The best part of urbex, is that you don’t need anything to get started. It doesn’t require a financial investment, only effort and time. Anyone can start with urban exploration. Although that doesn’t mean that urbexing is free, if you really get into the hobby you’ll find that it can be quite costly. For example, when exploring abandoned factories, you will usually find yourself in the dark, and no, your phone’s flashlight is not bright enough.
So let’s get down to the point, the most important thing to bring along is someone else. Why? Because you should never go exploring on your own. If something happens to you, your companion can get help. If you’re alone, it can take a long time for someone to find you.
The gear you will be taking with you may vary depending on the location, but here’s a list of gear I always carry with me:
- First Aid Kit
- A bigger flashlight
- Extra batteries for my flashlights
- A Swiss pocket knife
- My Camera
- Lenses for my camera
- Extra batteries for my camera
- A big backpack but not big but not small (yes)
And depending on the location, I bring along more stuff. For example, when exploring:
- Bunkers:- Facemask / Respirator due to lack of ventilation.- Air quality meter due to lack of ventilation.- Gloves.- Glow sticks to mark a way out.
- Industrial buildings:- Facemask / Respirator due to asbestos and other particles.- Gloves for rusty areas etc.- Reinforced boots, in case something drops on my foot.
In depth overview
First Aid Kit
Probably the most important item of your equipment, never do cheap out on this. During urban exploration, it is very much possible to get hurt. Mostly just simple cuts from bared wire or from getting stuck behind something. Having, and knowing how to use, a first aid kit is very essential. You’ll probably think “Nah I’m not stupid” but accidents happen out of nowhere! You can get a decent first aid kit for a price of €20.
Probably the most used item of your equipment. It’s very useful to have a flashlight, as you may need it more than you think. Not every location is in the dark, but you will find that many places contain hidden areas such as basements etc. I bring along two flashlights, a medium one for all purposes and a large one to light up large areas such as factory halls and warehouses. Don’t cheap out on your flashlight, cheap ones usually don’t last very long or aren’t very bright.
I also recommend bringing at least one or two extra batteries for a flashlight.
Swiss Pocket Knife
Very important notice: not every country allows you to carry this around, and countries that do allow it, require you to have a valid reason. I don’t find myself using my pocket knife very often, but it does help a ton when getting stuck behind foliage. I’ve also had to use it once in combination with the first aid kit to remove a decently sized wooden splinter.
I like photography, so it is pretty self-explanatory why I bring my camera along. One thing that does annoy me is having to switch between lenses, I still have to find a good solution for this. You should also bring a long one or two extra batteries, as you will find that they do not last very long.
Important tip for bringing a photo or video camera! I bring a dummy SD card, a 16 GB SD card that I can quickly switch with my real SD card. Why? In case I get caught! When you get caught, it is very common that you are asked to delete your pictures. Just switch the cards and show the security office that you format your dummy SD card. No loss of pictures :).
Camera Lenses for Urbex (and a tripod!!)
If you’re into photography like me, you’ll find that it is hard to take pictures in dark places. There are several things you can do about this, I find that a tripod solves a large part of it. If you use a tripod, you can shoot pictures at a long exposure. The second thing that you have to account for is the aperture, the bigger the better. My Tokina lens is at f2.8 and my Canon 50 mm at f1.8, allowing me to take better picutres in places with less light.
I love these! I usually explore with two or more people, and not everyone is into photography like me, they just want to explore the area. With walkie-talkies, we can both go our own ways and still communicate. You can get a very good pair of Baofeng walkie-talkies for less than €30.
Important notice: some walkie-talkies utilize VHF, which can require you to have a permit as you are not allowed to use any frequency depending on the country you are in.
Boy, these things are so handy. I usually use my binoculars for scouting/recon purposes. A must-have!
Facemask / Respirator / Gas mask
Urban exploration is a very cool hobby, but have you ever realized how much bad stuff is in the air of abandoned / decaying buildings. I will name a few for you:
- 50 shades of Mold
- Particles of lead paint
- A variety of Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
If I know I will be going to a place that may contain traces of asbestos, black mold, or any of the above, I always bring my full faced gas mask with a A2B2E2K2-P3 filter. In other places, a FFP3 face mask will do. I don’t want to get cancer or have my lungs transplanted at the age of 40.
Air Quality Meter
This is the item that I do not use very often. The last time I used this was when visiting an abandoned NATO bunker. The bunker has only one entrance and no electricity, meaning that there is absolutely NO ventilation. A perfect place to grow mold, and run out of oxygen due to high CO2 levels. My AQM measures a few things:
- Air Humidity
- A variety of particles (tVOCE, PM10, HCHO etc.)
- Amount of CO and CO2 in the air
The meter is all cool and stuff, but the important part is that it alarms me when the air quality goes to shit, so I can put on my gas mask or get the hell out of there.
Basically the same reason as why I have an air quality meter. Some things are so disgusting, or rusty. Don’t want to get that on my pretty hands.
Water and food are very important. You’ll often find yourself exploring waaaaay longer than intended. Bringing enough water and food is a crucial part of your adventure.
You don’t need a lot to get started with urbex. Now go out and venture far beyond the shores!