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Comment: CAMPING. 2002, Paperback, HOPS Press. Copy is in VERY nice shape, it really does look like it's never been used. Some mild shelf wear is the only sign of previous ownership. Pages are clean and bright, binding is firm, no markings in text. Perfect to bring along on the next Rugged Outdoorsman camping trip!
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Participating in Nature: Thomas J. Elpel's Field Guide to Primitive Living Skills Paperback – November 1, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Hops Pr; 5 edition (November 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1892784122
  • ISBN-13: 978-1892784124
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,834,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Any Scout leader should own a copy." -- Juneau Empire. Sunday, October 21, 2001

"If you want to get intimate with the Earth, grab Participating in Nature and head for the woods." -- Outside Bozeman. Bozeman, Montana. Vol. 1, No. 2. Winter 2000-2001

"Participating in Nature provides a strong, quiet, thoughtful view of contemporary living and man's place in his ecosystem." -- Ecology Action Newsletter. Willits, California. November 2002.

From the Publisher

A Positive Relationship with Nature

Our culture teaches us that we are separate from nature. We spend most of our lives in houses surrounded by manicured lawns, living in towns or cities where recrecational activies are based on human-centered sports. Nature is something we go to a park to see, or we watch a show about it on TV.

Those of us in the field of environmental education try to preach a different message, telling people that "all life is interconnected" and that "we really are part of nature". But in the next breath we tell them to stay on the trails and to practice "no-trace" camping. We tell them to look at nature and photograph it, but not to touch it. We tell them our modern way of life is destroying nature, and that we need to stop mucking up the planet. In other words, we tell them we are part of nature--the bad part!

Here at HOPS Press, LLC we advocate a positive interactive relationship with the natural world. We want people to get involved in nature, to be a part of the process on many levels:

Through Participating in Nature: Thomas J. Elpel's Field Guide to Primitive Living Skills and the Art of Nothing Wilderness Survival Video Series, you can experience an intimate connection with nature as you rediscover the skills our ancestors used to survive for tens of thousands of years. Instead of merely camping in the wilderness or passing through it, you will become part of the process as you learn about nature by using it to meet your needs for shelter, fire, water and food. Learn to set aside the trappings of modern culture and step directly into nature with little or nothing, to experience nature on its own terms.

With Tom's book Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification, you can connect with the wonderful diversity of plants and flowers all around you in a way that you may have never imagined. Instead of seeing the green world as little more than pretty wallpaper, you will learn to know the individual plants, wildflowers and weeds as if they have been your life-long friends. Our book Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids Ages 9-99 utilizes the same patterns method of identifying plants as Botany in a Day, but in a metaphorical story form where children of all ages can join young Shanleya on her journey to learn the plant traditions of her people.

In Living Homes: Integrated Design & Construction you will learn how to make your home part of nature, as well as how to make nature part of your home. Learn the secrets to building low-cost, high-efficiency homes with stone masonry, log-building and strawbale construction methods. With this book and Tom's Slipform Stone Masonry DVD/VHS Video you will be able to build your quality, earth-friendly Dream home on a budget, even while the "experts" say it isn't cost effective.

Finally, in Direct Pointing to Real Wealth: Thomas J. Elpel's Field Guide to Money, you will learn to see the economy as an ecosystem where money is a token that represents calories of energy. Learn the basic rules of this economic ecosystem and you will be empowered to use your resources to more effectively achieve your desired quality of life, while making the world a better place to be. You will be able help convert an economy that harms planetary biodiversity into an economy that helps restore it.

More About the Author

Thomas J. Elpel had the rare opportunity as a child to spend hundreds of hours with his grandmother Josie Jewett. Together they explored the hills and meadows near Virginia City, Montana, collecting herbs, looking for arrowheads and watching wildlife. Grandma Josie helped Tom to learn about native plants and their uses, igniting a passion for nature that has inspired him ever since. She also sparked his interest in survival skills.

Tom was born in Los Altos, California in 1967 to Edwin and Jeanette Elpel. Every summer the family traveled back to Montana to be close to the extended family. They spent much of that time with Grandma Josie. Tom's father died in 1979, and the following summer the family moved permanently back to Montana. Tom attended junior high and high school in Bozeman, Montana.

"All I ever wanted to do as a kid was to go to Grandma's house," Tom said. "When she moved from Virginia City to Pony, I followed her. Renee and I eventually bought land just a couple blocks from her place."

Tom's first serious exposure to wilderness survival skills began at the age of 16, when he went on a 26-day, 250-mile walkabout in the desert canyons of southern Utah with Boulder Outdoor Survival School. The following year he and Grandma Josie went together to Tom Brown's Tracker School in New Jersey. From there Tom spent thousands of hours practicing and developing survival skills in his "backyard" in the Rocky Mountains.

Tom met his sweetheart Renee in high school, where they both spent a lot of time in the art room. He asked her to go on a hike with him, and she said "no." But later Tom asked her again to go for a walk, and she said "okay." To Renee there was a big difference between a hike and a walk. Hiking didn't sound like much fun to her, but walking sounded good. In 1988, two years out of high school, they walked 500 miles together across Montana, starting in Pony, and ending at Fort Union on the North Dakota border. They were married in the Pony Park the following summer.

The couple bought a five-acre parcel in Pony, just two blocks distance from Grandma Josie's house. They moved into a tent and started building their dream home of stone and log. They both worked with troubled teens in wilderness therapy programs, so they commuted to Idaho, Utah, or Arizona for three-week trips, then came home to spend their money on building materials. (Be sure to read Tom's article Building a House on Limited Means for more details.)

Tom's desire to make a difference in the world started early, partly the result from watching too much news with Walter Chronkite as a child. By the time he entered junior high he was on a mission to change the world. Friends in high school said he would grow out of his idealism and learn to accept the world as it was, but so far that hasn't happened. (He hasn't exactly changed the world either, but he insists he is still working on it.)

In an effort to tackle the issues of making a living while making the world a better place, Tom wrote his first book (more of a booklet) in 1991, which evolved over the years into Direct Pointing to Real Wealth. He has always written about subjects he wanted to learn and developed professionalism by writing, reflecting, revising, and republishing. He typically publishes four or five draft editions in comb-bound format before printing with a conventional paperback binding for the mass market. Along the way he started his own publishing company, HOPS Press, LLC, and created a successful internet bookstore.

In 1991 Tom also founded Hollowtop Outdoor Primitive School (HOPS) and has been giving classes on everything from Stone-Age living to stone masonry ever since. His basic philosophy is that the wilderness survival skills are useful to connect with nature, but you shouldn't run away from the problems of modern society. Instead, we need to apply the lessons and spirit of living close to nature towards the quest to solve our worldly problems.

"Experts and lay persons alike bemoan the difficulty of creating a sustainable lifestyle, but it really isn't that hard." Tom said. "Renee and I had less money and less skills than a lot of people, but we built an energy-efficient passive solar home, and we now generate our own electricity with solar panels. Sustainability isn't that difficult, you just have to stay focused on the goal."

Tom and Renee Elpel adopted three children, Felicia, Cassie, and Donny in 1996. Edwin was born to them in 2001. The family has been on many great adventures together, exploring the world by canoe, by car, or occasionally by bus and train. Tom has continued to passionately pursue his writing career no matter what other distractions there might be, learning to focus even through a parade of kids marching back and forth through his office.

In 2001 Tom founded Jefferson River Canoe Trail Association (originally named 3Rivers Park) to help sustain Montana's traditions of open space and open access along the Jefferson River segment of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

The publishing business and internet bookstore took over Tom and Renee's house room by room, until they bought Granny's Country Store in 2003. Although the store is an hour away from Pony, there is a house built into the store, so they migrate back and forth between the two places. The property at Granny's Country Store included enough room to launch Green University, LLC, which is Tom's latest endeavor to make real and lasting change in the world.

Tom's grandmother died in 2004 at the age of 89. Her love for nature continues to inspire Tom every day. Although he is insanely busy, getting out into nature remains a high priority, and he continues to hone his wilderness survival and awareness skills.

Customer Reviews

What the does convey he does in a very easy to understand and entertaining way.
T.A.L. Dozer
It is a book written for the average worker who wants to get away from it all or the family that wants to do something special together.
Elizabeth Laden
There are many great books on Primitive Outdoor Living Skills or what some call Wilderness Survival Skills.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Laden on January 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
Ever wonder how to start a fire with a bowdrill, weave a basket, build a stone oven, blow a coal-burned cup, or make reliable and comfortable shoes? Which plants are edible or medicinal, and what material makes the best bows and arrows? I've thought about these things and others, never really dwelling on them for long. None of these were on my list of things to learn to do for 2001Ñbut they should have been. I moved to the country to be closer to nature and to be more a part of it, and it's about time. So where do we start?
Take a beautiful quiet morning, before sunrise. Sit on a peaceful overlook with a view that you know will be breathtaking once the morning light touches it. Watch the stars shine until they fade into the half-light. Feel the dew on the grass and in the air. Listen to the day birds begin their chorus. Notice the smells that waft by on a soft breeze. Watch the animals begin or end their regular rituals as the morning breaks. Write a book.
This is how Pony, Montana resident Thomas J. Elpel wrote Participating in Nature. It begins before daybreak, and is written so that as you grow in understanding of many things natural, a day unfolds and runs its course. By evening, near the end of the book, you have learned how to do several things, and why.
This is not a survival book written for guerillas, though they might find it very useful. It is a book written for the average worker who wants to get away from it all or the family that wants to do something special together. It's those who want to learn something new, a new way of doing something old, or enrich their relationship with nature. It's a must-read for anyone who is interested in doing something on a personal level to help maintain and restore Earth.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By David Alloway on May 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a survival instructor and naturalist for one of the largest state parks in the US (420 square miles) I was very impressed by PARTICIPATING IN NATURE. Elpel has some wonderful insights not only into primitive technologies, but also on people's roles in ecosystems, the human race's responsibility for our environment, and applications of primitive technologies in current times. This is more than an anthropological review or a crafts book. Elpel shares personal insights that inspire others to live with nature.
The title says it all. Elpel encourages the reader to participate in nature, to be at home in natural surroundings and to take an active and responsible role. While most of my courses are taught in deserts in the US, Mexico, and Australia, the philosophy of this book, using the Northern Rockies as a large part of its setting, is the same. As a published author on wilderness survival, I highly recommend this book.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By JBlend on March 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
There are many great books on Primitive Outdoor Living Skills or what some call Wilderness Survival Skills. Elpel's book is no exception. It is wonderfully original not only because it contains unique skills not found in other books, but it also includes insights on our role as humans in the greater ecology of the planet.
Along with fire making and shelter building techniques, among others, the reader is given some insight into minimizing their impact on the land and blending in with the immediate landscape. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the book is the emphasis on being flexible with one's specific environment. For example, some types of primitive shelters are clearly better suited for wetland environments than up high in Alpine meadows. This book, rather than simply give instructions for different skills, gives the reader a systematic way to think about how to get what they need in a diverse set of circumstances. It also emphasizes ways to minimize the work involved for various tasks, so that one can spend more time enjoying and exploring their surroundings (e.g. identifying plants, writing, napping).
On a final note, I would recommend using this book in conjunction with other Primitive Outdoor Skills books for a unique look at this growing interest among outdoor lovers.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Milivica on February 6, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow, this book is for someone who wants a little more nature than I could handle! I'm very glad the deer gutting is in black and white - I am still a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information in the book. Haven't read it cover to cover yet, but can see why it's getting such high ratings.

I'm not about to go into the deep woods or mountains, gut deers and make my own purified water....but I sure think it would be major fun, making our own fire and some ash cakes in the back yard.

My kids are in Scouts, as well as 4-H and Special Olympics....I can see MANY things in this book that could be used, especially in the Scouts, for the kids to learn and have fun - my favorite way - HANDS ON.

I don't think the book should suffer less than 5 stars from me just because it's bursting with so much information I had a mild nature overdose while reading. I'd absolutely rather have so much info I might not use it all, than the other way around. I don't think it would be possible for me to ever 'outgrow' all the info in this book. So a solid ***** five stars.
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