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Overcoming Prepper Stereotypes

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: May 24, 2021
Overcoming Prepper Stereotypes

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Prepping is a popular term but it really just means thinking ahead and planning. This is not so different than the way people had to live a few generations ago. Stores were further apart and not open 24 hours a day. There was no super fast shipping, and if you wanted something out of season then you better have canned it, dried it, or smoked it the season before!

Preparing for the coming winter was a major survival advantage in the past. If you lived in some climates and wanted to thrive, then you had to think ahead because one bad winter could mean starvation.

Backdoor Survival has a diverse group of readers. Some of you may have been prepping for years, and some may still be thinking about what you want to do. My intention with this post is to point out and find some humor and common ground when dealing with a variety of stereotypes within the prepping community. I have definitely found myself thrown into some of these categories at different times in my life.

The Homesteader

A lot of people dream about homesteading. The idea is to live simply, maybe build a house or fix up an older more affordable house picked up with a lot of scrutiny. Homesteaders often keep livestock and start small gardens. Sometimes this goes slowly and sometimes people go into it way too fast. Homesteaders can be any age but they are often 30s to older. Those that are younger are rarer but becoming less so.

The Tin Hat Stereotype

I really dislike this one because it is so often used to discredit anyone that wants to prepare for any future disaster. They are thrown in with the conspiracy theorists. It encourages people to envision all preppers as people running around with lots of superstition and constantly worried about a disaster and not caring for anything but prepping and worrying about the end of the world.

The Militia Stereotype

Not all preppers are incredibly militant, but some get it in their heads that they are. Militias were a big part of the USA’s past. While there are still militia groups out there, a lot of people automatically think that those that believe in the Constitution and have firearms and believe they are necessary to keep things in check, are crazy and waiting to overthrow the government.

The Conspiracy Theory Every Where Stereotype

A lot of people read all kinds of things and find it interesting to discuss them. Sure there are a lot of conspiracy theories out there, but at the same time, we need to keep in mind that this term is used to discredit a lot of arguments that challenge someone else’s viewpoint.

All you have to do is call something a conspiracy theory and it will at least make a lot of people pause and be more suspicious of the viewpoint. This is yet another divide and conquers tactic that makes for good play in the news or anytime someone wants to create a stir.

There is no question that there are a lot of theories out there that make no sense and have no basis. I just ask you to make that call by using your own logic and common sense rather than just completely ignoring something due to a label that gets thrown around way too easily.

A lot of people call everything that Alex Jone’s publishes a conspiracy theory or fake news, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an audience on both sides. Just because someone reads a specific person’s site doesn’t mean they agree with anything that person says.

Fact: Prepping doesn’t have to involve guns

While I think that a firearm is a good idea, not all preppers are firearms enthusiasts. I get the impression more are than not but the stereotype of preppers all having stockpiles of dozens of guns and thousands of rounds of ammo can be harmful, and stokes fear in those that do not know any better.

I have run into people with the ridiculous idea that preppers are secretly waiting around for an uprising against the government. It is hard to convince some otherwise regardless of what you say.

Personally, I would say that people that prep want to be left alone and allowed to lead a peaceful life and take care of their loved ones. If anything they are concerned that they may be harassed by the government and do what they can to avoid any interaction.

The I am all about my faith stereotype

While religion may be a big part of your life, it can be off-putting to others if you are too open about it too soon. Preppers that automatically try to talk too much about faith can drive others away. A gentle approach is best for not scaring people or making them put up their guard immediately.

Faith is important to a lot of people, but it can make others very suspicious at times. There is a stereotype that those that are religious are going to be very judgmental.

Even if you are not that type, there are a lot of people out there that have experienced the judgment of various religious beliefs and have a hard time realizing that not everyone that goes to services is judging them harshly or “thinks they are going to a very bad place.”

Pick the right time to talk about your faith, and you will get further than if you are over the top the first time you have a conversation with someone.

I am not trying to talk down about religion but rather create a better understanding of how it can be perceived if approached in a certain way. First conversations are so important to future dialogue and friendships.

At the same time, there are plenty of preppers out there that do not actively practice any faith at all but just by being called a prepper, there may be the assumption that they do!

Stay calm and don’t lose your temper.

It is hard to not feel insulted or attacked when someone makes negative comments or uses choice descriptions even jokingly. Laugh it off a bit. Don’t fuel the anger and hate because it doesn’t really accomplish anything and often reinforces negative stereotypes for both parties. I just really wish people could give each other a chance without all the hateful hollering. I can disagree with you on 99% of everything but I still think you have as much right to your opinion as me. I don’t think yelling or attacking someone for expressing their view is ok. Look at both sides, make your case, and realize that some people will never agree with you no matter what and that is okay!

Help others learn.

Oh my, there is so much to learn when it comes to being more self-sufficient and prepared. I learn something new pretty often despite all the things Matt and I did when we were a bit younger. While we learned from a few, we had to figure out a lot on our own and through trial and error sometimes. No two homesteads are exactly alike and it can be hard to anticipate everything or “know your land” like you do after a few years. Sharing how to do things with others can lead to you learning something from them too! A lot of younger people would like to learn but they don’t have adults in their lives to show them how to do things. I had to learn a lot of things like cooking on my own because people were so afraid I would mess up their cooking they wouldn’t let me participate.

Life can be hectic but take the time to help others learn if you can, and despite the differences, you may have. It is not necessary to be just like everyone you hang out with or learn skills with, in fact, it is not healthy to only be able to handle being around those that are too much like you all the time and never talk or interact in a civil manner with anyone else.

Divide and Conquor = Ruination

One time when there were hard times within the family while I was still in college and Matt was graduated and working until we went to Alaska, my mother in law Sally looked directly at me and held up a pencil. She said to see this one pencil is one of us. It can be broken pretty easily then she held up a bundle and said but all together we can’t break. I remember that because it is applicable to a lot of life. The extreme division that is happening in the USA holds us back. Sometimes it seems like people want to be outraged all the time, there is no middle ground.

The Millenial/Crazy Liberal Prepper Stereotype

Unfortunately, younger preppers get classified as weak, snowflakes, or whiny even before they open their mouths. I have been thrown into this category regardless of what I write or my actions. Just for reference, I am 35 years old  You can be judged strictly on appearance. People put words in my mouth every once in a while. There will be times when I am told I said something that I did not. This is the times when I have to write back. People hear and read what they want to hear and it causes trouble. Be careful before you judge based on age, appearance, or gender.

At this point a lot of you have seen me in all types of pictures but what if you had to judge me just based on these three photos below and nothing else? 

The Chappy Stereotype

I don’t know how many of you are “King of the Hill” fans, but I remember that when Hank goes to buy a Christmas tree the fellow selling it is Chappy who is obviously a Paul Bunyan type figure. Chappy does everything himself. He renders his own lard, and he does every small step he can to be self-sufficient. He is the fellow that lives by himself and rarely comes out to interact with others.

Just because someone is trying out living off to themselves doesn’t mean they all have Chappy’s attitude. Heck, I lived this way myself for a while although it was with Matt, not alone.

Here is the interior of our living quarters with no indoor plumbing and very limited power. Our water was accessed from a spicket 300 feet away, and yes we raised pigs and rendered lard!

These pictures are from around 2009/2010. Now we have a mortgage free house and a few acres of grapes. Sometimes living like a “Chappy” means someone is trying to reach a long-term goal and use their resources the best they can! If we had paid rent somewhere and not lived on the property, we would not have been able to build our home or be around to work on it whenever we had some time and supplies! We also managed to eat good and save money at the grocery store raising and butchering our own meats. The animals helped clear the land some too!

Prepping can bring people together!

Prepping can bring people together because it is common ground. Everyone needs food, water, shelter, medical care, etc. Sometimes greater understanding is really about finding and focusing on the things we have in common instead of focusing on differences that divide and create conflict.

What stereotypes and questions have you had to deal with over the years? Have you ever totally misjudged someone only to discover that you have a lot in common with them?

Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected]

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9 Responses to “Overcoming Prepper Stereotypes”

  1. We are campers, and found that during power blackouts, our lanterns and propane stove came in very handy. Also, at one time, all my friends were having Party Lite or Home Interiors parties, so, just for the sake of buying something, I would buy candles. WWEEELLLL…when I got married and moved, I filled a whole big Rubbermaid tub with candles. Have not yet gotten into prepping, but am just beginning to learn.

  2. Hi Gail. Love your site. I am a disabled female living in a big city. I am an urban prepper. I can’t bug out due to disability and my city’s dense population would make it impossible and too dangerous. But I have my own way of hungering down, and I love my weapons, German Shepherds and my stock piles of food ,water, medical supplies.

    I think prep 24/7 but a lot of that is my prior military training and my former job as a police officer……… But most of my prepping mindset came from my mother/father and grandmother who all survive the Great Depression and KNEW what hard times were here in Los Angeles. I love LA but we have our share of fires, earthquakes, crime and riots…. I know when the SHTF, an urban prepper needs to be street smart, stockpiled in, and armed. I would probably fit into most stereo types,,, and proud of it.!!!! Thank you for your research and hard work girlfriend.

  3. I enjoyed reading this article and with most all of the points you made. I think you are a great blogger and find the information you provide to be very informative and spot on. Keep up the good work, it is much appreciated from someone twice your age who started prepping after Obama got re-elected in 2012. I am a combat veteran, however I did not pick up a gun until 2012 to get my CCW permit and am now fairly well prepared on most fronts. I do envy your lifestyle but it is too late for me now.

  4. having time to read nearly every blog on survival, and agree that being prepared isn’t a bad thing, how much, where and when, is always the question. The answer is always different for everyone. I have never seen the one size fits all solution. the idea that anyone survival site offers all the answers must be viewed with great skepticism. one I find most laughable is the handy dandy do all tool that will provide all that is needed to survive. Yes, they tell the unskilled and gullible of the wonder that holds the answer to survival and fits in your pocket. I have seen some that do offer some tools that provide handy tools that are convenient. I wouldn’t bet my life on them. Each survival situation is unique in itself. in all I have read I see two things most important. the ability to act quickly, decisively, and without panic. the other is the ability to adapt to any crisis. to do this knowledge is the best tool. and it weighs nothing. knowing how to perform a function is not doing it. a fire. a simple chore for a practiced hand but death for someone who hasn’t done it. knowing what to do first in a crisis and doing it quickly can save yourself and family. survival advice should be tailored to your area and to what you think is any possible event. one thing to remember, one person can’t do everything. lose that one and it puts the rest at risk. teaching the things needed can be accomplished by making it a game and adventure. children respond to this idea better and learn more and retain more. I have seen people waste money believing that you can purchase your way to safety. we must purchase things that will keep us safe for a limited time. to survive in the long term we must be able to revert to times past when having no power was normal. simple things such as growing food and what food will provide the calories that will allow you to do work needed that will provide other items like firewood. it won’t come pre-cut. I think I have covered the basic idea. all else will diverge depending upon individual needs. These survival needs are, as with all, individual. I relate my own observances and needs. While It isn’t intended as instruction for survival it will start anyone in a direction. the directions must be determined for each individual. Wellbecause I havent timed my pain medication so I could complete my post without my rambling around the subject I must apologize and hope you found something of value. I am strugling so I will end it—-Grampa

  5. Dear Samantha,

    I have read several of your articles and have generally agreed with most of what you have said. Your articles have also been informative.

    I’m from the ‘live and let live’ school of thought. For, example, I’m not into women having tattoos. But, I would never criticize or belittle a woman who has them or wants to get them. Instead, I would support her and encourage her to do whatever floats her boat as long as it doesn’t harm others. There is a Japanese proverb that says something like “The nail that sticks up will get hammered down.” Society has been trying to hammer me down all of my life, but as long as I’m breathing, they will will never have a hammer big enough to accomplish their goal.

    The only part of your thinking that I don’t agree with is your idea of ‘meeting someone halfway’ on something. If a person is wrong about something and you meet them halfway, then that means that you are then halfway wrong. This isn’t acceptable to me.

    Keep up the good work. I’m an American citizen living in the Philippines and making the final preparations to move to an isolated part of the jungle somewhere so that my partner and I can live simply and in peace. We believe that a worldwide SHTF situation will occur eventually (sooner rather than later) and we don’t want to be anywhere near the mob of helpless howling sheep when this happens.

    I look forward to reading more of your articles.

    Sincerely yours,

    David Jack Givens

  6. Good article. The stereo type thing is interesting. I remember the Doomsday Preppers many years ago.In the recent past Scott Hunt, Engineer775, has tried to get several cable networks to carry a Prepper series for common sense, regular preppers – non will touch it; not as dramatic as the Doomsday Preppers, which is sad, because there are a lot of great Preppers out there just preparing for the everyday situations that happen.

    I teach emergency preparedness in my federal agency. This past year I’ve change the focus from the standard 3-day emergency rations supply to 14+ days Prepping and beyond, plus I bring in some of my PREPS and display them. Sure, I’ve gotten the “doomsday” question, but it has allowed me to plant seeds and talk to people about the normal emergencies in life. It has proven useful as we’ve had field offices hit by hurricanes, wild fires, snow/ice storms and tornadoes the past two years; some get it, others listen, but fail to act. Helping one family PREP is worth the stereo type any day.

  7. It’s not actually necessary to tell anyone you’re a prepper. You can encourage preparedness without discussing your personal stockpile or philosophy.
    During the 2003 blackout in NYC I was the only person on my block that had candles, – a decorative iron screen that held 100 votive candles. My ground floor apartment bay window opened to the courtyard so some came asking for help. I gave what I could to the elderly and directed the rest to the corner hardware store for flashlights.
    My in laws had no power this week due to the hurricane and downed trees. They were amazed when I drove down there to drop off lanterns, flashlights, and LED candles. Of course everything in the area was sold out. I just said we happened to find a few around but we’ve had them for years just in case. Now we’ll replace them and move on until the next time.
    It’s not necessary to fight or even bother with stereotypes. People think what they want anyway. Until of course a time of need comes up.

  8. Been at this since the 70’s. Former USAF survival instructor. Living in Florida, we have bugged out 4 times in the last 15 years. (Weather). My EDC will get me thru a short term problem and the car is always equipped with everything we need for a minimum of 3 days. At present time at home, at least 3 months food and both charcoal and gas grills and tons of candles. Weapons and 8000 + rds. of ammo. ( gun nut) I don’t see a SHTF situation on the horizon, however it is only a few dollars more to cover that if you’re not already. Nice article.

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