Hazmat suits are like 'gold dust': Behind the scenes at Europe's biggest preppers store

In the face of ever-mounting global concerns, supply shortages, wars and climate change there are some among us who are more prepared for a potential catastrophe than the rest

Preppers are individuals who believe that a war or disaster will occur in the not so distant future and, therefore, proactively prepare in order to be ready for any potential disasters.

When we think of survivalists, we're often reminded of the extremes of the so-called Doomsday Preppers highly publicised around 2012. Those who prepare for the total collapse of society or the economy.

Many viewers of the National Geographic show were shocked at the extent some went to in order to protect themselves and the stores they had collected. Some even criticised the show for publicising some of the most extreme views in US society at the time.

Although once publicised as an extreme activity originating in North America, now more and more Brits are keeping rations in case of an emergency, purchasing camping equipment in the event they have to leave their homes, and some are even buying hazmat suits.

Europe's biggest store dedicated to preppers told ITV News those prepping extremes are not what they see day-to-day, and that prepping is much more common than you'd think.

On the outskirts of a small Cornish town, Lincoln Miles and his team are surrounded by hundreds of empty ammo boxes, thousands of food ration packets, but dwindling supplies of military grade hazmat suits.

"They're like gold dust," Mr Miles told ITV News. "You can't get enough in to sell them fast enough."

Mr Miles is the owner of Preppers Shop UK, the biggest and first ever store of its kind in Europe, providing a range of preppers essentials and camping equipment to those looking to be more prepared for future events.

Since Mr Miles started the store 10 years ago with just a £200 investment, he's seen peaks and troughs in demand for the types of kit he is able to obtain, but is currently seeing between 200 and 400 orders a day.

Lincoln Miles founded the store 10 years ago - when prepping was unfamiliar in Europe.

Mr Miles added: "It was unheard of in England at the time... at the time there was nothing in Europe at all, so we gave it a go... and from there we've really cultivated that Europe wide prepping movement.

"We're very reactive to orders depending on what happens in the news and media, if there's a flooding that's happened across the country we know the next day we're going to come in and there's a hell of a lot of orders there."

But it's not just local events that affect the demand. In recent years, large scale events have seen huge surges in the different types of equipment flying off the shelves at Preppers Shop UK.

"The biggest one for us, goes without saying, was Covid, that was just through the roof for about a year. The Ukraine-Russia war recently, that was a huge spike," he said.

"In particular rations, that went mad on food supplies for about six months... a lot of people worried about global supply chains and logistics breaking down so... they just bought extra long life food they could put away in a cupboard, not worry about and it's there if they need it.

"The last sort of big spike was probably last winter, when there was a lot of worry about the electric grid going down, there was talks of it going off for two days a week and stuff.

"People sort of realised they were so dependent on the grid and electricity... we had a huge surge in oil filled lanterns... a lot of solar panels."

Military grade rations are manufactured to last up to 20 years.

Far from preparing for full scale catastrophes, much of the kit we were shown appears to be convenient to have in the event of any emergency.

Take the 'bug out bag' for example - a staple kept by preppers across the globe which provides everything you'd need to survive for at least 72 hours in the event of an emergency and you had to leave your home.

Manager Polly Tucker carries rations to build a 'bug out bag'.

Polly Tucker, manager at Preppers Shop UK, said everyone should have a bug out bag "given what we've been through in recent years, you don't know what you could be dealing with".

She said: "You just need the basics, this could be a camping kit, this could be a preppers bag, this could be whatever you want it to be."

Polly Tucker explains the basics of a 'bug out bag'

Despite the demand for camping supplies, Mr Miles said there's other kit that is now becoming more common to preppers in the UK and Europe which you might not expect.

"We have a huge trade in military spec gas masks, respirators, filters, and the full NBC military hazmat suits... For us that's normal, that's always been a big part of the business, we do a huge trade on that," he said.

The store can't keep up with the demand for military grade hazmat suits.

Although a suit designed to protect from chemical and nuclear fallout may seem quite out there, both Mr Miles and Ms Tucker said that the practice of just being more prepared for unexpected events is becoming increasingly popular.

Ms Tucker said: "We ship hundreds of parcels everyday and I speak to hundreds of different customers on the phone everyday, they are everyday people who like the idea of the outdoors but also like the idea of just being prepared.

"If something happened that was out of their control, they just want to know that they can survive wherever they are... no matter what the eventuality is they'll be able to look after themselves."

Mr Miles added: "If you walked down the street, you could pass 20 preppers out of 30 people and you wouldn't notice.

"There's a lot of this image that comes from the American preppers... but with England and the Europe wide scene it is completely different.

"I like to think of it as just making life easier, so that you haven't got to panic if something happens, it's those everyday scenarios rather than an end of the world apocalyptic situation."

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