By the author of An Arm and a Leg and The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications
We’ve previously talked a little bit about building an off-grid early alert system using the Dakota Driveway Alarm. But what if you want to add a camera to the mix? What if you’re looking for an off-grid security system at your hunting cabin and don’t know where to turn?
Today, we’ll show you how I did so.
I’ll start off by saying that this method utilizes phone towers.
Perhaps that means this isn’t truly off-grid. In a grid-down situation, you’d be out of luck using the camera that we used here. There are other methods you would have to turn to for that. For day-to-day “normal” life, if you want to keep tabs on your hunting cabin that’s a 45-minute drive from where you live, this method will work just fine. You can still use the “format” of what we did here, though, to serve as the model for a true “off-grid” camera system.
For the camera, there’s a motion-activated Blink camera. You can easily pick these up for a little over $140 on Amazon. Once you get the entire rig setup, that camera will send your phone an alert and a picture anytime that it detects motion out in its field of view. You can even talk through the camera, so if anybody is fiddling around with your stuff, you can give them a verbal warning that the police are on the way.
We started off with a car battery that we had lying around. You can pick these up at just about any car store out there for $80-$120 (it depends on what type you buy). I know that Yago, in his book Lights On, gives a very good outline of the different types of 12V batteries there are out on the market and which ones he recommends (and doesn’t). I would recommend picking up that book for a more detailed analysis of this than what I can speak to. I’m not an electrical engineer – he is – and he knows more about all that than I could ever hope.
Perhaps there’s a better type of battery for this application than what you see here. If so, use it. I’m just showing you what I used so that you can get some ideas.
The car battery is hooked up via alligator clamps to another inverter from Harbor Freight (that place rocks). You can pick those up fairly cheaply there and walk away with a free Chinesium screwdriver to boot.
Plugged into that inverter are the router and the device that communicates with the camera. The router is what communicates with the cell tower.
To keep the battery juiced up, it’s connected to a solar panel that is mounted on the roof. From what I understand, you don’t ever really want to use a solar panel unless you also have a charge controller for that solar panel that keeps it from “overjuicing” things.
You can see that the panel is connected to one of those devices here. Again, you can pick up one of these little protective guys from Amazon fairly cheaply. If you detest Amazon with the burning intensity of a thousand suns, there are plenty of other solar venues out there (I bet there are two in your city) that will be more than happy to sell you what you need.
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I was pretty happy with the end result here. Again, if there’s a grid-down situation, you likely aren’t going to have cell service, so this wouldn’t be the best option for that. However, you can use this same type of setup for a camera that doesn’t need to utilize cell towers but, instead, perhaps utilizes some type of radio frequency, or something like that, to alert you when something is happening.
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Do you have any advice on building an off-grid security system?
Again, when it comes to electrical work, I’m rather clueless. This is our system. I’m just showing you how we did things for informational purposes. There may be other steps that typically should be involved here that we didn’t include. If you know what they are, please let people know in the comment section below. If you know a thing or two about electrical work, you could potentially help a lot of other people that way. Do you have your own off-grid security system? Tell us about it. Let’s talk off-grid security in the comments. (If you can somehow include mention of wooly mammoths in your comment, you get extra credit.)
Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, The Faithful Prepper, An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.
Easier than I would ave thought.
Great article. Last fall I installed a small solar system on my garage roof. I’m very happy with the results.
You mentioned woolly mammoths. Interesting trivia – I’m a violin bowmaker and use ivory for the tip plates of bows. It is illegal to use elephant or walrus tusk ivory but it is legal to use exhumed woolly mammoth tusk ivory, so many bowmakers use it.
The best off-grid security you can get is with a bioweapon, called a “dog.” It doesn’t use any electricity and only requires the same things you do–food, water, shelter–which you already have anyway; no electronic equipment to buy. It can also keep you warm in winter and lift your spirits–something you’ll probably need in a SHTF scenario. It will growl, letting you know something’s out there, and will protect you physically to the extent that it can; a Yorkie can’t do much more than warn you, while a German Shepherd or bigger can remove a threat entirely, or at least buy you time so that YOU can remove the threat. The only thing harder than the electronic security is that the “programming” (training) of your bioweapon takes more time, but the rewards are worth it!
I’m an electronics tech, so I know what how to set up a pretty complex off-grid security system, but I guarantee a well trained bioweapon is a better way to go. No downtime with your bioweapon, while electronic security needs maintenance, checking wires, components and battery charges, all of which can (and WILL) fail, sooner or later.
Bioweapon, I like it!
Got a few myself.
One is a small hound, but she packs a bite! Good nose on her too.
Spot on. In a world (in the west) where the possibility of being without a ready supply of parts, chips, and microprocessors becomes more likely every day, I scratch my noggin when I read articles from prepping sites steering people toward the very things that require energy, maintenance, and IMO offer a false sense of security.
A pair of dogs are superior, in every way. I appreciate your post.
In the good old times, people would have a camera but the pictures would just be taped. In other words, you wouldn’t know what was going on till you actually checked the camera. If something went missing, you would know what happened, but you wouldn’t be able to check live or anything like that. These days, there are methods of sending pics via radio that didn’t exist before because nowadays you have radio at higher frequencies, so you may want to look into that, if you are really interested.
In the really good old times of wooly mammoths, people didn’t have cameras at all but were really good at tracking and figuring out what happened from looking at footprints, etc. It’s a very cheap alternative, if you have the skills, which can be acquired at some survival courses.
Cool set up Aden, thanks for the info. Is the fire extinguisher part of the package? 🙂 Better be safe than sorry. Hosmart has some good driveway alarms that works ok and is affordable. tested it for a year now and can’t fault it, except for the silly tunes.. a reliable Camera would be the best option, farmers use it for calving monitors, but smart phones and me don’t work well together.. like a fully woolly mammoth i resist this change. The bioweapon however is great, just busy training our latest muppet.. what fun!
I recommend the following for truly off grid sites.
DOCUMENT: Silent trail cam to document WHO did it. I recommend one that stores the photos to a local remote SD chip (so even if they destroy the camera you have their pictures). I do this mostly to know who to ‘talk’ to later. Batteries last 6 months to a year.
ALERT: IF you are in range of a HAM repeater you could put out a chirp (like the phone dial tones to alert your HAM receiver to setoff an alarm). That takes a bit of skill to setup (and a license for HAM) Bivy sticks are easier, yet will still require some sort of interface to bluetooth into the Bivy stick (Raspberry Pi or hardwired). Solar power this alert unit as it is active.
Defend: Use pin switches or N/O switches on doors (and/or pressure plates) setup to trigger a solenoid on a pepper spray cartridge (pulsed/time delay and repeating) AND pull the pin on a smoke bomb. Obviously, check local laws. If you use lithium batteries (primary cells) your system should monitor for 30+ years WITHOUT needing to be charged….on $30 worth of batteries [passive monitoring requires no power].
The pepper spray denies entry and if pulsed will keep them out for days. The smoke bomb blinds them so quick smash and grabs are blinded by the smoke for the first entry. Google ‘smoke cloak’ a legit provider. Only issue with their product is it requires a 1500 watt + heater on standby. Smoke bombs like the Enola Gay require just a pin to be pulled. Don’t fret about ‘alarming’ every entry point. Just setup a few obvious targets. Everyone will try to open or move the expensive gun pelican case. Heavy smoke can also attract the attention of forest fire monitoring/neighbors.
Do NOT (even if SHTF) substitute an EI or frag grenade for the smoke bomb deploy. Your ‘stuff’ isn’t worth it (the risk to friendlies). Instead, you should bury the good stuff.
Scare: If legal, you could use a voice chip to play a recording that states “The next time you enter this building you might be worried about lethal devices being be used. I would take this as a polite warning to not proceed further. Have a nice day.”
Track: Purchase a tracking chip (Apple etc) and hide it inside something VALUABLE and easily visible (once forced entry is used). Laptops and tools are great to hide them in. This will allow you to have a ‘conversation’ with the thieves at a later date. Somehow once you get to this level of preparedness it seems fate spares you this joy.
Deny exit: This is perhaps, my favorite trick. If your location is OUTSIDE of cell range (and in the middle of nowhere) I highly recommend having a sacrificial generator left out. The thieves will pull the vehicle close to the generator to steal it (and trip off another alarm when the generator is moved). This rotates a drive (buried underground conductors) about 30 ft away (in my case). This raises a metal plate with nails just above the gravel driveway (choke point). Their vehicle will be disabled trying to exit (the plate remains buried under the gravel and nails are hard to see poking up through the gravel). They will be without cell service and no one carries FOUR spare tires. This gives you lots of time to get out and have a talk with them. Again, once you’ve set this up….fate will likely spare you the joy of seeing it used. Remember that they may just come back and burn it down in revenge. Emotionally prepare for that. By emotionally I suggest having a few bricks of ammunition in the drywall. Not that it has ever happened, but most pyro-scum will stand around and watch it burn. The ammunition fires off randomly in all directions like a machine gun when it gets hot. Hot expediated Karma.
Talking: (With some of your friends present) tell them about how their actions hurt your feelings and ask them not to return. Discuss local laws with them and the consequences if they are found guilty in a court of law. After a thorough talking to (wear your black full face covid mask and maintain 6ft distance) most people will get the idea.
Again, follow all laws. Be nice. Walk softly and carry a big stick.
I’d suggest feeding DC powered devices with DC either directly if they are 12v/13.8v or via buck converters rather than using the inverter and the “wall wart” that came with the device, which is a somewhat wasteful way to power things. Some cheap solar regulators have USB power outlets, so you could use that rather than the adapter.
Great Jobe setting that all up and interfacing all the different aspects.
One thing I’ll say about country living, our neighbors are pretty good about watching each other’s backs. Still, you’ve given me a few ideas t hat I’m going to play around to add another layer of defense