The Origins Of Prepping: Where Did We All Start?

We have read them for a while now, over 5 years actually, and they have given back to the community a lot of valuable knowledge in order to survive a SHTF scenario.

They are specialized preppers now, but everything had a starting point and we wanted to know what that was for them. The writers at have spoken in this unique article about their first encounters with prepping and what exactly drove them into becoming the experts we all read, trust and listen to.

We hope that they will encourage you to learn and to help others to understand the importance of prepping.

So, let’s start. Dear writers, how and why did you start in prepping?

Rich Murphy

I got my start in prepping long before the term “prepper” was coined. Back in the early 1970s, we were still in the midst of the Cold War. That was the big threat in my childhood. I can still remember doing fallout drills in elementary school, just like we did fire drills. We waited with baited breath for Washington and Moscow to push the button.

As a teen, I decided I didn’t want to end my life as nuclear fallout. Since we lived on the front slope of the first of the Rocky Mountains, all I had to do was make it to the backside of that ridge, before the bombs went off and I’d have a pretty good chance of surviving. That would take me 20 minutes; I timed it. Once the war was over, I could make my way up into the mountains to survive.

That’s what got me started studying survival and I guess I never really stopped. I always had emergency gear in my cars, stockpiles of food in my home, guns and survival gear galore. I didn’t join the prepping movement; the prepping movement joined me and others like me.

The big difference between now and 40 years ago is that there are more of us. That motivates people to make gear and write books which are focused on us as a market segment, which makes it much easier to be a prepper today, than ever before.

Carmella Tyrell

I grew up in a rural community where we did not go to school the first day of hunting season. Canning during the harvest time was as normal and common as sewing new clothes for the coming school year. I learned to make medicinal wines from my grandmother, how to fix cars from my father, and how to live in the woods along with my friends and cousins. Back then, I didn’t think of any of these skills as things required for an “emergency” situation, let alone consider how our society was changing and “specializing”.

When I was growing up, we didn’t look for the maid to clean up our mess, or the supermarket to provide TV dinners. I didn’t need a fancy crockpot to simmer a stew all day, a mechanic with a computer to fix a rough idle on my car, or a psychiatrist to sort out my life. Later on, as with many others my age, I uprooted with my Bible and moved away and into citified areas. I soon discovered I needed a lot of money to avoid being exterminated in the rat race; and to pay for all these “conveniences”, plus the mandatory things like electricity, water, housing, medical insurance, and taxes.

In looking at my budget, I soon developed a decidedly healthy interest in power generation, water capture, and sustainable small scale food growing. The day I counted myself as a prepper, however, was 9/11/01, because that is the day I realized that I needed to put all my skills together and do something more than accept what our society had become and where it was going.

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Cache Valley Prepper

My parents and grandparents had food storage and prepared for emergencies, so I suppose non-preppers would say that I was brought up in the tradition of preparedness. I think that storing food and setting aside cash reserves for a rainy day used to be common sense.

I suppose that I did make a conscious choice at some point, although I couldn’t tell you when or why. No one ever sat me down and told me that we were survivalists and what that entailed or anything like that.

I did have some good role models for aspects of survivalism. I was taught to garden and can food as a kid and was hunting certainly by nine or ten years old. I was taught to love camping, boating and backpacking and got into scouting and competitive shooting.

One of my grandfathers was a physician in the nuclear program, so I suppose that would tend to make a guy want to be prepared, but he really didn’t talk about it. He did set a good example though.

I have never prepared for any one singular threat and don’t believe that I or anyone else can predict the future. Instead, I am satisfied to detect fragility and to rid my life of it.

Fred Tyrell

As a child, I lived on the Eastern seaboard of the USA during the Cuban Missile Crisis. During this time the only prepping that was taught to the general public was the good old “Duck and Cover”. For all that were born after this time understand that the general population was focused on how to survive a surprise nuclear disaster. We drilled on these emergencies the way modern school children have fire and active shooter drills. For us, the drill was to drop to the floor under your desk or other heavy piece of furniture, cover your head, and wait for a nuclear blast to pass you by. Talk about learning a quick way to die!

In my teenage years I started to ask questions on how to better survive the aftermath of natural and man made disasters. As an Eagle Scout, the Boy Scouts taught me the basics on how to live off the land, but I felt there was so much more to learn. Here it began a life long journey to learn as much as I could on the art and practice of surviving all the natural and man made disasters.

Now, as I look around me, I realize how important and powerful knowledge is, and the need for it to be passed on to as many people as possible. Today, many people have neither the power nor the knowledge. Too many are likely to suffer a major meltdown if they do not have computers or smart phones to guide them. Others don’t have basic skills, let alone where to look for information. I am a prepper, not just for myself, but so that I can help others learn what is needed before a disaster occurs.

Chris Black

My story is pretty straight forward: I was raised mostly by my grandparents, who were almost obsessed with bottled fruits and veggies (everything home-made), baked bread, raising chickens, growing a small garden in the backyard and stuff like that. Basically, I’ve practiced food-storage since inception so to speak. We were dirt poor and I had to work as a kid, so I’ve experienced first-hand how good it feels to be self-sufficient, i.e. to be capable to earn your own money, that if you want to buy cool stuff like a walkman, a CD, a book or a bicycle.

However, there were several stages that raised my awareness towards prepping, and the most important events were 9/11 and the 2007-2008 financial crisis. 9/11 was all about our false sense of security, and made me feel vulnerable, then the financial crisis taught me about how the vast majority of people (myself included) were living their lives in a herd-like fashion, without recognizing the systemic risks of our spurious financial (fiat money) system, getting high on the next bubble-bust syndrome without even realizing it.

Now we all know what the core reasons behind our writers’ determination were. What are yours?

We would love to hear your stories and thoughts on what made prepping an important aspect of YOUR life! Plus, we have something special for you. Click the banner and find out more!

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Latest comments
  • I was raised Mormon church, although I haven’t been active in many many years they always believed in having a years supply of food on hand.
    I first read about being a survivalist in the early 70s, it is the reason I chose light weapons infantry when I joined the Army, looking back I could’ve chose the better MOS but I will never regret my infantry training.
    Just my $0.25 worth adjusted for inflation.

  • Thanks. This was Very Interesting to read. I grew up on a cattle ranch, so “preparedness”, being self-sufficient, roughing it, etc.” just comes naturally. Being any other way simply Does Not Make Sense – to me, at least.

  • I think to one degree or another there has always been a certain segment of the population that has always been prepping, especially when we were more agrarian. Farmers and people living off the land have always realized that not every year would bring a bountiful harvest and in years of plenty they just put a little extra away for the lean years. No one ever called it “prepping”. It’s just what they did naturally and what common sense dictated so that you could ride out the cycles of plenty and scarcity. Common sense is a very scarce commodity these days. The smarter our “toys” become the dumber we become. Extreme example. I can see the day, sometime in the future, when a person that has grown up with all these electronic gadgets is going somewhere and the gps on their device fails. They’ll get out of their car. Look around and have no idea how to continue. How many even know how to change a flat tire on their car anymore? Or how to do their own oil change? Or even how to parallel park? Many cars can do that for us now. Basics that EVERYONE should know how to do. Will manufacturers have to ship every car with run flat tires until the owner can get to a shop or have the car fix its own flat tire? I weep for the future for a large segment of western civilization because every generation is just getting dumber and dumber. A report has just come out that apparently the IQ of every successive generation is dropping by 6 or 7 IQ points. The public school system is failing them and they constantly have their noses buried in their electronic devices. They do know how to hack someone else’s computer but that’s about all they know. If it came down to it I could still tear a car engine apart and fix it. An engine is an engine is an engine and as long as you understand the underlying principles it doesn’t present much of a challenge. The only thing different these days is that you need specialized tools to do it and an emu runs the car. Prepping became much more obvious in times like the great depression, panic of 1819, panic of 1837 and on and on. Many crises in which people were compromised and had to make do with less. If they were able, they saw them coming and were able to at least prep a little beforehand. If not and they got stuck in them it wasn’t so much a matter of prepping as making do. Adapting to a horrible situation. I really believe that prepping has always been with us in some form or another. It just wasn’t always called that. People just did naturally what they had to do to survive. Once upon a time when most of us were still a part of nature and common sense was as natural as breathing. Nothing much natural about the modern world. Preppers are those that nature singles out so that the human race has at least a fighting chance of surviving. Whose door will the useless eaters come knocking on when a real crisis hits?

  • I grew up in a church ( not Mormon) that also advocated a years food on hand, growing as much of your food as possible, eating a green vegetable everyday, with little emphasis on flesh foods. My parents were laco ovo vegetarian.
    We grew a garden everywhere possible. We canned fruits and vegetables. We dehydrated lots of fruits and some vegetables. In retirement my parents farmed their rural acre and a neighbors acre was their income garden. They sold corn, mellons, pumpkins, garlic and green onions to half a dozen organic restaurants and strawberries at the local farmers market.
    In church group I learned wilderness and camping skills. Learning my directions, how to cook on, over, and by an open fire, tracking, trail blazing, building a shelter and more was fun. Mom taught me her love of wild foods and wild medicines. Dad taught me his love of nature and camping. He even taught me to fish with the admonition ” if you catch it, you clean it and cook it and eat it”. So I did it.
    I wanted to learn auto mechanics so at 12 I fought for the chance to join a boys auto mechanics class. I already knew how to cook, can, knit, crochet and sew, so the girls classes were of no interest.
    My boyfriend taught me to shoot when I was 14 and I’ve owned firearms since then. I was a champion archer in my early teens. It was a fun skill competition.
    I climbed trees, rocks, jogged everywhere, and rode motorcycles. I probably scarred my poor parents half to death. I worked construction jobs with my Dad. At 4 I could drive a nail straight. I earned spending money nailing off the lower wall on sheetrock jobs.
    I thrilled when we had food to share when others hit hard times. It never occurred to me that to others we were poor.
    My parents grew up in farming country and survived hardships besides the depression. Resiliance, make do, grow it or gather it, preserve it, et were the way of life.
    I remember the under the desk drills at school as being for earthquakes, but by the late 1950s and early 60s it was for bombing drills. My mother was trained as an volunteer emergency community organizer in case of war. She had a Geiger counter and a book titled Last Aid. I guess that was first aid for neuclear war.
    Prepping was never a conscious plan. It has just been a natural way of life. Today I see it as frugal and not going hungry. Going solar which is the plan, is as natural as a greenhouse, growing a garden, raising my ducks, chickens, and rabbits, or baking a batch of homemade bread.
    Having been through both good times and bad, outlived two of three husbands, lost a home and kept a home, been hungry and had abundance I just know to keep putting one foot in front of the other and living life as it comes with being the best prepared I am able to be. That’s how my parents and grandparents did it. The basics haven’t changed, just the gadgets change. If you loose the basics, then the gadgets won’t matter.

  • My parents were children from poor families. Grandpa died leaving a widow and 4 children younger than 5… and then the depression hit…before they recovered from that WWII came along…followed by the Korean War. That was over 20 years of one crisis after another.. Everyone in the family worked to contribute. They often were hungry because there wasn’t any food. These early experiences shaped my parents life.. As a result, they were prepared for whatever crisis or hardship life might throw at them. We always had enough food and supplies in the house for several months. Dad hunted and fished. Mom gardened and canned. They both had so many skills…home and auto repair, plumbing, electrical, sewing, nursing, and more. It was just a way of life. I was raised this way and still live this way, for me it’s just normal, but others call it prepping.

  • When I found myself living in a rural environment for the first time I recognized the importance of being able to survive when and if modern convenience is interrupted.
    That grew to much more than a little potable water, food, and light & heat. As I began reading more, my plans expanded to include much longer term survival, and the guidance I received from Daisy et al of “Preppers” Carmella Tyrell and many others. It is an expanded and constantly expanding endeavor. I love it. Sort of goes back to my Boy Scout experience. “Be Prepared”.

  • As this article came out several days ago, I have contemplated the bigger picture of prepping and more concisely survival. I first thought of these same crisis, then I thought of being raised in Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis, then of my Mennonite/Amish background. I thought back further to my Grandparents/Parents who went through the Great Depression, and how frugal and few resources they lived their lives. I think for every spice I have in my kitchen; my mother had about four, including pepper as on of the spices. I let my thoughts wander back to my Great Grandparents, who very little I know of. They were the first to come to America. We originated out of Eastern Switzerland, and what is now Liechtenstein and South Western Germany. My family before being Mennonites were Ana Baptists. And back then, were persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church.
    I have mentioned all the above as there is a greater theme that runs through all the conflicts most American families have in common. That being survival of the family. And America was and continues as a magnet for the persecuted, the weary, and those who want to rise above tyranny of our previous heritage(s).
    The beginning of the iron age of America (1890- 1`960s-ish) families became mesmerized with abundance and slick advertising. We felt like things and substance would show us the way. Then, iron age was replaced with gadgetry and further technology, but becoming more and more mind-consuming. We have no time for contemplating lasting disasters; Calais whether the family is developed for sustainability, as we can purchase something else to fill our thoughts, hiding ourselves from the mini tremors of society almost unraveling. And now I see all around me how not only the average household has zero that could allow for survival, but are getting rid of everything that would require maintenance on their part.
    And yet, every once in a while we as individuals get slapped awake. And horrified of the personal state we are in. And so prepping, or as I think about it, Survival, for both myself and my family, is born again. I have a lot of hope for this country, and because of the few, and some are in every facet of American life, we have a chance. Many are our enemies, even within, but I know I could very well be my worst enemy. And so we plan and learn, and set in motion all we can to sustain and survive.

    And yet, a few of us wake up

  • A lifelong hunter, I guess my introduction was when I was a child and a ‘Sucret’s Survival Kit’ was mentioned in one of the magazine articles. Razor blade, candle, salt packet, fishing line with hook, two bandaids and a length of string. All you needed to survive in case you got lost when hiking.

    And it just took off from there …