We are a wilderness skills school (website, Facebook, and Youtube) that teaches primitive skills, bushcraft, wilderness survival, self-reliance and traditional living skills.

Here is some proof!

To give you an idea of specific things we teach at our school, some of our upcoming courses are:

  • Campground Cooking: Dutch Ovens, Griddles, Skillets & More
  • Primitive Traps: Deadfalls & Snares Simplified
  • Tracking: Learning the Basics
  • Stalking & the Art of Natural Camouflage
  • Dead Space: Invisible in Plain Sight
  • Primitive Fishing Techniques
  • Survival Skills 101: How to Not Die
  • Medicinal Plants: Healing with Nature's Own Pharmacy

You can see a list of our upcoming workshops with pictures and information here.

For those of you near New Jersey, we also have a free Open Skills Night on the third Wednesday of each month. Our next one is on July 16th, when we’ll be coal-roasting fresh, tasty corn, so please come join us and enjoy! http://www.practicalprimitive.com/openskills.html

There are five of us here right now: Eddie & Julie (instructors), Andrew (former intern), Boomer (dog), and Bob and Oliver (goats).

Ask us anything!

-EDIT- That's all we've got for now! Thanks for the interest and questions, we hope you learned something useful! Take care and stay safe!

Comments: 96 • Responses: 28  • Date: 

NorbitGorbit12 karma

what's the most efficient way to signal for a rescue using fire? (i suspect starting a huge forest fire would certainly bring attention but it would be difficult to locate you among a huge blaze)

practicalprimitive13 karma

Smoke can be seen much farther distances than flames. Get a good fire going, then add a bunch of green or wet material to create smoke! DON'T START A FOREST FIRE!! You don't want to be "that guy" or "that girl". :)

Shifty_Drifter8 karma


practicalprimitive10 karma

Andrew: None, because animal skulls have lots of holes! :)

Delithia6 karma

What is the easiest method to start a fire? What's is the most important part in building a fire for survival? And lastly, wouldn't foraging for edible plants be highly regionalized?

practicalprimitive4 karma

The easiest method to start a fire is with a lighter! We both carry them in our pockets at all times. If you’re talking about friction fire, bow drill is usually the fastest method for most people to learn.

The most important part of building a fire for survival is to remember the fire triangle. Most people don’t use nearly enough tinder, and most people don’t usually allow nearly enough oxygen to get into their structure. Gather as much tinder as you think you’re going to need, then double, then double it again. Also, make sure everything is dry, dry, DRY!

Wild plants aren’t regionalized nearly as much as you think. Many plants grow in multiple regions all across the US and in other countries. In fact, many of the most commonly-known plants in the US were brought here by immigrant settlers. I’ve found the same plants here in New Jersey as I have in Texas, the deserts of Arizona, rain forests in Oregon, and in Ontario and New Brunswick. Some plants are region-specific, but there are plenty that can be found all over the world.

PureApeshit3 karma

i live in the wild all the time, biggest problem - mosquitos and ticks and other agro insects, what i can do, is there some plant which makes them go away, buying any chemical insecticide is not an option?

practicalprimitive3 karma

For mosquitos, two of the best natural repellants are catnip and thyme. Both are more effective than DEET, and they’re easy to grow anywhere.

For ticks, check, check, check - at least twice a day, every day! To help keep the tick population down in your area, you can check out our article on making tick tubes, which are simple to make, targeted, and effective.

[deleted]3 karma

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon?

practicalprimitive1 karma

Well, we would have, if "blue corn moon" was a real thing. :P Usually around here we get more barred owl hooting and goat bleating!

nitroswingfish2 karma

What are some of the skills that people lack that surprise you most? What do people pickup quickly that you'd think would take longer?

practicalprimitive3 karma

What are some of the skills that people lack that surprise you most?

A lack of basic awareness is surprisingly common for most people. Also, a lot of common skills that were a given when we were growing up are no longer well-known: food preservation, baking, even basic cooking skills!

What do people pickup quickly that you'd think would take longer?

Most people are surprised by how quickly they learn to make fire. They think it's a lot harder than it is, especially making fire by friction.

bealongstride2 karma

How can I get a fire started if all the kindling is wet?

practicalprimitive2 karma

You can't. Water doesn't burn. That being said, there's almost always something to be found that's dry, you just have to know where to look for it or how to get at it.

Penguinswin32 karma

Hey there! I made a fire by friction, teaching myself at Boy Scout camp last year. Do you have any cool tips and tricks about this that U could pass on the other people trying this (tiring and hard) feat?

practicalprimitive5 karma

Definitely! We just so happen to have two useful Youtube videos, one on making the perfect bowdrill notch and one on proper bowdrill form. We also have step-by-step instructions on an easy way to string your bow that doesn't require any knots as well as making the perfect tinder bundle.

-EDIT- Andrew: Proper form is so important. Most friction fire methods shouldn't be tiring or hard!

lmtz19622 karma

I suspect it would be better to have a dog in a survival situation, than not to. Any particular breed you think might be optimal?

practicalprimitive6 karma

I don’t think that there is any breed that is better than another. Dogs are amazing animals, each with their own incredible qualities. The best dog to have with you in any situation is one with which you share a bond of mutual respect.

PoorSamPeabody2 karma

thanks for doing this AMA. I have been a great fan of Tom Brown for years and have a fair amount of experience in survival techniques and edible/medinals, and foraging in general.

I just started honing my tracking skills last year. I recently moved to a 20ac parcel of land in Ontario. The parcel runs through a corridor that runs up to one of the largest wetlands in the Province. It goes without saying, that there is plenty of activity in my backyard.

Over the past year, I've learnt so much by going out and finding a track - twig snaps, snared fur, soil imprints, disturbed vegetation. One day, I was tracking a deer and ended up doubling up on my tracks, found out she was watching me :)

I'm hoping you can impart any practical advice on tracking. I haven't quite found my AHA! moment, where it all clicks, but I feel like I am getting close.

thanks again!

edit i have to ask a question, apparently.

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any tracking advice?

practicalprimitive1 karma

Tracking is all about awareness. A track is simply something that is different from everything else around it. Go slow, look low, and remember: everything you know about tracking is in the last track you can see. Everything you have to learn is in the one after that.

We’ll be teaching in Toronto in October. Come on out if you can!

holycrapitsandy2 karma

How long do your courses typically last? Thank you for doing this AMA.

practicalprimitive2 karma

It’s our pleasure, thank you!

We offer one, two and three-day weekend workshops that usually run from about 9 am - 6 pm each day. We also offer Intensive Skills programs like the World of the Hunter-Gatherer in which students meet one weekend a month for 4-6 months. And recently we began our Feral Human Residential Program, which is a full-time, immersive program.

We try to offer something for everybody!

andrew_balls1 karma

Can you give some more details on the new Feral Human Residential Program? I wasn't able to find anything about it on the website. Thanks!

practicalprimitive2 karma

Here's the link for the Feral Human Program.

Andrew: I did the program for several months and can't wait to come back! The residential students get to participate in every course that's offered and receive one-on-one mentoring from Eddie and Julie on a daily basis. I highly recommend it; my skills increased a ton and I had a blast! :)

Supermansadak1 karma

Would the average person survive in the woods alone for a couple of days?

practicalprimitive3 karma

Depends on the time of year, how smart they are, how lucky they get, and a whole lot of other factors!

There are some people who don't survive the night because they make poor decisions, and others who survive for weeks or more when everything seems to be working against them.

It's all about the rule of threes, staying warm and hydrated, staying put....and not trying to do things you've seen on survival shows! Those things often make the difference in an emergency.

CompostThisPost1 karma

Do you offer instruction on foraging local mushrooms? I am very much interested in it.

practicalprimitive1 karma

We generally stick to plants, because we don't have a large mushroom population here on our property. They are also very unpredictable in where or when they will grow, so it makes it hard to schedule a workshop six months in advance! There are lots of great local groups. Google your state and "mycological society" or "mycological association" and you should be able to find something.

hmongkahuna1 karma

Could Ray Mears realistically survive out there in the wild? He doesn't seem very fit...

practicalprimitive3 karma

I've never met Ray, so I couldn't say, but overall fitness level is a poor indicator of skill level. Just because you're fit doesn't mean you have skills.

dustballer1 karma

I don't make it to new jersey ever. Do you have any book recommendations?

What in your opinion is the best survival tv show?

practicalprimitive1 karma

We've got our favorite books listed on our website here.

As for the best survival TV show: good survival makes for bad television. Don't be fooled by TV magic.

theoriginaldinosaur1 karma

What's something that's really useful, but easy to learn in your course?

practicalprimitive3 karma

Everything! None of this is hard to learn - it's just a matter of how much time, effort and energy.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the most important skill is learning to be aware of what's going on around you.

trulyconfusing1 karma

What is your favorite animal to track, and what is the most dangerous situation you have gotten in while tracking?

practicalprimitive2 karma

Big ones! Not sure if we have favorites...they all teach you something. But we do have fun tracking the black bears and foxes that roams around here.

sithlordmoore1 karma

Do you know any courses like this in Utah?

If not is there any online resources you would recommend for learning more about wild mushrooms?

practicalprimitive2 karma

Check out my friend Kevin Reeve's school, OnPoint Tactical, in St. George, UT.

Preyfang1 karma

Are you looking at expanding your programs to other states? I'm interested, but not flying out there, lol!

practicalprimitive1 karma

No, but we do travel to other places to teach regularly. See our reply to a similar question here.

meesta_masa1 karma

What is the biggest reason for people joining up? Is it the Zombie apocalypse, recession etc or just plain curiosity? Also, how accurate is Mel Brooks in his books?

practicalprimitive9 karma

Good question! People come to workshops for all sorts of reasons. We don’t have an apocalyptic view on the future - we consider ourselves apocaloptimists!

A lot of people feel very disconnected from nature and want to find that connection. Some people are curious about how our ancestors lived. Some people want to become more self-reliant. Others want to learn more about the world around them and become more a part of nature than apart from nature.

SanchoPandas1 karma

What are some of the less obvious items on your short list of must haves for survival?

practicalprimitive4 karma

The things we always carry with us every day are:

  • pocket knife
  • whistle
  • flashlight
  • lighter wrapped with duct tape

The duct tape can be used for all sorts of things, from sticking ticks to closing wounds to making cordage. Somebody else asked about tinder; one of the less-obvious items we carry is a small container with vaseline-soaked cotton balls. They make fantastic tinder and can be lit with a ferro striker or added to your tinder bundle. One cotton ball will burn for five to ten minutes.

Other things people don’t often think about bringing:

  • a pair of reading glasses or fresnel lens (for fire-making and magnification)
  • tweezers (ticks, splinters, etc.)
  • plastic mirror (to check for ticks and see wounds in hard-to-see places and signal for help)

Tamazerd1 karma

What is the first and most important skill you teach everyone? Witch one of your basic skills seems to be the hardest to master? Have you ever removed a skill from a programe because to few students would manage to learn it? If so, what was it? What kind of knife/axe would you recommend for someone who wants to survive in the wild? Survival gear seems to be quite popular now days. Is there any item that many seem to not have in their kits or miss to understand it's importance?

practicalprimitive2 karma

What is the first and most important skill you teach everyone?

Awareness is the fundamental skill behind every other skill. Teaching people to be consciously aware of their surroundings is vital to everything else that we do.

Witch one of your basic skills seems to be the hardest to master?

People have a misconception that these skills are fundamentally difficult. You have to remember that our ancestors made their living with these skills: they lived or died by them. If something took too much time, or was too difficult, or took too many calories, they found a better way to do it.

None of these skills are difficult; they take time, effort and energy to learn, but anyone can do them. We break things down into their fundamental principles so that you know not only how to do something, but also why it is or isn’t working for you.

Have you ever removed a skill from a programe because to few students would manage to learn it? If so, what was it?

No, we haven’t.

What kind of knife/axe would you recommend for someone who wants to survive in the wild?

Whatever you’ve got with you is the best one, but this is the one we’ve designed.

Survival gear seems to be quite popular now days. Is there any item that many seem to not have in their kits or miss to understand it's importance?

Knowledge is the lightest gear you can carry. Take care of your basic necessities of shelter, water, and fire.

lazysailor0 karma

This is really great, I think you're teaching valuable skills, and you're in New Jersey? Perfect when I get back to the area I'll try to enroll in some programs. Thanks for all you're doing!

practicalprimitive2 karma

That's great, we're looking forward to meeting you! Don't forget about our free Open Skills Night open house the third Wednesday of each month; the next one is coming up July 16th.

GhettoSpaghettios0 karma

Do you have multiple locations?

practicalprimitive3 karma

Our school is located in Great Meadows, New Jersey, but we often travel to other places to teach. We have a Skills 2 You program where, if you have a group of people who want to learn, we will travel to your location rather than have you come to us.

GhettoSpaghettios1 karma

That's great! Thanks for the reply!

practicalprimitive2 karma

Thank you! :)

jrlmets0 karma

If an apocalypse happened and only a small percentage of humans were left on earth, do you think the average person would have enough skills to survive in the wild?

practicalprimitive6 karma

No…most people don’t have sufficient skills to survive out of the wild, let alone in the wild!

PaladinSato0 karma

Can you tell me about your backgrounds? Where did you learn this? Do each of you specialize in a different topic?

practicalprimitive1 karma

Eddie: Well, to make a long story very short, my dad was an avid outdoorsman and hunter and fisherman, so I was outdoors from a very early age. I’ve been hunting and fishing all my life, then got to the point when I wanted to learn to shoot a bow and arrow, then make my own arrows, then make my own bows, then make my own stone points. It’s been an evolutionary process over the last 40+ years. Basically, the further down the rabbit hole you go, the deeper and wide it gets. There’s always something more to learn. I’ve been teaching and learning primitive and survival skills full time for almost 20 years. This is what I do; this is my passion. You can read all about my history on our bio page.

Julie: I grew up on a farm in Mennonite country in Ontario, so traditional living was part of my childhood. I began my journey with primitive skills a little over 10 years ago and have been teaching for about the last four. I love all the skills, but my two biggest passions are probably fire and plants.