What programs like Doomsday Preppers have accomplished, or at least contributed to, is turning sometimes well-informed, sometimes totally unwarranted paranoia into a booming prepper-industrial complex. Each year, swap meets pack hundreds of convention centers and fairgrounds across the nation—they’re like camping shows with a dose of military surplus and hands-on instructional sessions. The September 2017 Kansas City Survival Expo & Gun Show, for instance, had tips on seed saving, “Overcoming 900 Health Diseases” and “A Devastating Street Self-Defense System.” The latter was taught by Norman Cantwell, who inspired Patrick Swayze’s character in Roadhouse. You get the feeling that he and Steven Seagal would be friends.
They hate their lives and fantasize about a world where they could be a hero. Melvin from Accounting can’t wait for catastrophe so he can become Melvin the Survivor! He’s praying for a complete economic collapse so he can look his boss and say, “I made 40k a year, but now I’m the post-apocalyptic king! I have all the SpaghettiO’s and I won’t lower my drawbridge to give you any! Muhaha!”
The fears were different in Silicon Valley. Around the same time that Huffman, on Reddit, was watching the advance of the financial crisis, Justin Kan heard the first inklings of survivalism among his peers. Kan co-founded Twitch, a gaming network that was later sold to Amazon for nearly a billion dollars. “Some of my friends were, like, ‘The breakdown of society is imminent. We should stockpile food,’ ” he said. “I tried to. But then we got a couple of bags of rice and five cans of tomatoes. We would have been dead if there was actually a real problem.” I asked Kan what his prepping friends had in common. “Lots of money and resources,” he said. “What are the other things I can worry about and prepare for? It’s like insurance.”
Yishan Wong, an early Facebook employee, was the C.E.O. of Reddit from 2012 to 2014. He, too, had eye surgery for survival purposes, eliminating his dependence, as he put it, “on a nonsustainable external aid for perfect vision.” In an e-mail, Wong told me, “Most people just assume improbable events don’t happen, but technical people tend to view risk very mathematically.” He continued, “The tech preppers do not necessarily think a collapse is likely. They consider it a remote event, but one with a very severe downside, so, given how much money they have, spending a fraction of their net worth to hedge against this . . . is a logical thing to do.”
He points to the cash registers over his left shoulder. “I’ll bet you there’s not one thing you bought today that didn’t use electricity in the transaction,” he says. Before Y2K, Finelli says he owned a small computer manufacturing company and personally upgraded 8,000 operating systems so the dates would roll over from 1999 to 2000. “Because they wouldn’t,” he says. “There was a defect. I know that computer systems are frail because I built them.” He says a widespread power outage would cripple us—no electricity, no trading debt portfolios, no buying wholesale taquitos on credit.
Huffman has been a frequent attendee at Burning Man, the annual, clothing-optional festival in the Nevada desert, where artists mingle with moguls. He fell in love with one of its core principles, “radical self-reliance,” which he takes to mean “happy to help others, but not wanting to require others.” (Among survivalists, or “preppers,” as some call themselves, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, stands for “Foolishly Expecting Meaningful Aid.”) Huffman has calculated that, in the event of a disaster, he would seek out some form of community: “Being around other people is a good thing. I also have this somewhat egotistical view that I’m a pretty good leader. I will probably be in charge, or at least not a slave, when push comes to shove.”
Another concern when you’re lost in the wild is where to procure potable water. Sometimes there will be bubbling streams of crystal clear water rolling down wooded hillsides to fill your water bottle and sometimes you’ll have little more than a stagnant pool standing between you and dehydration. The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is survival gear that can turn that stagnant pool into a lifesaver.
Double stitching, ventilated, breathable mesh and durable cord pulls are the order day with the Reebow Gear backpack. It’s all about utility which makes it an ideal piece of wilderness survival kit. Most everything that’s been included in this survival gear list will fit easily into or onto this survival pack and still leave plenty of room for essentials like food, extra clothing and first aid materials. It shouldn’t be confused with a heavy duty mountaineering backpack. But it is perfect for those long weekends in the backcountry tracking elk or cross country skiing. Best of all you can have it for a virtual song. Essential survival gear at an affordable price.
Even the smartest smartphone hasn’t been able to compensate for having no signal; until now. goTenna leverages a simple messaging app to allow you to communicate with the outside world should you be in need of help. You can share your GPS coordinates and condition, access offline maps or broadcast your situation to any other goTenna user in the vicinity. You also get confirmation your messages were delivered successfully so you can rest assured help is on the way. Finally, a way to get more from your phone when you’re off-grid. A smart, affordable piece of survival gear.
Volume 60, 2018 Vol 59, 2017 Vol 58, 2016 Vol 57, 2015 Vol 56, 2014 Vol 55, 2013 Vol 54, 2012 Vol 53, 2011 Vol 52, 2010 Vol 51, 2009 Vol 50, 2008 Vol 49, 2007 Vol 48, 2006 Vol 47, 2005 Vol 46, 2004 Vol 45, 2003 Vol 44, 2002 Vol 43, 2001 Vol 42, 2000 Vol 41, 1999 Vol 40, 1998 Vol 39, 1997 Vol 38, 1996 Vol 37, 1995 Vol 36, 1994 Vol 35, 1993 Vol 34, 1992 Vol 33, 1991 Vol 32, 1990 Vol 31, 1989 Vol 30, 1988 Vol 29, 1987 Vol 28, 1986 Vol 27, 1985 Vol 26, 1984 Vol 25, 1983 Vol 24, 1982 Vol 23, 1981 Vol 22, 1980 Vol 21, 1979 Vol 20, 1978 Vol 19, 1977 Vol 18, 1976 Vol 17, 1975 Vol 16, 1974 Vol 15, 1973 Vol 14, 1972 Vol 13, 1971 Vol 12, 1970 Vol 11, 1969 Vol 10, 1968 Vol 9, 1967 Vol 8, 1966 Vol 7, 1965 Vol 6, 1964 Vol 5, 1963 Vol 4, 1962 Vol 3, 1961 Vol 2, 1960 Vol 1, 1959