Apocalyptic Vision: The Cultured He-Man and Survival Bros.

Valentino says he lives for months at a time in the woods. But he also likes art galleries and classical music. (Joe Riedl).

The doomsday prepper business is booming in Oregon, as well as other places. Willamette Week has a look at some of the apocalyptic entrepreneurs, from Valentino to a professional cuddler Survival Bro, to wealthy conservatives getting even wealthier in the apocalypse business. There’s a great deal of unintentional hilarity in the article, as well as the blatant fearmongering of the wealthier side of this business, so I recommend reading the whole thing.

…This is, after all, his business. For $190, he will take you up on the mountain for an “immersive, advanced survival training” course. His target market: “preppers”—a term commonly used to describe people obsessed with surviving cataclysmic societal collapse.

It’s a booming market.

“This is in vogue,” Valentino says.


Schlepping his packs on a plastic sled, Valentino leads a photographer and me over the snowy trail away from the parking lot at Barlow Pass Sno Park.

Partway up the trail, he remembers: “Oh! Safety.” He proceeds to explain all that could go wrong.

Mount Hood could explode. There could be an earthquake—he felt several tremors last year. Cougars could pounce from trees and eat our kidneys. We could disappear in a snow-covered pit. We could be impaled by a tree. Assuming good cellular service, help is two hours away.

Later, he remembers another thing. “I forgot,” he says. “Today there is avalanche warning.”


In the event of a catastrophe, Valentino says, Mount Hood will be no refuge. He expects it will be overrun with poorly trained, overconfident, trigger-happy preppers—more dangerous than in the city, where at least one could still find food and shelter.

“Let’s talk about shit hit the fan,” Valentino says. “People will not survive in the woods. They can’t. Something will happen. The cold will take them down. Or their own brain will take them down. And what if people have children?”

When the big shocks come, you won’t catch this mountain man running for the hills. Instead, he says, he’ll be in the city, helping others.


From a home base in Clatsop County, Ore., Cameron McKirdy runs a YouTube channel and website, survivalbros.com.

The site bills itself as “more than an emergency preparedness blog”: It’s also a “strong community” and an “alternative news” source (think conspiracy king Alex Jones). With his infotainment brand, McKirdy markets himself to millennials as a high-protein, fluoride-free guide to scraping by in the dystopian chaos.


McKirdy, 33, grew up in Seaside and attended the University of Oregon. He started taking survivalism seriously after a 2011 tsunami warning.

Like many people his age, he’s juggling multiple gigs. He was an announcer at mixed martial arts fights, but now he’s an on-call professional cuddler with Portland business Cuddle Up to Me, offering platonic embraces for $1 a minute.

McKirdy also works retail at a nutrition store, which confers a discount on the protein powders that compose much of his diet. Sometimes he wins cash prizes in eating competitions, and he makes about $100 a month from ads on his Survival Bros YouTube channel, which has roughly 6,000 subscribers.


Since McKirdy’s method amounts to small-time grifting, I ask what the difference is between being a Survival Bro and a hobo. “I prioritize self-care and hygiene,” he replies.


From their $844,000 home in Portland’s West Hills, David and Beth Pruett travel the country selling homemade first-aid kits and teaching informal classes about emergency medicine.

Since living through the San Francisco earthquake in 1989, the Pruetts have stockpiled supplies, made checklists and practiced for the next disaster. David is a U.S. Navy veteran and an emergency medicine doctor at Oregon Health & Science University.

In 2011, David designed a compact, individual first-aid kit, the iFak, which is short for “individual first-aid kit” and stocked with medicines, bandages, implements and adhesives. Soon the couple turned their hobby into a preparedness business and blog, amp-3.net, which Beth runs from home, selling iFaks, radio gear, books like The Survival Nurse and Modern Weapons Caching, and some self-produced instructional DVDs. In 2015, Beth says, Amp-3 topped $140,000 in sales.

They get a lot of online sales, but it’s more effective to go where the customers are: prepper conventions.

The full story is here.


  1. chigau (違う) says

    One of the SO’s internet hobbies is watching survivalist youtube videos.
    Some days he can’t stop laughing.

  2. says

    Waaaaaaaaaait a Miiiiiiiiiinute!!!!!!

    These “survivalists” LIVE in Portland?
    Maybe, if they’re so concerned with survival, they could try moving out of the earthquake/landslide/tsunami region from the Cascadia Subduction Zone. [stderr].

    I despise survivalists; they’re a blend of ignorance and hubris that’s been distilled in privilege and filtered through money. One of the basic premises of survivalism is: “there is going to be a disaster that is going to wipe out N% of everybody, but I’m gonna be ready.” Well, depending on N, actually, you’re probably going to be dead. Take for example these Portlanders -- if they’re preparing to not be part of the 500,000 or so dead when the Cascadia lets go, then their best move is to live in someplace where the ground is high and made of solid rock (and not a volcano). Or if they’re worried about the next pandemic -- 90% of everyone gets sick and 10% of everyone dies: then fuhgeddaboutit because you’ve got a 90% chance you’ll be attending a lot of funerals but otherwise you’ll be fine -- and if you’re part of the 10% who die, you won’t need all that gear.

    I was talking to a survivalist years ago (back when I lived in Maryland) who thought he was preparing for a nuclear war. He actually had stuff in his basement so he could live down there for a month until the fires and fallout were over. I asked him whether it might make more sense to move so he doesn’t live 10 miles from the Pentagon. Nuclear war’s a scenario that nobody, literally, can plan for: “everything changes” is pretty much it. No idea what kind of society emerges, who gets hit and how badly, who survives and what’s left, etc. My plan for surviving nuclear war is: “either you die pretty fast, or everything sucks for a long time.”

  3. says

    My plan for surviving nuclear war is: “either you die pretty fast, or everything sucks for a long time.

    Uh, that’ll be $.05
    Because that’s my plan, and I accidentally sold it to you.
    You can pay me if there’s a nuclear war and we both survive using my plan, and nickels are still worth anything.

  4. says


    “either you die pretty fast, or everything sucks for a long time.”

    I have long said that when the nukes fly, I hope to be crispy crittered in the first wave, rather than be stuck in nuclear winter, slowly dying of radiation poisoning. I have no desire to be turned into a Morlock prior to death.

  5. kestrel says

    Oh boy. Remember Y2K? I went into a store to pick something up and the lady ahead of me asked what I was stocking up on. She said she was stocking up on water because she figured there wouldn’t be any after the “disaster”. I told her I was stocking up on bullets, and that if I got thirsty, I’d come to her house. (It was all a lie, of course. I did not so much as buy an extra can of soup.)

    I’ve had people tell me that I’d be fine in a disaster, because I raise livestock. I guess they don’t realize that in order for me to FEED said livestock, I am depending on the rest of the world to do it’s thing -- produce fuel for the tractor, spare parts, baling twine etc. etc. We are all way more dependent on each other than a lot of people realize.

    Although I accept that natural disasters occur all the time, what I really think we should work on is NOT CREATING OUR OWN.

  6. says



    Oh boy. Remember Y2K?

    Yes, I do. And I remember saying “nothing is going to happen” about 8 million fucking times. People turn into creatures dumber than cows at any provocation. What good would livestock do if your house and property have been torn apart by an earthquake or other disaster? Assuming you survive, of course. What good would it do to run out and slaughter yourself an animal if you have no where to store the meat? You can’t do it one steak at a time. What good does it do to have livestock if you don’t know all the secrets of dairy making? What good does it do if you can’t feed or water said livestock?

    Christ, people are stupid.

  7. rq says

    I can understannd that last couple, who survived a major earthquake, and wouldn’t be surprised if their current obsession with survival is partially a result of trauma. But I’m really bothered by people basically fleecing money from others purely on the basis of “what if “, without addressing fundamental things that would actually aid in survival. Like paying attention to weather reports, disaster warnings, and basic geology/geography.

  8. says

    The best chance in case of a catastrophic event that doesn’t kill you immediately is a functioning government and administration as well as a population that trusts the aforementioned institutions, all of which puts the USA in a really bad position, combined with the sheer amount of weapons and Rambo mentality.

  9. says


    all of which puts the USA in a really bad position, combined with the sheer amount of weapons and Rambo mentality.

    We’re already in a bad situation with that, under catastrophic circumstances, well…

    Every day, I’ve noticed there’s another shooting here. More mass shootings, people being murdered for no particular reason. It’s getting worse by the day. And all the people who are supposedly prohibited from owning guns have a fucktonne of them.

  10. kestrel says

    @Caine: LOL, yeah -- people don’t realize how much they depend on refrigeration. Or ovens. Or freezers. Or freaking electricity, for crying out loud… how am I supposed to get water out of the well with no electricity?

    No. What we need to do is prevent some dipshit like the Tweeting Cheeto from creating a man-made disaster. Don’t stock up on “survival gear”, get politically active -- or at least vote!

  11. Czech American says

    I’ll bet most of these dipshits voted for Trump.

    My plan is also to die. I need electricity and drugs to sleep, so survivalism would be even more of a joke for me than it is in general.

  12. says

    Czech American:

    I need electricity and drugs to sleep

    So do I! Yeah, things are difficult enough as it stands, with all the conveniences and goodies. When the apocalypse happens, I want no part of it, time to say g’night, permanently.

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