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  1. JWR,

    I use a Samsung Note 4. Easily removable/replaceable (so you can carry a spare) battery, large screen (I use it instead of a laptop), they are inexpensive and do pretty much anything the newer ones do.

  2. OPSEC is key…

    My family do not own smart phones. We use CommuniKate voicemail to collect all inbound calls/messages [even at the auto repair shop they leave us a VM when the car is ready]. We then check our VM through an internet FREE virtual phone services [there are many so check for your needs].

    This phone is used through VPN connection to the Internet and TOR anonymous browsing. We can call anywhere in the world for free [outbound]. Again inbound calls go to VM (above) we check periodically.

    Our vehicles are purchased with cash and registered in the state of MI in a corporation name. Michigan has no inspection or that harassing smog check like in California and migrating out east. The corporate name is registered in New Mexico where you name/SSN or any other ID’ing component of your personhood is tied to the company. We make it a generic name and something not to obvious to throw flags [Zombie Apocalypse Team]–no! If you’re pulled over just simply state you driving this vehicle for the corporation. Any camera photos taken of the vehicle will never be tied to your license nor will anyone “good social justice warrior” citizen trying to report your “suspicious activities”

    Since I am married to a foreigner my wife’s father purchased our land in the American Redoubt with a foreign address and foreign company name. The land, our SSNs, or any tying marks to us are expunged.

    Our firearms are purchased at our main residence in Michigan and its not illegal to move them to the American Redoubt. It’s not illegal to bury them as steps depicted from SB. If “they” come a knocking someday… there’ll be sadly empty handed.

    All of this is LEGAL and TENDER under current state and federal laws. We are WAY WAY WAY under the radar now. Too much going on after BHO and HRC initiated a stain on our country that even Trump can’t make it great again.

    Please everyone, prayerfully consider these steps. God Bless…

    PS. JWR recently asks us to quickly purchase our firearms “unregistered” before the hammer falls with universal background checks. Do you understand that even if the law is passed, my family is still out of arms reach [literally] from the authorities of ever finding us or our firearms?

    Our phone, autos, retreat, and firearms aren’t tied to us!

    Curious about your suggestions to improve on this folks?

  3. Great to see an article on something that seems to be all too common in our society today, (govt tracking device) the phone. I would like to add two apps that I use as a mainstay. SIGNAL app is the first. Signal is a messaging app that is encrypted and used worldwide. Opensource and solely dependent on donations. SIGNAL recently caught the attention of our Government for some reason so stay current about their status. The second is relatively new to me. SECUREDROP. Securedrop is an email service and I have done very little with it but encryption seems to be the emphasis as far as I can tell so far. Check them out.
    JWR, I have a $20 black Friday smartphone by Samsung, on a tracphone plan and the back pops off and the battery comes off in seconds…just so you know.

      1. I also have a Tracfone phone. I like to call it the smartest dumb phone or the dumbest smartphone on the planet. It uses a Java operating system. This phone is almost 4 years old so I check the Tracfone website regularly to see what they sell. The last I checked, they still had a few smartphones that have a removable battery. LG and Samsung come to mind. My only concern is that they both use some version of the Android operating system, and that means Google. They also have Apple IPhones, but I don’t think the batteries are user removable, at least not without some sort of special tool. Just a heads up to you.

        1. One other thing I forgot. Tracfone also sells a SIM card for an existing phone that puts you on the Tracfone network. So if you find a phone you feel safe with, you might try that. Also I don’t see why it wouldn’t work with a smartphone that runs a Linux operating system. Those systems are usually open source and might even be free if you can find an independently produced system to replace the operating system on an IPhone or an Android based phone. Food for thought.

  4. Re: Ballistics Calculator on the Wrist.

    A quick search found this ballistics calculator in a wrist watch configuration. $200 for this one. This and a turret scope would make a good combination, although I only own one, the scope. I would look for a calculator that would give it to you in your favorite metric, in either ‘mils’ or ‘moa’, that goes with the scope choice.

    It would probably used mostly for wind, if used with a turret scope. These Smart Phones are just too smart for my own good, and I too use a pre-paid dumb Trac phone, but the smart phone might actually have a built in range finder? If that were possible, I would wonder about it’s accuracy at great distances at were it would be needed. Range cards are the way to go at home. These smart phones are expensive for myself, and it could be an expensive experiment… I would rather use the scope recital and a hand held dumb calculator to gauge distance. This old method is plenty fine for the limited range I am comfortable with. Speaking for only myself, after 650, consider it in-direct fire, but if one can chuck projectiles with a ballistic coefficient greater than 0.6, that bucks the wind, then you might be in business. “Man’s has got to know his limitations”. (Eastwood)

    Calculator on the wrist:

    Introduction to turret scopes:

  5. I am surprised to see something like this on a survival website. IMO, there is nothing wise about being so dependent upon a smartphone.

    Have any of you seen this news article? This is one of thousands of examples. Your smartphone is nothing but a tracker. Always listening, tracking and mapping your behavior.


    1. Only if you have it turned on continuously. I turn mine on only three times per day (morning, noon, evening) and turn it off again after replying to texts or connected email. I exclusively use Protonmail, Signal, and WhatsApp, and even then I’m judicious about what personal info I choose to send.

      A Faraday bag works to block any outside attempts to ‘ping’ your phone.

      1. Have you researched law enforcement backdoor for cell phones? It is a service that phone companies offer to law enforcement to be able to access your phone, and if I recall, even power it on.

        Also, while the name may have changed, there is a system called “Looking Glass” that collects all of your digital transactions: emails, purchases, texts, etc… as to create a profile.

        Take this together with what is called 3 hop analysis, which is granted power by the courts, if someone is suspected to be a terrorist, law enforcement can legally target their phone, and everyone on their contact list, and then everyone on those contact lists, and again, a 3rd time, of a contact list. In short, this could reasonably give law enforcement legal reasons to monitor thousands of people just simply by investigating a single person.

        In short, just simply turning off your phone does nothing more than make you feel good. But, it does nothing.

  6. Are any of these apps open source?
    Are they installable without setting up an account with the vendor?
    Are they usable without paying for a high priced data plan with a monopolistic telecom provider?

    If the answer is ‘no’ to any of these, perhaps we need to give heed to some of the comments on operational security…

    If folks need a primer on cyber security, can I suggest this bit of reading? “Thieves Emporium” being a cyberpunk novel is interesting, understandable, and it gets cyber security reasonably correct. And, it doesn’t mince words when describing how the author feels that the world really works. The Daily Bell carried the first dozen parts on their web site a couple years ago.


    The electronic downloadable epub of the entire novel is $7 and can be had at self publishing site Smashwords.


    (BTW: I think this is a very interesting book, though I don’t earn commission by saying so.)

  7. Three important ones not mentioned that EVERYONE should have.

    Private Internet Access VPN – Paid annual service. Provides VPN to secure your connection to the internet. Works on phone, tablets and your computer. I have it on all 3 of Apple products and it works great.

    Maps.me – Think of Google maps but it works without any internet signal. Great for when you are in the mountains, middle of nowhere, don’t trust Google, or if your battery is low run this instead of your regular mapping program. You download states or part of states so if you are tight on storage for your phone you can only get the region you need. I have the entire country (why not) and it’s around 4 gig. It also works internationally. I’ve been using it for years and has saved me on a few occasions.

    WickrMe – Encrypted messaging app. Does not link to your phone number like many too. Requires password to login, and messages burn out after a pre-determined amount of time. End to end encryption. So even if someone got your phone they wouldn’t be able to easily access the app, and if they did the messages would be burned out so nothing is displayed. Pair that with good com-sec, don’t use names, be as vague as possible in communications, run the VPN while using it and you’re as secure as one can be digitally.

    Hope this helps! I’ve had all 3 for years and highly recommend everyone get them.

  8. WickrMe – Encrypted messaging app. Does not link to your phone number like many too. Requires password to login, and messages burn out after a pre-determined amount of time. End to end encryption. So even if someone got your phone they wouldn’t be able to easily access the app, and if they did the messages would be burned out so nothing is displayed. Pair that with good com-sec, don’t use names, be as vague as possible in communications, run the VPN while using it and you’re as secure as one can be digitally.

  9. I second the MotionX GPS app and have been using it since 2012. The ability to download various zoom levels of topo and road maps – depending only on how much phone memory you want to use – is great when you’re heading to an area where you don’t have time to purchase paper ones in advance. And the tracking feature is great – many times I’ve emailed tracks along dirt roads to assocates so we could meet up at remote spots to do “outdoor things.” It is also good for hikes and will show you average/max pace, distance ascent/descent, etc.

  10. People can use a camera on a phone now days. Even some prepaid cellphones including >Tracfones have cameras. … One picture is worth a thousands words. = A picture or video might be helpful after a car accident, or some other event; insurance companies recommend taking pictures. [As implied by Aden Tate]

    +The Internet has numerous videos of crazy people and their criminal antics. A picture or short video might help yourself or someone else. The police would appreciate photographs of criminals perpetrating a crime. [Cops sometimes call criminals perps or 5150s around here.]

  11. JWR, I use a Samsung S4 mini phone on a tracfone plan. It is small and easy to carry. bought it off ebay cheap. Batteries are simple to remove and are also cheap. I have several back-up batteries charged and ready to go. I keep all my data and wi-fi shut off unless I really need it. No location either. It has a great camera and runs most all the apps of the newer phones. I also put in a 64 GB mini sd card so the thing has beaucoup storage capability.

  12. I have had Unseen for several years. They sent out an email recently saying that they want to get out of maintaining email servers. I bought what was supposed to be lifetime email addresses but I doubt if they will be around in the near future.

  13. Cell phones are very handy,much like electricty back in it’s early days,now people don’t think they can survive without it, and many can’t fathom not having a cellphone, just be careful what you become a slave to. I happen to have a landline, at this time, I’ve gone years without even one of those. As far as I know the powers that be STILL have to have a warrant to tap a land line, although if the person you are talking to has a cell phone their conversations are open to “snatching from the air waves”. Originally voice to type was difficult for the snooper computers to do because of accents and poor conections (anyone who got voice to type programs for their computers may remember the “fun” of training their programs). So they came up with messaging and texting, now YOU type it out for them! Your GPS app can tell you ( and anyone else ) exactly where you are,and your car, just think about that for a minute. The government came out with a program to give poor people cell phones, now do you think they did that out of the kindness of their hearts ? Now lets do an experiment: you don’t even have to do the full no-electricity weekend, just do a no internet/ cellphone/TV/ kindle/auto GPS weekend and see how you and your family handle things. Note: I suggest putting all kitchen knives in the back of your base cupboards, Withdrawal syndrome is not pretty. Honestly ask yourself, if your, or your kids reaction was from a drug would you be concerned? That little “helper” is no different. I speak from experence, I once walked 2 miles one way at -40 farenhite to buy a pack of cigarettes. Again be careful what you make yourself a slave to.
    Just my opinion.

  14. Something to consider about supposed anonymous prepaid trac-phones. Did you purchase it in a retail store? Then your on store camera recording it. Do you use it at your residence, relatives, friends, associates, team members, job, neighbors, common hangouts? then you can be tracked. Easily!

  15. What a timely article and some very helpful comments. I too have a flip phone but have been hampered recently by lack of ease in texting and picture taking ease. I want to boondock in the future and there are several apps for those folks in finding free sites to camp. BLM land and forest service roads come to mind. Please understand I like paper maps and don’t lack for those. I don’t do social media at all but think that looking at it might be helpful for ones safety in certain situations.

    Thanks, “Smoke” for your Samsung recommendation. A friend mentioned a Samsung recently with a number but I couldn’t remember it.

    At 74 I believe that an extreme opsec emphasis is simply over-kill. IMHO. At my age I’m probably able to be found by anyone. If the SHTF for real (meaning nationally) nobodies going to be interested in looking for me I can assure you. This emphasis on hiding your presence at all costs is misplaced.

    This article is greatly appreciated by this reader who is not “smart” about all the do-dads available out there today. I can imagine how some of the apps could be life-saving.

    I will keep my flip phone but will soon look into the Samsung recommended.
    Thanks again to the author for this fine article.

  16. Some time ago I was debating on buying some form of tablet/e-reader that I could use in a SHTF or bug out situation and came across an article that suggested just using your smart phone. I was sold on the idea. So I saved up and bought a second smart phone, a case and spare batteries and a way to charge them outside the phone. It is a Samsung Galaxy S5 Active. The reason I purchased it is that it is also the phone I currently use. It is a bit outdated as far as smart phones go now, but the two biggest reasons I wanted an S5 Active is that the battery is still removeable and the one I carry had an accident that sold me on its durability. I was on a boom lift at work, twenty feet in the air when it fell out of the chest pocket of my overalls because I was leaning out over the railing. Well, needless to say the phone, back cover and battery went in three separate directions once it hit the concrete floor. I must mention that it did not have a aftermarket case yet as I had not owned it for very long. But after collecting the separated pieces and putting everything back together it powered up and worked just fine. It sustained a crack on one corner and that was it. That was about four years ago.

  17. Lots of great comments that prove the point that cell phones are a bad thing. And the thing about radio is that it can only DF’d (direction finding), and that requires a vehicle or team in the field. It is not monitored. And even the FCC cannot DF a mobile unit. We already use radio around here cause we are outside of cell coverage. Get a Tech license, or mail away for a GMRS license for the whole family for only 80 bucks. You can install a virtually prepackaged GMRS repeater if need be, that will give you 25 mile coverage, and it can be installed where there is no Ham repeater, and the whole family can use it with out getting that troublesome Tech license. It can been off grid and invisible to others. Don’t use the tone 141.3 and it would be virtually private. And you can use a directional antenna on the repeater to limit coverage, and keep it from being DF’d.

    There is more than one way to skin a rabbit.

  18. I agree with the author of getting the maximum benefit out of your smart phone as one can.

    The smart phones are a very useful tool today. I enjoy it’s ability to take real time photos or videos. The instant communications via text, email or basic phone is tremendous benefit.

    The idea that my every move is tracked by government does not worry me at all.
    If they do, they will find I have Bible Studies on Wednesday & Saturday’s.
    On Sundays it’s church.
    And during the rest of the week are trips to the hardware stores and grocery story than a movie out. If they want to know where to get great tacos they can have that too.

    I am the Gray Man, typical American-nothing to see here. Just the average boring American in their eyes.

    Now to people that want shell companies, homes, cars in trusts or businesses that are not directly tied to your name, Ok.
    It’s not practical from my point of view. Just to many areas of weakness like one’s family, extended family, their friends, your friends must have similar systems set up or the cover is blown. All it takes is one weak link.

    The government has spent trillions of dollars in high tech surveillance, so if they want to track you they can.
    And with their mega data mining on any individual, they know what you had for breakfast this morning and if you buttered your toast.

    But again, I agree with the author of this post. The modern smartphones have many, many positives attributes and just because they can be used for nefarious activities, the positives ones out weigh them.

  19. I am surprised and frustrated how many folks that read this site have the sheeple mindset that they have nothing to hide—as though their innocence is relevant. I think it reflects a lack of sophistication in the realm of espionage and political upheaval. It reminds me of what Bill Cooper said about people who think that their disbelief in Satan protects them from the effects of Satanic practices. When the times change many of these folks will surely and truly be led to slaughter and take many of us with them. We must therefore be careful to maintain opsec from those who won’t take opsec seriously.

  20. My Hubby has a Trac phone and occasionally uses it. He got me one and I never use it. We have a landline phone and I rarely use that. I just don’t call people. A cell phone cannot be “necessary” because people have lived without them from paleo times until about twenty years ago. I have a paper map of my city. I’ve never seen a GPS and wouldn’t understand it. I’ve never typed a text message. I get a perverse pleasure out of messing with internet information about me. One site incorrectly identified my race and I immediately changed myself to being Hindu as well. Anyone who reads my info will get totally wrong info. I agree that we’ve been “taught” that we absolutely need these stupid gadgets rather than our own brain. The last thing Big Brother wants is people who can think. Or calculate without a computer. Or get somewhere without their GPS. All part of the dumbing down process.

  21. 1) Hmmm. I posted a comment earlier re the insecurity of using electronic devices for encryption but it did not appear for some reason.

    2) As I noted, it is more secure to encrypt msgs offline with a pencil and piece of paper laid on glass using the one time key pad method (OTP) –see wikipedia. The OTP is unbreakable. After entering the resulting string of random numbers (encrypted text) into a text msg on the phone, the random key and paper should be burned.

  22. I’ve read all the comments here regarding “smartphones” and security. What amazes me is that any of you folks actually think that the government doesn’t already know more about “you” than you do. Don’t fret about a smartphone, Uncle Sam is way ahead of you, he already knows what you are thinking before you think it.

  23. @TWB

    1) The World Trade Center was attacked by a truck bomb in 1993, two of our embassies in Africa were then bombed, Osama Bin Laden publicly declared war upon us and the USS Cole then had a big hole blown in it. Yet Al Qaeda was still able to pull off the Sept 11 2001 attack with a budget of around $180,000.

    2) So my faith in the All Seeing Eye is more limited than yours.

    Especially since it hasn’t yet found those nukes of Saddam Hussein , it did not foresee Wall Street’s near destruction of the US economy in 2008 and it has run up a debt of $22 Trillion while restarting the Cold War with Russia and China.

    3) The government is merely a tool and whether it does good or bad for the American People depends upon who gains control of it.

    4) Private factions are not constrained by the Bill of Rights. They can get you fired, ruin your reputation and bankrupt you with unjustified lawsuits. Or spy on you , steal your life savings or frame you for pedophilia by loading porn on your computer with hackers. So if you exercise your political rights then security measures are justified against private agents even if one has faith that the government is benign.

  24. The best SHTF use of a smartphone or small tablet is to leverage its large data capacity. A tremendous amount of books and high resolution maps can be easily carried and accessed as part of your EDC “just in case”. A small solar charger and hard drive make this portable capability virtually unlimited in data size and infinite in duration.

  25. As a worker in the tech industry, I know how hard it is to go without a smartphone of some sort. They do have many time saving uses other than wasting time on social media and playing stupid games.

    For a prepper smartphone, I’d recommend checking out the Microsoft Lumia 650. It is offered on inexpensive prepaid networks like Cricket, runs Windows Phone 10 (hey, at least its not Commiedroid), and has 16Gb storage with MicroSD slot and a removable battery. It doesn’t have a ton of apps available for it, but most everything you would need is available for practical stuff.

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