Note: the game is a work in progress, so work with the Dev. team to make it better.
When night comes, stay away from roads and structures until you've kitted up a bit.
Loot spawning is still a little hit and miss. Crafting is the same.
So your priorities might be; food, a can opener, a weapon and water.
I don't think carrying items you can use to craft things later is a good option.
Pick up everything, and spend your night hiding away from where zombies will spawn.
If you've no weapon, use 0 on the keyboard to 'equip' your bare hands to hit zombies. Aim low!
Yes, when you spawn in, you've no idea where you are.
If it's daylight, watch the sun.
If it's night time, get away from roads and wait for the day.
I play now on the 'experimental' servers, where you might find an in game map, and a compass to show you where you are on it.
Before that, I was just like you.
No idea where I started, no idea where to go and I died from zombies a lot! If it wasn't that, then I only managed two days before I starved.
This isn't a game that gives you a beginner mode - it's full on from the login.
To summarise - keep away from structures and roads at night. Find a nice high location, crouch and wait.
Try to find a town, more buildings = more loot. But during the day zombies will be keeping out of daylight more, so they'll be hiding in buildings. Listen for the audio queues for nearby zombies. See if you can team up with anyone else on the server your playing on,
use <ENTER> to bring up the chat screen, and <ESC> to close it. [note: that depends on your set up, that's just how I do it]
Drop me a PM/DM for any more help. I'm not the best STN player, but I've played over 40 hrs. since release, and helped out with both stress tests.