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Doomsday Prepping Goes Mainstream

Many preppers keep a well-stocked pantry of non-perishables.
Many preppers keep a well-stocked pantry of non-perishables.

Doomsday prepping is no longer a fringe obsession. The survivalist movement, which was long stereotyped as made up of gun-wielding, right-wing older white men, is evolving.

According to John Ramey, the founder of a popular how-to prepping website called The Prepared, young, urban-dwelling women are his fastest-growing audience. The site experienced a 25-fold boost in traffic the week COVID shut down parts of the U.S.

Author Melissa Scholes Young attended a survivalist training camp to research her new novel, “The Hive,” which features a character who is a prepper. Young wrote about the experience for The Believer:

In my fiction, I write about the thin line between preparedness and fear. I’m trying to parse when fear becomes delusional and turns dangerous. But during the opening session, Jane doesn’t sound scared. She seems invigorated by the challenge of making something out of nothing, which seems much like wrestling the pages of a novel into place. Her values of hard work sound like my own upbringing in the country where we grew our own food, cut woods for fire, and raised chickens.

While prepping has its roots in American individualism and self-reliance, it’s also big business. Some of the ultra-wealthy are going so far as to invest in multi-million dollar bunkers. Prepping companies like Judy have sprung up. It sells survival kits (known by preppers as “bug out bags”) and was endorsed by the Kardashians on Instagram. Between 2017 and 2025, Allied Research Marketing projects that the global market for “incident and emergency management” will jump in value from $75.5 billion to $423 billion.

What’s behind the growing popularity of the prepper movement? And is the community built on an ethos of “survival of the fittest” accessible to all?

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