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What doomsday preppers are buying this Black Friday

Some preppers are stocking up on water and tarps on Black Friday; others don’t need to buy anything at all.

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Depending on what kind of anxiety you have, doomsday is either far away or just around the corner. Whether it’s the class war, the race war, the rising tide, or the total collapse of civilization, we’ll all need food and water when it comes.

Doomsday prepping is an American invention, born from the nuclear panics of the 1950s. (Before that, survivalism was just called surviving.) Doomsday preppers stock up on the basics, often in accordance with the so-called “Rule of Threes,” which holds that a person in a crisis can survive for three minutes without air, three hours without shelter, three days without water, three weeks without food, and three months without security.

Prepping is a long-term, thoughtful kind of hoarding. It’s inverse, Black Friday, is fast, cheap, and fun — way down at the end of the stocking-up spectrum. This retail tradition evokes its own doomsday: bodies trampled by doorbuster deals, overworked and exploited low-wage workers, families trying to make ends meet.

One might argue that the holiday’s existence is a symptom of an economic system on the brink. Then again, one might use its great sales to load up on necessary items for the end times. I spoke to five people in the prepping business about what they’re hoping to pick up this weekend. (Quotes have been edited and condensed.)

Nate, a.k.a. “The Canadian Prepper”

Founder of

What are you hoping to buy on sale this weekend, prepping-related or otherwise?
Personally, nothing. I have literally everything a prepper could want.

On a shopping weekend as wild as this, how does one decide what is actually worth buying?
I’d say nonperishables, ammo, first-aid supplies with no expiration dates — things which probably are not on sale. You can’t eat cheap TVs!

What are three items a non-prepper could buy to be at least a little more prepared?
Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers will allow you to preserve many staple grains — rice, beans, and flour — for 30-plus years. Titan Survivorcord is a paracord that includes fishing line, snare wire, and a strand of jute twine infused with wax, for fire-starting. The Inergy Kodiak power generator is one of the most advanced lithium power generators on the market.

Do some preppers get caught up in buying gadgets?
Of course. Our society is driven by rampant materialism, and prepping is no exception. The only difference is a $2,000 generator is more functional than brand-name clothing.

Scott Huntington

Writer, Off the Grid

What are you hoping to buy on sale this weekend?
A tarp. For actual survival, a generic blue tarp from Lowe’s isn’t going to cut it. I’m looking for something that is specially designed to help you survive in winter, like [the Xenon winter tarp, $140 and the Old Man Winter by Wilderness Logistics, $160]. They can be used as a tent, as ground cover, to catch rainwater, to patch holes, for a trap, and even to drag back heavy animals.

What is something basic non-preppers should buy?
A good flashlight. I recently was gifted this Flateye LED flashlight, and it’s like holding a car headlight in your hand. Not only can it light up the world around you, but you can use it to blind attackers or signal SOS.

How do you decide what kinds of things are actually worth buying?
If people are deciding between two items, I always tell them to get the thing that’s more versatile. For example, you can use an air compressor to skin a deer, or set up an AR-15 to hunt deer.

Where are the amazing Black Friday deals?
There are plenty of lists out there like this that have good deals for preppers. My advice would be to go to Reddit’s r/preppers on Black Friday itself. People will be posting deals that you’re unlikely to see anywhere else.

Survivor Jane

Host of Prepper Camp, the nation’s largest three-day prepper event

What are you hoping to buy on sale this weekend?
Prepping is more about planning, knowledge, and skills than actually purchasing a lot of useless gadgets. I walked away from the consumer lifestyle many years ago and now live on an off-grid homestead. That said, there are always items that preparedness-minded people, like myself, keep their eyes open for. We are always looking for good deals on all things canning, such as jars, lids, pressure canners, and water bath canners. Or perhaps a higher-ticket item, such as a food dehydrator.

What would you tell a non-prepper to buy?
Because water is the most important of your basic survival needs, I’d suggest a means of purification. We all are different, and preparedness is not one size fits all. This item could be tablets you drop into a gallon of water, all the way up to a contraption you put into a pond and drink from.

What’s the coolest prepper gadget you’ve seen?
Manufacturers are always coming out with the latest, greatest gadget. I think we all are consumers at heart, preppers and non-preppers alike. I’m past the consumer phase, even though I’ve been known to drool from time to time. If money were no object, I’d love to see a freeze dryer under my tree.

Daisy Luther

Founder, the Organic Prepper

What are you hoping to buy this weekend?
I will be looking at freeze-dried fruits and veggies. Just because there’s an emergency going on, that doesn’t mean I won’t want to give my family balanced nutrition.

What are silliest things you’ve seen other preppers buy?
Tactical gear like bulletproof vests, or far more guns than they actually need. It’s really great to be armed and prepared to protect yourself if someone breaks in, but you can’t shoot 10 guns at a time.

What should people stockpile instead?
Water is an absolutely enormous gap in a lot of preps, because who wants to go buy a whole bunch of 1-gallon jugs of water? Imagine spending $200 and all you’ve got is that stupid water. It’s not sexy, but you’re gonna use it. Water is actually a really good investment.

Do you see yourself as prepping for a specific kind of incident, or are you just trying to be prepared in general?
The No. 1 emergency that most people are going to face is a financial problem, and that isn’t necessarily gonna be the collapse of the American economy. It’s more likely that someone in your family will lose their job, or you’ll have a huge medical expense that you weren’t expecting and can’t pay for. I’m a single parent. About 10 years ago, I lost my job. The fact that my pantry had enough food for several months meant I was able to use my savings and my unemployment payment to keep my mortgage paid.

Jeff, “The Berkey Guy”

Berkey Water Filter Sales,

How is your company thinking about Black Friday this year? Are you running any specials?
Yes, but people are thinking more about having a good water filter on their kitchen counter than they’re thinking, “Oh, my gosh, the world’s economy is gonna collapse!” Usually the water filter industry is fear-based, or caution-based, or prepping-based. Right now it’s just mainstream interest. But yeah, we’re having specials. People will buy.

You’re saying business is up in the prepper industry?
No! They’re buying less! Way, way less. The market is way different. If Hillary would’ve got elected, then it would’ve been completely different for our market — more guns, more bullets, more everything. It would’ve continued what was going on during Obama, for sure. But now people are happy and comfortable. It’s not that they aren’t buying; they’re just buying when they want to have purified water at home.

It’s interesting you say that, because I’m in New York City, and I find that people on the left are very unhappy and uncomfortable.
I totally agree with you. I’m not saying this to be negative toward either side, but the left doesn’t put their money into it. I know there is a lot of fear on that side, but they just don’t buy like the other end of the spectrum does.

So you’re not anticipating a huge influx of sales?
We have our core. They’ll buy. Cyber Monday is usually the big day for us, but it’s not as huge as you might think. It’s not like Amazon, you know what I mean? When the weekend is over, they’ll do over $10 billion or something. They’re so huge now! But yeah, there have always been ups and downs, business cycles. If we get a Democrat in 2020, business will pick up for us tremendously.

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