The Difference Between Homesteading and Prepping

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Prepping vs. homesteading: Is there a difference? If you're not familiar with these social movements, you may find it difficult to differentiate between the two. We're going to talk about what defines each of these lifestyles. Then, we'll identify where some of the values overlap.

Who are Preppers?

Preppers are often confused for conspiracy theorists. Many people assume that they stockpile supplies and teach themselves survival skills so that they will be able to survive an imminent apocalypse. One might describe preppers as hoarders. You might assume these individuals are heading for the hills with caches of ammo, canned foods, and bottled water. 


Like most trends, people have taken prepping to all ends of the spectrum. The least cynical individuals within this subgroup might invest in budget-friendly bug-out bags, such as the Taimasi or the Monoki

On the other end of the spectrum, you have wealthy doomsday enthusiasts buying up secret bunkers and weapon stockpiles. Anyone with a first-aid kit or a fully stocked pantry might be considered a prepper.

Who are Homesteaders?

On the other hand, homesteaders are people who have taken a direct dive into a world of self-sufficiency. These individuals may grow their own food, butcher their own livestock, or even make their own clothes.

Homesteaders typically engage in individualized agriculture, animal husbandry, craftwork, and renewable energy. Most homesteaders are aiming to be completely self-reliant. Many extreme homesteaders can separate themselves from the trappings of modern society.

That's not to say that all homesteaders are farmers or ranchers. Urban and suburban homesteaders can become more self-sufficient by taking up small-scale agricultural hobbies. Some who have a desire to be more self-sufficient and eco-conscious in their choice of living structure but don't want to necessarily go full bore on homesteading or prepping might opt for something somewhere in the middle like an "Earthship" or living in a eco-friendly planned community. 


Others want a modicum of self-sufficiency but prefer to purchase their meats at a grocery store rather than raise (and then "process") livestock themselves. 

Homesteading First Impressions

Homesteading is a concept that has been around since the Roman Empire. The ideas of living off the land, becoming self-sufficient, and even building autonomy are far from novel. However, in the face of modern society, homesteading is often regarded as a form of social protest.

The back-to-the-land movement seems to have first picked up momentum in the 1960s. Since then, the media has clung to the idea that off-the-grid living is something for counterculture hippies and religious separatists. 

There is some substance to this claim. Many homesteaders are merely looking to free themselves of stringent rules and obligations set in place by society and, more precisely, the government. With that said, not all homesteaders share these sentiments. 

Some homesteaders want to do right the environment. Others find enjoyment in self-sufficiency challenges. If you go down a homesteading internet rabbit hole, you will find that many so-called homesteaders were once or are still active and successful members of mainstream society. Many of these individuals even live in ordinary urban and suburban neighborhoods. By now, the media should be ready to cast aside its preconceived notions of this movement.

Homesteader Motivations and Goals

There are hundreds of different motivating factors that draw individuals to homesteading. Here are a few of the more common ones:

Money

There's no doubt that homesteading requires some initial investments. There are plenty of homesteading bloggers that are willing break down the cost of setting up a homestead. Of course, these numbers vary dramatically from one homestead to the next. Many individuals think of homesteading as an out-of-reach investment. In truth, it typically takes years before homesteaders start to reap any financial benefits.

If you own your home, grow your own food, sustain a seed bank, or harvest your own energy, your annual living costs should be much lower than someone who pays a mortgage, shops at the grocery store, and pays monthly utility bills.

Of course, there are plenty of homesteaders that can turn their hard work into profit. They may sell their excess meat, vegetables, or crafts. Compost, manure, and clean energy are also valuable goods. There's no limit to how far homesteaders can take their business sentiments.

Freedom

The vast majority of homesteaders are also motivated by the concept of freedom. Some of the most successful homesteaders are mostly autonomous if not completely cut off from society. In theory, they can govern their own decisions from sunup to sundown.

Environmental Factors

Many people also see homesteading as an environmentally-friendly lifestyle choice.

Homesteaders may rely on solar panels, wind turbines, and other localized sources of power and climate control.
It is worth noting that if the grid were to go down, many homesteaders would still have power, water, and heat.

Shortcomings of Homesteading

While the concept of living off the land is idyllic, it is not without its downsides. Those that are more than a stone's throw from society may not be able to access emergency assistance, healthcare, or provisions. Individuals that choose to live without internet, cable, cell phones, and other modern means of communication may be unable to send or receive urgent messages. This level of isolation can be psychologically draining and, in some situations, life-threatening. 

Homesteaders must learn to do more with less. Much of this work is quite rigorous. Homesteaders must commit to doing hard work despite their knowledge of modern interventions that would make their tasks easier.

High Pressure

Homesteading can turn out to be a double-edged sword. Many homesteaders get to take control of their own lives. They get to dictate what they eat, how they spend their time, what they teach their children, and more. 


With that said, a single blunder can bring the gears of a homestead to a screeching halt. Spoiled stockpiles, failed crops, medical issues, fires, and financial shortcomings are just a few common pitfalls of homesteading. With no one but you and your fellow homesteaders to shoulder the blame, a single mishap can send you packing from the easy life.

Prepper Motivations and Goals

Preppers prepare themselves for looming disasters, including terrorist attacks, tornadoes, hurricanes, pandemics, apocalypse, and just about everything in between.

If you've ever seen National Geographic's Doomsday Preppers, you already know that some of these individuals are quite paranoids. With that said, the preppers you see on television are only a sampling of the larger prepper community. Sure, some preppers are preparing for the demise of society. Meanwhile, others like to know that, in the case of a catastrophe, they would be able to feed, shelter, care, and protect themselves.


It is not as if all preppers adhere to the teachings and rantings of doomsday prophets. Preppers have always been an easy target for ridicule. No one wants to side with the dude who is constantly hovering his finger over the panic button. However, many preppers were vindicated after the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. Sudden and unexpected supply shortages lead many ordinary citizens to rethink their idea of preparedness. These individuals were some of the few that didn't panic in the wake of this unexpected disaster.

Benefits of Prepping

Depending on their preparedness and skills, preppers may be set to survive anything from a power outage to nuclear war. It goes without saying that preppers also exist on a spectrum. 

The average prepper has a stockpile of food, a bug-out bag, some basic survival skills, and a disaster plan. They may be preparing for a s*** hits the fan situation. They've taken steps to protect themselves and their loved ones in the unfortunate event that supply chains, cell towers, and utilities suddenly cease to function.

Even if they never have to confront TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it), preppers have the supplies and skills they need to overcome day-to-day adversities. Small stockpiles are helpful during even the mildest disasters, including power outages, pandemics, natural disasters, and economic recessions.

Preppers are more likely to bounce back from minor and major setbacks. While preppers are often painted as paranoid individuals, they're less likely to respond to media hype and panic. After all, they're prepared.

Shortcomings of Prepping

While preppers would gain the upper hand in the case of a catastrophe, there are still plenty of shortcomings that these individuals need to overcome.

Stigmas and Misunderstandings

For one, the prepper community cannot seem to shake itself of its stigmas. Many self-proclaimed preppers admit that others find their lifestyle to be too extreme. Prepping can lead to harsh judgment and, in some cases, alienation.

Many people see preppers as inherently cynical individuals. The survival kit industry has experienced explosive growth in the past couple of years. The unprecedented growth was deemed the “Doom Boom.” Still, many people are not willing to give credence to a movement that gives clout to bizarre conspiracies and internet rabbit holes.

Lack of Preparedness

Then, there is the fact that many people cannot meet personal goals for preparedness. A lack of money can leave many prepping enthusiasts without the wares that they feel are essential for surviving catastrophe. Preppers are everyday people with set budgets and time restrictions.

Most preppers aim to stockpile disaster supplies before disaster strikes. These individuals are not looking to make impulse purchases along the way. Real preparedness can seem inaccessible to individuals without lots of money and resources. 

With scores of super-rich people and celebrities jumping on the survivalist bandwagon, the preppers that make up lower economic tiers are often left feeling hopeless. It goes without saying that the guy with the stockpiled bunker and private jet has a better survival chance than the individual with the $50 bug-out bag.

Networking

A lack of resources and a desire for camaraderie has to lead many preppers to expand their networks. Survivalist networks have popped up all over the internet. There is the American Preppers Network as well as thousands of prepper-run social media pages, blogs, and podcasts.

Some preppers want to link themselves to larger prepper groups. In the event of an actual catastrophe, they would be able to exchange skills and supplies. However, despite the growing popularity of prepping, many preppers struggle to find people that they can recruit into their network.

Preppers are not always keen to reveal their identities. After all, they know that they would be easy targets in the event of an actual emergency. Even if you do feel comfortable talking about your stockpiles and preparedness, you might not find others who are willing to reciprocate. Many preppers only hope that the movement will become more mainstream.

Lack of Payoff

What if that catastrophe you were planning for never happens? Preppers have to face the fact that an SHTF event may never occur during their lifetime. It turns out even freeze-dried foods and bottled water boast limited shelf lives. As such, you're going to want to adopt the FIFO (first-in, first-out) technique for everything in your bug-out kit. Using up and replacing supplies as their shelf lives approach may not seem rewarding, but it sure beats the alternative. 

The Overlap

Homesteaders and preppers have different motivations. Still, many of these individuals share common sentiments when it comes to self-sufficiency. Of course, there are plenty of people that find themselves crossing over between both groups. 

Homesteaders can learn a lot from preppers. In the event of a national or global catastrophe, homesteaders' resources could become dangerously valuable. A homesteader might consider acquiring weapons and skills for self-defense.

Meanwhile, preppers can find peace of mind in homesteading. Animal husbandry, food preservation, gardening, sewing, hunting, foraging, and crafting are just a few skills that every prepper should learn to prepare for life after an SHTF situation.

It is easy to see that both preppers and homesteaders hold themselves accountable for their families' survival, both day-to-day and in the event of emergencies. For members of both groups, self-sufficiency isn't optional. Self-sufficiency is the product of increased awareness and accountability.

What You Need as Both a Homesteader and a Prepper

Before we close up our discussion entirely, let's discuss some of the key things that every homesteader, prepper, and “woke” citizen should have in their possession. These items will help you and your loved ones fair just about any disaster.
This photo (below) is part of our own stash. We put an Amazon link on it that brings you to some you can order, but the actual photo is from our own closet. 
MRE Meals Ready to Eat

These MREs are from our own emergency stash - but click the link and you'll see a typical Amazon offering.

Bug-Out Bag

Bugout bags are portable kits that contain all of the items that an individual would need to survive up to 72 hours. Typical bug-out bag contents include first-aid supplies, emergency shelters, multi-tools, paracords, water filtration systems, and flashlights. These sorts of supplies can come in handy during roadside emergencies, power outages, and more extreme disasters.

Bug-Out Shelter

Does your family have a place to stay in the event that your home was no longer a safe option? Most preppers have a portable shelter, bedding, and a bug-out location lined up in the event that something terrible goes down. In the least, you should have a few mylar blankets, tarps, and sleeping bags at your disposal. 

Personal Protection

Both homesteaders and preppers can benefit from personal protection. Self-defense is one of the cornerstones of survival, both in the wild and in society. Pepper spray, stun guns, and tasers are all legal in most states. These self-protection devices are commonly overlooked by firearm enthusiasts. However, they are lightweight, reliable, and easy to come by.

If you do decide to invest in a weapon or self-defense tool, take the time to practice with it. Otherwise, you might become a danger to yourself and those around you.

HAM Radio

HAM radios have always been popular with preppers. As it turns out, HAM radios are also valuable to homesteaders. Back-to-the-landers are becoming increasingly enthusiastic about these old-school communication devices. They can be used for two-way communication, entertainment, and emergencies.

You do not need the internet or a cell phone to send messages. While you do need a license to get started, qualifications are fairly minimal. Moreover, start-up costs are low. Check out the ARRL's page on amateur radios to learn more.

Household Preparedness Assessment

Whether you are a prepper, a homesteader, or just a curious individual, you must assess the risks you and your family would face in the event of both likely and unlikely disasters. Every person's survival needs are going to vary. Consider individual responsibilities, ages, dietary needs, medical needs, disabilities, and limitations.

Your geographic location, access to money, personal responsibilities, and general preparedness are all going to impact how well you and your family fare in the face of a sudden emergency. Take stock of where you stand. Take whatever steps you can to better leverage yourself.

Starting a Homestead

Are you interested in homesteading but unsure where to start? The urban homesteading movement has taught us that not all homesteaders are farmers. You can increase your family's self-sufficiency by starting one or two projects at a time. Raised beds, beehives, backyard chickens, and canning are all fun entry-level homesteading activities. Most of these projects require minimal research and little investment.

Wrapping Up

If we've learned anything from 2020, it's that many Americans do not have sufficient preparedness plans. Stockpiling supplies and backyard animal husbandry aren't for everyone. 

If homesteaders and preppers teach us anything, it is that we need to be prepared for the unknown. We need to take stock of what is essential to our survival. After all, we never know what tomorrow is going to bring.

At the beginning of 2020, we realized that most Americans do not have enough toilet paper or food to make it through a few days.

If you're not already rethinking your household's preparedness plan, be sure to check out the country's official disaster readiness website, ready.gov. If you take anything away from this website, let it be the fact that the US government recommends that ALL citizens have their own emergency plans.

Preppers and homesteaders share so many of the same sentiments. There are so many levels to each of these lifestyles. We think it is safe to say that, more often than not, they overlap.

Everything we do today impacts us in the future. Take the steps to secure yourself a more promising future.
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