the Handbook for Primitive Living

in the Twenty-First Century.

Imagine if tomorrow you had no hydro, no running water, no fuel, no phone. How could you survive? This site is a thought experiment designed to answer that question.

noted on Wed, 14 Apr 2004

How to determine North without using a compass.

A variety of tricks are outlined on this page. It is part of a larger body of work called the Illustrated Guide on How to Use a Compass.


noted on Wed, 24 Mar 2004

Another No-Electricity Refrigerator

Two pots, wet sand, and a wet blanket seems to be all that’s required to keep food from spoiling for up to 3 weeks. Check out the Pot-in-pot refrigerator! I wonder how well this would work in relatively cooler climes (like Canada)?


noted on Tue, 23 Mar 2004

Water Filtering Using Ceramic Pots

Pots for Peace have come up with an innovative way to ensure that water is over 98% pure. See their Ceramic Water Filter Project for more information.


noted on Tue, 10 Feb 2004

Watercone Water Still

Back a couple of months I became motivated to design a cheap solar water still that could be econoically provided to refugees, natural disaster victims, and the like. During my information gathering phase, someone sent me a link to a product that was astoundingly similar to exactly what I was hoping to produce.

Watercone is a super-simple solar water still. It’s a two-piece plastic design that uses nothing but the sun’s energy to produce over a litre of distilled water per day (depending on location, season, etc.) from any source water. Simply fill the dish with source water, float the cone on top, and at the end of the day take off the cap, invert the cone, and collect the distilled water.

Please see the HPL Water section for more information on water.


Tidbits Volume 1

Researching primitive living aspects forces one to do a lot of reading and sorting. In this process a lot of information is read, and lots of good information is not retained. Instead of letting these pearls of knowledge scatter in favour of finding only the motherlode, I’m introducing the Tidbits section. Tidbits will be full of random, singular, unordered, but potentially useful pieces of information that don’t have a home otherwise. Tidbits will be updated as information is found, and new volumes added as needed.

See more ...


noted on Mon, 27 Oct 2003

Making Fire

Pretend once again you’re lost in the woods. You’ve already secured your source of water, you’re built your shelter, so now what do you need? Likely, you’d want a fire for warmth, security, cooking, or any combination thereof.

So you brought waterproof matches, right? No? Ah well, we can work around that...

See more ...


noted on Thu, 23 Oct 2003

Refrigerating With The Sun

Update: Added info about Zeolite-water ice makers and re-edited.

When your electricity fails, with it goes your ability to refrigerate. A well-insulated, full refrigerator will keep the perishable contents for perhaps 4 hours with the door kept shut. A full freezer should be fine for 48 hours. See Keeping Food Safe During An Emergency for further recommendations.

So, what can you do if power goes off for days or weeks? Well, you could use a propane refrigerator or if you would prefer to prepare ahead of time and like the notion of both independence and sustainability, you could try building a solar ice maker (pdf).

See more ...


noted on Mon, 20 Oct 2003

Snow Shelters

A debris hut is good shelter when you can readily find dry leaves, branches, grasses, and other materials. What happens if all of that useful shelter-building material is hidden under a big pile of snow? Naturally, you build a snow shelter instead.

There are many different ways to build a snow shelter, but all of them share a few key features:

You can decide for yourself what kind of structure you want to build, but it will largely be dictated by the quantity and quality of snow around you. Just remember that snow insulates well but also melts, so you can surround yourself and keep warm, but try to also find a method to keep dry.


noted on Thu, 16 Oct 2003

Preserve Your Food With The Sun

So you’re tired of hauling ice every morning, but still need to preserve a lot of food. There are methods to preserve food other than freezing or refrigerating, which include canning (the subject of a future post) and dehydrating, otherwise known as drying. Properly dried, food enzymes are deactivated to prevent discolouration, vitamins are preserved, and the moisture content is too low for bacteria or mould to form. Additionally, food becomes much lighter and sees a reduction in volume, making it easier to store. The question is how to dry food effectively?

Electric food dehydrators are available, but their obvious downfall is their reliance on electricity. They are still quite useful in preparing emergency rations for short-term problems like power outages or being house bound due to inclement weather. However, for those looking for a longer-term solution, or a sustainable one, I would suggest a solar food dehydrator.

This particular (pdf) dehydrator has been extensively researched and tested in laboratory studies. With some creativity and common sense I’m sure you can find ways to improve the design for your own use as well. For starters, how about foregoing the expensive stainless steel mesh and simply using off-the-shelf cooling racks instead?

If you’re going to make your own solar dehydrator, just make sure it doesn’t turn into a solar oven instead.


How to Maintain and Repair a Bike.

This looks like an excellent resource.

Update: the link to the site has been updated.