Going Off the Grid? Follow These Safety Tips Before You Unplug

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 16.6 million people experienced identity theft in 2012. Meanwhile the Insurance Information Institute warns that burglars see vacations as an opportunity to break into empty homes. Going off the grid on a wilderness hike or camping trip should be a relaxing experience, but leaving yourself vulnerable to crime and an emergency can derail your vacation before it even gets started. Fortunately, taking some precautions can pave the way for a stress-free vacation.

Home Security

Leaving your home empty can be unsettling without proper security in place. Arm your house with a reputable home security company like ADT. Tell the company about your plans, and give the dates and emergency contact information for a family member in case there’s an issue at your house. Ask a neighbor to pick up flyers and newspapers from your driveway and temporarily stop your mail with the Post Office. Invest in a timer to turn lights on and off throughout your house to give the impression that someone’s home. If you’re still feeling vulnerable about leaving your home empty, arrange for a house sitter or friend to crash there while you’re gone.

Financial Monitoring

Don’t get left in the dark about problems with your finances while you’re off the grid. Call your bank and credit card companies to let them know you’ll be away and to watch for any suspicious activity. Unfortunately, monitoring for identity theft yourself may be impossible while hiking away in the wilderness. LifeLock can monitor your personal information, scan for misuse of your identity and, in the case of a breach, help restore your credit and financial reputation.

Communication

Going off the grid and unplugging can bring much needed relaxation; however, it can be dangerous if you have an accident and need help. Reach family members or contact a local forest ranger with a satellite phone with strong enough batteries to hold a charge for weeks. Make a call in an open area away from dense tree coverage for the best signal.

Social Media

While it’s wise to keep a tether to your friends and family through a satellite phone, remember not to overshare before your trip. Posting updates on social media alerts everyone that you’re out of town and not coming back any time soon. Beef up the security of your social media channels so they’re not open to the public and easy to view. And, save the updates for when you return.

GPS

Even the most experienced wilderness adventurers benefit from a GPS device. Get directions to your destination, and chart your progress to share with friends and family after your trip. Pre-program a route in your GPS, and enter waypoints to mark stops of a scenic vista or where to pitch your tent. If a member of your party gets injured, a GPS also can help identify your exact location for a rescue team.

Emergency Backup Plan

Create an emergency backup plan before you head out on your next adventure. Leave the local numbers of any nearby ranger stations, police departments and hospitals with a family member. Discuss when you will check in and what to do if you don’t get in touch. If you’re hiking with friends, agree on a rendezvous point if anyone in the party gets lost and distribute emergency provisions like energy bars, water and first aid kits.