as going to sit a test that you know you have revised thoroughly for, having some preparations, whether this is an EDC (every day carry) bag you take to work containing some basics to help you if you find yourself stranded, or learning some essential skills which allow you to make the most of common materials lying around – the confidence that this provides you with is a reassuring feeling which frees you to concentrate on other things, as well as providing you with awareness to help steer you from getting into trouble in the first place.
Those of you interested in the above will hopefully find a forthcoming list of links to articles, websites and books that cover the art of prepping and how they can be applied to our daily lives. As mentioned previously I have become a firm believer that, as with most advice, it’s a case of tailoring it to your own specific situation and circumstances.