Having settled on a server I like - low population, PVE, EU server, I've started to find things from scavenging. SOE have worked on loot tables and it seems to be helping, on this server at least, where there's not tons of people vying for the same salvage.
My next task is to find a crowbar. This elusive item, it appears, is the key to getting scrap metal from old cars and the metal can be used for many things, most importantly nails to start forming a defensive base in which to hole up.
Overall, H1Z1 is shaping up to be excellent. SOE are making almost daily updates to fix bugs and add things and the dev tracker clearly shows how transparent they are being in the development of the game.