Come get in touch... with your wild side!

Books and Videos by Thomas J. Elpel

Classroom in the Woods

Primitive Skills for Public Schools

DVD with Thomas J. Elpel

and the Harrison Junior High Kids

Classroom in the Woods demonstrates the power and promise of hands-on, immersive experiences to put kids in touch with the real world. Join Thomas J. Elpel and a class of junior high students for three days and two nights of hands-on wilderness survival and primitive skills experience.


Leaving textbooks behind, kids eagerly build a shelter, forage for wild edible plants, make a bow and drill fire set, stalk and observe wildlife, and bake bread in a stone oven. Students create fire from wood, then use that fire to shape bowls and spoons and cook their food. In the process, they learn about themselves, building self-confidence, problem-solving skills, teamwork, and attunement to their surroundings.  Price: $25.00

Participating in Nature

Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills

by Thomas J. Elpel

Get in touch with your wild side! Learn about nature by participating in it. Instead of merely camping in the wilderness or passing through it, you can become part of the process. Learn about nature by using it to meet your needs for shelter, fire, water, and food.


Discover the thrill of staying warm and comfortable without even a blanket! Experience the magic of starting a fire by friction. Butcher your own deer and braintan its hide to make warm clothing. Learn about edible plants, plus processing techniques and “primitive gourmet” skills like making wild strawberry ashcake pies or stir-fry cooking without a pan.


This book is the source for in depth coverage of tire sandals, bedroll packs and pack frames, felting with wool, quick bows and bone arrowheads, sinews, hide glue, trapping, fishing by hand, water purification, birch bark canisters, willow baskets, primitive pottery, wooden containers, cordage, twig deer, stalking skills, simple stone knives, flint & steel, bowdrill and handdrill fire-starting. Price: $30.00

The Art of Nothing

Wilderness Survival Video Series

DVDs with Thomas J. Elpel and special guests

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.


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.


Volume One

Three Days at the River

with nothing but our bare hands

$25.00




Volume Two

Mountain Meadows

camping with almost nothing but the dog

$25.00




Volume Three

Mountain Lakes

a survival fishing trip

$25.00




Volume Four

Canoe Camping

on a song and a paddle

$25.00




All Four DVDs!

Order all four DVDs together and save $25.00. Total price = $75.00

Foraging the Mountain West

Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat


By Thomas J. Elpel and Kris Reed


There's food in them thar hills! There is also food in the valleys, meadows, swamps, and all around town, too... maybe even in your own backyard. Foraging the Mountain West is a guide to harvesting and celebrating nature's abundance. Reach out and explore the world with your taste buds. Discover new delights you will never find at the store. Connect with nature on a deeper level by meeting, greeting, and eating the plants, fungi, and creatures that share the neighborhood. Become a little more self-sufficient, and a lot more aware.

Foraging the Mountain West is a hands-on manual for identifying, harvesting, and preparing real food. It is written for the backpacker who would rather bring more knowledge and fewer provisions into the wilderness. It is intended for the happy homemaker who wants to eat well and spend less. It is ideal for the creative chef who wants to explore new ingredients and impress diners with novel dishes.

The authors brought together years of experience and fun to show you, the prospective forager, what, when, where, why, and how to gather wild and feral plants, mushrooms, and neglected wayside crops. In addition, this is a guide for successful fishing without a pole, hunting without weapons, and even shopping without money. This book will help you fill your freezer and satiate your appetite.

Foraging the Mountain West will help you dream in winter, cleanse in spring, forage in summer, and gorge in fall. The book includes more than 600 vivid color photos detailing every essential aspect of foraging. This guide is not meant to sit on your coffee table. It is meant to start a revolution!

Field guide format: 6 x 9 inches. 338 pages. $30.

Botany in a Day

The Patterns Method of Plant Identification

by Thomas J. Elpel

Botany in a Day is changing the way people learn about plants! Tom's book has gained a nationwide audience almost exclusively by word-of-mouth. It is now used as a text at universities and high schools as well as herbal and wilderness schools across North America. Instead of presenting individual plants, Botany in a Day unveils the patterns of identification and uses among related plants, giving readers simple tools to rapidly unlock the mysteries of the new species they encounter throughout the continent.


Too often people try to identify plants one-at-a-time, without rhyme or reason. Now you can cut years off the process of learning about plants and their uses. Tom's book helps you beyond the piece-meal approach to botany and herbalism towards a more "whole" approach. Within 1 1/2 hours you can understand the big-picture of botany and herbalism. Learn how related plants have similar features for identification. Discover how they often have similar properties and similar uses.



Tom's book takes you beyond the details towards a greater understanding of the patterns among plants. By mid-morning you can be in the field, matching flowers to the patterns in the book. Instead of learning plants one-at-a-time you will discover that you can learn them by the dozens--just by looking for patterns. Price: $30.00

Shanleya’s Quest

A Botany Adventure for Kids Ages 9 to 99

by Thomas J. Elpel, illustrated by Gloria Brown

In a mythical world where time is a liquid that falls as rain upon the land, young Shanleya paddles her canoe out to the "Tree Islands" to learn the plant traditions of her people. Each island is home to a separate family of plants and an unforgettable Guardian with lessons to teach about the identification and uses of those plants.


Shanleya's Quest is a truly unique educational book that presents botanical concepts and plant identification skills in an easy and fun metaphorical format for children as well as for adults who are young at heart.


The book begins with a creation myth that parallels evolutionary concepts, where life begins as bubbles in a puddle of soup under the radiance of Father Sun and the gentle glow of Mother Moon. The evolutionary tree of life becomes a literal part of the story, buried up to its branch-tips (the "islands") in an ocean of Time that just keeps getting deeper and deeper. This is the world that Shanleya explores by canoe, learning the essential characteristics of closely related plants on each island she visits.


Readers young and old can join Shanleya's Quest, learning the patterns to correctly identify more than 45,000 species of plants to their proper families. The Quest will change the way you see the world, enabling you to experience nature in a new and magical way that you probably never imagined possible!  Cost:  $15.00

Shanleya’s Quest

Patterns in Plants Card Game

by Thomas J. Elpel, illustrated by Gloria Brown

Photos by Thomas J. Elpel and Mary Ellen Harte

Read the book. Play the game! The Patterns in Plants Card Game is a fun way to test your skills at identifying the family patterns described in Shanleya's Quest. Learn to see the patterns in the game. Then you will be able to recognize them in the real world!

Many different plant identification games are possible with this deck of cards. Please click here for game ideas and rules. You are also welcome to submit your own games! ISBN: 1-892784-23-8 March 2006. $15.00.

Test Yourself: Print out Shanleya's Plant Patterns Quiz. Take the test, then check your work with the Answer Sheet.

Package Discount: Order the Shanleya’s Quest book and card game together and save $5.00. Total price = $25.00

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