Homesteader? Prepper? Survivalist? What are the Differences, and Which Category Fits You?
The other day, Mr. V. and I were discussing water. That’s because we didn’t have any! For the first time in six years, we had no water. We are on a personal well, you see. It runs off an electrical pump.
We moved to this homestead in Idaho from an off-grid homestead in So Nevada just a few months ago. There, we pretty much had our infrastructure and preps handled just fine. But now, here in Idaho, we are back on the grid. It feels kind of unsafe, I’ll be honest.
This means electricity from a utility company. And since we are in a very rural area outside a very tiny town, if the power goes down it may just be anyone’s guess how long it will be before it’s back on. I guess we’ll find out!
So when the power went out recently…..well. That was a moment that we looked at each other and realized once again we are at the mercy of the “powers” that be.
NOT a good feeling. At least not for us, being used to the safety net of solar power in our previous off-grid life.
Our concerns were for our animals as well as ourselves. And the garden. And for showers. Just saying.
But seriously. Without water, life such as it is just not going to last very long.
Being that our property is near the top of a mountain (we do own our portion of the very top of the mountain, as well as a large portion of the other side), which is about 200 yards up the hill from the house), we know it is impossible (at this point) to get water without the pump.
Anyway, we were discussing what we would need to be sure that we could keep water to the property in the event of a grid-down situation. Which could happen!
Just read One Second After by William Fortschen. You will be entertained, but more importantly, educated about the ramifications of an EMP—-whether solar or terrorist.
(PSST! This would be a GREAT gift for the guy in your life. And if he doesn’t read, get it on Audible. I have not met a real man who hasn’t gobbled this book up.)
We quickly decided that as soon as the funds are available, we will need to have a water tank installed on the top of the hill to route fresh water from the well. Then the water can be gravity fed into the house and stock areas.
BOOM! Problem solved, at least in our plans. We just need the money first.
After this uncomfortable incident with the power going out, I had the opportunity to think (once again) to myself: Am I a homesteader? Am I a prepper?
Or maybe I’m actually a survivalist? After all, I DO have a pretty nice Get Home Bag in my vehicle at all times.
After reflecting on these terms and mulling over ALL the literature (fiction and nonfiction) I’ve read about disaster situations over the years…well, I have come to some conclusions about where I fit in.
How about you? Do you think you fit into any of these categories?
Part of being self-reliant is being able to take care of yourself and your family in the event of a short or even a long-term disaster. And we have been aspiring to be self-reliant for a very long time now.
But, self-reliance is a theme that definitely threads through homesteading, prepping, and knowing how to survive anywhere.
So, here are the differences, between being a homesteader, a prepper, and a survivalist. Maybe you’ll find yourself in one or more of these categories!
**Get the free mini-guide to 5 considerations and lots of tips to getting your homestead started no matter where you live! Just complete the form below:
What is the Difference Between Being a Homesteader, a Prepper, or a Survivalist?
These really aren’t completely discrete terms. There are definitely some overlaps between all the categories. You can have characteristics of a homesteader but still be a die-hard survivalist too. So, I’ll define each and give you some really good examples from my own personal life of people I know in each category.
What is a Homesteader?
Mr. V. and I are definitely homesteaders. We have the mindset and hearts of the homesteading kind of person. A homesteader is a person who wants to be self-reliant. To be independent from the material world. To not be dependent on the nanny state.
But the self-reliance of the person with a homesteading mindset is not necessarily for the sake of surviving a disaster or a long-term grid down situation. The homesteader wants to be able to take care of the family themselves and generally live a simple life.
And we do fall into this category.
We want to be able to grow our own food. We want to be able to be sure we can either create or have access to all the things we need to live without relying on modern systems, government, or even other people to a great extent.
A homesteader wants to be able to walk out to the garden to pick the food needed for that night’s dinner. To be able to know that due to their hard work, there is food in the pantry set aside for the winter months.
Homesteading has kind of a “romantic” vibe, too. It’s not quite as “threatening” as being a “prepper” or especially a hard-core “survivalist.”
It’s got the Laura Ingalls “Little House on the Prairie” feel. That’s the homesteading mindset.
And honestly, you can be a homesteader in the city. You can be a homesteader in an apartment. If you are the kind of person who loves being able to handle your life without help from others….chances are you are a homesteader at heart.
In fact, I was an urban homesteader. You can find out what on earth I was doing without even realizing it in that link back when I lived and worked in a huge city—-for decades of my life.
You can take a neat little quiz in this article to find out if you are a homesteader or have the mindset of one: Are You a Homesteader?
And that takes us to:
What is a Prepper?
I’ll be honest. I never even heard of the term, “prepper” prior to about six years ago. Actually, I never even heard of the term, “homesteader” either.
But I realized very quickly upon adopting our new lifestyle six years ago in the off-grid village of Cold Creek, NV, that we were definitely homesteaders.
And. Then we became preppers at the urging of some members of the community there too.
Here is what consititutes a person who is into preparedness: Preppers definitely fall on a continuum. There are “hard-core” preppers who literally put their life savings into their efforts. And there are those who just want to have a couple of weeks of food and water stored up, just in case.
So, a prepper is a person who feels the need to be ready for a disaster of some kind. It can be short-term. It may be long-term.
Usually, preppers start out looking at the short-term. Then as they become educated about the potentials of a long-term disaster, they may get more serious, depending on the resources at their disposal.
I was raised with a bit of an LDS background, as most of my family are LDS. One of the tenants of this culture is to have at least a year’s food storage set aside. Personally, I think that’s just plain smart.
Even though I am not LDS, much of the wisdom of that culture and religion has soaked into my bones. The food storage is definitely something Mr. V. and I have adopted.
A prepper will begin to think about the possibility of having to protect the property from those who would help themselves in dire times. Therefore, weapons of some type are generally involved.
Water is also a big consideration. Besides water storage, most serious preppers will give some thought to long term water. Where will it come from? Preppers have a plan for just about everything they can think about, even if (like us) they are working on the where with all (the financing) to get all the things done.
As you can see there are some overlaps between being a prepper and a homesteader. These are very natural overlaps.
The homesteader wants self-reliance. And by that very desire, they are usually edging into the realm of being at least somewhat prepared to take care of the family with food and water.
A prepper is thinking primarily about being ready for a disaster situation. With that readiness comes the thought process of being self-reliant in an emergency.
What is a Survivalist?
Have you ever watched the show, “Dude, You’re Screwed”? Well, those guys are survivalists. They know how to make something out of nothing.
And I’ll just say this: Many preppers I have met have the desire to also be survivalists.
But a survivalist has developed skills to be able to live completely off the land. To defend himself and family, often in some pretty violent ways if need be.
We have this neighbor. He is a GREAT guy.
He lives in the garage at his brother’s house, and he comes and goes as he pleases. He has a pretty great set up over there, if you ask me. He’s got a little wood-burning fireplace in the garage. He sleeps in his camper when the weather is nice and in the garage when it’s not.
He fishes and hunts for his own food. He forages for mushrooms and other foods. He lives off the land.
This man does not feel beholden to anyone for anything. He often takes off for weeks at a time and lives in the wilderness.
I mentioned to Mr. V. the other day that I didn’t think he was that prepared for a disaster. Mr. V. looked at me and said, “That man is the most prepared I’ve ever seen because he knows exactly how to survive out there!”
As usual. Mr. V. was right.
And I realized this man is an example of a survivalist.
My middle son, too, is a survivalist. He lives in an unassuming neighborhood in Florida. But he was an Army Ranger (decorated) for many years. He can get by just fine with a simple knife. Or probably less. His mindset is about protecting his family.
A survivalist has skills that allow him/her to be able to survive in the wild or to defend him or herself against predatory people in an urban environment. A survivalist is all about surviving: living through an extreme and terrible situation.
Mr. V. and I know how to shoot weapons (especially Mr. V. He is pretty adept), and I’m sure we have some semblance of being able to defend out property. However, we really don’t have the hard-core mentality of a survivalist.
Although, the show, “Dude, You’re Screwed,” really makes Mr. V. want to participate. (eye-roll—lol)
I’m not sure if the show is airing any longer, but you can find Matt Graham’s book, Epic Survival: Extreme Adventure, Stone-Age Wisdom, and Lessons in Living from a Modern Hunter-Gatherer on Amazon. His Condor primitive bush knife is pretty cool, too.
Final Thoughts on Prepping, Homesteading, and Surviving
There are definite lines drawn between the three types of self-reliant types, but there are some fuzzy overlaps too.
You can be a homesteader without being a prepper (on purpose anyway). You can definitely be a prepper without being a homesteader. And you can be a survivalist without being a prepper or a homesteader.
However, most of the folks I meet who have this self-reliant mindset in terms of staying alive overlap in these areas.
We are preppers to an extent. We are homesteaders who are getting better at what we do. We probably are not survivalists. I’m sure we could do a bit if we had to, in a dire situation, but neither of us has any kind of training in outdoor or urban survival techniques. I’ve never even seen Mr. V. in a fight, let alone a fight to the death.
(LOL And I am certainly not set up for that kind of thing!) Although, you just never know what a good shot of adrenaline would do, right?
So. Where do you fall in this mix? It’s likely you do fit someplace, especially if you are a person who loves DIY and feeling empowered by having some skills that will keep you safe in the world if it should ever change as we know it.
And that could be any of these three personas—-or maybe a bit of them all.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Hugs & Self-Reliance,
P.S. You simply must sign up for the newsletter! You’ll never miss a thing! Plus, guess what? When you do, you’ll get immediate access to the free, password protected, ever growing Resource Library. It’s filled with eBooks, guides, checklists, and lots more, like this 20 page eBook on Using Herbs to Relax. You’ll find recipes, ideas, knowledge, and more over there!