Are You A Modern Survivalist

Over the years the term “survivalist” has taken on different meanings depending on the decade and or who you were talking to at that moment in time. However, the official definition given for the term “survivalist” by Merriam-Webster is:

: A person who advocates or practices survivalism; especially: one who has prepared to survive in the anarchy of an anticipated breakdown of society.

And I’d say that is a reasonable but overly simplified definition of a survivalist because after all, we do “prepare to survive in the anarchy of an anticipated breakdown of society” but that’s not the be all and end all of what a survivalist is. Being a modern survivalist is much more than that.

The modern survivalist prepares first for the most likely threats that happen every day somewhere such as violent crime and not just for the total breakdown of society without the rule of law. The modern survivalist sees the big picture and knows that preparing for specific threats like violent crime, sickness, job loss and localized civil unrest are just as important, if not more so than preparing to survive a nuclear world war three in an underground bunker surrounded by cases of MRE’s and weapons.

The modern survivalist may own a 20-acre ranch in Montana, or they might own a 5-acre off the grid cabin in Kentucky or a 3-acre mini-homestead in Tennessee, or they might even live in an apartment in an urban or semi-urban part of the country. The modern survivalist can no longer be seen as some “lone-wolf” who lives alone in a cabin in the forest and living solely off of trapped and shot game and wild plants… although they might.

But when it comes to location the modern survivalist researcher’s different places and will try to relocate to a safer area if possible because they understand that not all areas are equal when it comes to everyday safety and long-term survival. However, most modern survivalists will opt for a modern home on a few acres near or inside an established town with a hospital, emergency services, schools, entertainment and shopping within a 30-minute drive.

The modern survivalist also knows that they are much more likely to need “everyday skills” like cooking from pantry staples, driving in bad weather, home repair, emergency auto repair, extreme weather safety, CPR and First Aid, home security, self-defense, etc. than how to build a fire with a bow and drill.

And, no, I’m not suggesting that there is anything wrong with learning primitive skills because there isn’t. I’ve studied primitive skills as a hobby for years and love primitive camping but I know that I’m more likely to need to be prepared for an extreme weather event or to defend myself against violent crime than surviving for days or weeks out in the bush with nothing more than a knife and several yards of fishing line – unless that situation is by choice to test my primitive survival skills.

The modern survivalist has a well-rounded skill set that includes all of the above to an extent; however, they also realize what threats they are most likely to face and develop those needed survival skills first to perfection before branching out into other areas of survival training like primitive skills or nuclear survival skills. The modern survivalist is realistic, and so is their training.

For example, the modern survivalist will spend the bulk of their time and training learning (by doing if possible) about unarmed self-defense, armed self-defense, concealed carry, EDC kits, home security, emergency auto repair, driving in bad weather, first-aid, etc. These skills are useful NOW and can save your life TODAY, or even after an EOTWAWKI event. These types of skills are always useful whether the world is even thrown back to a new dark age or not.

Those are the types of skills that a person is most likely to need and the modern survivalist knows this and spends their time learning and perfecting those types of skills instead of wasting time running around patrolling the woods dressed in their military fatigues with several other out of shape people playing army.

Incidentally, a few years ago survivalists came up with a new, and what they thought was a more politically correct term to refer to themselves and the term “prepper” was born. However, after four seasons of the TV show Doomsday Preppers the once more politically correct term “prepper” now has the same stigma attached to it as the original term “survivalist”. I prefer to think of myself as simply as a prepared individual than either of the other two, however, I use both terms survivalist and prepper here for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes.

So what type of survivalist/prepper if you prefer that term are you? Are you a modern survivalist/prepper? Why? What skills do you think are most relevant to actual real-world survival? Have you mastered those skills? Or, are you like many “fiction novel preppers” who run around the woods playing army with a few other delusional folks who base their prepping on the most marketed prepper novel or doomsday movie?

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Brian F says:

    I use the phrase self reliant or self sufficient. Prepper is a bad stigma for me.

  2. JP in MT says:

    As the DW and I were talking, I said “My preparedness goal for us is to mitigate as much of the negative, outside influence by people and/or situation I cannot control.”

    There is no way I will be able to mitigate ALL things that could happen to us. But to mitigate as many as possible is a reasonable goal.

    Some people are against firearms, but they might be needed. Some are against PM’s, but I have already had them help me. Stocking food that might go bad before you can use it, is a possibility. I might spend money on something that eventually proves unusable or simple not needed and not enough on something else; well if things are not a complete disaster, I may be able to trade for what I need.

    I do prefer the term preparedness over survivalist, but for me they both mean the same outcome – I’m still around and possibly thriving. While those that chose to ignore their surroundings/situation, put their “faith” in government (or other unidentifiable entities), abdicate their personal responsibility for themselves and those in their immediate family, WILL struggle (at a minimum).

    Anything you do toward this end is a plus. It may only help you for a week, month, season, or even a year. It my only be a short term event, possibly regional. You can’t help others if you in need yourself.

    • AXELSTEVE says:

      Well as for me I like them all. You can say prepper or survivalist or non Obama supporter ,or even non fema supporter as far as that goes. Living in the land of fruits flakes and nuts ,I am tired of the punks dictating what words to say. If they control the language they win the argument by default. Those scum can call there mom and whine on there Obama phone and go to hell as far as I am concerned.

      • AXELSTEVE says:

        I guess that I should have coffee before posting sometimes. But I still stand about my previous post. Don`t let them define the language cause our vocabulary is shrinking. And it is coming from the pc snowflakes .

  3. Your definition is the most comprehensive you can ask for. One has to be ready to solve any difficulty that one’s family has to pass by … and the probability of an ELE is very low to limit yourself to prepare to just that event .

  4. Halfway Homesteader says:

    I wrote an article on my thoughts of this matter that our host was gracious em Pugh to publish not long ago. Me personally, I’m out here trying to make it for realistic self-sufficiency and quality of life purposes. I enjoy gardening, raising hogs, hunting, shooting, and the idea that if times do get tough, either personally locally or nationally, im at least halfway ready.

  5. Good question MD. I consider myself a Boy Scout. Our motto is “Be Prepared”. For those people who live near a highway, I’d suggest they start looking into a possible Hazardous Materials spill. Think about it, if a Semi hauling HazMat overturns upwind from you, you either better be able to bug out now (temporarily), or secure your house so fumes don’t get in and kill you.

    You and I are basically on the same page with wild fires. Take it from me, you’re an expert on them after your first one. However, we are not at the same preparedness level when it comes to earthquakes or drought. I think I’m more prepared than you are in that area. Here’s why: I live in earthquake country and we’ve been in a drought for decades. You on the other hand are much more prepared than I am in areas like snow, blizzards, and Atlantic Hurricanes. I’m not saying I’m better than you, I’m just saying that recognizing what is most likely to happen is where you start your preps. I don’t get much snow in my part of the world so blizzard is low on the list. If I go back east, it ranks itself higher on the priority list and earthquake goes lower.

    Have people even stopped to think about everyday things like “Can you change a tire on your car”? We all drive, so a flat is inevitable. And NO, they don’t all happen on quiet residential streets. What do you do if a rattle snake crawls into your house? What do you do if a sick owl takes up residence in your dog’s house? I’m not pulling this stuff out of thin air. Every single one of those things happened to me. If I didn’t have the confidence of being prepared, I would have freaked out.

    “Being Prepared” builds confidence.

  6. Goatlover2 says:

    I call myself a hobby farmer when anybody asks what I’m up to in my back yard. Even around those of like mind, I prefer to say that I am preparedness minded instead of using the word Prepper. That just brings kookiness to mind! LOL

  7. Words of wisdom:

    If you prepare for everything, you will never be caught off guard.

  8. Greg Monger says:

    I am not interested in labels, just give me the liberty to use my own resources to solve life’s issues, and the ability to keep my resources from being confiscated by a government or organization that did not prepare for lifes issues.

  9. Maybe it’s time for a whole new word? But that word would only last for a few years until a negative spin is put on it too. What we really are is educated in life skills. We’re all learning and doing what we can. And putting by food? well that was standard procedure a hundred years ago. That’s just good common sense. That’s better than money in the bank in any life situation.

  10. Exile1981 says:

    I tried a new product today. I was in a small town grocery store and found a product called ‘ PB&ME powdered peanut butter’ a few weeks ago while away for work. It’s freeze dried peanut, long shelf life and you just add water and mix to make peanut butter. It passed the taste test with all the kids, they said it was more peanutty flavored than store bought jars of the big names.

    The cost was about the same as for the same sized jar of PB.

    It would great protein source and easy to carry as it’s light weight.

  11. Chuck Findlay says:

    MD your new format has a problem for me that wasn’t there in the past. The post comment button goes away for some reason. I have to copy my post, back up a page and then paste it and hope the post button doesn’t go away again.

    Most times I have to do this 3 or 4 times just to post.
    It seems to be getting lost in the black part of the screen when I post a king post.

  12. Chuck Findlay says:

    Part 2 as more then above and it moves into the black part of the screen if I post more then above

    I know the stuff at the bottom is important, but it’s stopping my ability to post.

    I typed up a long response for this thread and can’t post it.

  13. A rose by any other name…
    I’m not sure what appellation is most appropriate, but that doesn’t matter.

    M.D. you are right on target. It’s what we do to live the best we can in any circumstances. We value the ability and courage to tackle anything necessary for the well being of ourselves and our loved ones. That’s what it’s all about. Added is the very rational knowledge that there is very little about this world and this life that is assured and it is our responsibility to do what we can to be ready for the many hazards which can occur.

  14. Labgirl says:

    I have always thought that survivalist was a good idea. However, I don’t use any of those words around most people. If anyone asks, I tell them I am trying to become self sufficient for retiring. I would have to say my main skills are gardening and food preparation for storage. My short term goal is for hurricanes and my long term goal is for retirement or other major life changing event.

    • AXELSTEVE says:

      Lab Girl
      I am more prepping for wild fires and financial collapse. Living where the ground shakes I am mindful of that also. I believe that we are in the last days I prep for that spiritually that is. That is a tough one cause it is up to the creator on who lives or not. But as far as word of the week to describe us ,I use what helps best with op sec.

  15. Jesse Mathewson says:

    I honestly gave up trying to please others long ago, I was raised by self reliant parents and am raising self reliant children. If people dont like it, come and take it – and good luck-

    Love the article and honestly I dont do the doomsday thing, it irritates me, but otherwise, eh to names.

    • Prepared Grammy says:

      My mom is the furthest person from being self-reliant that I know. (She NEVER cooks, and only has ice cream, cola, and coffee in the house. Honestly. That’s it.) Fortunately for me, a large part of my raising was done by my grandparents. They were always teaching me, I listened, and remembered.
      I don’t think planning to take care of myself and my family makes me a doomsday prepper. I think it makes me smart. I’m glad I’m in the company of a lot of other smart people on here.

  16. Prepared Grammy says:

    As far as people know, I just want to enjoy a more healthy lifestyle. I garden, put up my own food, and have bees and a few small farm animals. I tell others that I just want to be more self-sufficient before I retire, and my hobbies help me to do that. I am a person who has prepared for the most likely disasters in my area, and I’ve prepared for some that may be less likely to occur. I’m not kidding myself into believing that I’m ready for everything, but I’m better off than most. Whatever you want to call me, I relate to the readers on this site.

  17. I am a senior – hell. let’s face it. I’m 73 so that pretty much makes me old in body, but not necessarily in mind. I live alone, so calling myself a Prepper (other than with this group) might set myself up for worrisome interference. However, if I say I am trying to be more self reliant and enjoy the little gardening I can still do, while I still can do so, pretty much drops me off anyone’s radar. Only two people know that I have a sun oven, unusual amounts of water stored or vegetables, fruit and eggs dehydrated or meat and meals canned. And they know where everything is and to come and get it if I wear out/check out before the SHTF. (Boy, that would really piss me off, since I plan on hanging around for another 20 years or so). :>) Self Reliant works for me.

  18. I am a Homesteader and its probably a better fit because I’m not preparing for anything I’m trying to be debt free and self sufficient. It covers all the bases, my animals, garden and water catchment.

    I find prepper not to mean crazy like the media says but my expirence is more ignorance and self righteousness. It’s not always true but there are allot of keyboard warriors out there. I have found the best ideas for a b.o.b. Are from hiker forums people who put miles in every weekend. My last 8 mile hike was with a bag set up from a prepper website and when I needed my water purification tablets they were ruined in the altoid can. Don’t get me wrong the altoid can was a cool set up but a candle in the mountains melted over everything. I now use a kayatan water filter.

    Sometimes bad advice is deadly thank the lord I only had 4 miles left to get out of the woods, it was embarrassing but I learned from it. Test everything on a regular basis l.

  19. cgbascom says:

    I prepare, period. My grandparents and parents did not do this, so while I grew up with my mom doing the baking by scratch, she did not necessarily stock up on goods or ‘put by’ in the freezer. I always did. And continue to do. I don’t like shopping and would take advantage of the canned goods sales every September and the meat sales every November. I also do not like making up a menu. So with the pantry stocked and the freezer full, I could cook up whatever I had on hand without having to stop at the store to pick something up after work.

    I do not prep for a major event. I prep for the seasonal, local events in my part of the world. I have no illusions that, with our health problems, my husband and I would survive a major event. That said, I still keep that in the back of my mind when I prepare for the local events that will affect us. I also keep my children in mind when I stock my pantry, freezers, medicine closet, and paper products shelves.

    I am not concerned about labels. I am concerned about relying on forces outside of myself and my family for surviving local events. I don’t believe that ‘they’ have my health and safety as their top priority. It’s about control and what I do to be self reliant puts ME in control. That’s as it should be.

  20. vocalpatriot says:

    Q: Are You A Modern Survivalist?
    A: No, I am an ancient survivalist..and it’s working.

  21. I guess I call myself a realist. Because I would really rather have my preps than not.
    I and my family have been without before homeless and wondering where our next meal was coming from. It kinda sucks. Although being in that situation taught my wife and I alot. Mostly the s can hit the fan in many shapes and forms and it can happen to anyone.
    Now that we are for the most part back on our feet both of us are doing what we can to prevent ever having to go without or going hungry ourselves to feed our children. Therefore I prep because I have no desire to go back to those days. Do do occurs and it sucks.
    Oh and I almost forgot don’t go to the soup kitchen on ham salad day.

  22. Grammyprepper says:

    I got ‘burned out’ by the ‘prepper’ community several years ago. I believe that I have previously shared that I have since gravitated to the ‘homesteading’ community. Same goals, but different attitudes (than most prepping sites….but the Pack is the best among them, that’s why I stay with this site, even if I lurk more than I comment. Ppl here are much more supportive than many other ‘prepping’ groups/sites)

  23. what you are referring to in the piece is not a survivalist, its a short term prepper, one who prepares to survive an event but expects things to get back to normal post event.
    I am not, I refer to myself as a “prepared survivalist”, I DONT expect things to get back to normal post event, far from it.

  24. I’ll be mr. unpopular and speak my mind. I’m a survivalist, not a modern survivalist or a prepper or self reliant and proud of it – period. Preppers are not survivalists, the vast majority( 80%+) just buy and store things to get them through a emergency they’ve devised and brag to their friends they’re a prepper because it was a cool phrase to use. Survivalists are a jack of all trades (or as best they can) they generally don’t specialize in just one area that’s why primitive survival skills are ALSO important. Old school survivalists realize that you can lose all your gear at any time so you may have to rely upon those ‘primitive bushcraft skills’. Also, I don’t know where the line crossed where preppers/survivalists have turned into needing to be a militia or patriot group either. Survivalists have always been, from my memories going back to the old school survivalists from the 80’s, as being apolitical and didn’t have this fantasy of being out patrolling the woods/neighborhoods enforcing the “law” or Constitution as they view it or making political statements at rally’s or protests.

  25. By the age of 10 (in 1960) I was already spending hours per day in the hundreds of acres of wooded hillside west of our home, always carrying my little backpack, canteen, knife, and hatchet (hand axe) and usually either a bologna or peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I took my first formal wilderness training at age 14 and always loved the out of doors and the feeling that I could go it alone in the woods if I had to. Growing up I was the geek who liked math and science. The nerd who didn’t like sports like little league baseball, and for that I was often the last one picked for a team, so I found my inner solace by learning and practicing skills that many others didn’t have. When a teenage kid can spend a night alone in the woods with only a minimal number of supplies and tools and be comfortable, it instills a true sense of self esteem that one does not get from participation trophies.
    At 14 I also started martial arts with an old school instructor who taught for no charge; but, expected everyone to work hard all of the time.
    My family would have been called preppers by today’s standards, since we had a large garden, cherry trees and grape vines, a pantry full of canned foods, and a freezer full of meat and breads purchased in bulk at the bakery outlet, that we kids called ”the day old bread store”. I learned to cook and can before I was a teen and think that anyone who has not had this experience is missing out. Our entire arsenal of firearms only consisted of a couple of .22 rifles, one of which I received for Christmas when I was 12. We lived in a neighborhood at a time where everyone got along, regardless of religion and ethnic background.
    Over the years I have tried to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitude to be as self reliant as I can be, and have been called a survivalist and a prepper; but, the label really doesn’t matter, because in the end we scare people. We scare them not because we have guns or martial arts training or anything of that bature; but, because we remind them that bad things can happen, and that is something most people want to ignore, since it makes them realize that if and when bad things do happen, they will be unprepared and at the mercy of the system, if indeed it has the resources to help them. Even if the local EMA, Red Cross, or church organization can help them, they could end up sleeping on cots in the local school gymnasium and this is just something they don’t want to admit or think about.
    So you can call me pretty much anything you want, except “”Late for dinner” LOL; because what I do is a lifestyle and although it does have some inconveniences, like the closest store or gas station being 5+ miles away, it is the life I chose a long time ago. I was also fortunate enough to find a woman who also likes this lifestyle and who would rather be out mucking stalls or feeding chickens than shopping at the mall.
    Life is what you make it, and all in all I’m rather happy with mine.

  26. D. Brian Casady says:

    Learn how to use an axe and how to sharpen it. Keep a few handles ready for it in case of a broken one. Learn how to use a bow and arrows. Know how to sharpen your knives. These are skills which are fast dying out. Learn how to make a primitive forge. You can tell the nosiest of neighbors that you watched Forged in Fire. Having the ability to use pioneer level tools and manufacturing can keep you alive when others are dieing from the lack of skills.

    • D. Brian Casady,
      I agree with all you stated here and would add that copies of the books by David Gingery would also be a good thing to have on hand. He shows you how to cast aluminum with a charcoal foundry, and then how to bootstrap, produce, and assemble a complete machine shop.
      He passed away 15 years ago; but, his son is keeping the publishing business running with all of his old classic works.
      They can be found @

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