Let’s talk about the power grid. We all know disaster can strike at any time. And there are many different types of disaster that can cause the lights to go out–which is why you need to be prepared to live off the grid.
It could be a direct attack on the power grid or it could be a pandemic that slowly decreases the population to the point that there is no one left to run the power grid. Whatever the scenario, there are ways to prepare so that you and your family will still be able to enjoy the use of power–even if you have to live outdoors.
Yet, going off the grid doesn’t always have to be permanent. There are circumstances in which it is a long-term situation and circumstances in which it is a short-term problem. But even if you are off the grid because you are on the move between locations, everything you choose to use must be part of your bug out bag.
Now, before we get into what you need for living off-the-grid, let’s take a look at how the grid can go down.
Like I said above, the power grid can go down for many reasons. And you have to be prepared no matter what happens. Consider the following:
A natural disaster can take out the power grid no matter where you live. If you live on the west coast, earthquakes are a serious concern. To the south and east hurricanes can wreak havoc. Even in the north, where winter reigns for half the year, a severe ice storm can knock out power for days–even weeks.
Fortunately, when a natural disaster strikes, it is generally confined to a specific region. This is something we can bounce back from. Life will go on. But you still need to be prepared for a bare minimum of two weeks off the grid.
A strong electromagnetic storm coming from the sun can knock out entire power grids for days or weeks at a time. This happened in 1998, causing the entire province of Quebec, Canada to go dark for nine hours.
The same effect can come from an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). An EMP can come in the form of an attack in which a nuclear bomb is detonated a few miles above the earth’s surface. It will render all electronic devices and the power grid unusable across hundreds–even thousands–of miles.
Another form of attack on the power grid is a cyber attack. Consider the Sony hack, which is believed to have been done by North Korea. A hack like this on the U.S. power grid could severely disable the grid, causing widespread damage.
No One Left to Run It
Any disaster that might significantly reduce the human population could affect the power grid. Prime among these is a pandemic. If a large percentage of the population was to become sick and/or die, there might not be enough people left to keep the power grid running.
Ways to Live Off the Grid for the Short-Term
The grid may have gone down temporarily or you might be on the move and not able to plug into the grid. The key here is that you are not permanently removed from the grid. Instead, you are without power for a matter of hours or days.
Regardless of why you are off the grid, there are a number of things you need to consider. We depend on the power grid for nearly everything we do. When we don’t have access to the power grid, we need to find other ways to generate electricity. Here are the top ways to live off the grid for the short-term:
Without electric lights, you need to find other ways to light up the darkness. You can do this in the following ways:
Flashlight: Have extra flashlights on hand to ensure you always have light. Be sure to also have extra batteries.
Headlamp: You should have this in addition to a flashlight. It leaves your hands free to work. Make sure the headlamp is water resistant. And again, be sure to have extra batteries on hand.
Candles: Candles offer a good source of light and they throw off some heat, as well. Have a supply of candles you can burn to see in the dark.
Lantern: Using solar or oil lamps or kerosene lanterns is a great way to provide yourself with light when the grid is unavailable.
Pro Tip: Use devices/flashlights that take all AA or all AAA batteries. This way, you can carry just one battery type for all your electronics.
When you have no access to power, you have no stove or oven. In this situation, it is ideal to have food that doesn’t require extensive cooking. However, you will still need to heat up water and do some low-level cooking. Here are alternatives when there is no access to power:
Camp fire: Cooking over the open fire is a great way to survive when there is no power. It will also help keep you warm. Just be sure it is safe to do so and that the fire will not alert passersby that you are there.
Camp stove: A camp stove is a great way to cook when there is no electricity. Just be sure you have extra fuel on hand.
Rocket stove or other portable stove: Small, portable stoves are ideal when you are on the move. These stoves can fit in your bug out bag and are highly effective and efficient.
Staying warm in the colder months is critical when there is no access to power. Ways to stay warm include:
Camp fire: Again, a camp fire will keep you warm and allow you to cook and boil water.
Wood stove: It’s Ideal if you are in a permanent location and can have a wood stove installed. This will keep you warm and will also allow you to cook. Plus, wood is always available. Avoid pellet stoves as you can run out of fuel over the long-term and not be able to replenish.
Portable heater: A propane or kerosene heater is ideal when it comes to heating small spaces. Note that it will be easier to find fuel for a propane heater if you don’t have access to power and heat for an extended period of time. Most backyards have a barbecue with a propane tank attached to it.
Pro Tip: Always have a fire starter kit and another way to start a fire in your bug out bag. You should have at least two ways to start a fire with you at all times.
If you will be off the grid temporarily, then you will still want to charge and use your devices with a portable solar charger. When they are charged, you can still access files on your computer. You can still watch movies or listen to music to pass the time. You can still use your smartphone to communicate if there is service.
Essentially, there are two options for using devices over the short-term:
Use devices that take batteries.
Use a portable solar charger to charge your devices. Ideally, the charger should be foldable for easy transportation and have ports to charge smartphones and tablets.
Ways to Live Off the Grid for the Long-Term
Like I do and when you go off the grid for an extended period of time here’s what’s up. So you will still need to be able to produce light, cook your food, stay warm, and use your devices. However, you will need longer-term solutions to the problem.
First of all, I do use solar and energy storage. I’ve talked forever on this being the ultimate. For most of the solutions listed above will also work when off the grid for the long-term. You can still use flashlights, camp stoves, fires, and wood stoves. However, it is ideal to have a way to generate and store electricity for ongoing use. With this in mind, here are some additional tips when living off the grid for weeks, months, or indefinitely.
Rechargeable batteries: Rather than keeping dozens of packs of batteries on hand, use rechargeable batteries.
Battery charger: You’ll need a battery charger to charge those batteries. Get a charger that charges both AA and AAA batteries. You can get one that plugs into a standard outlet or one that charges via a USB port. If you get a charger with a digital display, you can see how much charge your batteries are holding.
Solar power generator:
This is key if you are going to be off the grid for an extended period of time. This will allow you to charge devices and batteries and keep everything running smoothly. Plus, a solar power generator won’t make a lot of noise the way a gas generator does. This will help you avoid drawing attention to yourself. If you plan to power a computer, you will need about 12 V of battery power.
High-capacity power bank:
You will want to store the power produced by your generator. The key is to find a power bank that can charge devices and be charged at the same time. So that’s what we call solar and energy storage!
No matter which portable solar charger or solar power generator you choose, make sure it’s compatible with your power bank so you are constantly storing power whenever sunlight is available. Also, make sure the power bank doesn’t require unplugging and re-plugging if the sun goes away and comes back out. It should automatically start recharging your power bank.
There is always the potential that there will be no cell phone service in an emergency situation. Yet, communication is critical because you need to know what is happening in the world. For this reason, you will need another way to communicate with the outside world when you cell phone is not an option.
The best two options for communication are the CB radio and HAM radio. Despite what many people think, these radios are not quite the same. HAM radio users must be licensed and HAM radios have a greater range than CB radios. Both are useful when off the grid, but HAM is more useful.
There are a number of options when it comes to a HAM radio. Two trusted brands are Yaesu and BaoFeng. You can have a:
HAM radio until in your home or vehicle
Portable HAM radio such as a pocket HAM radio, that would allow you to listen and transmit while on the move
Potential add-ons for the HAM radio can extend their usefulness. These include the following:
An extra battery for the radio
A battery pack that allows you to power the radio directly from the car battery
An antenna that will help amplify the signal
A programming cable that allows you to program your radio directly via your computer
Being off the grid is not ideal, but it’s doable. The key is to be prepared so you can:
Try to get solar and energy storage
Regardless of whether you are off the grid for a short period of time or the long-term, you need to be prepared. Being off the grid might be as simple as being in transit to your bug out location. It could be bugging in with the grid down. It could be being on the move, either in a vehicle or on foot, either temporarily or permanently.
If you prepare based on the information given above, you will be able to stay connected to the world and safe when off the grid. This will give you peace of mind regardless of the situation at hand.
Did we miss something? Please, tell us your thoughts and ideas for off-the-grid in the comments section below.