Lately we have seen a bunch of questions which pertain to primitive technology and, technically are done in TGO.

Yes, finding raw materials for metallurgy or sulfur extraction is done in the outdoors. But I'm not sure this is the right SE to ask about them.

All three of the above mentioned processes are very old, and have been done with primitive technology for 1000s of year - but that doesn't mean that they are easy, or even relevant to an outdoor/survival situation.

Are questions which basically boil down to setting up primitive civilisations on topic on TGO?

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    I think they are, yes. It is not the core of Outdoors, SE, but certainly being able to survive and be comfortable outdoors (in whatever circumstances, ranging from a day hike to apocalypse) is the key factor – Rory Alsop Feb 13 '17 at 16:02
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    It does look like there are questions about mining on ES:SE but there is not much interest in them. – Charlie Brumbaugh Feb 13 '17 at 19:27
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    The fine line between ES:SE and TGO:SE in this case is, imo, what extent of knowledge is needed to form knowledgeable answers. I expect TGO questions can be answered based on observations made on Earth's surface with relatively unsophisticated instruments (eg. your own personal experiences outdoors, study of other personal experiences outdoors). I expect ES questions require skilled use and interpretation of relatively sophisticated observation instruments (eg. satellites, models, extensive empirical studies, electronic and other 'high-tech' sensors). – cr0 Feb 13 '17 at 19:33
  • In one case conclusions are also likely drawn indoors, vs. in the other, outdoors. ;) – cr0 Feb 13 '17 at 19:33
  • @cr0 Remember when I said something about using smaller words? ;) – Charlie Brumbaugh Feb 13 '17 at 19:40
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    -_- yes Charlie – cr0 Feb 13 '17 at 20:11
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    No, in fact we should all go to those questions and vote to close them. – Martin F Feb 18 '17 at 19:31
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    @MartinF If you think that's so you should put that in an answer so the community can vote on it – Charlie Brumbaugh Feb 19 '17 at 5:22

Unless you have current technology when in a survival situation, then you're going to have to rely on primitive knowledge. Like starting a fire. Suppose you don't have any matches or a fire steel. Do you just die or try starting a fire using 1000+ year old methods like rubbing sticks together?

In most survival situations you're surviving for days or weeks at the most. But what if you get stranded for months or years? Granted this can only really happen in extremely isolated areas, but what if? Suppose you're a cast away on an island in the middle of the pacific and your only hope for rescue is to make an ax out of some bits of ore you found so you can hollow out a log and make a canoe? Those primitive methods become very relevant in those situations, however slim the odds are that you'll ever end up in one. It's better to be prepared and have that tool in the tool box and never use it, rather than get stuck without it in a situation you could use it.

  • Good points on the extreme-case practicality. I tried to emphasize the aspect of simply enjoying TGO through the practice of these skills. I go through a lot of effort to ensure I never need to sleep in a debris hut and though the utility of the skill is one reason I practice it, I also practice it because of how immersed I become in wilderness (literally) as I practice those primitive skills. – cr0 Feb 13 '17 at 19:24

We already have lots of these questions,

Also, just because it might not be feasible doesn't mean that they are bad questions or off topic.

No or that won't work are perfectly acceptable answers.

Also, we seem to cycle through question types and I don't think we need to be too concerned about these types.

Personally, I think these questions are interesting and on topic.

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    +1 Fair enough points you're raising here. I'll stick to the no answers for metallurgy then ;) – fgysin reinstate Monica Feb 14 '17 at 6:53
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    The metallurgy/mining questions do not belong to the above example set; they're about survival of primitive civilizations, not individuals lost outdoors. – Martin F Feb 18 '17 at 19:27

Are questions which basically boil down to setting up primitive civilisations on topic on TGO?

Yes, for topics that require deep engagement with The Great Outdoors.

What do I mean by deep engagement? I mean working with natural resources from The Great Outdoors, potentially (or even likely) in The Great Outdoors, primarily for appreciating The Great Outdoors, and in a way that is possible to do today without excessive damage to The Great Outdoors.

Each of those points is important. Maybe we can refine that criteria further but that is my starting point: If a question has to do with some kind of craft that is sourced from, practiced in, for appreciation of, and without excessive damage to The Great Outdoors - it's relevant.

That said, I think the iron question is reasonable. I actually hope to try it out as an extension of my interest in bushcraft and primitive skills - interests which continue to enhance my appreciation of TGO. I realize that is a stretch though - more realistic to make rope or an axe. Accordingly, as I do more research I see that the copper question is a lot less appropriate for TGO.SE because it is not realistic that I could source the materials from The Great Outdoors and not do excessive damage to The Great Outdoors.

Questions about survivalism, as I have said elsewhere on meta.TGO.SE, really are not suitable for any one SE. There is so much overlap with so many topics that I don't think any one SE could appropriately house them all. That said, many survivalism topics (the majority when it comes to short-term rescue-oriented survival) do fit in TGO.SE and with the criteria I put forth above. That's why it's good we have relevant tags: , , , , , , , .

Questions about where to find minerals may be better suited for Earth Science SE if that is the main focus in and of itself, or if the main focus is on finding those minerals as a way to engage in The Great Outdoors in accordance with the suitability criteria suggested above, then it could be appropriate here.


The metallurgy/mining questions do not belong to the above example set; they're about survival of primitive civilizations, not individuals lost outdoors. If we allow absolutely anything that is "outdoors", we may as well ask about driving around town looking for groceries, or absolutely anything that humans might do simply because it can be done outdoors, like playing chess or computer coding.

The term "great outdoors" should relate to outdoor recreation activities such as hiking, paddling, cycling, skiing, caving, camping, hunting, fishing, surfing, wildlife watching, etc, and how to survive a few days if lost.

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