What makes a survivalist or for that matter what is a survivalist? Perhaps the place to start is with some definition(s) of the word itself.

someone who tries to insure their personal survival or the survival of their group or nation
(courtesy, wordnet.princeton.edu)

A survivalist is a person who anticipates a potential disruption in the continuity of local, regional or worldwide society, and takes steps to survive in the resulting unpredictable situation. Some survivalists take an interest in survival in the wilderness or at sea, while others look for opportunities to gain practice and training by assisting in government volunteer organizations
(courtesy, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivalist)

So it could be said that a survivalist is a person with the desire to survive AND whom takes some action to acheive that goal.

Is a survivor a survivalist?

Maybe, is the right answer since it is possible to survive a disaster just on blind luck or the efforts of others. If one survives a disaster but played no part in their doing so then it is very difficult to call them a survivalist. Please bear in mind that if a given disaster exceeds the efforts, capabilities or preparations of an individual or a group that does not keep them from being survivalists. NO one can be so prepared that some event will ot overwhelm them. A simple example using a natural event. If a very well prepared survivalist is within the blast range of a supervolcano when it detonates he will no longer be prepared as he once was even though he may survive the blast through evacuation of the vicinity.

Bravery is another mostly useless item. Bravery is far more likely to get you killed than is fear. Fear hightens they senses and has you more sensative to your surroundings than bravery ever will. One may admire the bravery of a grasshopper who decides to fight the lawnmower but there is no desire to survive in doing so. Fear makes him get out of the way of it and hide from it.

If you know no fear, then you are a poor risk for being a survivalist. You may go through the mechanical actions of physiclly preparing for disaster and may even survive in many situations. However, you are also looking for the situation in which you cannot survive. For if you do not know fear then you will not know when to turn and run, to let the situation pass you by so that you may be either ignored by it or be given the opportunity to stab it in the back. Does this mean that you should be afraid of everything? Absolutly not. Uncontrolled fear is every bit as bad and lethal as knowing no fear, or worse. Let us take a city situation wherein all authority has collapsed. Who do you think will win in a one on one situation, the business executive who has had their life feed to them on a silver platter, who only had to make a phone call to"get things done" or the person living in the ghetto who has had to fight just to stay alive from day to day. The truth is either of them could win but in all probablity the one from the ghetto will do so simply due to the uncontrolled fear the other is likely to be experiencing during the confrontation. Instead of acting, they will likely to be talking or begging. They may offer their wealth to try and save themselves and while that may have worked during "civilized times" it does not when the rules are off. It is far simpler when the rules are off to simply kill you and then take all you have rather than depend on your generosity. Remember, all their life in the ghetto they had to fight for every scrap of life they had.

Going to another extreme, let us suppose that the city dweller is sufficiently wealthy to have a survival retreat in the country. Unless he is a survivalist he is unlikely to do any better there then he would by staying in the city. Oh he may live a little longer but it is unlikely that he is fully prepared to cope with a truly long term disaster situation. As his supplies run out and he is unable to replenish them his lifestyle will deteriorate to the point that others will take what he has left or he will lose his life either to another or by his own hand. Keep in mind that if he has his retreat for himself and has not prepared to be part of a group that other in the area will learn about him and be unlikely to assist him with what they know of the area and both its hazards and its benefits. If he does not know how to farm then when his stored food runs out he will starve. Similarily if he does not know how to make and repair the equipment he needs then he will hae to do without it. The end result is the same. At the same time if the ghetto person makes it to th country, their life is no likely to be any better since by their very actions they will define themselves as untrustworthy and unprepared for whatthey need to do. They won't be able to toss a brick through a store window to steal what they need and in short order will run out of any useful wepons they may have. They one thing they may have that will be of use will be a finely tuned sense of fear and if they use it well, then they could survive long enough to establish themselves but even then they will likely be to dependent on someone else and eventually cause harm.

Perhaps the one thing that is mandatory for the survivalist above anything else is knowledge. While it is very true that having practical experience is valuable, having the knowledge of how to do something is in most cases far more valuable. There is a certain amount of truth in the phrase "those who can't do, teach". For the survivalist, having snared a rabbit with a factory made snare is one thing but having the knowledge to be aable to construct one from the materials at hand is another and more valuable asset. Havig one or more in your group that have a large knowledge store should be considered essential to your groups survival. You don't have the convienience of a modern technological industrialized society from which to draw on. The ability to understand and know how to build a spinning wheel or a loom rather than having to invent it all over again wil make your group rich in innumerable ways.

So we can say that a survivor is not neccessarily a survivalist. A survivalist is one who has the knowledge needed to survive the situation they find themselves in and the ability to act upon that knowledge.