My lack of familiarity with these terms prompted me to do some research (as any good noob should do), and I found that there was a veritable treasure-trove of info to be found on the topic. At first glance, there seems to be a number of similarities between the two: both groups put a great deal of focus on self-sufficiency and off-grid living, but the differentiating factor seems to be the driving force behind said focus.
The homesteaders seem drawn to this self-sufficiency because they wish to live more holistically with the world around them; having first-hand experience with their food sources—be that through organic gardens, animal husbandry, or backyard chicken coops—and revisiting the home industry of their forebears. Many of them spin their own yarn, sew their own clothes, and make cheese from the milk given by a few goats or sheep that they keep on a small plot of land. They save their seeds, sew quilts from old clothes, and spend weekends canning and preserving food so they have a hearty bounty to draw from over the winter months.
Image © Remolacha
In comparison, preppers seem to be a more paranoid lot, and their drive towards self-sufficiency isn’t born of a desire to get back to the land, but is rather in preparation for whatever apocalypse is just around the corner. These folks are getting ready for when shit hits the fan, and you can be sure they’ll be well prepared when it does. Many have several years’ supply of canned goods, dried staples, and water in their cellars, along with an arsenal of weapons to fend off the inevitable zombie-like hoards that’ll come after their food and supplies when everything goes to hell. If they do grow any food around their property, it’s hidden in the woods and camouflaged so that invaders won’t realize it’s a food crop, and the razor wire around it will dissuade any trespassers from taking it.