I still remember the first time I decided I was going to start exploring abandoned buildings.
It was a Sunday morning, I was watching urbex videos on YouTube, as I usually do, and my mind started wandering about places near me I could be exploring right this moment.
I got a bit excited at the sheer thought of it and was honestly ready at the time to just walk out the front door, get in my car, and drive straight to an abandoned building I knew about. But I had to stop myself.
I knew that I didn’t need any fancy equipment to start exploring. But there was some stuff I was going to need to bring when exploring abandoned buildings, that I didn’t have.
If you’ve never been urban exploring and you’re thinking of starting, then you’re probably wondering what you should bring with you.
The answer is: it depends. What does it depend on? Mainly the location you’re exploring.
Is it a house, a huge building, a hospital, a school, a prison, etc? Each location has its requirements.
Sure, you could not carry anything on you but your cellphone to use as a flashlight, and you’d probably be fine.
But the reason you should carry the things I’m going to list below is so you can be prepared for anything, or anyone, you may come across when exploring an abandoned building.
When you’re urban exploring you never know what you’re going to encounter. Accidents happen and if you’re not prepared to deal with them you could get yourself in some serious trouble.
Below are some essentials you should always carry with you when exploring abandoned buildings, especially if it’s your first time.
More often than none, you will be exploring a building with no electricity.
Even if you explore during the daytime, sunlight might not always reach all areas of a building.
There are times when windows and doorways are completely blocked from light, so you’ll most likely be in dark areas where you’ll have very limited visibility.
Carrying a proper flashlight is always a good idea for any urban exploration adventure you set out on.
Invest in a decent flashlight, trust me on this one, you’ll be glad you did!
Also, remember to always carry an extra pair of batteries too, you never know if you might need them.
Will my cellphone flashlight be alright?
It’s best to preserve your cellphone’s battery life and not use your phone’s flashlight. Unless it’s for an emergency.
Even a $5 dollar flashlight from your local hardware store is a lot better than the one on your smartphone.
Though you might not always wear them, it’s a good idea to keep a pair of gloves in your urbex backpack when exploring abandoned buildings.
There is a high chance you’ll come across surfaces with broken glass, exposed sharp metal or wires, and generally icky surfaces.
These are things you don’t want to get your bare hands on. So a good pair of gloves will come in handy pretty often.
A simple scrape or even a cut could potentially be dangerous. Remember that you’re exploring a place that hasn’t been cleaned in years/decades.
Your hands will generally be the first ones to make physical contact with surfaces in a building. You don’t want to accidentally cut or injure yourself in any way.
A durable and comfortable pair of hand gloves will always be useful to have.
3. First aid kit
Some people regard a first aid kit as an absolute essential when urban exploring.
Others don’t think it’s necessary to carry one at all.
I personally always carry a first aid kit with me. It’s small so it doesn’t take up that much space and it also weighs very little.
So it’s not that big a deal to carry one.
In the years I’ve been exploring abandoned buildings, I’ve only had to use mine twice for minor cuts.
You could purchase a pre-built first aid kit or you could build your own.
All you need is essentials, such as bandages, antiseptic, latex gloves, cotton pads, etc…
These are all things you can purchase at your local pharmacy.
4. A comfortable pair of boots
If you don’t already own a pair of boots, you should consider saving up some money to purchase a pair.
A comfortable pair of tennis shoes will get also get the job done.
But in my experience, boots are a lot more resistant to glass, water, nails, sharp objects, etc.. all elements that you will most likely encounter in your explorations.
You could certainly get around with a pair of chucks or vans, but you should be extra cautious and watch where you’re walking on.
It’s easy to forget to watch where you’re stepping after a couple of minutes walking around a building.
You have to keep in mind that accidents happen all the time.
I honestly think that just wearing a decent pair of boots will keep your feet safe from harm.
Imagine if you were to carelessly step on a 6 inch exposed nail. You put all your weight on top of the nail it just goes straight thru your foot.
That would f**king suck! A good pair of durable boots is a must-have for urban exploration, in my opinion.
5. Water / Snack
You don’t know how long you’ll be exploring, so it’s best to bring a bottle of water with you.
It’s important to stay hydrated so don’t forget to take some water with you.
Keep it easily accessible too.
You don’t want to have to dig thru your backpack to find it.
Also, take a light snack with you.
A granola bar, sandwich, or a honey bun will all satisfy your hunger and change your entire mood when you’re out exploring and nowhere near food.
Remember to never leave any trash behind!
You most likely already carry this item everywhere with you.
But if you didn’t, always keep a phone in your pocket in case you need to make an emergency call.
If you’re exploring alone and didn’t tell anyone where you were going, having a phone with you can help you out should you need someone’s help.
If you get injured and there’s no one around to help, having a cellphone can help you in those dire situations.
Always keep your phone close and on in your pocket. Make sure it’s fully charged.
7. Respirator Mask
When you’re deciding on what to bring when exploring abandoned buildings, a respirator mask isn’t an absolute must.
Depending on the location you’re exploring, certain buildings, especially old decaying ones, have asbestos, mold, and other chemicals/toxins that could be harmful if you breathe them in for long periods of time.
I’m sure you’ve seen urban explorers on YouTube wearing these masks and it’s for a good reason that they wear them.
It filters the air you breathe keeping you safe from chemicals and particulates that could cause serious risks to your health.
You don’t have to wear one every time you explore.
Use common sense when deciding if you need to wear a respirator mask when exploring abandoned buildings or not.
If you have the time, go read an article I wrote where I explain when you should wear a respirator mask for urban exploring.
Most experienced urban explorers always carry their respirator masks even if they don’t intend to use them.
It’s a good idea to carry one with you. You never know when you might need it.
8. Self-defense tool
Abandoned buildings are generally areas where homeless people, squatters, and junkies tend to hang out.
If you’re going to explore by yourself, it’s important to keep your personal safety in mind.
Even if you don’t explore alone, carrying some sort of self-defense item is a good idea.
You never know what type of people you might encounter in abandoned buildings.
When it comes to personal safety when exploring an abandoned location, the best self-defense gear I can recommend is a can of pepper spray/gel.
I’m sure you’re thinking that carrying a knife or gun is a hell of a lot better than pepper spray, and you’d be right.
But if you get caught trespassing with a potentially deadly weapon, such as a knife or gun, you could get in serious legal trouble.
A can of pepper spray is generally seen as an item of self-defense and not one to be used to cause harm.
If you can’t get your hands on pepper spray, then you should choose the other items you carry with you very carefully as they could have a dual purpose.
A Maglite flashlight, for example, could be used as a self-defense item.
If you’re carrying a camera with a tripod, you could use the tripod to defend yourself if needed.
So if you can’t get some pepper spray, think carefully of what other items you’re taking that could have a dual purpose.
9. A camera
Even if you’re not interested in taking photos of the locations you visit, it’s a good idea to take a camera with you.
If you were to get caught exploring, you could say you were only taking a couple of photos.
So the camera is mainly to use as an excuse in case you are to get caught somewhere you’re not supposed to be in.
If a security guard were to stop you, just say you were taking photos of the location for a school project and they’ll most likely not want to deal with you and just shoo you away. Provided you didn’t damage anything.
A camera is not essential but it can definitely come in handy in more ways than one.
10. A friend or two
Last but certainly not least, if you can, always go with a friend or two.
You will vastly improve your safety and enjoyment when exploring abandoned buildings if you simply go with another person.
Having someone with you allows you to explore a lot more comfortably and elongates the duration of your time exploring.
Exploring with another person also gives you that extra bit of confidence when deciding if you should explore certain areas of a location or not.
If you can’t get one of your friends to tag along, try finding friends in urbex forums.
You’ll meet lots of like-minded people who may be in your area that are interested in exploring with you.
Start Exploring Abandoned Buildings
There are so many more items I could’ve included in this article.
But I think that with just these 10 things that I listed you should be good and ready for your first urban exploration.
As you get some experience under your belt you’ll start to add more items to your urbex gear that you always carry with you on your explorations.
Now that you know what to bring when urban exploring, it’s time to move on to the next step.