Why Doomsday Prepping Isn't Pessimistic—It's Practical

In his new book, Bunker: Building for the End Times, Bradley Garrett—worldwide adventurer and author—explores the doomsday prepper communities around the world and shares an inside look at the rationale behind these groups, as well as the range of accommodations available, from stripped-down bolt-holes, to luxury compounds.

In this Q&A, Garrett discusses why his book can provide a sense of optimism for uncertain times—and some his own prepping tips for the layman.

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Why this book?

Because we're all consumed by the dread of the unknown right now! Bunker is a book about preparing for calamity. It follows communities building for nuclear war, social turmoil, natural disasters and, of course, pandemics. At a time when it feels like we're just skating from one crisis to another, full of anxiety about what new surprise the future might have in store for us, reading about how other people are prepping for those future threats offers a ray of hope.

Is prepping all about extremists worrying about the apocalypse? Or just good plain common sense?

Prepping takes place across a range of scales. For the book, I spent time inside multi-million-dollar bunkers that can handle a direct strike by a nuclear weapon, but also spoke with people doing what they called "practical prepping," which is something a lot of us do instinctively. If you keep a flashlight and first aid kit in your garage, or have a bag in the trunk of your car for emergencies, you're a prepper! How you prep really depends on how much faith you have in the future. A lot of us aren't feeling very optimistic at the moment, which is making elaborate preparations seem more rational.

Are there any tips you've learned from your research that everyday people can use to be prepared for the unexpected?

Have a backup for your backup—whether we're talking about computer data, access to your money or escape routes. It can provide a lot of peace in the present to have plans in place for things that might go wrong in the future—because they always do! Prepping isn't pessimistic, it's realistic.

COVID-19 caught us flat-footed as far as having enough PPE, and it required us to catch up fast for remote learning and work. Should we be looking to preppers to understand how to be ready for the next disaster? Is our reliance on technology an Achilles heel?

I worry about how reliant we are on electricity and the internet—for most of us, especially now, losing power for a week would be a crushing blow. The pandemic also made clear how dependent we are on grocery stores, supply lines, banks and—most importantly—other people. Building up resiliency for the next disaster (which very likely won't be another pandemic) doesn't necessarily have to be about hoarding supplies or building a bunker, it can also be about meeting your neighbors, working through some scenarios and having plans in place for the unexpected. Community is the most crucial aspect of resiliency.

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Bradley Garrett The University of Sydney

Do you have access to your own bunker? What do you keep on hand to prepare for the unexpected?

I do have a bunker, but it's hundreds of miles from my family in Southern California. I realized early on in the pandemic that I couldn't take them with me, and wasn't willing to leave them behind to fend for themselves. So, instead I bought a cabin in the woods—a bug-out location—within driving distance for everyone, so that we can all retreat to it if need be. Until then, it can act as a family holiday hang-out.

What creature comfort can't you do without?

Coffee! My partner, Amanda, and I drove 12,000 miles around Australia last year living out of a Jeep. At one point we ran out of coffee; I think I would have rather run out of gas.

What's next for you?

I'm planning to walk across the Mojave Desert with my friend Wayne. I've been in love with the desert my whole life, and I want to see if I can survive three weeks crossing it on foot. Wish us luck!