OFF-GRID HAM RADIO: Simple Emergency Communication When the Grid Goes Down

Off Grid Emergency Ham Radio

One of the topics that I receive the most email questions about is Off-Grid Communication, specifically Ham Radio. A lot of readers are either confused or want to know why Ham Radio is even relevant in today’s digital age. While advances in technology have definitely caused some to lose interest in the hobby, I believe Ham Radio is even more important today – mainly because of people’s dependence on technologies that are anything but reliable during an emergency.

During a grid down scenario, or even during a short-term disaster where cell towers become clogged by a flood of emergency traffic, Ham Radio is still one of the most reliable forms of communication out there. It’s also something that I turn to on a daily basis for unfiltered news from around the world.

Low Power Communication: How Ham Radio will save you when the Grid Goes Down

One of the main benefits of Ham Radio is its reliability. During a disaster, when other forms of communication have been knocked out, chances are the Ham bands are going to be alive and well.

The video below shows an emergency Ham Radio setup that can help keep communication going even after the grid goes down. The setup can be thrown into a small bag (or milk crate, as seen in the video), and deployed anywhere in the world.

The Radio itself has a number of low-power settings, and can be operated at 10, 5, 2.5, 1 or 0.5 watts of power. It only requires a simple wire antenna to operate (we use a slinky in the video), and can be used to communicate with people from around the globe.

My Off-Grid, Portable Emergency Ham Radio Station

What you see in the video:

The setup is pretty simple, and for the most part (minus the radio, and the solar charger) it can be made with items from around your house.

  • Solar Charger: iLAND TREK – Solar Charger & Battery – I can’t find these anymore so I swapped it out for a Jackery Portable Power Station and a Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel.
  • Radio: Icom IC-703 – Radio has been discontinued we now recommend the Icom IC-718 HF. We like the new radio better because we can still run it in a low power mode, and then when we have a consistent source of power we can bump things up.
  • Antenna: Simple Slinky Dipole
  • Coax: Regular household TV Coax
  • Light: Blackfire Clamplight
  • Clamps: Nasty Clamps – This is what’s holding the iPhone and the mic in the picture. These clamps are awesome; I use them all the time when filming and I’ve found a ton of uses for them.

For more information on Ham Radio and Emergency Communication, check out these articles:

Shirts of Liberty

OFFGRID Survival book



  1. Ok Guys let me throw in a few words as an antenna builder and Broadcast engineer who has been playing in this field for 60 years.
    Many Mobil and Base Ham radios are designed to work on 75 ohms. And will work on Tv coax though the loses are high and you will have to solder a PL plug on it. All CB Radios are designed for 52 ohm and will work temporarily on 75ohms but this miss match will cause excessive heat in the finials of the radio which will lead to failure. Modern ICs are not designed to handle much heat as everyone knows. The same applies to Ham with a 52ohn cable. If you must use a miss matched system I suggest you keep your transmit as short as possible to make your radio last longer and use a antenna match box or antenna turner to bring the deadly SWRs down, but hay when you think about it if you are going to buy a Ham or CB Radio why not spend a few extra dollars at the same store and buy the correct cable and antenna. MAKES SENSE TO ME… Note. A poor antenna system means poor range.

    • Ditto to Mr Rodgers. HAM radios even modern radios will work on 75Ohm feeds but it does depend on what you call works. If all your looking for is to listen to news events then the 75Ohm feeds will allow you to listen all day to any frequency that’s the easy part however, the missmatch will cause you much loss, put lots of stress on the finals, and of course kill your range. This is especially crucial as we are approaching the bottom of the solar cycle. This is where a good antenna will make or break your contact.

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