Join or Die: Is Joining a Survival Group a Bad Idea for Preppers?

In Prepping circles there are a wide variety of voices, opinions and experience. This diversity of thought is one of the strengths of our little informal band of individuals with shared interests. This really comes to light when there is a healthy dialog on any given subject that is being discussed. It seems that almost anything I write or read about in prepper blogs has about 5% of the readers adamantly against the viewpoints of the article or the writer, another 5-10% in absolute agreement and the rest usually fall somewhere in the middle with a mixture of general agreement combined with questions and caveats to meet their own personal situation.

Knowing that is the case, I wanted to bring up another topic that to most of you will not be completely foreign, but I hope to share some perspectives at least from my point of view. One of the topics I have been reading about for years and thinking on seriously for my own family revolves around the concept of forming or joining a survival group. I have tried to look at the prospect of banding together with a larger group of people who share my beliefs, values and concerns and I think there are advantages and disadvantages of this both before and after any type of disaster. It is common sense that tells us that the more people you have on your side looking after you, the better off you will be.

As with all things we discuss it helps to set a frame of reference on what I mean when I say disaster and perhaps even more important to define what I mean by a survival group.

A Survival group in this context is simply a collection of people who have banded together to share their resources to help each other survive. The nature of events that the survival group is faced with would obviously determine what they must do to make survival possible. If there were no emergencies or threats to the group, then their lives could look completely normal. The location they are in would also be a factor as it relates to both their reaction to the situation but also their limitations, but I will get into that later.

The line we as preppers hear normally goes like this. You need to be part of a larger group in order to best survive any time of massive catastrophe. In this case, I am not necessarily talking about a tornado, flood or even an earthquake. Could a survival group help during an event like this? Of course, but in most natural disasters, we still have some semblance of order that is restored when the weather clears, the earth stops shaking and the waters recede. Help eventually arrives and life goes on in as close to normal as is possible after a natural disaster. Usually.

No, the survival group I am thinking about is primarily formed by a group of several friends or family members who start prepping together usually before SHTF. The group may have a remote retreat, make joint purchases together and may even go in together on purchasing property. In any event, the members of the survival group plan to stay together and survive some event down the road. This survival group’s location could be a safe haven prior to a hurricane or flood if you were able to bug out before the disaster hit, but let’s assume for the purposes of this article that when I say disaster I am talking about TEOTWAWKI, SHTF or some form of massive collapse.

I also want to point out that what I am calling a survival group is not to be confused with anything resembling militia. The survival groups I am discussing here in this article do not have a paramilitary purpose or intent. The survival group’s main mission is to keep everyone in the group alive and prosper by being self-sufficient after a collapse, not offensively act or attack for political or social motivations. That all might go out the window at some point in the future, but for now this article isn’t addressing that.

Should you join a survival group?

I can’t tell you if you should form or join a survival group because you have to make your own decision. I think that everyone lives in their own unique world of responsibilities, risks and motivations. The minute this post is live, life could change for all of us so rather than make a hard stance on this issue, I did want to write down some of the points that I considered as I was deliberating this for my own life.

I think there are positives and negatives to joining a survival group although some of you may disagree. I won’t be able to cover every base, but here are a few things I think are worthy of consideration.

What are some of the benefits of joining a survival group?

There are a lot of benefits to belonging to a group of like-minded people when you look at this from an ideal viewpoint. Ideally, you partner with responsible, mature, moral and talented individuals. These would be people you trust with your life and get along with very well with. With a group of friends, you have more talent on your team. You may choose to have some people specialize in certain skills. If everyone was a specialist you could cover several bases on knowledge initially and disseminate that knowledge out to the larger group over time.

For example, you might have someone who is an EMT in your survival group and prior to any collapse, they would be able to teach others basic lifesaving and wound treatment skills. The same could go for people with military or communications experience. I realize I said that a survival group wasn’t to be confused with Militia and that’s still true but I do believe if SHTF your group could easily expect to defend your location and having these skills will help.

Along with shared skills, your survival group could pool resources and usually this is most advantageous with purchases. A mortgage spread over 8 families sure would be easier to pay although there are potentially risks with any contract like that. If you wanted to bulk purchase 2000 lbs. of hard red winter wheat it would be easier to do with all families involved provided everyone could equally share the purchase. This of course assumes you are sharing everything equally.

Another important aspect of having a group of people is that there are more eyes watching out for you when it comes to security. You may have read some of our other security themed posts here on the Prepper Journal and the concept of protecting your home. This requires someone in most cases to be vigilantly watching if the situation deteriorates to the point where you could face attack in your home. By having a larger pool of people to stand watch, the load is shared, hours are reduced and the group members wouldn’t be as tired or stressed. Many hands make light work.

What are some drawbacks of joining a survival group?

Many of the advantages of the survival group fall into that ideal scenario I mentioned. Your group is comprised of talented, mature, moral and responsible people. People show their true colors in a disaster though and some of these people you got along so well with when everything was fine could be the same people you have to defend your life from if they crack. I don’t know of any group of people I have been involved with that never had any personality conflicts. If the conflicts are over someone hogging the remote now or breaking wind at the dinner table, they could be over food or ammo when the grid goes down. Do you risk joining a group where one or more of the members decide they don’t want to play by the rules anymore?

Going back to my Militia comment above, what if part of your group decides that they want to go attack the people in the town 5 miles down the road because your group has run out of supplies? What if they decide to let other people who weren’t part of your initial group inside the gates? What if your survival group decides that they need your supplies because theirs are gone or depleted? Worse yet, what if the survival group kicks you out and keeps your stuff, maybe your wife and kids because they don’t like you anymore?

The only way a survival group works is if you all share the load, keep your commitments and deal with conflicts in a fair and prearranged way. Each group should probably have its own form of constitution and by-laws. I think you should also have a public plan for what to do when someone breaks the laws of your survival group. It would help to work together for years before you are faced with a trial and that isn’t always possible. Trust is the number one thing you will depend on in this group and if that trust is broken everything else falls away.

What if you wait to join a survival group?

I am sure there are some of you who have been in a group for 20 years and I think that’s great, but most of us don’t have the same experience. I think back to the group from Patriots and how they met and formed and the rules they all lived by. That type of arrangement may work for you but when I consider this for myself, I see a lot of downsides to a survival group and positives only when people are playing nice.

So does that mean I am suggesting you don’t join a survival group? No, but I think this aspect of prepping would probably warrant the absolute most thought, discernment and time. Throwing in with another group of people could be the best thing and it could also be a nightmare. I think a survival group is perfectly doable and many if not most could work perfectly fine with those responsible adults I mentioned, but they could also go south with one bad apple. You have to work long and hard to avoid a situation like this that could put your family in jeopardy when you thought you had reached safety.

You could wait till a collapse happens and see what shakes out that way. I’ll be honest and say that is what I have thought about doing myself on more than one occasion. Let’s say disaster in the form of an economic collapse happens and power is wiped out, food isn’t being sold anymore except on odd days and you can only get a few items at a time. It would be during this period that you would see who shared your ideals and values. You would be able to see possibly examples where neighbors protected you or came to your defense. You might find out who was snitching on you for having gasoline stored.

It isn’t a strategy that makes sense, but it could out of necessity quickly show you at least on the surface whose on your side and who might be worthy of consideration for your own ad-hock survival group. Of course that might blow up in your face if you are locked up or killed when you could have been safely hundreds of miles away arguing with Bob over the remote.

In conclusion I think that the ideal solution again is my preference; a close-knit group with years of experience and a proven track record of trust and dependability. Not all of us can find those people, but it is worth trying.

  1. Joining a group is something I’ve also thought about a lot. It’s scary not knowing if the group you approach mindset. More than likely I would be looking for a group of likeminded individuals as things slowly fall apart.
    I also realize my family has to have something that is worthwhile to contribute to the group since we are past the youth phase in our lives.
    I actually saw an advertisement written as an article in a prepper site. The group was located in NC where I am. The group scared me. They advertised they had a couple of doctors, nurses and security types. They where operated by established 2-3 person committees and it just appeared they where looking for worker bees. Plus it seems they where all going to survive in campers and tents with a few who had invested early had cabins. No talk of building more permanent living facilities. I don’t mind doing my fair share of work and then some. But I sure don’t want some committee telling me where I would work and how long and all that.

    1. I don’t think I read that article, but just from what you say, it sounds odd. I think that some groups have a tendency to want start their own dictatorship and the excuse of willing converts looking for safety during a collapse gives them a ready made fiefdom. That is one of my concerns too in groups like this.

    2. obsxter,
      Your first two paragraphs explain my thoughts also. Although I have one daughter 23 and son 19 so we could offer youth but I can’t really say we could offer any group much in the way of useful post collapse talents. Although I am trying to change that a bit.

      I live in PA but have also seen an advertisement or two from groups as you explain. Not something I’d be interested in either. You have no idea who you’re getting involved with.

    3. A good portion of the survivalist people I’ve met are indeed looking to be a little king when shtf. They think they’re going to sit high on the hog while they dole out instruction, supplies, and protection in exchange for labor, talent, and warriors/followers as if they were some sort of Norman warlord sitting on the throne within his motte and bailey castle looking down on the peasants below. If the scenario were bad enough, I believe these sorts of people would gain followers to some extent due to most people being unprepared and a rather sad cultural norm of following-the-leader. There’s a bit of appeal to not starving and having routine. As Mel Brooks said, “It’s good to be the King.”

      Luckily, I envision a lot of these little Hitlers imploding or being somehow overthrown either by their own people sick of their dictatorship or another “marauder/warlord” just like them. Cyrus the Great summed up their position pretty well: “How often have cities allowed themselves to be persuaded into war, and that by advisors who were thought the wisest of men, and then been utterly destroyed by those whom they attacked!”

      Fortunately, however, we as Americans have centuries of democratic values as well that have been exercised daily in small towns everywhere. While there will always be leaders, and groups of people will have to sacrifice liberties to get along (more so when the group becomes larger), I believe most small towns will continue pretty much unchanged as far as organization goes. Their primary industry and population may change, but I think the appeal of “normalcy” will direct most towards acting like civilized people. The urban jungles however…..that’s another story. MUY indeed.


      And as for “bringing youth to the game” and providing useful skills, I wouldn’t underestimate yourself. About a year ago I started a philosophical game at work when I was having a prepping itch and it involved posing to co-workers the question, “If the Great Zombocalypse occurs when we’re here and there’s no way to get home to your family and we all had to start a society from scratch, what do you bring to the table? What value as a human being, and mouth to feed, do you possess that would ‘keep you on the island’ so to speak?”

      The men were quick to tout military and hunting experience, knowledge of local geography and resources, and things they’d already done to prepare such as having supplies to share. A couple brought up the idea that they had special leadership qualities that would be useful to the group. I thought to myself, sure could be, but now I have to watch out for you that you don’t try to set yourself up as our king. When I pressed them further they volunteered the obvious that they could be laborers and police/defense. Some weren’t happy with the idea of tilling fields and other manual labor in the sun, but after discussion the realization that “work needs to get done” won the day.

      We even joked that one of the guys with military experience and leadership skills would be our explorer searching for the “Land Route to China” because it would give him purpose but keep him out of the group’s hair when it came to making decisions as he has a penchant for arguing and over analyzing every little detail. We figured we could give him all the trouble makers to rule and keep him out and about, throw him a little party when he returns, and send him on his way again. Win-Win for everyone. When it came down to it though, of the men, I was the only one with a tangible specialized skill – tanning leather and making clothes/shoes/other things from it.

      The women, on the other hand, were very reluctant to participate. Save for one who said she would be our “horse whisperer” if we caught/stole horses because she was raised on a ranch, most would say non-committal things like, “I can watch the kids” or “I can cook”. I would remind them that it’s only the employees who were forming this new society as we could not get back to our old families, so there would be no kids to watch, and all of us could cook, so what value are you? Some of them thought a little deeper and said they could scavenge for berries or do the laundry. I pushed back and advised that all the menial tasks could be done by anyone, so of what value were they? Why should we keep and feed them? Out of the goodness of our own hearts?

      That’s when one volunteered to be the “baby maker” as she put it. She said she realized that in a survival situation people are only good for what they can provide. Simply being a non-contributing mouth to feed is useless and detrimental. I asked her how she felt about deciding on her own that her main use was for sex and she said that when it comes down to it, it’s no different than how women have acted/been used/had value throughout most of history. A man wants comforts, wants stability, and a woman provides that in return for shelter and food, moving up the social pecking order going for the man she can get who can best provide those things. After that several others were quick to enlist in the “Pleasure Platoon”.

      It’s a very stripped-down, bleak view of the human condition and not something I envision folks resorting to unless TEOTWAWKI actually happens or they cast their lot in with one of the warlord types who wants minions and the perks that come with it, but there is some truth to it. Every group or society will need “worker ants” but that doesn’t have to have a negative stigma to it. Not everyone can be the leader, or the inventor, or the hero, what have you. Just like in our modern society, we will need many many people to do the grunt work (like most of us do already) on a daily basis to continue our survival – and there’s nothing wrong with that. So don’t discount yourself because you’re “old” or whatever. You can stand guard, you can dig a ditch, you can pick beans, etc etc. and the majority of us will be right there with you. In fact, in the best of societies (most likely smaller) the leaders will be taking their turn right there with you.

      1. Great comments usmarinestanker and worthy of an entire post. I would love to put this story on the Prepper Journal if you would like to write a whole article. I think your game would be of interest to a lot of people.

        1. holy cow, you’re kidding……wow. Thank you Pat.

          I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I’m new to this whole thing and it was just a long-winded post as I do from time to time.

          Wow, if you could give me some guidelines, what you’d like to see, which portions of the post I should include or exclude, I would appreciate that. Word limit?

          I can be reached at my username at yahoo dot com

      2. Usmarines,
        Great post. Enjoyed reading it. I’d love to try that game at work but other than a few of us I think the rest of my fellow employees would look to have us get “professional help” lol.

  2. Very similar experience as obxster granted since we both in nc it’s likely we both encountered the same group.

  3. Waiting until the disaster happens and then seeing how things shake out with regards to those around me (neighbors) is the plan that I kind of lean to also.

    I live in a townhouse and my neighbors all are nice and some are hunters (duck, deer) and one older gentleman next door I know has a few handguns hidden in his house (he also does my taxes), but as far as if they prep at all or what their thoughts are on those who do prep I have no idea and I’m not sure if I want to broach the subject. Opsec and all that stuff.

    I have a couple of friends at work who I would trust my life and my family’s life to but we don’t live very close to each other and none of us has a BOL to meet at so again we’ll have to take it as it comes and be flexible if need be.

    In my house it’s just me who gives any thought to putting some food aside, purchasing water filters, water etc. You get the idea. The wife sometimes seems like she’s coming around but never does and my 23yr old and 19 yr old kind of think dad’s lost his mind.

    For me anyway, I plan to bug in as long as possible.

  4. Don’t join a survival group, move to a different way of life that protects you from the effects of a) the impending fall of civilization and b) the psychopaths that rule it. The Terraformers have your off-ramp to get onto a different, successful road to the future, independent of this dying civilization.

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