The Emergency Travel Communications Kit | Suburban Survival BlogSo, busi­ness trav­el seems to be a thing again.  I’m not thrilled about it.  After stay­ing home for two years, and spend­ing it with my nuclear fam­i­ly, I real­ly don’t want to get back on a plane to trav­el for busi­ness.  I’d rather work from home, do my job, and not trav­el again for work, unless my wife and kid­do can come with me.  You know, a fam­i­ly vaca­tion, if they exist any longer.  

That said, I don’t think it’s any secret, with (in my hum­ble opin­ion) poten­tial threats such as EMPs (think Chi­nese Bal­loons), nuclear war, cyber attacks, all of which are glob­al threats, that any­one that is for­ward think­ing get­ting on a plane to trav­el for work, has to be think­ing about the poten­tial for dis­as­ter that could quite frankly hap­pen any­time.  Call me pes­simistic, but as some­one who feels like they are more than a casu­al observ­er of the $#!& that is going on around us, I feel the need to up my game a lit­tle when I trav­el, no mat­ter where I trav­el.  It could be in the car, or by plane.  The plan is ALWAYS to get home to my fam­i­ly in the short­est time pos­si­ble.  

So before I trav­eled to the west coast this last month for work, I decid­ed I need­ed some new kit in order to feel more com­fort­able while trav­el­ing.  The ques­tion I had was, “will TSA think I am a whack job, if they stop this gear from going through secu­ri­ty and decide to search it out of curios­i­ty.”

Admit­ted­ly, the gear is essen­tial­ly cen­tered around com­mu­ni­ca­tions, being waterproofed/repellant, pro­vide for pow­er to the devices, give me the abil­i­ty to com­mu­ni­cate if the grid goes down for any rea­son.  Now, based on that, if the grid goes down because of an EMP, it is clear­ly more severe (from a geog­ra­phy per­spec­tive) than a tem­po­rary grid out­age.  Don’t get me wrong, if elec­tri­cal sub­sta­tions are sab­o­taged, expect at least 18 — 24 months with­out pow­er before a repair (a SLOW REPAIR) to a sub­sta­tion is made.  Even then, it is assumed what­ev­er gov­ern­ment fac­tion is in charge will get their core geopo­lit­i­cal cen­ter up and run­ning first, and then make plans to light up the rest of the coun­try… Or not… It remains to be seen.  

The Gear

Now to the point.  In my effort to build a new trav­el EDC kit for per­son­al and busi­ness trav­el, I took a cou­ple of things into con­sid­er­a­tion.  Com­mu­ni­ca­tion with my fam­i­ly, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion with our MAG.  Very sim­ple.  Then I had to look at modes of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.  Satel­lite, Radio, and Cel­lu­lar.  Each one has its own plat­form, and in each case.  Addi­tion­al­ly, I real­ized, I would require pow­er, which has its own draw­backs, elec­tron­ic library, and light­ing.  

With that, I need­ed a ves­sel to car­ry this gear in that was com­pact, so it would fit in a back­pack, and poten­tial­ly not cause a stir at the air­port.  It just so hap­pened that in one of my Bat­tl­box ship­ments, I had received a SLNT 2.5 liter fara­day dry bag.  I’d been look­ing for a rea­son to add it to a kit, and this was the per­fect solu­tion and appli­ca­tion for it. When I received it, I think like any dis­cern­ing 54 year old prep­per going on 9 years of age, I took it right out of the pack­age, throw my cell phone in it, ran over to my wife, and said, “Hey call my cell phone,” to test out the bag.  Guess what?  Worked per­fect­ly.  No ring, no sound, nada.  The fara­day bag worked great.  Blocked the mobile sig­nal per­fect­ly.

So what’s in the kit you ask?  Here we go, and I’ll try to artic­u­late as I go so that you know why I chose each piece of kit.  My feeling’s won’t be hurt if you com­ment below and tell me I am crazy, or one piece of kit is crap for one rea­son or anoth­er.  We all choose our gear based on our expe­ri­ence with it, or lack there­of for that mat­ter depend­ing on the sit­u­a­tion.

So from left to right, in the top row of the image:

  1. Garmin InReach Emer­gency Satel­lite Com­mu­ni­ca­tor 
  2. AT&T Flip phone with $50 Cel­lu­lar Card and ful­ly charged bat­tery.
  3. Baofeng 8 Watt UHF/VHF hand­held radio, with extend­ed flex­i­ble anten­na (ful­ly charged bat­tery)
  4. Baofeng extend­ed life spare bat­tery
  5. Baofeng charg­ing equip­ment that comes with the kit when you buy it. 

From left to right in the bot­tom row:

  1. Bic lighter (I always, no mat­ter what have more than one lighter on me)
  2. USB Elec­tron­ic Library 
  3. Red key­chain thumb ligh
  4. Atac­ti­cal WOWTAC 550 lumen tac­ti­cal flash­light (Dis­con­tin­ued, but well used, and test­ed)
  5. POD Fusion 8000mah Solar Charger/Power Bank

  Garmin InReach | Suburban Survival BlogThe Garmin inReach Satellite Emergency Communicator

I will be the first to admit, this was a very gen­er­ous gift from a very close friend and MAG mem­ber.  He gift­ed one to each of the guys in the group so that we could always have a way to stay in tough if tra­di­tion­al comms went down.  While it is a sub­scrip­tion based ser­vice much like your mobile phone, it is well worth the nom­i­nal fee for the low end pack­age to have peace of mind when trav­el­ing, if all else fails.  A cou­ple of real­ly cool things you can do with it are:

  • Two-Way Mes­sag­ing: The device allows for two-way text mes­sag­ing with indi­vid­u­als or groups any­where in the world, even in areas with­out cel­lu­lar cov­er­age. This is use­ful for stay­ing in touch with loved ones, get­ting updates on weath­er con­di­tions, and send­ing SOS mes­sages in case of an emer­gency.
  • GPS Track­ing: The inReach Mes­sen­ger has a built-in GPS receiv­er that allows users to track and share their loca­tion in real-time. This can be help­ful for coor­di­nat­ing with friends or fam­i­ly, and for emer­gency respon­ders to find you quick­ly in case of an emer­gency.  One of the coolest fea­tures, at least in my opin­ion, is that it allows you to set up your own pri­vate URL that you can share with your MAG and fam­i­ly so that in an emer­gency they could track you.  Or you can pro­vide them with the URL in the event you decide to sim­ply go hik­ing so every­one can fol­low your trail from a phone or lap­top com­put­er.  
  • Weath­er Fore­casts: The device can pro­vide weath­er updates for the user’s loca­tion, as well as for planned routes. This fea­ture can help users make informed deci­sions about their activ­i­ties and avoid dan­ger­ous weath­er con­di­tions.
  • Nav­i­ga­tion: The device has a built-in com­pass and the abil­i­ty to down­load maps, mak­ing it eas­i­er to nav­i­gate in remote loca­tions. It can also pro­vide turn-by-turn direc­tions to spe­cif­ic loca­tions.
  • Bat­tery Life: The inReach Mes­sen­ger has a long bat­tery life, allow­ing users to stay con­nect­ed for extend­ed peri­ods of time. Addi­tion­al­ly, the device can be charged through a USB port or solar pan­el.

Like I men­tioned ear­li­er it does come with a month­ly sub­scrip­tion fee.  It starts at $15.95 a month, and IMHO, well worth it.  

This lit­tle unit would allow me to com­mu­ni­cate in the event of a grid down sce­nario whether an EMP, or a mass pow­er out­age due to sub­sta­tion fail­ure.  It would also allow those who care about me to track my where­abouts, “assum­ing” there was still Inter­net access, even for a short peri­od after a grid down sit­u­a­tion.  

The down­side is that tex­ting from the unit is a bit cum­ber­some.  There’s a process, and it’s not dif­fi­cult, just cum­ber­some.

AT&T Prepaid Flip Phone | Suburban Survival BlogAT&T Prepaid Flip Phone

This one is pret­ty self explana­to­ry.  It is essen­tial­ly a burn­er phone.  Tak­ing that into con­sid­er­a­tion this is sim­ply a replace­ment for my exist­ing iPhone in the event it is lost or destroyed.  

I chose this design, form fac­tor, and the fact that it is pre­paid for a cou­ple of rea­sons.  

  • Afford­abil­i­ty: This was ridicu­lous­ly afford­able.  I think I paid $30 or some­thing like that.
  • It has a com­pact and durable design.  This lega­cy flip phone is small and light­weight, mak­ing it easy to car­ry around. It has a durable design that can with­stand rough han­dling and acci­den­tal drops, which can be impor­tant in an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion.
  • I can buy a num­ber of pre­paid cards to keep with it with­out spend­ing a for­tune, and can add them when­ev­er I like. You get Voice, Text, and some Inter­net min­utes.  
  • Remem­ber when the bat­tery life of your phone would last a week or more?  You get the same bat­tery life with this type of phone you remem­ber when you had one of these types of phones in your pock­et.  
  • It has a sim­ple and intu­itive user inter­face that makes it easy to use. You’ll remem­ber how to use it.  

Because it is basic and doesn’t have a pletho­ra of mobile apps like my iphone, I can like­ly depend on not being dis­tract­ed by them or poten­tial­ly waste a ton of time, using it only for the com­mu­ni­ca­tions I need while on the road to home.

Baofeng UV-5R | Suburban Survival Blog

Image from the Baofeng Web­site

Baofeng UV-5R 8‑Watt Handheld Radio

The Baofeng UV-5R is a sweet lit­tle hand­held 2‑way radio that’ll make your emer­gency pre­pared­ness game stronger. It’s a five (5) or eight (8) watt dual-band radio that has long-range com­mu­ni­ca­tion abil­i­ties, depend­ing on how you use it. You can poten­tial­ly talk to any­one, any­where with this thing! Plus, it’s got a super cool fea­ture where it can oper­ate on both VHF and UHF fre­quen­cies, so you’ll nev­er miss a beat.  It used to only come in 5 watt trans­mis­sion capac­i­ty, but recent­ly (and I think, I could be wrong) they upgrad­ed the unit to 8 watts when they went with a more dig­i­tal vs. ana­log ver­sion of the unit… 

The UV-5R is ful­ly pro­gram­ma­ble too, so you can eas­i­ly access the chan­nels you need in case of an emer­gency. You can pro­gram FRS, as well and use it as an all around con­sumer walkie talkie if you like.  You won’t need to mess around with it dur­ing a cri­sis, which is a huge plus, once it’s pro­grammed as you can choose either a pre­set chan­nel mode or a fre­quen­cy mode to man­u­al­ly change your fre­quen­cies. And the best part? It’s com­pact and portable, so you can eas­i­ly stash it in your back­pack, bug-out bag, or even on your belt.  In my case, the SLNT fara­day bag.  

Our MAG has our Baofeng pre-pro­grammed with a num­ber of chan­nels on var­i­ous fre­quen­cies, includ­ing NOAA weath­er, cause, well, you nev­er know when you’re going to need the weath­er, and we do live near the ocean.  We’ve test­ed them on numer­ous occa­sions. We’ve test­ed them in the field on FRS as well, and line of sight can get a bit over a mile of recep­tion.  I will admit, on one occa­sion we got a 5 mile com­mu­ni­ca­tion out of them.  From a HAM radio per­spec­tive, how­ev­er, tak­ing into account math­e­mat­ics, weath­er, cloud cov­er, etc, you can speak to some­one clear across the ocean or the coun­try… 

If you’re look­ing for some­thing with emer­gency fea­tures, the UV-5R has got you cov­ered. It comes with a built-in flash­light and an emer­gency alarm, so you can let peo­ple know you need help in a jiffy. And if things get real­ly dire, there’s even an SOS func­tion that’ll send out a dis­tress sig­nal.

All in all, the Baofeng UV-5R is a nifty lit­tle radio that’s per­fect for those who want to be pre­pared for any­thing. Whether you’re camp­ing in the great out­doors or just want to have a reli­able means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in case of an emer­gency, the UV-5R is a great choice.  Just make sure your MAG, fam­i­ly mem­bers, etc. know how to use them, and when to use them.

Baofeng Extended Battery Life

Addi­tion­al­ly, I also have the 3,800mah extend­ed life bat­tery.  If you have used a UV-5R and let it sit for a year with­out turn­ing it on, you’ll know these bat­ter­ies are amaz­ing and dis­si­pate their charge very, very, very slow­ly.  I have sev­er­al that are rarely turned on, and I can attest the bat­tery life on them while in stor­age is absolute­ly amaz­ing.

The addi­tion­al charg­ing equip­ment is actu­al­ly the rest of the charg­ing equip­ment that comes with the Baofeng in the box when you buy it.  They are ridicu­lous­ly inex­pen­sive and an invalu­able tool for prep­pers and pre­pared­ness, as well as being ver­sa­tile for fun or seri­ous use. 

USB Library

This is sim­ply a USB key that has a library of doc­u­ments on it that I may want or need to uti­lize if I need to or have access to it.  I do car­ry good old fash­ioned paper pam­phlets like man­u­als with me whenI trav­el.  I am a firm believ­er that under duress, every­one needs to have some guid­ance no mat­ter how sea­soned they are, and a few lit­tle thin, fold­able man­u­als on first aid, or gear impro­vi­sa­tion could be a huge help.  How­ev­er, there are some crit­i­cal books on the USB key I keep with me.  

This is some­thing you can put togeth­er your­self based on your own skill set, your geog­ra­phy, etc.  But more on that anoth­er time for anoth­er post… And before you ask, yes, I would nor­mal­ly have a tablet or lap­top with me. 

Red Keychain Flashlight | Suburban Survival BlogMini Keychain Light with Red Bulb

I can­not take cred­it for this.  But for the $8.00 bucks, a pack of six of these mini key­chain flash­lights are fan­tas­tic. Why, because at night if you are out and about and you need light for a map, or to see some­thing, this won’t kill your night vision.  The lumen count is small at 12 lumens, is just bright enough even in low light and def­i­nite­ly bright enough in no light..  It is small, but these things take up no space, have no weight.  I would rec­om­mend sev­er­al of them.  Keep them in your back­pack, bug out bags, car, keys, and make it part of your EDC.  I have used it on more than one occa­sion and chuck­led at myself that I even had it on me.  I have them all over my trav­el gear for work, on zip­pers of jack­ets, etc.

WOWTAC 1460 Lumen Tactical Flashlight | Suburban Survival BlogAtactical WOWTAC 500 Lumen Flashlight

It should be not­ed that this flash­light was dis­con­tin­ued, and I have had it for a cou­ple of years.  I didn’t beat on it, I didn’t run over it with my truck, and I didn’t chop it out of a block of ice.  But it’s stood up to being dropped, acci­den­tal­ly kicked, rolled around on the ground, had stuff spilled on it, etc.  And it has been replaced by oth­er mod­els, most notably the WOWTAC 1460 Lumen flash­light.  

The WOWTAC 1460

I have had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to test out the WOWTAC 1460 lumen tac­ti­cal flash­light, and I must say, I am impressed with its per­for­mance and fea­tures.

First­ly, the flash­light is pock­et-sized, and is lighter and small­er than it’s 500 lumen pre­de­ces­sor, mak­ing it extreme­ly con­ve­nient to car­ry around with you wher­ev­er you go. It’s light­weight and easy to grip, ensur­ing that it won’t slip out of your hand even when you’re on the move.

The bright­ness of the WOWTAC flash­light is out­stand­ing, with an impres­sive 1,460 lumens of pow­er. This means that you can eas­i­ly light up a room or a dark out­door area with­out any trou­ble. 

Anoth­er great fea­ture of this flash­light is its recharge­able bat­tery. You can eas­i­ly charge it using a USB cable, and it will last for hours on a sin­gle charge. This is not only con­ve­nient, but it also saves you mon­ey in the long run, as you won’t have to con­stant­ly replace bat­ter­ies.

In terms of dura­bil­i­ty, the WOWTAC flash­light is built to last, in my opin­ion. It’s made with high-qual­i­ty mate­ri­als that are designed to with­stand extreme con­di­tions, and it’s also water­proof, so you can use it in the rain with­out any wor­ries.

And… If you’re price sen­si­tive, it’s not an $80 or $149 flash­light.  It’s $30… Now if you’re a flash­light snob, you’ll turn your nose up at this.  If you’re think­ing about the mon­ey in your pock­et, and infla­tion, $30 isn’t so bad.  

Over­all, I would high­ly rec­om­mend the WOWTAC 1460 lumen tac­ti­cal flash­light to any­one look­ing for a reli­able, high-per­for­mance flash­light. It’s per­fect for a range of uses, from out­door adven­tures to every­day use around the house.

POD Fusion Solar Power Bank | Suburban Survival BlogPortable POD 8000mah Solar Recharger

So, I recent­ly got my hands on the POD Fusion solar pow­er bank.  Trans­par­ent­ly, I got it off of, but there are MANY oth­er ones out there.  Here’s what I think about it.

First things first, the pow­er bank is def­i­nite­ly about the size and form fac­tor of a cell phone, so it might not be the most portable option out there. There are big­ger, there are small­er. But this one seems to have an ade­quate weight, and fits in the fara­day bag.  It has 8,000mAh bat­tery capac­i­ty, which means that you can charge your phone a cou­ple of times before need­ing to recharge the pow­er bank itself, by plug­ging it in or by sun­light.  I know, there are bat­tery packs out there with 10,000mAh capac­i­ty.  This one is light though, and that was a con­sid­er­a­tion.

One of the main sell­ing points of this pow­er bank is the fact that it has a solar pan­el built-in, which means that you can charge it using solar pow­er if you’re out and about. While it’s a nice fea­ture to have, it does take a while to charge the pow­er bank using solar pow­er alone, so it’s not the most effi­cient method. That being said, it’s a great back­up option to have if you’re in a pinch.

The pow­er bank also has two USB ports, so you can charge two devices at the same time, which is real­ly con­ve­nient. It also has a flash­light built-in, which can come in handy if you’re in a dark envi­ron­ment.  Not to men­tion the oppo­site side of this has a 20 LED lamp that is plen­ty bright.

The build qual­i­ty of the pow­er bank seems to be pret­ty sol­id, with a durable and rugged design that should be able to with­stand some wear and tear, even though it is going to sit in the fara­day bag 95% of the time. It’s also water-resis­tant, which is always a plus.

One thing to keep in mind is that the pow­er bank does take a while to ful­ly charge, so you’ll need to plan ahead if you want to use it for an extend­ed peri­od of time.

Over­all, the POD Fusion solar pow­er bank is a sol­id option for those who need a high-capac­i­ty pow­er bank that can han­dle some rough use. While the solar charg­ing fea­ture isn’t the most effi­cient, it’s still a nice back­up option to have, and the two USB ports and built-in flash­light are def­i­nite­ly use­ful fea­tures.

And that’s it.  This is my trav­el com­mu­ni­ca­tions kit for busi­ness and per­son­al use.  The kit stays in my truck when not trav­el­ing for work, and goes in my back­pack when I get on a plane.  The ques­tion about whether or not it gets through TSA secu­ri­ty with­out being torn apart in a search, well, it does.  Thus far, it’s not been req­ui­si­tioned for a search after being X‑rayed.  

Let Us Know What You Think

Let me know if you have any ques­tions.  Feel free to reg­is­ter, and com­ment with your thoughts.  Would you car­ry a kit like this?  Do you car­ry a kit like this?


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