I’ll start off by stating the obvious, you don’t need any special kind of clothing for urban exploring. It’s one of the great things about this hobby that so many people like. It has no barrier to entry and no special gear is needed to partake in it.
There are, however, certain things you can carry with you or in this case, wear that can be quite beneficial to your safety. We all know urban exploring is no walk in the park. It’s can be as dangerous as it is enjoyable.
Walking into an abandoned building without being prepared is extremely risky. I don’t say this to scare you, I’m simply being honest. Wearing the proper clothing that can keep your body safe from potentially harmful elements commonly found in abandoned buildings is something you want to do.
My first-time urban exploring I made the mistake of wearing clothes that left my body exposed. I wore cargo shorts with a simple short sleeve t-shirt and a pair of chucks. I was with friends exploring an abandoned steel mill. When I left the place I had scratches on my arm and legs and my shoes and socks were drenched in dirty water. It was my first time exploring and I had no idea what to wear.
Many people getting into urbex nowadays also don’t have the slightest clue on what to wear when urban exploring. That’s understandable. There’s a first for everything and you can’t be expected to know best practices about a hobby when you first start.
The reason I’m writing this post is to inform the newbie urban explorers on what to wear when out exploring. Hopefully, by knowing what the ideal attire for urbex is, you can avoid going through the same experience I went through.
These are the clothes I recommend you wear for urban exploring.
Long Sleeve T-Shirt
A long sleeve shirt that covers your arms is preferable to a short sleeve shirt that leaves your arms exposed. Sure a thin piece of cloth won’t make any difference if you accidentally run your arm against a wall with exposed nails.
But what about a scenario in which you accidentally touch a filthy surface or some strange liquid spills on your arm. This is why a long sleeve shirt is ideal for exploring. It gives your arms a basic level of protection from any potentially dangerous elements while you’re inside an abandoned building.
If you don’t already have a long sleeve t-shirt, consider getting one before your next/first exploration. Go for a very simple long sleeve shirt. Something that is comfortable and allows you to move freely without restrictions but fully covers your upper body.
In your explorations, you will likely come across situations where you have to walk through tall overgrown grass. Or you’ll have to jump through a broken glass window to get inside a location. What these scenarios have in common is that your legs will come in contact with tough surfaces that can easily harm your skin.
Don’t make the mistake I did and wear cargo shorts when you go exploring. Seriously, the only thing you should ever consider wearing is pants. 99% of the people reading this already own a pair of jeans. WEAR THEM.
Cargo pants, denim jeans, or any other thick durable pants are ideal for urban exploring.
A jacket is not necessarily needed for urban exploring. Depending on the location you’re visiting or the weather on that particular day. You should make the decision of bringing a jacket or not.
Even if the weather isn’t a bit chilly, I personally always carry a jacket in my backpack just in case I need it. I’ll sometimes wear it if I don’t particularly feel comfortable inside a building I’m exploring. Not because I’m cold or anything, but because it serves as an added layer of protection on my upper body.
Keep a light jacket on you, it could come in handy when you need it. It is better to be prepared than underprepared.
You’ll be climbing, moving objects, and touching dirty surfaces you’d rather not touch. Whatever the situation may be, your hands are generally the first to make contact with an object or surface while you’re in an abandoned building. Protect your hands from wounds or abrasion by simply wearing a pair of gloves.
You don’t have to wear them all the times if you don’t want to. Have them in your backpack and put them on when you think you need them. The right pair of gloves that are comfortable and resistant to tear is what you want to have.
I personally like to wear my gloves at all time when I’m inside an abandoned building. I’m not a fan of touching dusty or sticky objects. So I just put on my gloves before making my way inside a building.
Footwear is one of the most important items of your entire outfit. I always recommend you wear boots over any other pair of footwear when exploring. I know some people like to wear sneakers or tennis shoes. I would never recommend you wear these for exploring.
The reason being is that these type of shoes always have thin rubber soles that can easily be penetrated by sharp objects you accidentally step on. Broken glass, needles, nails, or any other sharp object can effortlessly puncture the sole of your shoe and go straight into your foot. Also, these shoes generally are not slip-resistant. If you come across wet surfaces you risk slipping and getting hurt.
If you can, always avoid wearing sneakers or tennis shoes. Instead, go for a good pair of boots. The right boots have thick soles and are made of durable material that can protect your feet from sharp objects or even liquids such as water.
If you don’t already own a pair of boots consider getting some. A new pair is definitely not the cheapest choice, but I can guarantee that you’ll use the same boots for many years to come.
This item is completely optional. A face mask is not the same as a respirator mask for urbex. They have two completely different uses, so don’t get them confused. A simple face mask will not filter the air of any harmful elements such as mold or asbestos. A face mask is simply to cover your mouth and nose to avoid inhaling dust, pollen, smelly odors, and such.
I keep one in my backpack in case I ever need it. I rarely do, but I still carry one with me.
What Not To Wear When Urban Exploring
Now that you know the essential clothes that can keep you safe when exploring, let’s talk about what clothes you should NOT wear when urban exploring. Never wear any of the following:
- Open-toe shoes. (Sandals / Flip-flops)
- Chains. These can get caught on surfaces/objects
- Short sleeve shirts (They leave your arms exposed)
- Shorts ( They leave your legs exposed)
- Baggy clothes
- Bright colored clothes. You can be easily spotted if you wear neon pink.
You can probably think of many more things to not wear for exploring. Use common sense when deciding if you should wear a certain item of clothing.
Can You Wear A Reflective Vest?
You most certainly can. But I would not recommend it. I’ve seen people ask this same question over and over again in urbex forums. They believe that by wearing a reflective vest, it will minimize their chances of getting the authorities called on them if they happened to be spotted trying to get inside a location. Or perhaps it will reduce their chances of being approached by shady characters while inside abandoned buildings.
I’ve personally never used a reflective vest. Most likely will never use one. There’s really no need for you to invest in one.
Here’s My Personal Go-To-Outfit For Exploring
My personal go-to-outfit for urban exploring consists of thick denim jeans, Gildan long sleeve t-shirt, North-Face waterproof jacket, Metolius climbing gloves, and Timberland boots.
I’ve had this same outfit for a while now. The boots I bought three years ago and they’re still as tough as when I got them. The jeans, shirt, and jacket are all clothes I don’t mind getting dirty or even torn.
You should keep this in mind when deciding on what clothes to wear for urban exploring.
Go with clothes you that don’t mind might be ripped or damaged in any way.
As I stated at the beginning of this post, you don’t need to wear any special kind of clothing for urban exploring. I know some experienced urban explorers reading this will think it’s ridiculous I spent my time writing this. They’ll say “You don’t need any of this, I’ve worn nothing but a short sleeve t-shirt and cargo shorts when exploring for several years now and nothing has happened to me. You just have to be careful where you walk and you’ll be fine”.
Though that may be true, it’s also true that accidents happen when you least expect them. By simply wearing the proper clothes for when you’re urban exploring, you significantly reduce your chances of being harmed by a random object you will come across in your explorations.
Keep your safety in mind before you walk into an abandoned building. Your choice of outfit is also part of your urbex gear. So make the right choice and wear clothes that will keep you safe when exploring. In my latest article, I give some more tips for new urban explorers. Check it out!