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The Art of Nothing
Wilderness Survival Video Series
DVD companions to the book
Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills

Also based on the article The Art of Nothing by Thomas J. Elpel.

      Have you ever dreamed of walking out into the woods to survive with nothing but the clothes you have on? You are not alone. In a society that is disconnected from the natural world, many individuals find themselves wondering about what lay beyond the pavement. We know that our ancestors lived by their bare hands and wits alone, but how did they do it? How would you do it? What would it be like to be so connected with the natural world that you could just leave everything behind and walk away into the woods? It is easier than you might expect.

See also
Participating n Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills
      You might think you would need to take a lot of classes and learn a gazillion skills to survive, but the real secret is in knowing how not to need very many skills at all. For example, if you've made a bowdrill fire set with a steel knife, you may wonder how to make a set without a knife. So how do you make a good enough stone knife to work wood as nicely as your steel knife? You don't. By breaking sticks and abrading them on rocks you can make a completely serviceable bowdrill set without the need for a fancy knife at all, as you will see in Volume One of the Art of Nothing Wilderness Survival Video Series.

      You won't get a laboratory-style skills demonstration in these videos. Instead, Thomas J. Elpel and his special guests take you camping in the real world and connect the dots, demonstrating how each of these skills are applied together to meet your basic needs of shelter, fire, water, and plant and animal foods. Also included in the videos are wild mushrooms and unique tools and cooking techniques, plus great scenery and wildlife footage, so you really get a multi-dimensional sense of the skills and the place.

      Each video takes place in a different setting in different seasons, with Thomas J. Elpel and his guests demonstrating completely different skills to meet their basic needs. Please note: If you currently own the VHS versions you can Upgrade to DVD at a special discount.

See what the press is saying about the Art of Nothing!

Volume One
Three Days at the River
with nothing but our bare hands

      No knife. No matches. No food, sleeping bags or other gear. Join Thomas J. Elpel and 13 year-old daughter Felicia for this extraordinary primitive camping experience in southwest Montana. In the cottonwoods along the Jefferson River they demonstrate all the skills required to meet their basic needs, starting with nothing but their bare hands. Skills include:

Shelter: Grass sleeping bag on hot ground.
Fire: The cottonwood root bowdrill set.
Water: Boiling water in found bottles and cans for purification.
Edible Plants: Cattail Roots, stinging nettles, rose hips, burdock, mustard greens and milkweed shoots.
Fungi: The edible tree mushroom.
Meat: Porcupine--killing, skinning, butchering.
Cooking: Shishkebabs and hot rock stir-fry.
Tools: Discoidal stone knives and digging sticks.

3 Days at the River DVD.
ISBN: 1-892784-20-3. May 2002.
Full Version 91 Minutes. $25.00

Please scroll down the page to order.


      Received my video (3 Days at the River) last week, and I had to write to tell you it was very entertaining and educational. I'm a firm believer in your "art of nothing" philosophy. It is about time someone promotes that type of thinking toward outdoor recreation.

Walk in Beauty,
Zak Baker

Volume Two
Mountain Meadows
camping with almost nothing but the dog

      With little more than stone knives and the dog, Thomas J. Elpel and cousin Melvin Beattie venture into the Rocky Mountains to survive with whatever they can find and improvise from their surroundings. Among the wildflowers, wildlife and scenic meadows of southwestern Montana, they demonstrate all the skills needed to meet their basic needs, including:

Shelter: A debris shelter with hot rocks.
Fire: The mullein on sage handdrill set.
Water: Purifying water with Aerobic Oxygen.
Edible Plants: Sweet cicely, wild sunflower, dwarf huckleberry, musk thistle stems and "artichokes", brook saxifrage, rose petals.
Meat: Ground squirrels--killing, skinning, butchering.
Cooking: Cooking on an upright rock slab.
Tools: Glass-knapped knives & the jo stick.

Mountain Meadows DVD.
ISBN: 1-892784-21-1. July 2002.
Full Version 90 Minutes. $25.00

Please scroll down the page to order.

Hi Tom,

      I have received your videos 3 Days at the River + Mountain Meadows. Fantastic work!!! They are two of the best videos I have ever seen. You did a great job, and I can't wait until you do more.

Thank You,
Ted Barber

Dear Tom,

      I recently purchased two videos that you produced (3 Days at the River and Mountain Meadows). I guess because of my background, I more/less have the same philosophical approach to the learning and teaching of these skills - from that of a naturalist. As such, I extend to you "a job well done". I look forward to more of them.

Take Care.
Ray Vizgirdas
Fish and Wildlife Biologist

Volume Three
Mountain Lakes
a survival fishing trip

      With little more than a flint & steel kit and a copper drinking cup, Thomas J. Elpel and daughter Cassie trek five miles back into the Rocky Mountains for a few days of fishing, fun, and survival living. Among the spectacular lakes and mountain peaks, they demonstrate all of the skills required to meet their basic needs, including:

Shelter: Rock and log shelter with a fire.
Fire: Flint & Steel Kit + Making char cloth.
Water: Drinking from mountain streams.
Edible Plants: Wild onions and glacier lilies.
Meat: Mountain Suckers-fishing by hand, snagging by hook, plus fishing laws.
Cooking: Cooking fish on hot coals, plus steaming wild vegetables in a stone oven.
Tools: Tin can knives, plus forging the nail knife and making a pine bark pot.

Mountain Lakes.
ISBN: 1-892784-22-X. July 2003.
Full Version 104 Minutes. $25.00

Please scroll down the page to order.


      Just wanted to check and see when we can expect another "Art of Nothing" video. I have all the previous video's and I am anxiously awaiting future additions, which I certainly hope there will be. Your video's are definitely worth watching. I have watched them many times. Not only do you show a large range of skills but they are put together very well and are entertaining to watch. You do a fantastic job!!!!

Tim Dowling

      Hi. My husband ordered your videos and some books of yours. Now, I had no idea who you were, but he put the first video in and I watched it with him. I have to say, I enjoyed it and the other videos you put out. In fact, we've watched them several times. We laughed at how your daughter pulled out the lemon seasoning and how your reaction was pretty cool about it. You are a very calming person and it was interesting to learn what you had to teach. In fact, my husband enjoys that I request we watch the videos. He is very much into learning to live by the ancient ways and survival with what the land has to offer. We'd like to know when you'll be putting out more videos and books???? If you aren't planning on it, you should think about it again!

Andrea & Auric Gold

Volume Four
Canoe Camping
on a song and a paddle

      With two water bottles and a flute in their canoe, Thomas J. Elpel and intern Kris Reed go survival camping at the local lake. Amidst the abundant waterfowl, wildlife, and intermittent rain showers and thunderstorms, they camp for three days and two nights and demonstrate all of the skills required to meet their basic needs, including:

Shelter: Canoe lean-to, canoe coal bed.
Fire: Soda bottle puddle lens.
Water: Aromatic herbs to kill germs.
Edible Plants: Cattail shoots and pollen, orache, and desert currants.
Fungi: Giant horse mushroom.
Meat: Bull snake, figure 4 deadfall traps, soda bottle fishing pole.
Cooking: Steamed veggies and veggie wraps on a hot rock.
Clothing: Cattail visors.
Medicine: Mudscreen, cactus slime, willow toothbrush.

Filmed and edited by Zone 5 Pictures.
Canoe Camping DVD.
ISBN: 978-1-892784-24-7. July 2006.

(Released January 2007.)
Full Version 90 Minutes. $25.00


      I just watched your dvds and loved them! I plan to implement some of your methods and methodologies in my classes this summer. Thanks for taking the time to make them!

Jeff Butler
, Northwoods Survival

Order Direct from Thomas J. Elpel / HOPS Press, LLC
See the Package Discounts below for big savings!

Three Days at the River DVD.
Art of Nothing
Vol.1: 3 Days at the River


Mountain Meadows DVD.
Art of Nothing
Vol.2: Mountain Meadows


Mountain Lakes DVD.
Art of Nothing
Vol.3: Mountain Lakes


Canoe Camping DVD.
Art of Nothing
Vol.4: Canoe Camping


Package Discount
Art of Nothing Wilderness Survival Video Series.
- All Four Art of Nothing DVDs! -
Vol.1: 3 Days at the River
Vol. 2: Mountain Meadows
Vol. 3: Mountain Lakes
Vol. 4: Mountain Meadows

Total = $100.00
Your cost: $75.00

(Save $25.00!)
Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.
Participating in Nature

Shopping for birthdays, holidays, resale, or use in the classroom?
Click Here for Wholesale Orders


      I just wanted to write to let you know I received the DVDs. I have already watched all 4 dvds and love them all. I am thrilled with the info presented and know that I will learn a lot as I watch them over and over. I started all this late in life, but I suppose better late than never. I hope to pass this knowledge to my children and grandchildren.



I was wondering when/if you guys are planning on releasing another "Art of Nothing" survival video any time in the near future (within the next year or two). We just love the ones you've made, and hope you're working on another one!


Stef Frenzl

See also:
Classroom in the Woods DVD

Primitive Skills for Public Schools

Go to Books & Videos by Thomas J. Elpel.
Return to HOPS Press, LLC.

      Looking for life-changing resources? Check out these books by Thomas J. Elpel:

Green Prosperity: Quit Your Job, Live Your Dreams.
Roadmap to Reality: Consciousness, Worldviews, and the Blossoming of Human Spirit
to Reality
Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.
in Nature
Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
Foraging the
Mountain West
Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
in a Day
Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids

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