Online prepping forums and YouTube channels are attracting thousands of new members every week, as people ask for advice about what to buy and how to store it in case of an emergency.
News correspondent @kvittozzi
Sunday 18 December 2022 09:07, UK
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Behind a locked door in Barry’s house is a room he’s been getting ready for the past year.
Driven by uncertainty, he has been stockpiling food, first aid, torches and battery-powered lamps.
“The cost-of-living crisis, power outages, fuel shortages, those things I’m well prepared for now,” he says.
On the shelves are at least a dozen boxes of tinned and dried food goods – all carefully labelled and meticulously stored to keep them dry and airtight.
“There is about four months of food for three of us, here at the moment,” Barry says. “But my goal now is to have enough food, for three of us, for six months.”
Asked why, he replies: “Because you just don’t know. Life is just very unpredictable right now.”
Barry is a so-called prepper, part of a growing community in the UK defined by the phrase: “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”
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Online prepping forums and YouTube channels, including Barry’s own, are attracting thousands of new members every week, as people ask for advice about what to buy and how to store it.
“My advice to people is to have at least a week’s worth of food in storage,” Barry, who posts videos online under the pseudonym Northman Prepping UK, says.
“Things like torches and battery-powered lamps are easy and not expensive in case the lights go out.”
In these videos he keeps his identity hidden, adding: “I don’t really want the publicity. And if things do get worse, I don’t want people knowing where I live, or what supplies I have.”
Guns stockpiled as ‘people can get crazy quickly’
On one wall of Barry’s storeroom is a range of air rifles and guns.
These are “just as a hobby”, but, in case current crises escalate, he says he is prepared to deal with a breakdown of law and order.
“People can get crazy quickly,” he says.
“I am confident that me and my sons could defend our house if we needed to. I’d rather just be ready. But the food storage is the biggest thing for me.”
The prepping movement started in the US, where it is more frequently associated with preparing for Doomsday-like events.
It is different from the Survivalist movement, which focuses on surviving full societal breakdown.
But here in the UK, prepper and psychologist Dr Sarita Robinson says it’s become “much more mainstream”.
Dr Robinson, who lectures on the psychology of survival at the University of Central Lancashire, describes herself as a “low-grade prepper”.
“It’s just about having enough in reserve in case the government or local authorities can’t really do things for you immediately,” she says.
In a cupboard under the stairs, Dr Robinson has stashed battery-powered lamps, torches and a large, external power-bank “that could keep our phones and computers going”, in case of power cuts this winter.
“Life has got a little bit more uncertain,” she says. “And when we sort of lack that control, we can become anxious. So doing a little bit of prepping, gives you a little bit of control back.”
Dr Robinson says, despite the perception of preppers as being “macho, ex-military-types”, that most preppers are “younger women with children”.
Preppers ‘aren’t tin-hat wearing nut jobs’
From his prepper shop in Wales, Leigh Price sees new customers “from all walks of life”.
“[Preppers] are seen as tin-hat wearing nut jobs,” he tells Sky News.
“But they are not – they are just people who like to make sure they have a bit of security at home.”
The Bug Out, which Leigh opened in 2020, is an Aladdin’s cave of survival gear.
From tins of food rations with a best-before date of 2047, to gas camping stoves and paraffin lamps, Mr Price says people are spending between “£70 and £7,000” at a time.
“We have people phoning up from all over,” he says.
“They could be doctors, teachers, from the city, from the country. It’s all about the ‘what-ifs’. ‘What if the electric goes off, what if I can’t get heating?'”
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“It’s the insecurity, really, people don’t know what’s going on,” he adds.
Leigh says a recent call came from an “old granny” who was “worried about being alone and the lights going off, or not being able to pay her electricity bill.
“I sent her some blankets, one of these little cookers, some gas, a little food, and phone numbers she could call if it did happen,” he explains.
Insurance against uncertainty
Prepping is “an insurance against uncertainty”, Leigh claims.
Barry likens the feeling of seeing his full shelves to “when you look at your bank account and see you’ve got some savings”.
For Dr Robinson, it’s just about “being ready before an emergency hits, because by the time you’re in a crisis, it’s too late”.
“It’s like in the pandemic when suddenly there was no loo roll anywhere, that wasn’t because of preppers,” she says.
“Because preppers will have had 100 loo rolls under the stairs for months.”