The expo wasn't large; just a one room in a large convention center. Our local gun show is probably three times the area with many more vendors, but there was a mixed bag of stuff you might think would be associated with prepping. There was a display of BOB water storage bags alongside fishing kayaks, canned food alongside several home gardening systems (one), some coin dealers selling junk silver bags, and things that seemed more "quality of life" than strictly prepping oriented, like scented oils and various herbal treatments. There was only one gun dealer, and one archery booth, but three or four dealers selling solar power systems ranging from slightly more complex than my home project to full house, grid-tied systems.
The most important end result of walking around it for a few hours wasn't much in the way of stuff we bought. I did pick up one of these UVPaqlites, which I've been very interested in since first seeing them within the last couple of years. I've never seen them in person, and the demo these folks did was enough to sell me on them. After a brief period of "I'll take one of each!", I settled on just one of the mats to
I expected to end the day feeling unprepared; in reality, it made me feel better about where we are. We absolutely don't have everything that was for sale there, but if you think of it as classes of stuff - from water storage, to medical preps, to self defense preps, to pantry preps - we're in pretty darned good shape. Much like our preparations for hurricanes, shutters and other hardware, the best test is to get a storm and make sure everything holds up. I'd rather not test it with a complete societal collapse - but I'm really sure I don't get my preferences!
The important part was the people. I always get a kick out of seeing people who are completely out of the stereotype; like the fairly elegantly dressed young woman playing with spring assisted knives, or the middle aged couple learning how to butcher small animals. Most of the people seemed to be newbies, with beginner questions. (After all, if you're set in your bug out location and prepared for everything, why go to something like this?) As we all know, there are millions of suburbanites who never grew up on farms and never had to learn the difference between livestock and pets, who are suddenly facing the fact that they may have to learn lots more about their food supplies and how to prepare things than they've ever faced before. I honestly have to consider myself one of them; I grew up fishing, not hunting.
We heard one of the talks, where the speaker's story was so similar to mine that she could have been a sister. She started out as an engineer and ended up in project management (it's usually quite difficult to not take that path, and stay in design). After that, she moved to the financial world, and while her motivation was different than mine, started asking the same questions I did: "how does this financial system really work" and kept getting answers that didn't make sense. Unsatisfied with what she could learn, she kept digging for better answers and kept getting answers that led her to realize the US is headed for economic collapse, like so many countries before us.
I know that most, if not all, of my readers have had that realization already. Those who won't believe it's possible won't be convinced by anything I say, but let me leave you with two perspectives. The first is the way the companies I've worked for formally manage risk. First assess how likely the risk is. Second assess how big the impact would be, and then multiply them to figure out how much to spend preparing for the risk.
Let me stress these are rough numbers and hard to actually quantify.
For example, consider an EMP - which everyone talks about now and then. It's very difficult to put a hard number on the chances that a rogue nation or group would inflict an EMP on us, but the impact would be very large. For argument, I'll say a 1% chance of it happening in our planning period (perhaps the next few years?), but it would cost 100% of our annual income. The method says we multiply those numbers and concludes we should prepare for it by spending 1% of our income. A hurricane? More likely: the odds in this period have been about 5%, but the cost has been low, only 1%. That says we spend just .05%. In reality, though, preparing for EMP prepares for the hurricane, and vice versa. So if you think there's only a 5% chance of economic collapse, and preparing for that prepares you for everything, wouldn't you spend 5% of your resources preparing for it?
Finally, an MD I was speaking with once about wellness and disease prevention made an argument that I think is very relevant here. His argument was that even if a lowfat diet was good treatment for heart disease (which it certainly doesn't appear to be), it doesn't mean it was a good preventative for heart disease. A good treatment isn't a good preventative. Let me twist that into prepping by saying that if the reality of surviving a grid down collapse is that you'll have to be 100% self-sufficient, raising chickens, goats or rabbits to butcher and live on, it doesn't mean you need to be doing that now. If you want to, that's a different story. Certainly, going through the mental preparations of thinking and planning how you'd do that, and maybe even some practice, is worthwhile. But actually giving up your current life to prepare for something isn't necessarily the best way to approach things.
It's like saying if you knew there was a chance you'd get cancer someday, you wouldn't start getting chemotherapy now.