Taking Your Phone Off the Grid

by Dan Forster - , Last Updated on September 9, 2015, How To Guides

Going camping or hiking might be a chance to get away from it all, but for some people that’s just not a possibility. Whether because of work or personal reasons, you might need to take your mobile off the grid with you when you go, and besides, it’s pretty useful to have a phone in case of emergency, right? So, if you’re looking to take your fragile little phone out of the city and into the wilderness, we’ve got everything you need to know right here. Yes, you can take your phone camping!

Power Issues

Okay, so the first concern here has to be power. It’s unlikely that you’re going to run up against a handy plug socket installed in a tree, so you’re going to need to think about batteries. Your first step should be disabling power sucking things on your phone itself. That means switching off WiFi (yeah, you’re not going to find a signal, don’t worry), Bluetooth and even 4G. You can also probably close down certain apps that run in the background, and may want to switch off your phone’s location services (unless you’re going to need a map on the go).

What now? If you have a phone that has a removable battery then you can always buy yourself a spare battery just in case. Alternatively, you can look at solar chargers, car chargers (if you’re likely to have a car around), power packs and larger batteries.

In terms of products, the Goal Zero Venture 30 power pack is a great option, which will let you charge two devices at the same time and can hold plenty of juice. And the TYLT Powerplant is another good choice, since it’s nice and portable and has tons of power. Goal Zero also has a range of solar chargers and solar panels as well, should you decide to go that route.

Think Ahead!

There are plenty of things that you can put on your phone that are going to make your trip a whole lot more fun, not to mention safer. Hiking maps, campsite hours, directions, all of these can be usefully stored on your phone. But you’re going to need to think ahead. The chances of you getting full cellular connectivity for your entire trip are pretty small, and you don’t want to depend on Google Maps just to find out that you can’t access it.

So, before you leave make sure you use your phone to get as much online info as possible and save it offline. This is pretty easy to do on most phones (from your web browser open Settings and you should have an option to save offline). Google Maps will let you save maps offline too, making sure that you always know where you’re going!

No Signal?!

There’s a solid possibility, if you’re really going out into the wild, that you’re going to lose your cell phone signal altogether, so what are you supposed to do? Well, there’s not a lot you can do really. You should be able to make emergency calls even without reception showing on your phone, particularly inside the UK and Europe where 2G phone signals cover pretty much everywhere. Getting up high can improve signals too, so make for high ground (or climb a tree!).

Other than that though, you’ll probably need to accept that you’re not always going to be able to use your mobile. If this is a big concern for you, then satellite phones have much better reception range, though they’re pretty pricey…

Protection!

Today’s smart phones are pretty fragile devices, so if you’re looking at taking something off the streets and into the mountains you really do need to think about protection. There are plenty of robust covers and cases around, so take your pick! Look out for cases that are shock or impact resistant, as well as for waterproof and dust proof options. Things that are military grade are generally pretty good, otherwise look for an IP rating (which will tell you how waterproof and dust proof something really is).

Don’t Forget to Have Fun!

The advantage of taking a mobile on your trip with you is that there are plenty of options for having a little fun as well! Okay, you can take some speakers and be able to listen to a little music (as long as you’re not disturbing the birds), but you can also download books, guidebooks and trailbooks onto your device.

And don’t forget about mobile photography! If you’re taking your phone anyway, this might be the perfect time to brush up on your picture skills. For those that are more serious about photos you can buy add ons for most common phone models that give you different lenses, as well as downloading apps that give you better manual control of the camera settings.

Think About Rugged Phones

Finally, whilst it’s more than possible to take your regular smart phone out into the hills with you, if you’re a regular camper or hiker then you really might want to consider getting yourself a specialised rugged phone. These phones tend to be nearly indestructible, and thanks to being pretty simplistic, they have long, long battery life.

A rugged phone is designed for the outdoors, and whilst it might be a bit of an investment this could be worth it for frequent travellers into the wilderness. You’ll probably get better reception, you’ll definitely get better battery life, and you’ll worry a whole lot less about damaging your phone…

Going out into the woods or up into the mountains doesn’t mean that you can’t use your mobile. Though, of course, many people don’t want to! But if you need to stay in touch with home base, then be sure to think ahead and be prepared. With the right accessories and a little forward planning, you and your iPhone can be sharing a tent!