Exploration Gear

It is always helpful in knowing what you should take with you on an urban exploration trip. We’ve listed a few things that you may consider taking with you if you decide to go on an adventure of your own. There are links to where you may purchase each item listed. Of course, use your saving senses if you can find an item cheaper at a local shop. We have tried to link to items that are of good quality at a reasonable price. To see some of the specific equipment that we use, click here. You may also visit the OES Gear Shop, where you can purchase highly recommended items for both urban exploration and paranormal investigation.

Respirator

EquipG-RespirartorYou may be wondering, “Why do I need a respirator?” Well, many abandoned buildings are full of a nasty little substance called asbestos. Asbestos is an EXTREMELY lethal substance that was commonly used as insulation years ago. When asbestos is inhaled, it lingers in the lungs and can eventually lead to death. Other nasty things like black mold spores and other contaminants can also be found in abandoned buildings. You will need a respirator with the correct filters rated for asbestos and mold to guarantee your protection. This is probably the most important piece of equipment listed on this page. If you don’t buy anything else listed here, make sure you purchase one of these masks and learn how to properly use it before heading out. Be aware that paper face masks offer no protection against asbestos. Click Here for a respirator with the correct filters included.

Backpack

EquipG-BackpackYou’ll need a bag or backpack to easily carry all of your gear. The pack should be large enough to hold a flashlight, extra batteries, camera, extra clothing, first-aid kit, water, snacks and whatever else you decide to take. Make sure to have a complete stock in your pack before setting out on your excursion, but keep the pack as light as possible. Some of our members even pack MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) on certain explorations where there is a risk of being stranded or on lengthy trips. You should choose a quality, durable backpack to ensure you don’t lose your gear while exploring. Click Here for a wide variety of backpacks that are available on Amazon.com. You should also consider a backpack with an integrated water system, like a CamelBak. See Water Bottle below for further details.

Flashlight

EquipG-FlashlightsA flashlight is a must-have tool for all urban explorers. You will need to see in those dark places somehow! We prefer using MagLite flashlights. They are extremely durable, sealed to prevent explosions or fires, and could last many years with proper care. We recommend the Anker LC90 flashlight as a smaller, lightweight alternative to the MagLite. Spotlights are another great light source, but you must exercise caution when using them. Remember, nothing will attract more attention to your exploration than an abandoned building glowing like a lighthouse! Always have a spare light in case your primary light is damaged or depletes the battery. You may also consider a headlamp to keep your hands free. Click Here for MagLites, click here for the Anker LC90, click here for a headlamp, or click here for a LED spotlight.

Camera

EquipG-CanonRebelXTiYou will probably want to take a camera along to document the abandoned building, cemetery or drain that you’re exploring. Taking photos and sharing them with others is half the fun! Cameras vary wildly from point-and-shoot to complex SLRs with changeable lenses and from 35mm film to digital cameras with more megapixels than you can shake a stick at. Remember that you will be exploring locations where your equipment may get banged up, so buying a nice used camera could save some money. Most current smartphones have decent cameras as well. While not our preferred method, we have taken photos with our smartphones when we have randomly come across a location and didn’t have a proper camera with us. For a nice digital SLR that should last for years, click here. For a pretty decent point-and-shoot digital with some zooming power, click here. If you’d rather go old school with a 35mm camera, click here. You can also opt for a one-time use disposable film camera by clicking here.

Camcorder

EquipG-CamcordersWhat better way to remember your exploration than to have a video! High definition camcorders have continued to decrease in price and size over the past few years. Perhaps the best camcorder suited for urban exploration is the GoPro Camera, a tiny HD camera that can be worn on-person or mounted to just about anything. The GoPro even includes a watertight case so you don’t have to worry if it gets wet. We also use GoPro cameras that have been modified to see the full spectrum of light, including Infrared and Ultraviolet. This enables us to record in low light situations, but these modified cameras are not recommended for daylight use. Traditional camcorders may also be used for explorations, including hard drive based cameras, film cameras and memory card cameras. As an added bonus, having a camcorder is a great way to capture paranormal evidence! Click Here for a GoPro camera or click here for a SD-card based camcorder. If you’re using an older MiniDV recorder, click here to order fresh tapes.

Water Bottle

EquipG-CamelBakYou will need to keep hydrated during your explorations, especially during the summer months. Be certain to pick up a bottle of water or two before heading out on your adventure. Refrain from drinking sodas or other carbonated beverages as they do not provide the hydration you need. You may also choose to combine your need for water with your need of a backpack by purchasing a CamelBak system. The CamelBak packs contain a membrane that can hold a liter or two of water, depending on the model. You can also stow gear in the backpack portion of the bag. You should consider purchasing a LifeStraw. The LifeStraw instantly removes bacteria and protozoan parasites from drinking sources such as rivers or ponds. Whatever you choose, make sure to use a cap or something else that will protect the area where you put your mouth to avoid contamination from the nasty elements you will likely encounter. Click Here for a nice CamelBak water bottle, or Click Here for a CamelBak backpack. You can purchase a LifeStraw here.

Pocket Knife

EquipG-KnifeA pocket knife is a very useful tool to have in general. Although this is more of an optional item, a member of each of explorations usually carries one. A nice pocket knife will be useful if an article of clothing becomes entangled and you cannot get the clothing free. A multitool-type of knife could also be useful in many situations. The knife you choose should be sharp and durable. Click Here for our preferred pocket knife.

First-Aid Kit

EquipG-FirstAidKitAlthough a first-aid kit is an optional item, we highly suggest that you take at least a basic kit along. There are a wide variety of injuries that could occur while exploring. We recommend taking an all-purpose first-aid kit that has plenty of supplies for any situation you may encounter. Having someone who is first-aid and/or CPR certified in your group is also a good idea. Each of our explorations include at least one person certified in both. Click Here for a 205 piece first-aid kit, stocked with supplies specifically for expeditions!

Coveralls

EquipG-CoverallsWhile this is more of an optional item, coveralls are extremely beneficial to have in your urban exploration inventory. Coveralls can be put on and taken off quite easily and quickly. This allows you to protect your normal clothing from the dust, dirt and grime that you’ll encounter while exploring. If you want to go this route, make sure to buy a quality, durable pair of fabric coveralls to prevent rips. Alternatively, you could buy a one-time use pair of plastic or paper coveralls at any hardware store in the paint department. Most OES members have a pair of fabric coveralls and use them on a regular basis. When your exploration is complete, simply take off your coveralls and your car’s seat will stay nice and clean. Click Here for a good pair of fabric coveralls. For a one-time use coverall, click here.

Gloves

EquipG-GlovesGloves will protect your hands and keep them dry in wet conditions. There are plenty of things laying around that could poke, cut or otherwise damage your bare skin. It is better to replace a pair of gloves than to end up in an emergency room for stitches. Gloves will also help keep your hands free of dirt and grime so they’re nice and clean for your steering wheel when you leave the location. We suggest you purchase a pair of gloves that are comfortable, form-fitting, water resistant and durable. The price of gloves usually depend on what materials are used. Some gloves even use Kevlar, but are more expensive. Click Here for a pair of gloves that meet our requirements.

Boots

EquipG-BootsAlways make sure to protect your feet when exploring by purchasing a good, quality pair of boots. The boots should have a trick sole since you’ll likely encounter broken glass, nails, syringes and other sharp objects lying about the ground in an abandoned property. Boots that come past your ankles are preferable as this will give you better ankle support on uneven surfaces. A good tread on the sole will help give traction in slippery conditions. You may also want your boots to be waterproof, or at least water resistant. This will allow your feet to stay nice and dry while exploring wet locations, like tunnels and drains. While boots can get pricey, it’s worth the investment to protect your feet and avoid a tetanus shot. For our money, we prefer Rocky Boots. Click Here to see a nice pair of duty boots.

GPS Unit

EquipG-GPSA Global Positioning System (GPS) is an extremely useful tool for urban explorers. Using multiple satellites in orbit around the planet, a GPS unit can determine your exact location anywhere on Earth within a few feet. There’s no more getting lost while looking for a place to explore. With many GPS units, you can tag the coordinates of a place that you have visited so you’ll know where to find it again. Some units can even connect to communications satellites to relay messages to others if there is an emergency. Many smartphones conveniently have GPS built-in, but the maps generally need a data connection to function properly. If possible, download the maps for the places you plan to explore onto your smartphone before leaving a reliable Internet connection. As an added bonus, you can also look for Geocaches while out and about, it’s kind of like a high-tech Easter egg hunt. Click Here for a portable vehicle GPS, click here for a GPS unit that plugs into your laptop or click here for a handheld GPS.

Radios

EquipG-RadioRadios are a great communication tool while you’re taking part in an exploration, especially if you plan to split into groups to cover a larger area. FRS and MURS radios are the best you can buy without the need of obtaining an FCC license. FRS radios are generally less expensive than MURS radios and are available at most retailers. Under the right conditions, these radios can reach several miles. The should work fine in most places you will explore. Most FRS radios also include GMRS channels that can transmit at a higher power, but a license from the FCC is required to operate on those frequencies. See your radio’s instruction manual for details. Some OES members are also amateur radio operators. Ham radios provide much more transmitting power than FRS radios and can be used to contact others for help in an emergency situation where cell phone service is not available. Click Here for a set of two FRS radios that are rechargeable and have a 35-mile range under absolute perfect conditions. If you’re interested in becoming an amateur radio operator, Click Here for an excellent study site. Hopefully we’ll hear you on the air! 73

Masking Tape

EquipG-MaskingTapeWhile it might seem strange to take a roll of masking tape on an urban exploration trip, it can be very useful. Some locations are very large and you can get lost in seconds, especially in tunnels or drain systems. Using masking tape is a non-permanent way of marking where you have been. By making arrows, X’s, or other markings, you can easily find your way out. As always, follow the urban explorer’s creed of, “Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.” Please remove any masking tape you have marked with and take it with you when you leave the location to be properly disposed of. Click Here for masking tape.

Digital Voice Recorder

EquipG-DigitalAudioIf you’re the type who likes to ghost hunt while you’re exploring, the next few items are for you! Using a digital voice recorder or a microcassette recorder with an external mic, you may be able to catch ghostly voices known as Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP). The quality of digital recordings have continually risen over the years and mostly surpass microcassette tape quality today. If you do decide to record with an analog device, always use an external mic and fresh tapes. Digital recorders should always use the highest quality setting that the recorder supports to ensure a nice, clear recording. For other tips on recording for EVP, visit our EVP Tips Page. You may also use a voice recording app on your smartphone to record for EVP. Click Here for a digital voice recorder, click here for a microcassette recorder, and click here for an external microphone that can be used with either. If you opt for a microcassette recorder, click here for new tapes.

EMF Meter

EquipG-EMFMetersAnother piece of equipment that you may want to take for ghost hunting is an Electromagnetic Field (EMF) meter. These instruments can detect slight changes in the electromagnetic field that may be associated with the presence of paranormal activity. EMF meters come in several models that you can purchase, but make sure you are buying the meter that suits your needs the best. Most retail EMF meters detect man-made AC fields. They will pick up interference from things like electrical wiring, microwaves and televisions. Only a handful of EMF meters detect naturally-occurring DC fields that are more likely associated with the paranormal. Some EMF meters also have built-in thermocouple thermometers to detect sudden temperature changes. As always, use common sense and be aware of your surroundings at all times with whatever meter you decide to purchase. Click Here for the TriField Natural EM meter, which detects DC fields and is the gold standard. Click Here for a basic EMF meter, or click here for a digital EMF meter with built-in thermocouple thermometer.

Thermocouple Thermometer

EquipG-ThermocoupleA thermocouple thermometer can be used to detect changes in the ambient air temperature instantaneously. This is extremely useful if you are trying to document cold/hot spots associated with paranormal activity. Infrared-based thermometers are useless in the paranormal field as they only detect surface temperatures, but they could be handy for urban exploration. Some EMF meters include built-in thermocouple thermometers, see EMF Meters above for details. Certain smartphones also have sensors that detect ambient air temperature or you can purchase an accessory like the Thermodo to add a thermometer to any smartphone. Click Here for a very well-priced thermocouple thermometer, click here for an EMF/Thermocouple meter combo, or click here to purchase a Thermodo add-on for your smartphone.

Night Vision / Thermal Cameras

EquipG-ScopesNight vision systems are a really cool toy to have in your pack, but is no where necessary for the average urban explorer. As long as you have one of these bad boys with plenty of batteries, who needs a flashlight?! You can see through the dark without any visible light. Night vision scopes come in a wide variety of sizes, styles and strength. Pricing can range from around $100 on up to $1,000 for the more advanced systems. you can also look into Infrared and/or full spectrum cameras to enable you to see in the darkness. Thermal cameras are yet another option for seeing without ambient light. These units produce an image based on the heat being given off by a subject and requires absolutely no light source. The downfall is that thermal cameras are extremely expensive, usually with a starting price of $1,000 for a base model. Advanced thermal cameras can easily cost several thousand dollars. Click Here for a night vision scope or click here for a thermal camera.

Extra Batteries

EquipG-BatteriesLast, but certainly not least, always carry at least one extra set of batteries for each piece of equipment that requires them, especially your flashlight. We prefer to use rechargeable batteries as they pay for themselves after a couple of uses. Make sure to check what size of batteries your equipment needs before heading out. Also look for batteries that have the highest mAh rating since they will last longer. Some pieces of equipment require unique batteries, so you will need to check your manual for the specific type of battery you should purchase. Click Here for a selection of rechargeable batteries or click here for a selection of regular alkaline batteries.