Before I started urban exploring, I remember watching video after video on YouTube and reading several articles related to urbex. I did that because I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could about Urban Exploring before I started exploring on my own.
If you’re in that same situation and you’re looking for tips for exploring abandoned places, keep on reading. I’ve made a list of the best urbex tips every new explorer should know. Though there are lots more tips I could’ve included in this post, I decided to only go with 15 to keep things short. I hope you find them useful!
If you’re exploring alone, let someone know
One thing that you’ll hear me say over and over again, for a good reason, is that if you can, always explore with a friend (Tip #5). This hobby takes you to abandoned places that people don’t really pay attention to. Places that attract the homeless, junkies, and gangs that like to hang out where no one can see them.
Places that aren’t taken care of anymore and are falling apart. Exploring abandoned locations alone isn’t really safe. This is why I always advise anyone to not explore alone. If you can’t get a friend to go explore with you, and you still want to go, please let someone know where you’ll be going.
Send out a quick text message to a friend or family member telling them where you’ll be exploring and at what time you plan on being back. If you’ve got no one to tell where you’ll be going, write down the location you’re visiting in a piece of paper and leave it somewhere in your room where someone can find it.
Make sure the area you’re exploring is completely abandoned
Before you head into the location you’re going to be exploring, be 100% sure it is completely abandoned. There are some obvious tell-tell signs you can look out for. Drive/walk around the building first to scout the place out. Look out for these signs to identify if the building is alone.
- Broken doors/windows: Nobody works inside a building with broken doors/windows. Seeing broken glass everywhere could mean no one occupies the building.
- No lights in / outside building: A dark building with no lights is a good indicator that the building isn’t in use.
- Graffiti on the walls: If the building is all tagged up with spray paint, you can pretty much come to the conclusion that there’s no one in the building.
- Overgrown grass: If there’s overgrown grass in or around a building, in the parking lot, and near entrances, you can pretty much tell no one is caring for the location.
- No cars parked near the building: Do a circle around the building. See if you can spot any vehicles parked nearby. If you don’t see any cars, then there’s probably no one inside.
Not all abandoned buildings are the same. Some will not have broken windows or graffiti on the walls. It’s important to scout the place out before you go inside. You want to make sure it’s completely alone to not get caught or get in trouble.
Do keep in mind that even if a place looks completely deserted, there may still be the possibility of running into people inside the abandoned building.
Learn as much about the place before you explore it
It helps to know about the location you’ll be exploring before you actually go inside. This way you’ll know what to expect and can bring the necessary equipment needed to explore that location. Not only that but when you’re inside exploring, you can get an idea of what the place was before it was abandoned. It’s fun to try and figure out what certain areas in the building were used for if you know what the place was.
The way I go about looking into the history of a location is to do a simple google search. You’ll generally find more information about a location if it’s a large building. If it’s a simple family house, you might not learn much about it, unless something tragic happened in there and it was covered in the news.
If you know the address of the building, great. If you don’t know it, find it on google maps. Once you have the address, type it into google and see what comes up. Filter down your search by adding the name of the city the building is in. Browse through the search results and see what you can learn about the place.
Explore during daytime
Being in an abandoned building at night can bring a whole new level of excitement to your exploration. Some of my personal favorite explorations have been during the nighttime. Though it can be fun to explore in the dark with nothing but a flashlight, I wouldn’t recommend it to a beginner.
When you’re first exploring, you’ll have these first-time jitters going through your body and every little noise will startle you. You won’t feel too confident in yourself and you might make a mistake. If you’re just starting with urban exploration, I recommend you go during the daytime.
You’ll be less likely to freak out if you hear a noise somewhere in the building or come across other people. You will also be a lot safer during the daytime and you’ll be less likely to miss out on key features of the building you’re exploring.
Always explore with a friend
Regardless of how cautious you think you will be, accidents can always happen. If you’re alone on the second floor of a building and the floor suddenly caves in and you fall through it, what are you going to do if there’s no one around to help you? You honestly can’t do much. Urban explorers have died this way. I’m not saying this to scare you away from this hobby, I’m just letting you know about what can potentially happen.
I use the floor caving in as an example because I’ve had it happen to me once. Thankfully I was with a friend and the floor didn’t entirely cave in all the way. But my foot did sink into the floor and stopped at the thigh. I was lucky, to say the least.
Falling through the floor of a building is just one of the many accidents that can happen when you’re exploring abandoned locations. Remember, you’re exploring buildings that have been left to rot and are uncared for. If you’re with a friend and an accident were to happen, you at least have someone who can help you or get you the help you need. This is why I always recommend you explore with a friend.
If none of your friends are interested in urban exploring, check out my urbex forums article to help you find some exploring buddies.
Bring equipment based on the location you’re visiting
Urban exploration is a hobby that requires very little to no equipment at all. Though you don’t need any gear, it’s always a good idea to carry some essentials with you. A simple backpack with a couple of items such as a flashlight, water, a first aid kit, gloves, and a cellphone, is enough for any explorer.
All locations are different and require different gear. It’s important to know the location you’ll be visiting (Tip #3) so you know if it’s best to bring certain equipment.
Say you’re planning on visiting an old building, a medical center, for example, the place is run down and it’s been left to rot for several decades. Unknowingly to you, the walls are falling apart and there’s mold or asbestos everywhere. If you don’t have a respirator mask with you, you’ll be exposing yourself to these dangerous things.
Breathing asbestos or mold could have harmful effects on your lungs. This is why it’s important to learn about the building you’ll be exploring so you know what equipment to bring with you.
Use common sense
If you’re not sure if you should be exploring a certain building, then simply don’t explore it. If you come across a ladder that looks unsafe to climb, then don’t climb it. If you see the floorboards are falling apart and you’re not sure if you should walk slowly through them to get across to a different area, then don’t. What I’m trying to say is ‘use common sense’ it could literally save your life. If you’re unsure if you should be doing something, pay attention to your gut. If you get a bad feeling about it, then just walk away. Don’t risk doing something stupid and getting hurt in the process.
Don’t take anything from a site
As you’re exploring locations, you’re most definitely going to come across items of value that you will be tempted to take with you. DON’T DO IT! They may not belong to anyone, but that doesn’t mean you should take them. Take a photo of the item ( Tip #9) and leave it where you found it for the next explorer to discover. There’s a saying urban explorers have been using since the early 2000s. Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints. This is a rule many explorers abide by. So should you.
Pictures. Take lots of them
When asked for tips for exploring abandoned places, I always share this one. Taking photos is a sort of way of documenting your exploration. Take some photos even if you don’t intend to share them. You’ll have something to look back to when you’re thinking of the places you’ve explored in the past. Even if you don’t want to take photos, carrying a camera is always a good idea.
Take your time. Don’t rush
Take your time exploring the location you’re in. Don’t try and rush your visit as you’ll miss key features of the building you’re in that might be interesting. You’ll also have time to really enjoy the place you’re in. Not to mention you’ll also stay safe if you’re not trying to quickly explore and get out of there.
Know when it’s time to leave
This is arguably one of the most important tips regarding survival. If you get a bad feeling about the area you’re in, leave immediately. Your brain is always taking information in even when you’re not aware of it, your “6th sense” can save your life or your criminal record. If you feel uneasy being around a certain area of a building, simply leave.
Don’t take weapons with you
Never take guns, knives, bb guns, airsoft, paintball, brass knuckles, screwdrivers or anything that could possibly be used as a weapon of any kind. If you get caught with anything like that you’d be digging yourself a really deep hole. Don’t carry anything with you that can be construed as a weapon or item used to force entry into a location.
Instead, take some self-defense items to protect yourself.
Know your state’s trespassing laws
This is an important urbex tip I share with everyone new to this hobby. A simple google search about your state’s trespassing laws could save your butt. They can be the difference between a hefty fine/jail time or your freedom. Know what cops can and cannot do to you if you were to be caught. Know your rights and have a plan if you get detained by police.
If you ever get caught by police outside of a property (and they don’t have solid proof YOU were in there), 99% of the time you can talk your way out of it if you know and assert your rights and don’t say anything to incriminate yourself.
Don’t explore caves/sewers when first starting
Exploring mines, sewers, or storm drains is for more advanced explorers. These types of locations require different equipment and are generally more dangerous. I would not recommend it to any urban explorer beginner. Unless you’re going with a highly experienced explorer, I would recommend you simply avoid these locations and stick to buildings.
Wear proper clothing
If you’re going to be exploring, wear clothes that you wouldn’t mind ruining. While exploring you’re going to come across nails, dirt, mud, barbed wire, glass, and everything else that can ruin the clothing you’re wearing. I’m not telling you to dress like a bum, but simply choose items of clothing that you wouldn’t care too much about if they got ruined.
Choose your footwear carefully too. I personally always wear a sturdy pair of boots when I’m out exploring. Boots are a lot more resistant to glass, nails, metal, water, or any other thing you might come across. It’s easy to get distracted for a few seconds and not pay attention to where you’re stepping. Keep your feet safe by wearing proper footwear.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I could list off so many more urban exploration tips, but I think that these 15 tips alone are good enough to steer you in the right direction. I hope you guys find them useful. If you have any tips you’d like to share, please comment them down below. Thanks for reading!