Prepper vs Survivalist: Digging Deep into Similarities and Differences

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By Bryan Lynch •  6 min read

Two terms come up in the survival community and you may have even heard them quite a bit in the media, movies, and television.

prepper vs survivalist

They are prepper and survivalist.

They tend to be used interchangeably which I believe is incorrect and unfortunately in modern times they also tend to have a negative connotation associated with them.

The definition of each is open to interpretation but in my opinion, they are different but have some crossovers between them.

I thought it would be worth the time to sit down and discuss these terms to hopefully make these two labels less confusing. In the following article, I will discuss what they mean, and compare and any similarities or differences between them. So with that in mind let me dive right into this topic, starting with the term prepper.

Overview of a Prepper vs Survivalist


A prepper is a more modern term and it is an abbreviation for the word preparation.

It is used to describe an individual or a group of people who actively prepare for emergencies or disasters.

This preparation is done by stockpiling supplies such as food, water, medical supplies, tools, weapons, and obtaining knowledge for how to be self-reliant.

All of this is done because through the prepper’s eyes, it is not a question of if bad things can happen but when.

A prepper can live in an urban or rural setting. Their stockpiles can be store-bought or put up as food preserves from growing food to raising livestock.

While preppers may have plans for leaving their home when the SHTF, it is only done so as a last resort. If they do leave it is generally to a secondary location that has supplies.

Preppers are also very entuned with worldly news. They like to be in the loop of what is going on so as not to be caught unaware when emergency events unfold.


The word survivalist is an older term that describes an individual who is more entuned with the natural world.

They tend to live in rural or remote locations.

They also practice or live by using outdoor skills such as hunting, fishing, foraging, building shelters, making cordage, using all parts of animals, etc.

Their lifestyle is minimalistic, and they can survive for long periods with their skillset and knowledge.

Generally, they like to be left to their own devices and do not care to be bothered by outside forces. It is most likely that a survivalist is a “lone wolf” but some certainly have families who also live the lifestyle.

Similarities between a Prepper vs Survivalist

The big similarity between these two groups of people is their desire to be self-reliant. When the SHTF, both preppers and survivalists will be ahead of the curve and have the ability to ride out the storm without outside help.

While other people will be waiting to be told what to do how when to expect help, preppers and survivalists will already have the means to pretty much keep living the way they always have.

Differences between a Prepper vs Survivalist

The main difference between these two groups is how they live and what they depend on.

To some degree, a prepper remains actively involved in modern life. While they may be self-reliant in growing or raising food, they depend on their stockpiles and stuff to get them through a bad situation.

A survivalist certainly has some supplies put away but they primarily depend on their skills in the outdoors and primitive ways for obtaining food and living.

Since preppers are dependent on their stockpiles or the homestead they have developed they generally want to remain in one location unless they are forced to move.

Whereas a survivalist can be nomadic due to their skillsets and knowledge of the land.

Is it Better to be a Survivalist or a Prepper?

The answer to this question is really up to you and how you prefer to live.

I think drawing lessons from both the preppers and survivalists make the most sense.

Setting up a homestead of sorts will allow you to live a more self-reliant lifestyle. It will allow you to be able to set up power generation, water supply, and a renewable food source from which stockpiles can be made.

But you should not be fully dependent on one location and a pile of supplies. This is where learning how to live off of the land balances out a more modern way of living.

By practicing both a person will be able to live well at there homestead as long as they are capable of staying there. When the time comes to leave, finely honed outdoor skills will serve a person well in a more nomadic way of life.

Finally, Are Preppers and Survivalists Bad?

The labels prepper and survivalist have become slightly derogatory words. This is because, through popular tv shows and the media, both have been showcased as, well, crazy and fanatical.

Through these outlets, they have been portrayed as gun-toting individuals hyper-focused on Armageddon.

In my experience, people who have chosen either lifestyle are not bad but quite the opposite.

Many of them simply know bad things can happen and wish to be best prepared. They realize that during normal and bad times, it makes more sense to be able to take care of themselves rather than to wait for and be dependent on others. Many of them are also more than willing to help someone in need.

Yes, there are individuals in both categories that lean more towards the extreme, most are not. In reality, survivalists wish to live off of the land because it is simpler, not easier, but simpler.

I have not met a prepper yet who is preparing for the end of days via nuclear holocaust, asteroids, alien invasion, or the zombie horde.

Realistically, most preppers learn skills and put supplies away to deal with fairly common events. Such as droughts, food shortages, floods, hurricanes, tornados, or any other event that can affect our daily lives. 

Ultimately, in my opinion, survivalists and preppers are not bad but their lifestyle choices are exaggerated.

Wrapping It Up

Maybe I am right or maybe I am wrong but I hope through my opinions I cleared up what it means to be a prepper vs survivalist.

Do you disagree or have a question or comment? Sound off in the comment section below and let us know. Thanks for reading and stay prepared.

Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021.