Keen to live off grid, but worried about missing out on the conveniences of modern life? Read on to see how living off grid doesn’t have to mean no internet.
The majority of us use the internet more than anything else these days. It is now integral to the success and even the happiness of many people’s lives.
We work on the internet, we meet people on the internet, we socialize through the internet, and we can buy anything and everything through the internet.
But, can you use the internet when living off the grid?
Well, actually yes and it's now easier than ever!
We explain the best methods for getting off-grid WiFi in 2023.
Trials of Living Off the Grid
Before we dive into off-the-grid internet, let’s talk about the term “living off the grid.”
We are sure you have heard it before, but for those of you who haven’t, here is a brief introduction.
Almost every household across the United States is linked to a “power grid.”
This grid provides you with power and is also connected to water sources so you can drink from your tap and also use your toilet without even thinking about it.
However, every single month, and we all know this part, you are treated to a bill in the mail for all of the power that you have used.
For some people who use a lot of power every month, this can be like a second rent or mortgage and the rates can be ridiculous.
Utility companies can also have a negative effect on the environment, which is why many people have opted to reduce their environmental footprint and live off the grid; they want to power their homes with sustainable and renewable energy.
This can be in the form of a wind turbine, with wind powering your home, or the most popular way is through solar panels and the power of the sun.
Renewable energy is fantastic for the environment and does not promote pollution of any kind.
People living off the grid usually opt to also live off the land as well. They plant and they hunt in order to survive, although many opt to be vegetarians.
It is a much healthier lifestyle and it is also what this world needs right now.
However, one of the main reasons people simply cannot hop off the grid so fast is that their life is basically tied to electricity.
For one, electricity is what puts food on the table for them, as they work directly with the internet.
So how can they stay connected while being off the grid? How can you check your Facebook account even when you don’t have power?
Related: We recommend the tiny house resorts and hotels that should be next on your list!
Off Grid Internet Options
There are a few options for off grid internet access, each with their own pros and cons. We explain the options available to you and in which situation they are best suited down below.
These are 4 of the best ways to access the internet while living off grid.
1. Cellphone Tethering (Using a Data Plan)
The first way is to have a simple cellphone connection. There are so many rural locations across the country that have cell towers that you can use.
If you have a cellphone and a data plan with it, you can easily stay connected and use the internet.
If you can afford it, get an unlimited data plan for your cellphone. This means you don't need to worry about excess charges for going over your data limit.
All you need is a bar of signal (it won't work with no phone signal) and you can transform this signal into WiFi. Obviously, a stronger signal is preferable (because it's faster) but you'll be surprised how good your WiFi signal can be with just one bar of phone reception.
A cell phone service provider that has really good coverage will make a huge difference too. The stronger your signal, the better your internet connection will be.
It's really simple to turn on too. Just select 'Tethering' or WiFi hotspot' in your settings and flick the switch. You can password protect the WiFi network too.
A downside here is that it's really energy intensive for your phone. The battery will drain very quickly and you'll notice most phones getting very hot after an hour of providing internet signal.
Another potential downside is that you'll need to have your phone close in proximity to the device that you want to provide internet to ( but there's a workaround for this that we'll reveal later).
2. Satellite Internet
This is the type of internet connection that is usually used in off-the-grid situations.
The main reason is that by using satellite internet, you will have a much more reliable and secure connection than most other options.
You should be able to get solid internet speeds that allow you to download files, stream video, and sometimes even upload onto service like YouTube (which needs good internet speeds).
You also don't need to rely on patchy phone signals.
This is the only type of internet that can be used in truly remote areas, where many people are living off the grid.
It can be used anywhere that a satellite dish can reach it unobscured. However, certain locations are still unreachable, even for satellites. Areas like at the foot of mountains may receive patchy coverage at certain times of the day at least.
The big downside here is the cost. The average price in the US at the time of writing is $110 per month for satellite internet. That's about double the price of a regular cable or fiber connection.
Another possible downside (depending on the service) is the speed. Satellite internet is usually much slower than the fiber optic internet that you're used to in the city.
Most regular internet service providers will have a satellite option available for internet off the grid.
3. Ham Radio
If you really want to throw it back to the good old days, you can look into using the internet through ham radio.
These are usually used during emergency situations, but they were used even before the internet through something called packet radio.
This allows you to send texts, send files, and even control systems through a ham radio. Just be warned you won't be watching Netflix or anything like that with these internet speeds!
Packet radio technology can link to stations in remote places, providing you with a sort of “internet.”
There are radio messaging systems across the country, such as Winlink and DStar that you can use to send emails and communications.
You can even access the internet through them. For more information on using ham radios, we recommend going to YouTube and watching tutorials on them there. There's a fair bit of a learning curve here and you'll need to be willing to learn.
You'll need a ham radio operator's license and a reliable ham radio to get started.
The big bonus here is that it's the cheapest and most energy efficient way to stay connected to the internet off-grid. Big downsides are the slow speeds, lack of encryption, and the steep learning curve.
4. Signal Booster (for a Cellphone)
We mentioned something earlier that would allow you to have greater distance between your cellphone that's providing a WiFi signal and the device that's receiving the WiFi signal.
That something is called a signal booster.
It works by amplifying incoming cell reception signals and therefore improving the speed of your internet. If before you got just 2 bars, you might now get 3 or 4.
As you can see, there are plenty of off-the-grid internet options available to you, even if you live somewhere that is incredibly rural.
It seems that hardly anybody these days can live without the internet, and even if you are off the grid, you still need a way to keep in contact with people and not miss out on work opportunities.
There are plenty of options available to you, and it might take a bit of trial and error to find out which one is going to work the best.
In summary, this is what we recommend:
Do you use any of these methods and have some advice for our readers? We'd love to hear about your experience in the comments section!