OFF GRID / SURVIVAL WORKSHOP: If You Can Make Tools, You Can Survive

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Off Grid Workshop

The best self-reliant “survival workshop” I ever saw belonged to an old-timer I knew from my California days. He owned a small 5-acre horse ranch and was around 80 when I knew him; sadly he’s gone now. He was really a legend. Everybody seemed to know him and the stories of his adventures and deeds appeared to be endless – as was his razor-sharp sense of humor: He’d look you up and down and size up whether you were made of the right stuff before you had even opened your mouth, and he would make endless playful jokes at everyone around. You had to be able to let it roll right off you, and to think fast to come up with a good answer.

His whole demeanour was that of a pioneer; a true “last survivor of the good old days”. He seemed to do everything himself. He’d been self-reliant his entire life and it didn’t seem like there was anything practical he wasn’t capable of. He could hunt, shoot, fish, ride, farm, fabricate… if he needed something, or needed to repair something, his first approach was always to see if he could make it or fix it himself in his old workshop. Going to buy something was a last resort.

The amount of tools and bits and pieces he had piled up in that workshop was spectacular. Nobody knew where anything was, except him – and he could find anything of course. The photo of the rusty antique tool collection hanging from the wooden wall of his old workshop was taken by me at his place, around 10 years ago. How many of these old tools do you recognize and would you know what to do with?

While so many people are trying to “shop their way to survival”, you need to think deeper than this. Long term survival is not just about piling up the biggest mountain of stuff you could possibly accumulate. This is the big mistake so many wannabe survivalists make. It’s a “habitual consumer” trait that has been trained into us by the modern world: “I like survivalism, so I will buy it off the shelf”.

Survival supplies are valuable, for sure, and can get you through a temporary crisis – but total reliance on them is a mistake. First of all, no matter how big a supply of something you pile up, it will run out at some point.

Supplies are temporary. Your abilities, your health (God willing) and your well-made tools are the only things that will last a lifetime.

Bear in mind also that the more supplies you have, the more effort and expense is required to maintain your store. If you were to stack up the amount of food a family eats in a year, you would be staggered by just how much space is needed to store that.

And then what happens at the end of that year, or two years, or five years? Sooner or later, only those who know how to provide for themselves will survive.

You’ll need to grow food – but if there are no shops… where will you get the tools to dig the garden? Could you make a bow and arrows entirely from natural materials you harvested yourself?

You can easily see that having the ability to make tools (and repair things) is going to be key to survival in the end. Anything that you don’t know how to make or repair, you are going to have to do without soon enough. So for true self-reliance, you might as well start by acquiring the incredibly valuable skills needed to make your own tools and put your own survival workshop together.

The Farm Workshop: When most people think of a farm, they think of fields, animal shelters, barns and the various types of farming equipment – tractors, grain harvesters and so on. It’s not immediately obvious that almost all farms have their own workshop – but they do. Typically a farm workshop will contain the equipment needed to maintain and repair tractors and other agricultural machinery, as well as estate maintenance tools and the tools for working with whatever animals the farm has. So you will see welding equipment, mechanic’s toolkit, workbench, fencing tools and supplies, angle grinder, lifting tackle, blacksmithing equipment, chainsaws / axes / bow saws, brush cutters and so on.

Off Grid Workshop Power: A farm / ranch workshop is an ideal starting point to give you inspiration and practical ideas for your survival workshop; however if you are thinking off-grid then you have the added consideration of generating and storing your own electricity for power tools, so as to be able to continue to operate independently of the grid.

Most power tools that run from the typical 110v (USA) or 220v (Europe) mains power supply, will run from a 3000W inverter. Pure sine wave is recommended as modified sine can cause degradation to some equipment. Higher powered tools can have quite a power kick on startup – especially compressors. Although an inverter may be rated at 3000W, you won’t get anywhere near that unless your cabling is heavy duty and your batteries are up to the job. A band saw is a key component of a wood workshop – but bigger electrical machinery such as band saws and lathes that require a dedicated high power circuit are going to be a more significant challenge for off grid power. You’re into complex electrical installations that would certainly require qualified installation.

There are always alternatives, however. I’ve seen various trailer mounted portable sawmills that operate with gasoline engines. Then there is of course generator power and PTO (power take off) from tractors.

Going even further, an interesting line of research would be how sawmills used to operate prior to electricity: Steam power! Here’s a simply fantastic video I found of a working steam-powered sawmill (I got lost in this):

Tools That Make Tools: Having the equipment required to work with the most common materials is going to be essential. So this is a good starting point of consideration: Your primary tools are going to be the “tools that make tools”. You will also need to be able to sharpen, maintain and repair existing tools. Do you know what types of wood are best suited for tool handles? For spindles? Do you know how to temper steel to make steel that cuts steel?

Low Tech: If you are really thinking “low tech / old school” and envisaging a survival workshop without electricity or any liquid / gas fuels, then your survival workshop becomes simpler in some ways. It will typically require blacksmithing, hand metalwork and hand woodwork tools, plus some tools enabling you to work with the most common additional materials – including stone, fabrics, leather, clay / tile / brick and perhaps glass. Drawing and design tools will be valuable too – as anything complex you fabricate you will most likely want to design first. Without computer aided design, you’re back to pencils, compasses, protractor and ruler. How’s your memory of geometry these days?

Hand Tools
Hand Tools. Image ©

Animal Power: Before the advent of the tractor and modern farm machinery, animals were used for their power and endurance – with heavy horses and oxen of course being used for ploughing, tilling and the various other tasks now done by tractors. Working with horses will mean saddlery, wheelmaking, blacksmithing and more.

High Tech? If you are thinking in more modern terms (and have the inclination) then you might include the facilities to work on electronics. Even if all the world’s centralized systems ground to a halt tomorrow, it’s highly improbable that electronic items are going to disappear – especially now that solar panels are widespread.

If the centralized supply chain, which has certainly been showing some cracks of late, were to fall apart entirely and be disrupted long term, then those with the ability to repair electronics are logically going to be the last who are able to use them. In the absence of the ability to “just buy a new one on Amazon”, the role of the repairer is going to be in significantly higher demand than it is currently. I think electronics repair should certainly be included in any list of post-apocalypse trades.

What about computer aided design and 3D printing? I’ve never come across an off-grid workshop that can manufacture 3D-printed or sintered parts – and some survivalists will sneer at such “modernism”; however the potential value of such facilities to a larger community ought to be obvious.

All interesting food for thought. I’d suggest however to start simple and get the basics down: Learn metalwork, woodwork, leatherwork and stonework – acquiring learning to fabricate, maintain and sharpen the hand tools that make these possible.

Starting From Nothing (The Ultimate In Self Reliance): I think the creation of a survival workshop starting absolutely from nothing would be a wonderful, challenging and highly educational exercise. You would have to learn to smelt your own metals; harvest, season and work wood, create greater precision from lesser precision… The skills and ingenuity you would develop would in my view be some of the best survival assets you could have. Imagine making your first chisel, your first drill, your first wheel and axle, your first workbench, wood-turning lathe…

You will quickly learn that even simple objects we take for granted in the modern world – such as a wheel nut for a bicycle or a cast-iron drain cover – require serious skills and knowledge to replicate successfully. But the rewards are immense.

Check out this man’s work – he built his own bandsaw, lathe and much else using recycled components he picked up for free:

Final note of course, take safety precautions. No matter how low-tech your workshop, I wouldn’t skimp on eye protection, ear protection, a sturdy pair of work gloves and everything else that you need to stay safe. Also, if you are dismantling old electronics, use ventilation systems when desoldering (lead fumes) and take care with old capacitors (toxic “forever chemicals” in the fluids) to dispose of them correctly and wear protective gloves. Don’t get that stuff on your hands.

International Bug Out (Get This Handled Before It’s Too Late)

Introduction: A True Story Of International Escape

In 1941, my English Grandfather was living in Italy with his Italian wife and their 2 small daughters. Although the war had already begun, he continued his work as an accountant for a business in Milan – and life was somewhat normal… until it wasn’t. One day, very suddenly, he was arrested by the military police and taken to concentration camp. The rest of the family were also removed from their home and disposessed. All the family’s assets were seized by the government – leaving them with nothing.

It all happened in the blink of an eye…

Grandfather, having been living in Italy for several years, spoke perfectly fluent Italian – and this turned out to be extremely valuable: Being able to converse fluently with the guards made it naturally difficult for them to regard him as an “enemy” and discriminate against him, and we understand that he was not maltreated; however concentration camp is still concentration camp… and despite being a civilian, he found himself one day an accountant, the next day a prisoner of war.

My Grandmother and her children, being Italian and female, were not seen as a threat by the Italian authorities, however it was clear that after their despicable treatment and given Grandfather’s status as a British national, they had no future in Italy. Getting out of the country required some finesse and some assistance. They were able to be repatriated by the British Red Cross through some clever paperwork and fictitious travel plans: They undertook a risky sea voyage where they literally had to jump ships under cover of darkness. The boats were not “supposed” to meet but sailed up alongside each other. A ladder was placed between the two and they switched, together with a handful of other Brits being secretly pulled out of Italy. And so in January 1942 they ran the gauntlet of an ocean patrolled by U-boats, arriving in the UK barely able to speak a word of English, penniless, in an alien land in winter, with no idea when or if they would see Grandfather again.

Through a fortunate family connection, Grandmother was able to arrange accomodation. The children, being Roman Catholic, were accepted into a convent boarding school, where a few of the nuns spoke Italian. And so they began the process of starting all over again. Italy capitulated to the Allied forces in 1943, grandfather was finally released and reunited with the family in England in 1944.

Same As It Ever Was?

Although this true story happened some 80 years ago, there is so much that we can learn from it. The times are different, but recent events have caused many to ask themselves whether they really feel safe and free in their own country, and whether they might be better off somewhere else. Most of us have now experienced lockdowns, where (for better or for worse) our freedoms were simply removed, overnight. We’ve also seen the terrifyingly excessive, draconian responses of some authorities and certain previously free countries seem to have turned into dictatorships. It feels as though we could be “one variant away” from the same totalitarian treatment. Oh, they’ll always have an excuse, but to determine whether something was truly done in your best interests, ask yourself if your life is better or worse since their intervention.

Looking at the way things are in the world, I feel a growing sense of urgency. I’m fairly positive by nature – but it feels as though things are gradually sliding towards more troubles ahead. I don’t like it. We have financial problems, supply chain problems, totalitarian problems… what else?

Here’s Your Ten-Step International Bug Out Plan:

Quite a few survivalists have a “bug out plan”… but nothing beats having an international bug out plan and being able to simply leave the country at the drop of a hat, should the need arise.

International bug out is a completely different game, with different requirements, to what you might call “traditional survivalism”. By all means work on traditional survival skills too, but for this play you most likely will be traveling light and more “high tech”, with greater emphasis on travel, “financial fortress” strategies and geographical / logistical research.

Here are 10 steps you might take in order to get your international bug out plans lined up. Getting this handled puts you one step ahead of the vast majority, who either don’t think about it, don’t know what to do about it, or never take decisive action until it’s too late. Think these steps over carefully. Anything you can do is better than nothing – and the best plans have benefits no matter what the eventual outcome turns out to be. This is not financial advice.

1. Learn To Recognize The “Early Warning Signs” That Things Might Be Going South

There’s an old saying that “bankruptcy happens gradually, then suddenly”. The same could be said of numerous other bad situations. In my Grandfather’s situation, things had already started to go bad (war breaking out) over a year before the hammer fell on him – and then when it fell, it fell in a flash.

There are always warning signs ahead of time, although it can be hard to separate the signal from the noise, especially now in the age of exaggerated news and social media hype. You are going to need good intel and an ability to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Don’t delay. The time to make an exit plan is not when it’s panic stations. It’s before that! When events are escalating, you might only have a very small window of time to get out – if that. In other words, as with every form of preparedness, you have to prepare before it happens, rather than waiting for things to turn critical before attempting to get things in order.

2. Don’t Be Stuck Anywhere

In times of disaster, conflict, or other undesirable scenarios, one thing that can be said with absolute certainty is that Location Is Everything.

In 2021, South Africa experienced very serious and rapidly escalating rioting, with dozens killed. Imagine being stuck in a city where it’s all kicking off… with no emergency exit plan and no realistic logistics to get out of there.

On the other hand, if you happened to be somewhere on the other side of the world – you might be blissfully unaware that these events had even taken place, unless you happened to catch wind of it on the news or social media.

For every place that is going through hell, there’s another location where the sun is shining and birds are singing merrily.

Sometimes, it’s the luck of the draw: You simply don’t know where it’s going to go down. But wherever you happen to be, mobility rules! The cold reality is that if you are “stuck” in any one location, you are at the mercy of whatever scenarios happen there; whether it be lockdowns, civil unrest or any other unpleasant / disaster scenario.

Whereas if you have a solid exit strategy worked out and planned in advance, you have the option to hit the eject button before the hammer falls – and get out of Dodge to a place where all is well.

3. Have Some Cash On Hand

Cash is still the most liquid asset and there’s a lot to be said for having it in your hand, rather than having to rely on a global electronic network where “the machine” (and its various factors outside of your control) ultimately decides whether you get your cash. That would be a single point of failure. Imagine all you have is your debit / credit cards. That’s nice – but if there is a panic situation and numerous people are trying to withdraw cash urgently? You might be S.O.L. Not only do most banks only hold a small percentage of deposits in cash, but ATMs often run out of banknotes in the case of unexpected demand. If there is a significant power blackout? ATMs and card transactions might be non-op. Same goes with an internet failure. Interest rates might be on the rise since the great money-printing fiasco, but they are still low, historically speaking. Having some cash on hand is not going to be your only investment strategy, but it’s a very useful card to have up your sleeve.

4. Have Some Diversified Liquid Assets

Having all your assets inside the financial structure of one country is a point of weakness. Holding only one currency is a point of weakness. It makes sense to have multiple accounts with diverse currencies and assets, and that’s entirely doable now. For an easy start – you could set up an account such as the Wise Borderless Account, which gives you the ability to convert, transfer, hold, send and receive in numerous currencies. Their fees are MUCH lower than typical bank transfer fees too! There are now also numerous crypto debit cards, for example BitPay, Nexo and – which enable you to preload your account with crypto and use the card to shop in the typical manner, as well as withdraw cash from ATMs in some cases. A highly useful additional asset to add some protection against interruptions to banking services and again, easy to open. Nexo pays very good interest rates on crypto holdings too! Another option is physical gold in offshore storage. Think again about my Grandfather’s situation: All of their assets were in Italy and ended up being confiscated by the government through no crime or fault of their own whatsoever. If they had had the foresight to move some funds into an offshore account, for example into a UK bank account, the Italian authorities would not have been able to get their paws on it. Note that depending on your country of residence you may have to declare offshore bank accounts when you file taxes, so it’s advisable to get competent tax advice so as to know where you stand.

5. Obtain A Second Passport

A second passport gives highly valuable additional freedoms when it comes to being able to bounce to another country, especially in time where travel restrictions are in place for some, but not for others – as is often the way. There are various ways to obtain second passports, not all of which require ancestry or even residence in the country concerned. Some nations are very welcoming to those who want to set up business or park assets in their country. This is a complex topic and would take more than a short tutorial – however there are some real experts on hand who can help. Two that I consider extremely good are Simon Black ( and Andrew Henderson ( They are far more expert than me in this department; just dive into their materials as they provide a ton of valuable free stuff in addition to highly regarded professional services.

6. Have At Least One Form Of Income That Is Not Tied To One Location – And Up Your Game

Until very recently, the reality for the vast majority of people was that they were simply not free to just “up sticks” and start a new life in another country. Their place of work was in one location, and so they were required to live nearby. However the boom in internet based business / online services has essentially offered the opportunity to pretty much everyone to start generating some form of income online. The advantages are obvious: If you can earn an income “from your laptop”, you can essentially exist anywhere that has an internet connection.

The other thing to note, although it’s not terribly fashionable to say it, is that money equals freedom. It really does. Admit it: The biggest factor preventing you from living an expanded life with more options and greater freedom of movement is financial constraint. And (be honest), you probably don’t work as hard as you could… so up your game! Work harder and more brilliantly. Earn more. Start one or more side hustles. Build up a reserve of capital: At the worst, you will have a greater reserve to weather the storm; and if all this blows over, you’ll have more funds to enjoy life and do new things.

7. Have More Than One Form Of Internet Access

Communications are always essential to the strategist. I have covered this in a full length post here: Off Grid Internet: 5+ Ways To Get Online When “Normal Internet” Is Not Available (Including SHTF Options).

8. Make An Actual Exit Plan

First, research and learn about various countries. Which ones are more stable / desirable / safe and less challenging logistically. What are the obstacles? Perhaps there are some places you have visited before that you could go back to.

Next, consider how you will travel. What modes of transport are available? Air, sea, road, rail? Best to have more than one option if possible.

9. Accomodation, Network and Contacts

When landing anywhere, it’s highly beneficial (and can even be a lifesaver) to have contacts. Highly desirable would be having some welcoming friends who can put you up for a few days while you get your bearings and get some accomodation sorted. Do you have some family or friends in other parts of the world? Time to make a list of those connections. Doing some preliminary outreach is a good idea; and even better might be to create or tap into a network of similar-minded folks who “look out for each other”.

Another interesting avenue of research: You can look up the country’s Airbnb options and even chat to some providers, in order to start laying foundations of some potential connections. Airbnb hosts are very often well connected in their locality and often provide local information for their guests; perhaps all the more so if you offered a little extra for this service. They could maybe even connect you to local guides. A good local guide – someone who knows the region through years of experience – is a vital contact and could be like gold if you find yourself having to land somewhere in a hurry.

10. Learn Another Language

Learning additional languages simply opens up more regions of the world to you. Many people feel uncomfortable visiting places where they don’t know a word of the language. Multi-lingual ability is a highly valuable survival skill that increases options and breaks down barriers around the world. For the survivalist, the best choices are going to be languages that are spoken in diverse regions: English, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Spanish, and French are the most widespread languages in the world. [1]


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Off Grid Internet: 5+ Ways To Get Online When “Normal Internet” Is Not Available (Including SHTF Options)

Off Grid Internet Full TutorialDoesn’t look like much, but this little TP-Link 4G Router saved the day when everything else failed! Full story below.
Photo / graphic ©

Off Grid Internet: 5+ Ways To Get Online When Normal Internet Is Not Available (Including SHTF Options)


Internet access is pretty much a life-essential for the majority of people now – and in many cases it can be a make-or-break factor for whether a given location will be a viable option or not.

I sure did find this out the hard way, when I moved to my place deep in the countryside… and learned that not only did I have barely any phone signal (0 to 2 bars, constantly going in and out), but that the “land line based” DSL internet was totally shot. 1Mb download speeds at best, with dropouts every few minutes. Downloading a large file was almost impossible. Not a word on any of this from the $500+ home appraisal surveyor, of course. The telecom companies literally would not fix it, either. I lost count of how many times I called their support, they “ran their tests”, told me it was dropping out over 100 times per day (yes I know), then a couple of days later they told me they had fixed it. All lies. They had not fixed anything! This went on for months until, exasperated, I explored all the other options I could think of… until finally finding a solution 18+ months later!

I tried multiple options, plus I have run an internet based business while bouncing between different countries for several years – so all in all I think I’ve learned a fair amount about this topic and have some useful tips to share…

Internet-Based Income = Freedom (So Long As You Can Get Online)

Ironically the recent “pandemic times” have probably been the first time in history where a large number of people had both the necessity to work remotely and the technology to be able to do so.

This combination of circumstances, together with the increased appeal of being truly “away from it all”, has opened more people’s minds to various off-grid possibilities than ever before. Why would you be in a city under lockdown when you could be out of town and still earn your money?

An internet based income is one of the key factors in this equation. It frees you from one of the predominant chains forcing you to be one place: The need to make money – which until very recent times required in pretty much all cases that you showed up at a certain location at a certain time, rain or shine.

While some jobs of course still necessitate this, more people than ever are working remotely. There are also innumerable internet based business opportunities nowadays.

For just one example, there are a number of folks, call them “road warriors” or “van lifers”, who run a Youtube channel documenting their adventures. If this is done well, the advertising revenue from Youtube can be a lifeline and a means to fund their life on the road.

But in order to do this – you gotta be able to get online! Solve that and the world is your oyster!

Ok so here are all the options I’ve explored. Let me know if you think of any others.

1. Starlink

Starlink – Elon’s mega satellite internet plan – has brought connectivity to various folks in remote parts of the world, which is of course a great thing. You could be in a forest, or even on an island, miles from anywhere – and still be able to get a fast connection. Gotta love that.
• Super fast. Blazing speeds (well over 100Mb download) reported by numerous users. Competitive with or even better than fiber connections.
• True remote location possibilities – can work in wilderness areas with no other services available.
• Low Latency. Because the satellites are in low orbits, the “ping time” (the time it takes the signal to reach the dish) is much lower than with conventional satellite comms. 20ms claimed by Starlink, which is amazing.
• Expensive. Setup is I think $499, with a price of around $100 per month after that.
• Fixed location. Starlink’s own materials state that you can’t just pack the dish in the back of the truck and head out of town. You need to be static. This would be a real bummer for – say – ocean going yachts, or other on-the-move applications. However I’ve heard individuals claim that they took their Starlink dish on their adventure in the Black Rock Desert and got online! This might however have been an exceptional case; I am fairly sure that a number of Elon’s team go out to the desert for that lil’ thing called Burning Man and they might have rigged something so that they could get online. So make of it what you will.
• Not available in all areas – yet. They are still rolling it out and if it’s not in your area, well, you just have to wait. I signed up on the waiting list in early 2021 and waited nearly a whole year. Nada. Finally, exasperated, I cancelled (and got my deposit back without any fuss).

2. “Regular” Satellite Internet

I tried this one too! Honestly, I hated it. It was slow, kept cutting out and was fairly pricey. My life got ridiculous – at one point I had satellite that didn’t work, regular DSL that didn’t work and a cell phone that was out of range…. try dealing with that and managing an outsource team + 20 websites! Nightmare.

Satellite internet does work in general – and for those that rely on it, it’s a lot better than nothing. But for me it fell a long way short of desirable.

• Can get you connected when there are no other options. If you are in a “remote part of a well populated country” then you will probably be able to sign up, get the dish delivered and get online without too much trouble. A remote island in the middle of the South Pacific, however? There are generally (expensive) services available for remote locations and ocean-going yachts; but getting delivery of the dish to Tristan da Cunha? Probably not going to happen! 🙂 You would have to get it handled before you go.
• Data tariffs. I’ve yet to see “unlimited data” with satellite plans. Monthly plans typically come with a data limit. Once you chomp through your bandwidth, which is all too easy, you are booted onto the slow bus and get low speed until the beginning of the next month. It’s all done to get you to buy a bigger data plan…
• Not that fast, even with the “gold” package I was often getting only around 6MB/s on
• Slow ping time. Mine was around 740ms as far as I can remember. Uploading a batch of web pages to a big website took hours.
• Hulking great dish, which needs to stay fixed and be pointed exactly at the satellite with no trees or anything in the way.
• Seemed to fail whenever it rained!
• Used a lot of power! The power pack for the dish was rated at 80W.
• The dish belongs to them. Which means you can’t even take your rage out on it when you finally lose your marbles and want to hit it with a 2×4. You don’t get that deposit back unless you ship it to them in one piece. The dish is huge. Just finding a sturdy box big enough for all of it was a real hassle and I still haven’t received my deposit back. So. Much. Hassle. Such. Crap. Support.

3. WiFi Leeching

Most people, these days, have their WiFi password-protected, and the good ole’ days of being able to leech Wifi from your blissfully-unaware neighbors are mostly long gone. Not that any of you good folks would do such a thing, of course. 🙂 You can still of course go to Wifi hotspots and connect there – for example, most cafes – however that means you have to go into town to get a connection, which gets old really fast. It can be useful in a pinch – and there are still plenty of road warriors who drive into town for the purpose of finding an internet cafe so that they can get caught up on their admin.
• Typically Free. No power requirements, no contracts, no black boxes.
• Inconvenience. You have to go where the WiFi is and stay there until you have done everything you needed to do.

A further option here is to get a long range WiFi antenna, which would enable you to connect to public (or non-password-protected) WiFi at a greater distance. More on that in section 6.

4. Mobile Phone Hotspot

The speeds of 4G (and even 3G) networks are actually not all that terrible. Many times when my satellite internet was failing I would get in the car with my laptop and phone, drive to the top of the hill and park up in a spot where I knew I could get 4 bars. It was faster than satellite and faster than my unbelievably crap DSL! There are lots of people in the world who rely on mobile hotspot to stay in touch with the world.

5. 4G Router + SMA Aerials + Unlimited Data SIM (Worked Best For Me!)

Now if someone had clued me in on this in 2019, they could have saved me almost 2 years of tearing my hair out in sheer frustration.

The main criteria with cellular reception are height – as in, the higher up you are above your immediate surroundings and whether there is stuff in the way – trees, walls, or metal (worst). Exploring every corner of my house in search of the best signal, I found that there was one spot at the top of my attic, near the ridge line, where I could get 2 to 3 bars on my phone with 3G. So for months I literally had the phone on a tripod in the attic, permanently plugged into a charger on an extension cord. It wasn’t all that great, but it was better than the flaky satellite. Then (without thinking) I insulated my attic with “isotherm” panels, which are foil-backed… and then that was the end of that.

Researching online, I discovered a 4G router on Amazon and it was a real game changer. I got EPIC results and completely solved my internet problems. So I am going to go into much detail on this one, because it could be a winner for a lot of folks.

The 4G router I found (link below) is a beauty. It literally has all the options I want:
1) Very small and portable.
2) You can disconnect the little stubby aerials and connect signal-boosting 4G antennae with SMA extension cables. This was the game changer – because you can get those aerials outside the building – which increases the signal strength significantly. This is mission critical if you are on the edge of service!
3) Runs from a 12vDC adaptor, which means it can connect to vehicle electrics and off grid power packs – oh yes!!
4) You can disable Wifi completely with a switch on the back of the unit and run in ethernet only mode (this is a game changer for anyone Wifi sensitive!)
5) Pop in a SIM with a monthly unlimited data plan and you are off to the races. Mine literally worked out of the box. Depending on the physical size of the SIM you have, you might need one of those tiny nano-SIM trays to get it to click into the 4G box, but this is an easy fix.
6) Some people are saying that they are getting this to work internationally: Reading reviews on Amazon, there are people who are using these in USA, Middle East and other places! I haven’t tried it but for international travelers it could be a win.

Here is the setup I purchased. I’ve given links to both UK and USA Amazon. Full disclosure, I earn (peanuts) commissions on purchases made via these links.

1) Unlimited data SIM.
I got a Vodaphone SIM and it worked right out of the box with the router, using an ethernet cable to connect to the computer. Rates always vary and you’ll likely be on a contract, but you should be able to get one for significantly less than the price of any of the other options! Alternatively you could use pay-as-you-go but after you’ve watched a couple of movies and burned through your data, you’ll want to get on unlimited I am sure.

2) 4G Router.
UK: TP-LINK AC1200 4G+ Cat6 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router, 4G/3G Network SIM Slot Unlocked. (£149.99)
USA: (similar, looks like 9v not 12v): – currently sold out.
Here’s a couple more for options to check out for the USA and other regions (not tested) Cudy AC1200 Dual Band Unlocked 4G (“not for Verizon”) Alcatel Link Hub 4G LTE Unlocked Worldwide HH41NH 150 Mbps

3) 4G LTE Antenna SMA Aerial (2-pack)
UK: £13.99
USA: $11.99
(note that there is a legal disclaimer on the Amazon USA page that seems important. There seems to be some kind of legal restriction on the use of these signal boosters and a requirement of permission, although it lists major providers that have given “blanket consent to all boosters meeting the new certification standards.” (which from their wording one presumes this device does, although I don’t see that explicitly stated).

4) SMA WiFi Antenna Extension Cable 5M (2-pack)
UK: (£23.08 for 2)
USA: ($19.98 for 2)

Installation: The 4G antennae are fantastic. Super low cost + they are small and light, about 12″ tall and weigh almost nothing. They have strong magnetic bases: I cut some 1″ wide strips of 1/16″ steel and bent them to a thin L-shape – so that I could slide them under the top-but-one roof tile and they would hook on. This worked beautifully and gave me a metal plate sticking out from the tile I could stick the antenna on to. I have a “proper” roof ladder so I went up there with my mobile phone and looked for a spot with the strongest signal. It was easy to get a very solid 3 to 4 bars.

I attached the 2 aerials about 8 feet apart from each other, close to the ridge line. Several months later and they have not budged! I then drilled a small hole in the wooden frame of my skylight window and ran the SMA cables through to the router, removed the SIM from my “attic phone” and popped it into the 4G router, ran an ethernet cable to my computer and… bingo. Download speeds around 10-15Mb/S during the day and around 20-25 at night.

Connecting the antennae and putting them on the roof of the house gave a massive signal boost. Huge. I was amazed. The first thing to note is that walls, roofs, metal boxes and other materials have a big damping effect on mobile phone signals. The second factor is height. When it comes to mobile phone networks, height is critical. My house here is in a “hollow” in between hills and also has a forest in between me and the nearest mobile phone tower, which is a couple of miles away. It’s a beautiful location and I am blessed – but useless for phone signal.

So if you can get your aerials outside those four walls and somewhere up high, you should be in good shape. I’d say I tripled or quadrupled the speed I was getting with just the mobile phone in the attic! If you want to experiment further, you could try some using kind of tripod or pole to get additional height. Just make sure that whatever you rig up is not going to become a danger if it gets windy. And these were of course cheapie antennae. I’m sure there are bigger and better if you are in the market for that.

Had this running now for about 3 months (in the UK) and there has been barely a drop-out. It has succeeded where all else failed.

Pros: (the advantages of this setup are numerous).
• Low cost. I got a Vodaphone unlimited data plan and it’s cheaper than DSL, cheaper than satellite, cheaper than all the other options I have found.
• Fairly fast. Running Youtube videos at 1080HD is now not a problem. No problems at all.
• Mobile. Wherever you have phone signal, you can exist. Plus with the aerials, you have much better capability than just mobile hotspot alone. I would imagine that for truckers, road warriors etc this setup would be peachy. And the fact that the 4G box I got was 12 volt was just the icing on the cake.
• Location tracking seems less than accurate. Google is guessing my location and they seem to be getting it wrong by about 150 miles. Oh, how this pleases me!
• For best results you will want to get the little antennae outside and up high somewhere, which may involve drilling holes in things and climbing ladders. So be safe (and get some assistance if needed).

6. Post-Apocalypse Connectivity

This is of course all speculative and much of it depends on which grids go down – although there are some interesting options that may enable you to connect peer-to-peer without any grids at all. The key here is redundancy. In other words, for greater resilience you need more than one means of comms…

Let’s think first about power – because without power you are out of the game, and power blackouts are a real possibility, wherever you are. Get your “self-reliant comms power” handled first.

The good news is, this is relatively easy: Whereas a “whole house off grid” power setup requires a bank of solar panels, big batteries and a high ticket installation; your comms equip probably consists of low-powered devices. So small-medium solar panel + one of the modern generation of all-in-one portable power packs (get one with a pure sine output such as this 300w one from Go Labs (USA) or the Allpowers 288 (UK)) and you should be able keep your devices powered at all times – so long as you are using laptop / mobile tech and not desktop / mainframe computers. If you need more power, these portable power packs come in various sizes: Work out your wattage requirements, read the reviews and get the one that seems like it will best cover your required use.

Now let’s think about networks….

Mobile phone networks: Fairly resilient but have been known to go into blackout in the case of states of emergency. Cell phone towers, as far as I know, have backup power generators so that they can continue to function in case of power grid down. Still, to be prepared for a true SHTF scenario, you need a means to connect without them.

Satellite: “Ordinary satellite” internet inevitably requires that you connect to a specific satellite that is in geostationary orbit above your location, with the dish pointing right at the satellite. This creates a single point of failure. If the satellite goes off line (or gets taken out by a Bond villain), there goes the connection. Starlink on the other hand seems like it will be more reliable, though it’s too early to say, yet. This is because with a swarm of satellites, you’ll likely have more than one available to connect to at any given moment. So if one or even a few go pop, the network stays up. I’ve no idea how the signal routing on these works, though. Does it go from one dish to the satellite and then directly to another dish, in a peer-to-peer fashion? Or are all signals routed through a base station of some kind in Elon’s back yard? I think that the base station is more likely and of course means that the entire network has the possibility of failure or that someone, somewhere could ultimately disconnect you. Not ideal.

2 Way Radio / Walkie Talkie: Now as far as I know, these won’t work for internet, however for survivalists they are a fantastic option because they are peer-to-peer. In other words, if you and your buddy both have charge in the batteries, you can communicate without any other intermediary. So if every single grid goes down – power, mobile phone, satellite, cable modem… your 2-way radio will still reach other 2-way radios on the same band. Whether or not anyone has figured out a way to send internet data via 2-way radio, I do not know (and whether there is some legal restriction on this in some areas, I’ve absolutely no idea as I have never looked into this). But there’s an intriguing avenue of research here for the survival minded…

Ham Radio: Of course this enables communication and with correct licensing (if required in your region), you can communicate verbally. But what about internet? Well, it turns out that you can do this. Found a Youtube video of someone demonstrating how to surf the web using an Icom ID-1 D-Star ham radio:

This is an old video so things have probably progressed since then. I don’t know much about it and judging by the comments, it’s slow – but the potential here could be huge if all else fails. Absolutely no idea on legal restrictions so pls do your homework. But the possibility of being able to connect peer-to-peer via radio, with no ISP & no cell phone data plan required… that’s definitely interesting!

Here’s an interesting tutorial I found for what range you can get from ham radio.

Peer to Peer / Long Range WiFi. WiFi networking between computers is of course possible – however you are limited to the signal strength of your WiFi; which for most people is struggling by the time you get to the bottom of the garden! A quick search on long-range WiFi brought up this powerful CC Vector Extended Long Range WiFi Receiver System – which will, it is claimed, enable you to connect to a public WiFi up to 3 miles away in perfect, unobstructed outdoor conditions; with 1200 feet being a more realistic max range. One user claimed that using the above device in conjunction with RouterBOARD SXT G-2HnD CPE 802.11g/n 1600mW 10dBi gave a significant range boost, and another user of the RouterBOARD claimed 5 miles range with clear line-of-sight, which is amazing.

They also have a mobile version intended for RV / boat etc. It should in theory be possible to use this for peer-to-peer networking.

7. How To Run Your Business From A Mountaintop / Treehouse / etc.

Civilization? Is it ok to admit that I am losing interest? So my next mission here is to create a fully mobile setup based on the 4G router. I’d like to see a) how portable I can make it and b) how much extended range / distance away from mobile phone towers the aerials will give c) ways to increase this. The great thing about these 4G boxes is that they don’t use much power. With a 13″ laptop, one of these tiny 4G boxes, a portable LiFePo4-based all-in-one power pack such as this one (USA) or this one (UK), small solar panel and perhaps a light tripod for the aerials, I really might be able to put it all in a backpack and run my business from “wherever”… or how about a bug-out vehicle with full wired internet. I’ll post my results! In the meantime, it’s still a big, wide, beautiful world – so let’s get out and explore! 🙂

8. Internet On A Boat

I don’t know too much about this but it’s logical to predict that marine enthusiasts and ocean-going folks have put significant thought into this – and they know a lot about being a long way from civilization. I just found a great tutorial that would be a perfect entry to the topic.

Turns out that with some of the marine signal boosters you can pick up cell phone towers up to around 8-10 miles offshore. Similar scenario for marina wifi services. I’d imagine that these devices don’t work quite as well on land because of “stuff in the way”, however they probably have very competitive range. There’s some fancy-looking hardware on that page, including routers that connect both wifi and cell signals, pulling from whichever is strongest. However, once you get past around 10 miles offshore, it’s down to satellite. Now this is where things get expensive. Of course, you are a yacht owner so spending another $1,400 to $30,000 on satellite hardware is no biggie. But now you can really be a Bond villain.

Final Thoughts

So there it is. In a few years, they will probably have figured all of this out. Not only Starlink but Amazon are in the process of deploying swarms of satellites, which no doubt will mean that in just a few years from now, you can be kept under observation anywhere on the planet, I mean, you will be able to get internet anywhere on the planet. Yay! “Connectivity everywhere” is a double-edged sword if ever there was one. And let’s hope nature doesn’t suffer as a result. Hmmm. Faraday cage bunkers? Deep tunnels? It’s all starting to sound good to me!