by Jack Woods
I spend most of the year out in the Bush, well beyond any cellular coverage. I have been living this way since 2013, and though I usually try to get indoors during the harsh winters of the Rockies. I have even spent a winter this way also, living in my RV away from it all. I do not want to live any other way; it has been a great way of life. Even as I type this article, I am enjoying the free camping way up in the mountains.
I am staring out over the mountains, and valleys, across the public forestry lands, living in my RV with a satellite phone that I use to upload my articles to you all. What more could I want? Any person that enjoys getting away from it all often finds that cell coverage is not very good or non-existent in the back woods. If you need to stay in contact with friends, family and the outside world, a satellite phone or VOIP phone system, over a satellite connection is the only practical way to do this.
Here are a couple of ideas for the serious prepper, and those of you who still enjoys some outside contact, while waiting for those mushroom clouds to appear on the horizon. I’m not really talking about a weekend get away here. I’m thinking of the long term bugout scenario or people like myself, that stay away in the bush for many moths.
Now if any of you have priced out mobile satellite Internet for yourselves you have probably been bowled over by the outrageous costs for those RV setups. Yeah, sure some of them can track satellites while you drive, but come on $7000.00 dollars. They can run as much as $2000 to $30,000.00 dollars for a mobile Internet satellite package. and that doesn’t even include the providers service. I do not know about you people, but that is a little out of my league. So… here are a couple of ideas that may appeal to the more frugal back woods campers like, myself.
Building your Satellite Internet System
It is best if you already have an account with a satellite provider. Then obtaining a portable or tailgate system with a dish and receiver is your next move. These can be purchased from online for far less then you might think. You might even decide to build your own system. What you will need is a dish obviously, a tripod and the gear to set up the dish, these are available online, just search for tripods for satellite dishes.
Many of these sites all have the necessary components that you need, and here are some of the parts you will need: A Dish, Tripod, Satellite signal meter, cables, and even a receiver. (I suggest you just bring your receiver from home) Now if you need an extra satellite dish your current provider is more then willing to sell you one. (Just tell them you want to mount it on the garage.) A decent price range for a remote satellite system combo ready made, is from $200.00 to less then $300.00 USD. You will also need to search Google for the set up coordinates used for aiming your system in the area you plan to camp in. This will be NECESSARY to aim your dish at the proper satellite, in the sky.
Aiming your Dish
First off, you will need a clear view of the southern sky to receive a good signal. The further north you are camping the lower on the horizon the satellite will be. This means mountains and other obstructions can be a problem in some locations and not others. Getting coordinates before you go is the best. Remember we are going to be in areas that do not have normal cell coverage. Here is a site that you can use to print off the coordinates for your camping spot. (http://www.dishpointer.com/) Just search for the location you wish to use the system in (GPS Coordinates are best), and then select the type of dish you have and search… The app will give you the what ever pertinent information you need to set up your dish, like the minimal heights and coordinates of your selection.
First, your dish needs to match your receiver brand and type. In addition, rather then buying another receiver and trying to have it set up for your system, you can just as easily bring your home receiver with you when you are camping or bugging out for that matter. Is having your own remote system illegal? No. Is capturing a signal from your provider that you have a contract with illegal? No. Read your contract, but I doubt it says anything about that, so NO again. Your satellite provider may want to charge you a huge fee for your extra system, and they might want to either shut you down and your satellite system or charge you extra if they find out from YOU, that you are using a separate dish for camping. This defeats the purpose of obtaining your own camping system, wink-wink…
On their own, your provider cannot tell if you are using a remote dish in the mountains, anymore then they can tell if you are sitting in your living room. One caveat though is when using it as an Internet, email, or VIOP phone service. You do give away your location when uploading or transmitting during these operations. If a location was needed, a trained professional could triangulate your location during theses data exchanges.
A satellite signal other wise is just that, a signal like any other broadcast signal like a radio signal; you can be anywhere within range (Below the artic circle) and you will pick up at least an intermitting signal. THEREFORE, DO NOT; contact your provider for technical help. Using their help center when you are trying to set up a remote system for yourself will tip them off that you have an additional satellite system and that usually costs you extra, so check your providers website for their policy. Besides there are plenty of sites online that will give you great details on how to set up and build your own system.
Many satellite accessory sites have inexpensive portable dish systems that match nearly every provider out there. So, search around. They offer much more then I do about dishes and signals too. Ideally, you will want an Internet package for your dish. So that you can get the Internet as well as hook up a phone line when out in the Boonies. The Internet package will allow you to have a normal home phone in the bush to contact the outside world during emergencies. You only need to set up a VIOP (Voice, Over, Internet, Provider) account to do this, and if you already have, one great just plug in your home phone and GO.
Satellite Phone Service
Using a simple Sat phone for emails is also possible and a lot less complicated then a full satellite system set-up. However, full satellite systems are better, they are expensive and not the most ideal for the prepper on a budget. The cheapest satellite phone provider out there right now that I have found at least, is Global Star (http://ca.globalstar.com/en/).
A person on a budget can purchase these sat phones, and services, and a “Car Kit” or other hook-up device to use on their laptop allowing them to upload or download personal email messages when in the Bush. Besides this, it allows you some very tedious Internet browsing. I admit the browsing speeds are horrendous, for instance downloading a single webpage can take a half hour at times. This is not very practical for most people, but it is a connection to the outside world nevertheless.
So, read your providers package details, as data transfer can cost you plenty if it is not included. Another thing is that sending attachments by email seems to be difficult with these setups, as it tends to break them up into separate emails and may not be readable on the other end. Yet this is better then two coconuts and a string I guess.
Bear in mind this is for areas outside of the normal cellular coverage. There are plenty of remote cellular data modems out there, especially in the lower 48s. This idea isn’t for those situations. Zero cell coverage in remote areas affects people in the far north more then the lower forty-eight states.
Furthermore, using the information that I have provided for building your remote satellite system is at your own risk. I do not wish to promote or encourage illegal activities, or get anyone into trouble with their service provider here. Whichever way you decide to go it is on you, and bear in mind the benefits of this technology, as well as the limitations. During a social or economic collapse or other dire emergency, these systems may be minimal at best, or even non-existent. So, be prepared and keep prepping. Also remember to help a neighbor out when you can; you never know when you, will need some help yourself one day. Maybe split the satellite service between you and your neighbor. Just a thought…
The Practical Prepper