Thomas M. Elpel





Thomas J. Elpel is the founder of Green University® LLC and Outdoor Wilderness Living School, LLC (OWLS), as well as HOPS Press, LLC and theJefferson River Canoe Trail. He has authored six books and produced seven videos on topics ranging from wilderness survival and botany to stone masonry, sustainable construction, and green economics.

As a child, Tom was mentored by 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’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, developing, and teaching survival skills in his “backyard” in the Rocky Mountains. These experiences led to writing his bookParticipating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills, which is currently in its sixth edition. Tom has also produced four DVDs in his Art of Nothing Wilderness Survival Video Series.

Tom’s basic philosophy is that wilderness survival skills are useful to connect with nature, yet you shouldn’t run away from the problems of modern society. Instead, we need to apply the lessons of living close to nature to the challenge of solving our worldly problems. Outdoor Wilderness Living School, LLC is presently dedicated to providing Stone Age living skills classes and camping trips to public school groups. Tom launched Green University® LLC in 2004, to expand the curriculum from teaching merely primitive skills outward towards addressing issues of global sustainability.

Books written by Tom

Botany in a Day:  The Patterns Method of Plant Identification

Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills

Living Homes:  Thomas J. Elpel’s Guide to Integrated Design & Construction