I recently got the chance to watch the entire series of Tom Elpels The Art of Nothing Wilderness DVD series. Thomas asked me to watch them and put up an honest review so here it is.
There are 4 videos in the series. 3 Days at the River, Mountain Meadows, Mountain Lakes, Canoe Camping.
Firstly the production quality in the first few DVDs is not of the most professional quality!
I think this is in part due to the technology of the day and perhaps a little bit to due Mr Elpel being a survival and primitive skills expert and not a film director / cameraman.
However there is a massive improvement as the series develops and the canoe camping video is the best of all. That is a plain fact but it does not take away from the content of the DVDs.
All of the DVDs are absolutely packed with very useful information. The information is delivered in a very personable way by the charismatic Thomas Elpel and his family and friends-who find themselves in the wilderness with him.
The structure of each dvd is different but it follows Thomas as he puts himself in various wilderness areas and how he goes about using his skills and knowledge to provide for his needs. Fire, food, shelter and water.
It is very plain to see how much skills and knowledge the man has but he teaches the skills in a nearly passive way like a father passing on to a son. You watch the video and enjoy it and realise that you learned something but you also feel that you have been there on the journey with him in some ways too.
I love the way that the skills are taught in a honest way with no funny editing to make it look easier than it is. One example is a debris shelter in a pine forest with his cousin. After the first night they admit that it was a bit cold because of a lack of time and go about improving it.
Thomas uses what nature provides and what he finds in nature. Beers bottles and glass are fair game to make knives and boil water.
These videos are mostly based around the Montana area where Tom lives. This might put people off because they think - live in Scotland, or Ireland or France or where ever. The thing about survival skills is that they span the world in their usefullness. Cat tails grow everywhere, water has to boiled, shelters have to shelter etc etc. These skills are as relelvent in Northern Ireland as they are in Montana or Sweden. Of course Northern Ireland is a bit smaller and less wild but you get my point.
I really like the way he brings his daughters on some of the trips. They seems to enjoy it and this gives me hope for when i drag my two girls around the woods when they are a bit older!
I also like the message that runs across the series with an environmental slant. Building houses iamong other issues in the wild places is a big problem in Northern Ireland too!
Hopefully he will make another one soon. I for one will be getting it in.
You can get the DVDS here
Highly recommended indeed.