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. Whether man-made or natural disaster, the process of learning largely lost survival skills, purchasing supplies, taking classes, researching product manufacture processes along with the familiarisation of how to maintain tools and technology; as well as evading danger and having a plan for the future following such a hard reset of contemporary human living are all active ingredients in the recipe to prepping.
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 also contradicts this behaviour, as survival depends on getting the most use from say a single tool as possible. If your shovel can, collapse into a more portable item, double as a hammer, a saw and say a defensive weapon and does all of these things well, then this one shovel will negate the existence of three other tools as well as performing a function which the others cannot offer.
The result is that adopting this approach helps to declutter your possessions. But it doesn’t stop there. There is a certain, heightened value placed on the quality of survival gear in general. Many preppers take to forums to discuss the pros and cons of an item of gear and often will raise knowledge as to how an item is made, where it is manufactured, the materials used and possible actions that should be taken to improve the performance and increase the functionality of said item. Many tips are exchanged, including the modding (modification) to amend faults or to improve user experience etc.
All of the care that is shown in video blogs and online forums where opinions are exchanged with the minimum of digression provide these contributors and their audience with a far superior foundation to make informed decisions when it comes to how they consume, especially if compared to the way most of us instinctively or compulsively purchase with little thought. Beyond the usual influencing factors of cost/marketing hype to persuade, many preppers choose to educate themselves with how the item in question is manufactured 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 which they may, in the case of say a survival tool, entrust their lives with.
One could go as far to argue that if more western consumers displayed a fraction of the thought and interest that a large proportion of preppers appear to display, the 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 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 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 that there are actually demand for, 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 (such as the weight limit for transporting a B.O.B – a bug-out-bag, used for leaving an area due to the deterioration in terms 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…” as we begin to worry about their well being as well as spending more money on solutions to worry less about this, such as paying more for increased insurance.
There is a great belief that appears to be shared among those who prep where their gear is concerned. There is the desire to personalise and make an item their own, often this involves learning a new skill to fulfil this. 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 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 – done correctly would certainly help to save you money long-term, perhaps making better use of recycled home materials. 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 way 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 this 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 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 its application. However, when you consider the above areas that this way of thinking entails, then you realise that this misses the point. We all stand to gain a lot more by adopting the prepper approach than by not. Finally, 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 a byproduct 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, 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 useful. As mentioned previously I have become a firm believer that it the case of customising the advice to your own particular requirements.