A visit to ‘prepper camp’ – a four-day session on surviving super viruses, natural disasters, socioeconomic collapse, world war, and more

Prepper - Photo by Nomadic Lass on Flickr

A shot rings out in the Orchard Lake Campground. The crack ricochets off of evergreens and elms and oaks. No one hits the ground, screams, or ducks for cover. None of the 600 campers even seems fazed by the blast piercing through the stagnant humidity. After all, it’s just target practice.

Welcome to prepper camp.

For four days last month, the campground—nestled in a remote part of the foggy Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina—hosted a crash course in survival. Organized by “Prepper Rick” Austin and his wife, a blogger who goes by “Survivor Jane,” the weekend attracted participants from Tennessee, California, Kentucky, Texas, Ohio, and Georgia. When the sole Yankee outs herself, one person jokingly threatens to lynch her with a paracord.

Preppers have their own language. They carry “BOBs,” or “bug-out bags,” knapsacks stuffed with provisions necessary to “get out of dodge” when “TSHTF” (the shit hits the fan). “TEOTWAWKI” is instantly recognizable as shorthand for “the end of the world as we know it.” But that “end” means something different to everyone. They’re not all anticipating a rapture. Preoccupations range from super-viruses like Ebola to natural disasters (solar flares, hurricanes) to man-made catastrophes (an ISIS attack, socioeconomic collapse leading to utter mayhem).

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