What is a Survivalist, Prepper and Doomer?

I see the terms survivalist, prepper and doomer get used interchangeably. I’m guilty of it, too; often because I like alliteration, so I choose the word that flows, not necessarily for its exact meaning. You know, like “pandemic prepper” or “doomsday diva.”

For the average person vaguely familiar with preparedness, there may not seem like much of a difference between the words, a case of “you say tomato, and I say tomahto.” They’re all the same. The more seasoned survival samurai, however – knows otherwise.

Following are quoted sections from Wikipedia for conversation’s sake.

Survivalist – an individual who is actively preparing for future possible disruptions in local, regional, national, or international social or political order. Survivalists often prepare for this anticipated disruption by having emergency medical training, stockpiling food and water, preparing for self-defense and self-sufficiency, and/or building structures that will help them to survive or “disappear” (e.g., a survival retreat or underground shelter).

In the popular culture, survivalism has often been associated with paramilitary activities. Some survivalists do take active defensive preparations that have military roots and that involve firearms, and this is sometimes emphasized by the mass media.

Kurt Saxon is one proponent of this approach to survivalism. Saxon’s writings on survival tend toward Social Darwinism and Eugenics, with survivalism defined by Saxon as “Looking out for #1” and a need to be sufficiently armed to defend one’s refuge and belongings from hungry people who might demand that others share them if society breaks down.

The potential for Societal collapse is often cited as motivation for being well-armed. Thus, some non-militaristic survivalists often have developed an unintended militaristic image. Nevertheless, its prominence in popular depictions results in the term “survivalism” being sometimes used interchangeably with right-wing reactionary paramilitary activities. In particular, the mainstream media tends to loosely label many militants and miscellaneous extremists as “survivalists”, whether or not they are actively preparing to survive, and regardless of having any formal survival training, or any firm affiliation with survivalist groups.

Prepper – an individual or group that prepares or makes preparations in advance of, or prior to, any change in normal circumstances or lifestyle without significant reliance on other persons (i.e., being self-reliant), or without substantial assistance from outside resources (govt., etc.) in order to minimize the effects of that change on their current lifestyle

Preppers are sometimes identified as modern-day survivalists or neo-survivalists but are far from the stereotype of survivalists past. Prepping has also been dubbed as survivalism light. Many do not identify themselves as doomers or follow the 2012 phenomenon.

Preppers have many different mindsets and cover a broad spectrum of survival and preparedness interests. Some preppers prepare for economic disaster or to escape genetically modified foods through organic farming or urban gardening. Some may prepare for the possibility of a complete breakdown of society while others store up extra food and water for a more localized disaster. In addition to natural disasters, terrorists attacks as well as other crises, Preppers also prepare for personal disasters and economic hardships such as job losses or the loss of a loved one.

Doomer – a peakist (one who has peak oil related concerns that oil depletion will lead to a severe economic recession or another Great Depression) that also believes that a Malthusian Catastrophe will inevitably follow. Doomers attribute their beliefs to humanity’s over reliance on petroleum for agricultural and industrial productivity. Many doomers are also survivalists.

The typical Doomer response to peak oil and the collapse of the industrial system is to “ignore civilization to death” by setting up a Permaculture village. This Survivalist mindset is what distinguishes the Doomer from the Peakist. The Peakist may spend many hours campaigning for peak oil awareness, societal change and changes in government policy, while Doomers would generally see this as a waste of valuable time. The Doomer focus is more on preparing the family and local community for the imminent collapse of civilization.

The perceived extremism associated with “survivalist” is unfortunate. I think many people call themselves survivalists and don’t subscribe to extremist views.

– Ranger Man

16 comments… add one
  • diggerwolf December 7, 2010, 9:23 am

    Excellent post.

  • 3rdMan December 7, 2010, 10:03 am

    I would have to say I fall under the Prepper def.

  • Presager Buddy December 7, 2010, 10:14 am

    Needless to say, these terms evoke various thoughts and responses from different people. Given the wide variety of people with whom I come in contact, I do use these terms in a way that either best describes my philosophy or gives the impression that I want to make. To some audiences I like describing myself as a prepper, to others I will refer to myself as a survivalist. Mostly, however, I usually use the term Survivalist/Prepper because my true philosophy encompases elements of both categories.

    My interest and activity in survivalism/prepping goes back 40 years. I began my work in Civil Defense (now there’s a term that is loaded with lots of meaning) but I retired from Emergency Management. In those years, the mission and the meaning of what we were about morphed based on the political wind.

    Today, when I speak with my “civil defense” friends, I will usually use the term prepper because, to them, survivalist has a very negative connotation. Whereas, with my “emergency management” friends, I don’t hesitate to use the word survivalist or survivalist/prepper. It depends on the experience (and, to some degree, maturity) of those with whom I’m speaking.

    The term “survivalist” has picked up some bad baggage along the way. Years ago, I think it was back in the 80’s, there was a publication called “Survive” and it dealt with subjects you’d typically see on this and similar blogs. It was actually quite a good magazine, but the readership and subscription rates were so low that they couldn’t sustain publication. The magazine was bought out by another magazine and soon I started receiving copies of “Soldier of Fortune”. This transformation didn’t represent my philosophy so I cancelled my subscription, but it did suggest something. It’s such a suggestion that I will frequently refer to myself as a survivalist/prepper.

  • Spook45 December 7, 2010, 11:16 am

    Labels can be deceiving and negitive. I prefer to be considered a prepper, it covers D all of the above. Truth is, our country has gotten away from its roots. People are not self sufficiant anymore which is at its core, the American way. I prefer to have a broad skill set, with a broad and informad basis of knowledge and simply BE PREPARED. While none of us can be prepared for every single contingancy, the more knowledgable and prepared you are, the better you will handle ANY bad situation or emergancy that comes along. In such a large and uncertain world, it just makes good sense. Not to metion that our govt has been taken over by COMMIES which doesnt help matters any either:)

  • Dee December 7, 2010, 5:10 pm

    Hi RangerMan & Jarhead,
    This is off subject but thought you may be interested:
    Read several articles on fire starting and combined them to make a trouble-free fire in my fireplace.
    1. lay fire upside down (large wood on bottom, smaller wood next layed crosswise, kindling on top – a few layers crosswise).
    2. Put DIY firestarter on top (cardboard egg carton with dryer lint or cotton balls filled with wax – cut out each egg cell with your cheap, wonderful Mora knife and use only one)
    3. Light corner of cell, sit back with a glass of wine and be amazed!
    No more poking, prodding, feeding, cussing.
    Also made some starters out of waxed paper cups (from $ Tree). Filled them with crumpled newspaper, lint, shaved fat wood and punky left over firewood, put in a wax-dipped piece of cotton cord for a wick and poured wax in. That sucker blazed!
    I’ve probably spent $50 on different tinders but these two methods beat them all and it was all free except the $1.00 for paper cups.
    I now have egg carton type in all of my BOBs and car and feel very empowered – funny how doing something for yourself can make you feel stronger.

  • WITWCT December 7, 2010, 6:23 pm

    Mr. Creekmore covered this here http://www.thesurvivalistblog.net/uncategorized/are-you-survivalist-or-prepper/ but I would imagine you will delete this comment or go on the attack against anything Mr. Creekmore says or does or at least that has been your foray.

    • 3rdMan December 8, 2010, 7:58 am

      Here we go again with the Rangerman bashing!

      Sooooo Creekmore cover it and I’m sure someone covered it before him and someone before them. So your point is what?

      • Jack December 8, 2010, 8:48 am

        WITWCT is a nutball who trolls on MD Creekmore’s site, and attacks or mocks 50% of what MD says, while praising the other 50%, often in the comments of the same article.

  • Jarhead Survivor December 7, 2010, 9:24 pm

    @Dee – I have some of those egg carton firestarters myself and usually keep at least three in various locations in my BOB. They’re excellent! I’ve heard of the fire method you described, but haven’t tried it myself yet. With such a strong recommendation I’ll give it a try the next time I go camping. Thanks for the comment.

    -Jarhead Survivor

    • Dee December 8, 2010, 12:52 pm

      Hey Jarhead,
      Made some last night in waxed cups with sawdust, lint and wax. Am going to put some sawdust in the egg carton ones today to fill them more.
      Got a roaring fire going last night with just one egg cell and very little kindling. The upside down method is the best.
      I love this stuff!!

  • No ME Preppy December 7, 2010, 10:54 pm

    Great posting. I’d probably consider myself a prepper with some tendancies toward both of the other categories. I guess that’s what’s at the heart of the mindset. Prepare for things IN CASE there is social or economc upheaval or the Icecaps melt and all the volcanoes erupt. As far as broad skillsets go, that’s eBay I teach my students. Learn as much as you can, even if there is a focus on one specific aspect. Those ancillary concepts could make the difference between thriving or scraping by.

  • shadowxdm9 December 13, 2010, 1:37 pm

    dont really know which one i fall under… but then again i never have been one to terribly concerned with titles as far as any of them go… but if i had to pick one for myself i would go with , DO WHAT IT TAKES

  • russell120 May 23, 2011, 12:13 pm

    I missed this one back when it came out. But now you have linked back to it, so it is all good!

    I have thought about a similar sort of post, but it is very hard to categorize types by catastrophe. There are a lot, and people often worry about the same things, but for very different reasons.

    I would add the following:

    Bandits: “I don’t need preps, I have guns”.

    Religious – Apocalyptic” If you count the number of syllables in the book of revelations and divide by 666: it comes out to the December 7, 2012″

    Religious-Militant: Similar to above but are somehow personally involved in the activities. These were a very common response to Western European colonial activity, and date back to the time of Jesus when a number of “prophets” were executed by the Romans for saying preaching of the coming reckoning with God.

  • T.R May 23, 2011, 3:27 pm

    Would be an interesting study to see how many of each category are mentally ill . Seriously , stereotypes exist for a reason . Like animal hoarders . Some guy living like a hermit with 30 cats and filth in his NYC apartment , isnt a whole lot different than dressing like GI Joe , digging a bunker out in the woods , backpacking up brick by brick to live in . I would guess that Peakers are socially inept people that go this route , more because they are people that have a hard time functioning in the real world and with society in general . Using survivalism as an excuse .
    Mentality and attitude is the key to living ( note I didnt say surviving although same holds true ) One of my favorite books is called ” Shut up , Sit down , and stop whining ! ” by larry Wingett . He tell people what they already know but dont want to face . Like when you try something and are not a success , you decide that it sucks …. well , IT doesn’t suck , YOU DO ! . Same is true about if you go through thinking life is a $hit sandwich and every day is another bite … IT WILL BE ! ( for YOU ) Im all for preparing , but lets face it , its a matter of degrees to which is reasonable and whacko . Dont forget the Y2K thing that never happened , yet everybody was in a panic . You have to try to filter out whats worth worrying about and the ” Crisis D’-Jour “

  • T.R. May 23, 2011, 4:10 pm

    One thing I would like to point out that may or may not help . Things like loosing your job , not being able to find another one , loosing your home , etc . Those things are very real and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to simply see whats going on around you as it happens . BUT , the media is one of the problems ! Stop watching to the news , Stop watching or listening to O’ Riely , Beck or whoever , their all the same , you know , the professional complainers that need ratings ! In the 1950’s , there were only 4 TV channels , the news was short and simple , no glitz , no controversy , or theory , just fact simply stated on whatever happened THAT DAY . people were not glued to a cell phone , ipod , or other mind stressing device and actually did things and socialized , were not politicly correct , and didnt subject themselves to constant negative input that we do today . ……guess what .. people were a hell of a lot happier ! Do you really need a guy to yell at you out the window and tell ya its raining when your standing in it ? I dont ! Turn off the media , all of it . You will think clearer . Im not saying life is easy , but how is all the negative reinforcement going to help ya out ? its going to hold you down .

  • T.R. May 23, 2011, 6:16 pm

    Correction : I meant Doomer and not peaker , my bad .


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