How to Get Started

How to Get Started -

See also: Why would I want to learn sustainable living and wilderness survival skills?  

NOTE: If you are looking for the first information to learn on how to survive if you are lost in the wilderness, see Survival Essentials: How To Survive In The Wilderness.

NOTE ALSO: If you are looking for how to get started with what to do when the global economy crashes (or if you live in one of the countries where the economy has crashed already), see What To Do About the Upcoming Economic Crash.

The best way to get started is to find something that you are genuinely interested in, and focus on that at first. As you do that, you will find yourself becoming interested in other things that are related, and then you will probably want to learn about those too.

What Kinds of Things?

Pick just one thing (or at most a couple of things) from the list below that you like the idea of learning about — especially about how to do it without relying on much in the way of modern, fossil-fuel-based technology. Then continue on with the rest of this page after the list.

If you don't find anything that you feel interested in, go to the Inspiration Section of the website and have a browse through what you find there. If you find something there that grabs your attention, come back to this page.

  • Just being out in nature.
  • Growing some of your own food and/or helping with producing food locally (on your property or nearby).
  • Keeping animals/livestock such as chickens, ducks, goats, bees, etc.
  • Basic human needs, learning just the basics of one or more basic/essential needs.
  • Learning how to secure (by taking more control of) your food supply, water, shelter, heating, defence, and medical care.
  • Knowledge of animals and plants, like people had in days of old. This could be just one area such as birds, mammals, reptiles, wild food plants, vegetables, animals suitable for small domestic farms, etc. Start with the animals/plants that are found in your own area.
  • An interest in one type of bird, mammal, reptile, etc. For example you might like owls, or frogs, or goats, or snakes, or parrot-type birds, or possums...
  • Bushwalking, camping, etc.
  • A feeling of happiness, peace, harmony and a powerful sense of belonging when you are out in nature. Wilderness Awareness and the “wilderness mind”.
  • Preparing and maintaining your body — health and physical fitness.
  • Access to information on how to do things — this is pretty easy in the “information age” of the modern world, with access to the internet and a postal service.
  • Having a locally available water supply (such as a home water tank).
  • Defence, especially self-defence.
  • Medical, including survival medicine and low-tech medicine.
  • Nutrition and health, especially natural health.
  • Spirituality and Religion.
  • How to store food.
  • More permanent types of currency such as gold and precious stones.
  • Ways of storing non-monetary wealth, for example small tradeable items such as knives and hand tools.
  • Storing seeds that can be re-planted (unlike almost all commercially sold seeds today).
  • Maintaining the quality (fertility) of your soil, which is the basis of all land-based life, and all of our (non-seafood) food that is not grown with petrochemicals.
  • Hunting and gathering, especially including "primitive" low-tech hunting techniques. Archery.
  • Shelters for extreme weather, bombs, nuclear radiation and bio-hazards.
  • Keeping a stock of parts that will wear out such as tap washers.
  • Having a local electricity supply (such as solar cells).
  • Having a local means of heating (such as a wood combustion stove and a supply of wood).
  • A debt reduction/elimination plan.
  • Learning to read the sky and to navigate, how to find direction and not get lost.
  • Joining clubs and organisations such as gardening or permaculture groups, survival or hunting clubs.
  • Social skills that would be useful in a low-tech lifestyle.
  • Non-urban social connections/friendships — such as getting to know people in rural areas, with farming skills and so on.
  • “Survivalist” skills and knowledge, for example storing food (tinned food and so on).
  • Permaculture.
  • Sustainablility.
  • Moving to (or visiting or holidaying in) a new area that would be more suitable for a low-tech lifestyle (perhaps even a different country).
  • Preparing your home for self sufficiency — for example, a rainwater tank, fertile land for vegetables, a dam, tools and equipment, pots to grow things in, seeds (most seeds can be stored for 2-5 years before they are too old to germinate).
  • Staying on the lookout for world changes, keeping up to date with the broad themes, without getting bogged down in too much details that rapidly become unnecessary or outdated.
  • Just being outside in nature.

Actually Doing Stuff

The main idea is to be actually doing stuff, on a regular and consistent basis. And within a narrow enough area so as to eventually become proficient in what you are doing - but not so narrow as to become bored or disinterested, or to feel that what you are learning is trivial and insignificant.

Determining what actual tasks will satisfy these requirements will no doubt be a matter of some trial and error, and fine tuning of the list of individual tasks/goals/expectations, and this will be done as I go. To start with, I will focus on the four areas of fire, cordage, plant foods and animal foods, and see how much I can actually do in these areas. Regular, consistent practice, just a little at a time, is the number one mandate. I am thinking something like 30 minutes, perhaps one hour, a few days a week, more if I feel like it at the time. Even as little as 10 minutes a day, even 30 minutes a week—of actual practice—can bring much more benefit than you may at first think. Of course, if you are thinking of actually trying this yourself, the time you spend will depend on your own level of interest and your other commitments.

The key idea is to be actually doing real, practical things, on a regular basis.

Tools and Equipment

The beauty of "self-sufficiency" is that you just do not need a lot of stuff. Ultimately, the goal is to be able to do a whole lot of things with almost no stuff at all. That is, most (or even all) of the raw materials will come from nature, in your local environment. However, to begin with, it will be easier to learn the skills with the aid of some simple tools and equipment. How far you may wish to take this is up to you, I will describe what I am using and you could use that as an example to get you started.

Tools for primitive technology practiceHere are the tools with which I began this website, learning survival skills and making things. As you can see there are not many.

For the gardening/permacultre section you would need some basic garden tools, which I will write more about elsewhere. Here too there are really not that many things that you need to get started with.

From left to right: metal match with plastic file handle (see fire section), old "bread and butter" knife, 3/4 inch chisel, pocketknife, Swiss army knife ("Huntsman" model). If I was buying a chisel just for this kind of work, I would probably get a wider one, perhaps 1 inch. The pocketknife cost about $30 from a disposals store, and has a locking blade, which is a very useful feature. A non-locking blade on a folding knife can close on you while you are using it, the sharp edge of the blade will then be aimed at your fingers. I have a couple of small scars on my right index finger from this happening to me when I was about 10 years old. The Swiss army knife has a saw blade, which is very useful. If I was buying a new swiss army knife, I would get one with both a saw blade and a locking knife blade (mine has a non-locking blade).

You Don't Need to Go Anywhere

You can practice a lot of skills at home, without going anywhere. You don't need to own acres in the country, or live right next to native bushland.

The learning and practice of most primitive skills can be done in your backyard, garage, basement, even living room (depending on the wife or husband). You CAN become proficient in them without ever venturing beyond these bounds. And in ever in a primitive situation, either by choice or chance, though you will feel that the application is not as easy as your backyard, you will still have the understanding and "feel" of the basic functions, the confidence that you know how to apply the various methods and you will own that special feeling of freedom that comes from knowing that you need depend on no other man.

John and Geri McPherson, Naked Into the Wilderness, p60.

Reading about survival skills is never enough. The mastery of any art comes only through practice. Don't wait for a crisis to begin developing your survival skills. Start right in your own living room or basement, using materials found in local parks or your own backyard. Each skill mastered will add to your reservoir of confidence, making your emotional and mental adjustments much easier in a real survival situation..... Practice whenever you can.

Tom Brown Jr., Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival, p11.

The Hardest Part

With any new activity, often the most difficult thing is knowing where to begin. (That is why I have made this whole website, to give ideas on where and how to begin). And just to actually begin.

Also, I have found that what I am doing can feel very insignificant, when you start to actually do things. You realise how little you really know, and you think about how much more others know. It is very easy to feel like an idiot.

I have found that the most likely time to give up on something is when I don't know what to do next. So, to prevent this, always have a list of two or three things to do next. Or five things, or ten - try and always have something that you can go on with, that is clearly defined, so that you are never in a position where you can't think of anything to practice on any given day.

I have found that if you have a few different things that you could work on, you are much less likely to ge bored. When you feel that you are stuck on something, there are days when you feel like just making it work, whatever it takes, and days when you really couldn't be bothered. If you have a few different tasks lined up, some easy, and some that you may be stuck on, the idea is that you will always have something to work on, that you feel like working on.

So do not feel despondent if you feel as if you do not know where to go from here. In not knowing, you have already taken the first step in the right direction—you have opened yourself to finding out, to learning. In being open you cannot help but to learn, and every new insight, every new bit of experience gained, will lead you one step further, and that step in its turn will reveal the next step, and so on. Just start. How you start is not important. And above all, remember that understanding is only for fools who are too lazy to want to learn. Understanding means the ability to grasp information imparted. But it is not information you are needing here. It is knowledge you need, and knowledge can only be gained through practical experience.

Theun Mares, The Toltec Teachings - Volume III, p294.

How to Really Get Started

If you are serious about this, write down a few (say two to five) things that you could actually do, that you could start as soon as you stop reading this website. Or maybe later today, or within a few days, depending on your own schedule. The important thing is to have a small number of tasks on hand, and to actually do something towards them, and to do it now, today, or relatively soon.

What kinds of tasks?

What I did was to break things down into my four chosen areas of fire, cordage, plant foods and animal foods. You could pick other areas, these are just what I think are the most important to learn first, and what I will be writing the most about on this website. I got four blank A4 pieces of paper, one for each area, and wrote the heading at the top. Then I thought about what small, individual things I could do to gain some practice in each area, that would allow me to gradually make progress with my level of skill.

To begin with, you will need some information, before you can actually practice the skills. So, the first thing to write on your task list would be something like, "Look for where to find information on making fire without modern tools", or, "Look for where to find information on plant foods/bush tucker". You can (when I add them to the website, that is....) see examples of my own beginning lists on the site map page.


All of the information on this website is offered with the assumption that you and others will exercise proper caution and care in doing any of the things that are presented on this site. YOU, and ONLY YOU, are responsible for the use to which you put this material.

Some activities related to wilderness survival and self sufficiency can be dangerous if done without proper care and attention. Please be careful and attentive when engaging in any of these activities. Use common sense. Take proper precautions.

Some of the techniques shown on this website are meant solely for use in wilderness survival situations. Please note that in most places it is illegal to use these methods to capture animals unless you are actually in a survival situation. It is similarly illegal to "harvest" or otherwise disturb native plants in many locations, including within the boundaries of national parks.

Warning - Edible Weeds WARNING: Never eat plants that are growing in an area where they may have been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides (weed killers), or where the water supply to the area could be polluted, such as from urban or industrial run-off. Never eat any part of any wild growing plant unless you are certain you can identify it. Being certain means you have developed a maturity of skill in identifying plants. It does not mean you are pretty sure it looks just like "that plant you saw once on some website".

Cover image by Shutterstock

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