Why Low-Tech Prepping Is a Better Option for a Long-Term Grid-Down Scenario

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

By Daisy Luther

With power outages crippling cities across the nation, the potential for a nasty solar flare, and geopolitical tensions, it might be time to revisit your long term power outage plan. This article from the archives explains why I won’t be investing in pricey generators or expensive equipment. Low-tech prepping is much more affordable and sustainable for those of us without extravagant budgets.

The Big Blackout: Why I’m Going Low-Tech to Prep for an EMP

This might be stating the obvious, but in the event of an EMP, things will not be the same, no matter how great your generator is.

Aaron Dykes of Truthstream Media wrote an excellent article about the extreme likelihood of a catastrophic event that could take out our power grid:

Billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer is warning investors – and more broadly, lawmakers and leaders – about the potential destructive power of an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, which could be triggered by solar events or artificially, via blasts in the atmosphere.

According to Singer, research shows that no other incident, including a nuclear bomb, has the potential for such wide-scale devastation, coupled with the relative likelihood of occurring. While a nuke would primarily impact on the location of a such (such a city), an EMP could occur globally or across large-scale regions, wreaking havoc on the entire electric grid and devices…

…Government agencies, such as NASA and Homeland Security, have taken some preliminary steps towards preparing for an EMP attack – regardless of the potential for natural of man made causes – but the public at large remains cripplingly unaware of the dangers present to modern life, and its reliance on all things electronic, digital and, thus, transient. (Check out the rest of this MUST-READ article HERE)

We’ve all read many articles about the likelihood of grid failure. We’ve been warned again and again that it isn’t a matter of if, but when, it happens.

Because of this, a lot of people are preparing for a very different future.  Folks are getting ready for the Big Blackout.  The thing is, I am not sure everyone is thinking this through.  Many people are spending buckets of money on preparations to try to keep their lives as similar as possible to how they are today. They’re investing in diesel generators and Faraday cages to protect their electronics. They are buying propane-fueled appliances.  They’re stashing away fuel to run these gadgets.

Generators are not a practical investment for EMP preparation.

The problem with that method of preparation is, the fuel-generated lifestyle will only last for as long as you have…well…fuel.

Very few of us have enough storage space or the proper facilities to store 5 years’ worth of fuel.  If the power grid goes down in a catastrophic way, it’s going to take at least 5 years to get things up and running again, and that’s assuming things ever get up and running again in the way they are now.

That means that people are spending thousands of dollars investing in items that will only sustain their lifestyles for a brief period of time.  Generators are not a long term solution unless you have renewable power. (More on that later). While a generator would be a blessing in a short-term emergency (think a week-long power outage due to a storm), for a permanent way of life they are completely impractical.

Furthermore, in the event of an EMP strike, if your generator is not protected, it may not work no matter how much fuel you have stored.

Maybe the fact that I’m not rolling in money is the reason I feel this way. Maybe people with lots of money to spare have ideas about how to keep their generators running forever. But for my personal situation, this is a preparation strategy that is completely impractical.

A low-tech lifestyle is the best way to prep for grid-down survival.

If money is an object in your preparedness endeavors, (and let’s face it, money is an object for most of us these days), then focus your dollars on preps that are sustainable without electrical power.  Instead of trying to live the exact same life you are living right now, only fueled by an individual generator, look for low-tech solutions instead.  This reminds me of people who stop eating gluten but still want to eat exactly like they have been eating their entire lives, only now with expensive gluten-free baked goods that cost 4 times the price of their wheat-filled counterparts.  When things change dramatically, accept the change and adapt to it, instead of trying to maintain the illusion that everything is the same.

Whether you can get power from an outlet in the wall or not, the necessities of day-to-day life will remain the same:

  • Water
  • Shelter and Warmth
  • Food
  • Sanitation and Hygiene
  • Light

The ultimate preparedness goal should be to provide those necessities without any help from the power grid, generators, or fossil fuel. (LEARN MORE about planning for a long-term disaster)

When my youngest daughter and I lived in the North Woods of Canada, we lost power frequently throughout the year. Lots of folks in the area had generators that they would fire up when the power went out, and that was a viable solution, since gas stations were available and fuel was pretty much unlimited as long as you could afford to go get it.  We were on a tight budget, however, and we adapted our situation to live without power during those outages.  After the first couple of outages, we had worked out most of the bugs and we even began to look forward to our time without power – it was like a little vacation from the regular workday.  As plugged in as our society is, power is not actually a necessity – it’s a luxury, and we can live without it as long as we are adaptable, creative, willing, and prepared.

Let’s look at some specific examples of low-tech ways to take care of our necessities.  These ideas are just food for thought, based on my own preparedness plan – they may not be the solutions that will work best for you, but the goal here is to brainstorm your own situation and figure out how to live your life low-tech if the need occurs.

Off-grid Water


If you haven’t located water sources near your home,  it’s time to break out the topographical maps of your area and find them!  A low-tech water plan might include some or all of the following:

  • A manual pump for your well
  • Buckets and wheelbarrows for hauling water from a nearby source
  • Rain barrels for water harvesting (THIS is an inexpensive option with mixed reviews)
  • A gravity-fed water filtration system (we have THIS ONE)
  • A water dispenser for convenient access to filtered water (Be sure to get one with the bottle on top so that it can be operated without electricity, and not one that uses an electric pump to pull the water up from the bottom)
  • Storage units for water such as cisterns or tanks
  • Portable water filter bottles for safe water when you are away from home (we have THIS ONE)

Off-grid Shelter and Warmth


Homes these days aren’t built to function without a connection to the power grid.  If you aren’t fortunate enough to live in an older home that was designed for off-grid living, look at some ways to take your home back a century or so. A secondary heating system is vital in most climates.

  • An antique oil heater can use lots of different oils and requires little effort for installation (THIS SITE is loaded with information about Perfection oil heaters)
  • Have a woodstove installed
  • Clean your chimney and get your fireplace working
  • Set up an outdoor fireplace with large rocks to bring inside for radiant heat (this won’t get you super warm but it’s better than nothing)
  • Have a good supply of blankets, warm clothes, and cold-rated sleeping bags
  • Learn techniques to stay warm with less heat

Off-grid Food


Not only do you need access to food, but you also need a way to cook it and a way to keep your refrigerated and frozen items from spoiling.

Off-grid Sanitation and Hygiene


How will you keep clean and deal with human waste in the event of a long-term emergency?

Off-grid Lighting


The world is a scary place when it’s dark, and most of us have forgotten how dark TRUE dark really is, due to light pollution and the proximity of neighbors. Here are some lighting solutions for an off grid world:

  • Solar garden lights – store them outside to be charged during the day and bring them in and put them in vases where they’re needed at night
  • Oil lamps – you can recycle used cooking oil or use rendered fat to power these – they give a brighter light and can be used for reading and close-work (Learn more HERE)
  • Candles – stock them and learn to make them
  • Solar powered flashlights

Renewable power is practical power.

One exception to my no-generators rule is renewable power. If you can afford a solar set up for your home, then very little would change about your day-to-day life, aside from you being one of the few people with power.  You don’t have to go totally solar to have power for a few important items.  Assuming you have electronics in working order, they can be powered with solar, wind, or water.

Most of us can’t afford an entire set up but these are some options to consider:

  • Solar generators – find reviews of 11 of the best HERE
  • Build a DIY portable solar recharging station – learn how to make it HERE
  • Solar-powered systems for specific items – learn more HERE
  • Use wind power – learn more HERE
  • Use water power – learn more HERE

What will you do when the electrical power goes out?

Do you have plans in place for a long-term (or permanent) power outage?  Are you planning to use generators and maintain your current lifestyle, or are you planning to go low-tech? Share your opinions and some of your cost-effective ideas in the comments!

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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28 Responses

  1. I have to take issue with your choice of, and link to sleeping bags. If you want sleeping bags, jackets and parkas that actually keep you warm in the bitter cold, I highly recommend Wiggy’s products. They are manufactured in the USA from materials made in the USA. They are the absolute best outdoor products I have ever owned. And no I have no financial incentive, I just want all you preppers, including and especially those of us raised in warmer climates, to have the excellent warmth I had Elk Hunting in single-digit temperatures. Their “sweater” keeps me warm better than most name-brand, trendy crapola you can buy at sporting goods stores.

      1. Go to Wiggys.com. For me to recommend a product it usually has to be a 12 on a 10 scale. I’ll leave the details to the company owner, Jerry “Wiggy” Wigutow. But his products work as advertised, or much better. And he stands buy his products. My wife broke out in a mystery rash a couple of years ago. I called Wiggys only to ask if anyone had ever had an allergic reaction to his Lamalite insulation. He actually called me later that evening, concerned about my wife. He offered to take back the comforter and refund everything should it turn out to be that she was allergic, but hers was something else. Were it not for my buddy in Missoula recommending his bags I would have froze my buns off during first season Elk. My bag was the ONLY place I was comfortable. When I got home I immediately ordered his “sweater”, basically a hood-less jacket. I have to be careful shoveling snow, even in single digits, lest I break out in a sweat. The Lamalite insulation is amazing, but it is only produced in the states and the big companies don’t want to spend the extra money supporting Americans as long as Chinese labor is cheap.

    1. here’s the OMG the least expensive coat there is just under $2oo, the most costly over $800.
      This is about prepping, not going broke trying to prep.
      it all might be great stuff, I’ll go with what I have.

    1. Chris,
      “One Second After” was a good read. I have read quite a few other grid-down novels. I thought most were too pessimistic — that civilization would totally collapse into worse-than-Mad-Max within a couple days. They also tended to feature a run-and-gun über-prepper with a gun and gizmo for all occasions. Not usually too much about what day-to-day w/o the grid would be like.

      So, I set out to write a grid-down story with ordinary people who had to make do and improvise. The stories aren’t as action-packed as the Rambo type tales, but built on more of the kind of things Daisy has on her blog: like her list of low-tech solutions in this blogpost (above). Oil lamps, wood stove, hand pumps, etc.

      If you’re up for stories that aren’t Rambo Shoots Zombies, check them out.

      mic-roland.com

      1. Hey Mic, you are right. I read One Second After a few years ago, and the speed of the events was fast indeed. People will keep calm for a while. I have lived through the slow-motion collapse in Venezuela, my country, and I can witness how resilient can some societies be. Now there are lots of problems with power and water, getting cash, and the Internet access, not to mention the food and health attention problems…Perhaps that will be the trigger for the real Venezuelan Revolution.

        1. One Second After
          One Year After Book 2
          The Final Day Book 3 by William R. Forstchen

          Have all three in audiobook.
          Good stories.

  2. I think I sent you this link before: http://www.humanurehandbook.com/. It’s a better alternative to outhouses and you can use the “results” in your garden!

    I went out to the site just now and , unfortunately, they no longer offer the Humanure Handbook for free but it’s well worth the price.

  3. Just a quick suggestion to all those out there: look into your local camping supplies store. Many camping items are specifically made for camping without any power, such as camping toilets, stoves, fire pits (great for heating those rocks you mentioned, as well as s’mores!), sleeping bags, etc. etc. Be sure to get high quality items (that might be more expensive then cheap Chinese imports), and look out for sales, as items (especially near Father’s Day) have prices slashed, sometimes up to 50% or more off. Also, a cheap faraday cage is a metal garbage can, as when the lid’s on tight there is no way an electrical charge can get in. Just insulate items from the walls and place on an earthed surface (your concrete basement floor will work, but wood won’t). Keep prepping and stay frugal 🙂

  4. Daisy, there is a soft spot in my heart for the souls reading your articles who have to squeeze nickels “until the buffalo grins.” And you do an excellent job of graciously addressing their needs. So here’s my two cents along those lines today.

    Many inventors, creators and authors at some time made their ideas or designs freely downloadable, sometimes on their own websites, but sometimes on those of others. Later, either those links were disabled or removed, or the entire websites were taken down. Their creations were then sometimes moved to a “For Sale” location, or sometimes that was done with updated versions. However, for the budget minded, all is not lost.

    In many cases, those old freebie download links and websites were saved by the internet’s “forever” memory at Archive.org — and if one can locate those old freebie download links, and plug their complete URL into the URL window on Archive.org, it can be learned how many times and on what dates over the years those links may have been preserved.

    Here are two examples. I just downloaded the complete PDF of the Humanure Handbook from one of the 2009 Archive.org captures of their website. Similarly, the version 1.0 design drawings of Jim La Joie’s excellent “All Season Solar Cooker” were once freely available for download, and for those diligent enough to find the old links for it, Archive.org will come through for them as well. If one has a little more cash in pocket, I recommend rewarding the inventor for his larger and improved v2.0 (on Amazon or eBay), but the v1.0 is an excellent starting point for anyone with more DIY initiative than cash.

    Once a creator has ever made their design or book freely downloadable, there is no longer a moral or legal obstacle to benefitting from that, even if the creator has removed the old working links.

    Thanks, Daisy, for all that you do.

    —Lewis

    1. Thank you for that fantastic information, Lewis. I’ll be doing some searching myself for some of these downloads!

      I appreciate your kind words. 🙂

  5. wondering if the hydrogen peroxide you used is the 3% found in the first aid aisle or the 20% (or more) found in the hair color aisle? 3% is ubiquitously available, but would be quite diluted in this recipe, so i wondered…

  6. Little note about depending on solar power. Couple weeks ago got a notice from my local internet provider saying that one of their towers was down and they were out working on it. Seems they keep the batteries operating by using solar rechargers at the towers. And it had been either raining or very overcast for over a week. So the batteries had not recharged as planned and were no longer working. They were having to send a team out to manually change the batteries. Point being – solar works fine so long as you get enough sunlight. You have to have a back-up for the solar for periods when you do not get enough sunlight to power the generator.

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s about time someone debunked the generator myth. Daisy, you are right on target. If we have an EMP attack, the effect will be long term. Unless you own gas station, you won’t have gas for the generator. I agree, keep it simple.

  8. There is a huge belief that mankind can survive a total EMP grid down event. It will not.

    Just consider the massive amounts of radiation that will be spewed into the atmosphere from all the nuclear power plants and their cooling ponds for the spent fuel rods. The cooling water will boil off.

    How is anyone going to plant crops with that in the atmosphere?
    The Earth doesn’t end that way

  9. One thing that I have found out gives outstanding lighting is Tiki torches. However I have found that the less expensive bamboo varieties do not stand up to the weather. I am buying more of the metal torch holders. Also, I take the fuel holders indoors except when I use them and I do not put the fuel in them unless I am going to use them. They also make glass table-top torches that are also really great about giving lots of light. If you use them with the regular lamp oil they can be used indoors, you just really have to be very careful if you have small kids or pets, since if they get knocked over the fuel will spill and you have a high likelihood of a fire. I watch Amazon.com and when the gallon containers of lamp oil are on sale I pick up another gallon or so. I store the fuel inside the house, but in a large metal trash can so they won’t get knocked over and nothing can get to them. I have also stocked up on extra wicks and lots of long matches and long lighters.
    I have also purchased some items from Amazon called shed lights that are solar powered. The solar panel goes outside and then it has a cord to go inside and gives about four hours light on a full charge. I keep them now in my faraday cage and have two so far, might get more. I can put the solar panels outside a room in the house, run the small cord in, and have light for during the night. If I used both in my bedroom, I would have light to last 8 hours if needed. You could run the slight cord(s) past your blackout curtains so the light would not show outside. Have been thinking about using the two I currently have in the bedroom and another in the kitchen area.
    Also have a couple other solar lights meant for outdoors which could be brought inside as easily at night as the little yard solar lights. You could actually carry those with you to get through the house at night. The ones I have are small but give a pretty good amount of light. Easily carried in one hand. In fact, the way they are made, you could carry them where you need to go, put them on their flat base and have light and both hands free to do whatever you might need to do. Each was under $10. The shed light was a bit more, but very affordable.
    One thing I’m majorly stocking up on are things to control pests. They will not be available if shopping becomes unavailable or if they become too expensive. Where I live there seems to be every type spider known to mankind already and I doubt that would improve if things go south. Also already have horrible rodent problems, so am majorly stocking up on rat and mouse bait and glue traps and old fashioned traps. Looking for a couple more good cat type ratters who need a good home as well – the real old fashioned natural rat and mouse killers. I have bought wasp and hornet spray for use on wasps and hornets which are very abundant here and seem to like making nests right outside my front door and then attacking me when I step out the door.

  10. Good article. In my subscriber’s email, you mentioned Puerto Rico. Many, many preps would not have survived that storm; including generators, solar power setups, a well-stocked pantry and other items that we preppers depend on and set our faith in. I have the preps, but I also *hope* that I am developing a problem solving mindset, flexibility, creativity, and a wide range of skills and abilities that will see us through a prolonged grid down situation. We plan, we practice, and we devise our methods for a certain set of circumstances. Either the circumstance will be NOTHING like we thought it would be or whatever comes our way will be something that we didn’t even have on our radar. I’ve told my children over and over. Skills, skills, skills! Your article is a message that needs to be preached widely! Thanks for the read.

  11. I have always preferred low-tech solutions, mainly from an environmental standpoint, but also because I realized a long time ago what you’ve said here: Generators will only last so long.

    I hoard and make my own candles. We had a fireplace insert (wood stove) installed a couple of years ago, and we collect firewood year round–as long as both of us are not sick. We are on a well, but we have yet to set up a solar pump or a hand pump. We don’t have the money for ANY solar right now, and we just haven’t gotten around to pricing out hand pumps yet.

    We grow our own food, and we also stockpile for us and for our pets. Every time we go shopping or every time I get pet food, one or two cans go into our stockpile. The stuff that we stock for ourselves doesn’t have to be cooked, as we are vegans. While it might taste better heated up, in a pinch, we could eat just fine by opening up a can and chowing down.

    I have done laundry without a washing machine before, and it would b no problem to do it again, if needed. I also don’t own a dryer, so I’m used to line drying.

    That’s about it as of now. I still have a lot to learn. Your newsletter rocks!

  12. About pests, particularly rodents. A rat can get the better of a cat. I would not pit a cat against a rat. Cats can be mousers but for rats, a rat terrier. I read somewhere that pioneers used the fly agaric mushroom (or toadstool if you prefer since they are poisonous) for flies. They put it in a dish of bread and milk and put it in a rafter in the barn where nothing else could get to it to kill flies.
    Never tried it but it should work.

  13. Luci Lights are great- especially the newer ones, which have a gauge of relative power left. I use this daily for over my sink. They were cheap (<20 bucks) and recharge in the sun at a decent rate. I have hooks high up in each room in case the power goes out. One of these days, I am going to destroy one and see if I can rig up a light switch, and then just never use grid power for lighting. They are that good. They now offer on their website a string of little lights, maybe 20 feet long. It does not appear that the charging part can be separated, in order that the string can be permanently mounted.
    I saw these at Target; but usually buy these at Bass Pro Shop.

  14. Well. that’s it.
    The well is the only thing I really need the generator for and I will do what I am able to keep one of my generators running for as long as i can.
    Currently we have enough hay to feed the horses for two years but hand pumping 50 to 100 gallons of water daily is just annoying giving the need for the generator.
    Plus the DNR made the homeowner remove the hand pump 9 or 10 years ago but it’s in the shop and will take an hour or three to reinstall.

    I have enough gas to keep it running for 400 hours just 30 to 60 minutes a day.
    and the lp conversion that will give me another 300 hours gen use.
    The potential is it’s running up to an hour a day for at least a year.

    Pretending the well pump continues to function.
    If not then it’s off to the pond several hundred feel off in the woods with the hand cart/bucket/large container

    But the option to keep the freezer running works well, again if the things still function.

    I have faith and a good idea not all tech will fail though it could be much or generally most, not all.

  15. I have plans to can my meat if the grid down situation. Refrigeration will keep it cold enough to get most of it done. Drying some will also work but is space prohibitive.( salt and pepper to keep the fly out of it).
    As for fire starters. I use candles from yard sales that I melt down and pour over wood chips/ saw dust in a muffin tin. Cut them into quarters and they store for ever and always work. Just what works for me. ????????????????????????

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