In the modern age of technology, we have become all too-accustomed to easy-access communication with anyone, anywhere, at any time.
While this tech is incredible and I love being able to talk to my partner when we’re in different countries, it all relies upon a network grid of power, satellites, and connecting cables for the internet.
The moment of off grid, all of our smartphones, tablets, and even the postal service, are rendered useless for any communication.
It’s because of this grid that we can communicate so easily, but taking it for granted can leave you unprepared in case of an emergency.
Fortunately, there are plenty of different ways to do off grid communication. None of these look exactly like your Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, but they will get the job done.
When disaster strikes, communication will be key to your survival and it’s of the utmost importance to be ready for it.
There are a few main categories of off grid communication that will work. We’ll go through each one and the different options inside of them.
Keep in mind, these are not all going to be simple to use and some will require a lot of prep work ahead of time.
When grid is down, radio waves will still travel through the air and they make the best possible option for quick back and forth communication with your loved ones.
The movies and TV shows like The Walking Dead make it seem as if everyone has installed their own radio devices and are incredibly easy to use.
Don’t let the media fool you, radio is tough to get up and running but will pay off ten fold.
CB radio, or Citizen’s Band Radio, was huge in the 70s amongst people just discovering the radio. CB radio is probably the easiest to use out of all three radio methods we have in this article, but still will require some installation and maintenance to get the best working system.
Most CB radio systems you will see are set up in vehicles with a mobile unit paired with a good antenna to get more distance.
While CB radio is definitely fading as fast as 70s fashion, it will still work when you need it and can help you contact law enforcement or other CB users.
The handheld CB radio options are slim, but they will still work better than nothing when off grid. The range on these will be much shorter, but it’s absolutely worth keeping one handy in a bug-out bag.
FRS and GMRS, or Family Radio Service and General Mobile Radio Service, are good options for off grid communication with those that you are already with or close to. They both operate off of UHF frequencies, but there are some clear distinctions and differences between the two.
FRS doesn’t transmit off of more than half a watt and will work only in a short range. This typically works best in line-of-sight, between two devices such as walkie talkies.
The biggest pro of FRS is that there is no need for a license to operate these and there is the possibility of having secure transmissions that are harder to listen in on.
GMRS comes with a lot more power and distance by transmitting up to 50 watts, but requires a license that will cost you to maintain.
With a good repeater you can reach up to 30 miles, and from a handheld device you can possibly get up to 3 miles of solid transmission.
Ham Radio is easily the most complex and difficult radio system to figure out. It is a complicated setup and there are a lot of working parts, but if you do the research and the work to get Ham Radio set up correctly, it also has the highest payoff.
Ham Radio is the best option with the most versatility out of every form of communication on this list. It can be made to function in a handheld device, but you can also rig up an entire base that will transmit television signals all the way across the world.
The biggest drawback to Ham Radio is that it requires in-depth testing in order to get the licensing for it, and the gear will cost you a pretty penny.
A lot of fanatics will spend thousands on their Ham Radio system, but it doesn’t have to be that much. It’s fully possible to get a good setup for a couple hundred dollars, it just won’t be as reliable or powerful.
Even when the grid goes off, satellites will still be floating up in space without a problem. Satellite phones, commonly referred to as sat phones, are a great option for off grid communication.
Sat phones come in two distinct variations that you can either make normal phone calls with, or are able to send 160 characters to another similar device.
These sat phones come with a typical phone service bill that you can probably get away with not paying if the grid has already dropped.
The Garmin In-Reach Explorer is the most common and most reliable device that will allow you to send messages, so long as the person you are contacting has access to a similar device or a cell phone that still works.
Sat phones can be finicky and you will certainly spend a lot of time finding service and being patient with dropped calls, but they work incredibly well in even the most remote locations.
If you’re lucky enough, it’s fully possible that the cell tower closest to you is still functioning and you can use your phone as normal. More likely is that your tower is inaccessible and won’t be relaying much of anything to other towers around you.
If that’s the case, there are a few innovative and clever tools that have been developed that use a smartphone to communicate over short distances.
The goTenna is a device that attaches to your phone and gives you the ability to text others within a close range. It can reach anywhere between a half-mile to a couple of miles away but will be highly influenced by the landscape around you.
The goTenna was developed after Hurricane Sandy when the grid was completely unavailable, so you know it is reliable.
The biggest pro of the goTenna is that it offers complete privacy. Other radio signals can be intercepted, but with the goTenna, the message will only go to those that you want it to.
Beartooth Smart Walkie Talkie
The Beartooth Smart Walkie Talkie is a great device that essentially turns your cell phone into a walkie talkie. Through the use of Bluetooth, you can communicate with people who are up to ten miles away through text, and 5 miles away on a voice call.
Old school landlines are no longer found in most homes, but for those that have kept them around, you may not regret it. Landlines still work for your home when all of the power has gone. They draw power through the phone cable and transmit the same way.
On top of still working, landlines aren’t affected by mass amounts of traffic like cell phones are. So when people start to panic and are all on their phones to try and figure out what’s gone down, you can hop to the landline and have reliable service.
Any survival situation is going to get better when you figure out how you are going to communicate with others during it. This off grid communication and the teamwork between people can greatly increase your further chances of survival by getting the help of others when you need it most.
These different methods of off grid communication offer a lot of potentials to help you find that help once the power has gone out and it seems like there may be no hope.
If you’re looking at this list and wondering what is truly the best, then start building your Ham Radio system and investing in that method.
It is the go-to for most serious preppers, and for a good reason. It will be the most reliable with the longest reach out of any method on this list.
Today, you can stick to texting and calling with your best friend on your iPhone. Tomorrow may look different, and you need to be ready for tomorrow to hit.