Whether in a remote location or even somewhere close to civilization, living off the grid comes with its own challenges. One of the most critical things you need to worry about when living off the grid is your off grid communication.
Even though cellphones are widely used, they aren’t effective everywhere. If you live off the land in a remote area, you are likely to have a weak signal if you get one at all.
A way to overcome this problem is to have an alternate type of off grid communication. If you are reading this, chances are you are interested in getting the best off grid communication option that best suits you.
This article highlights 5 of the best off grid communication to consider. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages to help you make an informed decision. Let’s begin!
Best Off Grid Communication
Walkie talkies were the cell phones before cell phones came into existence. These devices are basic radio communication devices because they come at a low price point, offering durability and a wide operational range. Since they can operate using standard frequencies, walkie-talkies make great off-grid communication devices.
Most walkie-talkies purchased today have a range of about 40 miles, and some are even waterproof, making them one of the most durable off-grid communication options.
If you intend to use walkie-talkies as your off-grid communication device, you need to ensure there is someone or a neighbor with an open frequency to receive your messages. You will also want to get extra batteries since most walkie-talkies have 14-hour battery life.
You should note that your walkie-talkie’s range is affected by environmental factors and terrain, so test your off-grid communication range before relying on it.
This off-grid communication option might be a longshot today; however, several off-grid properties utilize a landline with no additional connection to the grid. A landline doesn’t require electricity to function and is not affected by the weather or the land topography. If your property has a landline connection, you should get an old handset and plug it in.
The cellphone is the most common form of communication device today. It is so common that you most likely are considering using your cellphone as an off-grid communication option. While cellphones can be lifesavers in an appropriate scenario, they aren’t as reliable as you might believe.
Using a cellphone for off-grid communication means you have to first test the network coverage on your property. If your area is remote, you will most likely have little to no cell signal. When testing, ensure you use your cellphone in every corner of the property, especially the highest point, to determine where you do and do not have cell service.
Apart from cellular coverage issues, there are some drawbacks to using a cellphone as an off-grid communication option. You have to be concerned about the battery life and durability, especially for smartphone users, as the battery will run out a lot sooner than you plan. Several factors can affect your cellphone’s battery life; however, you can expect 2 to 3 days of power on standby mode.
As with other electronic devices, the temperature can affect your cellphone’s battery life. Cold temperatures can cause your device to shut down completely. If this might be an issue, you should consider getting a solar USB charger or an additional battery pack.
The HAM radio is a tried and tested off-grid communication option. It works by utilizing radio frequencies to broadcast emergency communication and exchange messages. HAM radios have been used as an off-grid communication option for over a century due to their reliability. Their reliability has enabled them to remain relevant to this day.
You need a radio license to use this off-grid communication on major United States frequencies. You can use a weaker and lower radio signal without getting a license, but it is still best to get one. You can broadcast on higher and stronger radio waves with a license, increasing your range.
Since this off-grid communication option uses basic technology, ham radios come at a low price point, usually maxing at $100 depending on the model. On the one hand, the technology behind a ham radio is easy; on the other, operating it can be complicated.
You will have to practice using this off-grid communication option in an emergency situation. Some ham radios require a constant power supply, while others use batteries, so you must ensure you get the one that best works as an off-grid communication option.
The satellite phone is a great off-grid communication option that everyone with the resources should consider. Today’s satellite phone is more evolved than the days of the old, brick-like devices from decades ago. Today, satellite phones are sleek off-grid communication options that look just like a modern-day cell phone.
As their name states, satellite phones receive their signal from satellites that orbit the earth instead of a land-based cell tower a cell phone typically uses. The signal from a satellite is a lot stronger and isn’t affected by topography. A satellite phone’s range typically depends on the carrier and particular model chosen. Satellite phones also utilize various communication satellites, so you will need to research the satellite with the best coverage in your locale.
Just as with cellphone, satellite communication comes with various data, voice, and text message plans to select from. While numerous satellite phones have a battery life of up to 30 hours and military-grade durability, there are some drawbacks. Some of the most popular satellite phones are incredibly expensive and don’t work in temperatures lower than 14 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes it the worst off-grid communication option for individuals in colder climates.
How do people communicate without cell towers?
There may be times when you are traveling off-the-grid, maybe hiking or trekking at a remote location with limited technological facilities supporting your smartphone.
You may experience weak signals or no signals at all. It may put you into a critical and risky situation and hamper your adventure badly.
It’s advisable to have a backup plan for this kind of problem in case you get lost in the woods or remote area and aren’t able to communicate back with your group or any authorities who can help you out of that nightmarish situation.
There are many ways to communicate with your peers without cell towers – both old and new.
Let’s figure them out one by one:
1. Fire & Smoke
Smoke is visually noticed from far-off distances and is a good way of communication. It may signal that some human is stuck at a particular spot, and help can arrive in the required time. Ensure you carry the tools to generate fire and learn how to generate smoke effectively. On the other hand, the fire and smoke can also keep some harmful predators away, in case the area you visit is famous for that.
2. Light signals
Carry lights are meant for long wavelength signaling. This can also turn out to be a good tool, and there is a fair chance to communicate with your peers, who may spot you and guide you. You can also think of using the Aldis lamp, which uses Morse code for communication.
3. Using sound or sound equipment
As a group, you can set a peculiar sound to be emitted from your mouth to signal about getting lost. Some backpacks also provide whistles, or you carry one separately to signal by whistling whenever you feel you have lost your way. Having a horn and blowing it is another option, as it creates a loud and piercing sound and may attract people from far off.
In addition, you can also carry a high-caliber rifle or shotgun and fire rounds to communicate your emergency. Just ensure proper safety before using the guns and do not harm anyone. This, though, has a limitation, as it will work only if you are at a limited distance from your crew.
4. Semaphore flags
Get trained using how to communicate via semaphore flags along with your group. It may prove a bit technical and very uncommon with the common folks, but still, you can consider this an option to communicate without devices.
5. Citizens Band Radio (CB)
You can use CB radios for communication. They work within 3 to 20 miles depending on the terrain.
6. Ham Radio
Ham radios are also a great means of communication. They are also known to work within 2 to 18 miles range, while some 2-way radio units boast of covering a range of up to 36 miles. But to be safer, let’s consider 18 miles as the limit. The good news is that a Ham Radio can communicate with the CB radio.
Another popular device is the Walkie-Talkie, a 2-way radio transceiver. Some companies boast of covering a range of 36 miles.
8. Satellite Internet Phone
This phone does not depend on local cell towers but depends on the orbiting satellites to communicate. The minimum range the satellite phone can work is about 930 miles. It can work anywhere on the earth, but it may be costly compared to the regular network plans. But being safe and secured is more precious than any dollars, right?
Some apps claim that they make your smartphones communicate without a mobile network or connecting to satellites. The smartphones are connected to the device via Bluetooth-LE. But the downside is that it will only work if the range of the network to the device is limited to less than 12 feet.
Some experts are working on an app using the principle of mesh networking, wherein each smartphone equipped with the app is considered a router and can communicate without using the mobile network, wi-fi, or satellite phone technology.
You May Also Find Useful: How To Use A Compass
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Yes, they can work off-grid. You will only need to set your device on open frequency within your group, and you can use your walkie-talkies off-grid. In case of long hours hiking/trekking, ensure to have reinforcement of batteries as they have a life of 14 hours.
You can purchase a satellite phone for around $1,000 or more.
Do not expect free incoming calls on a satellite phone. Normal international dialing will cost you within a range of $4 to $8 per minute.
Satellite phones are meant to work off-grid as they are connected to orbiting satellites. They aren’t dependable on the local cell towers. The only thing which will make the satellite phones not work is if the satellites stop working or if any obstacle comes in between the relay of the satellite and the phone.
While our ancestors relied on visual and audio signals to communicate, recent inventions and innovations have given us various off-grid communication options to select from. Regardless of your location, needs and situation, there is always an off-grid communication option for you.