Many new urban explorers are drawn to the sense of adventure—and even the hint of danger—the hobby promises. In their excitement to discover the hidden treasures inside crumbling mansions and long-forgotten factories, they too often set out on an expedition without a plan or a partner in place.
Why To Not Go Urbexing Alone
While the spontaneous nature of urbex may seem to lend itself to unstructured solo journeys, there are some critical reasons you should avoid going exploring by yourself until you’ve accumulated significant experience (and even then, exploring alone is strongly discouraged).
You Might Need Help in an Emergency
The characteristics that make abandoned buildings such compelling locations for urban exploration also make them a serious safety risk. These structures are neither well-lit nor well-maintained, often containing such physical hazards as sagging ceilings, rotting floors or staircases, broken glass and other debris and exposed wiring.
If you fall or are otherwise seriously injured while exploring, having someone with you to summon help could potentially save your life.
You’re an Easy Target on Your Own
Urban explorers aren’t the only people drawn to isolated and abandoned structures; their very nature makes them a magnet for individuals or groups with destructive or even criminal intentions. It’s entirely possible that at some point during your explorations, you’ll encounter one or more of the following:
- Drug dealers or addicts using their drugs of choice
- Metal thieves and scrappers hoping to salvage materials from the building to resell later
- Homeless people or squatters using the building as a residence or temporary shelter
- Graffiti artists in search of a large blank canvas to tag
While the folks you see while exploring aren’t necessarily dangerous, a few may be, and if you’re alone, you’re a much easier target than if you’re with one or two other people. Going with a partner or small group provides strength and increased safety in numbers, and any strangers you see along the way are likely to leave you alone.
You Won’t Be Able to Relax and Enjoy the Experience
Exploring by yourself requires you to constantly be on guard, scanning the area for potential hazards as well as people who might wish to do you harm or report you to law enforcement. Having to remain on high alert makes it almost impossible to fully enjoy the exploration and discovery that make urbexing such a unique and fascinating hobby.
Having a partner gives you someone to share these burdens. You can divide and conquer to identify unsafe conditions and warn the other person; one of you can act as a lookout while the other finds the safest, easiest way inside a structure or tunnel.
You’re also less likely to avoid particularly scary or dangerous-looking parts of a building if you have a friend by your side, meaning you won’t miss out on any interesting rooms or artifacts due to fear.
Finding Urbexing Friends
You may feel obligated to explore alone if your current group of friends doesn’t share your interest in urbex. To help you find like-minded buddies with whom you can safely explore, try joining local and regional urbex groups on Facebook, Reddit and other online forums.
You’ll be able to connect and share tips and tricks with other explorers, and chances are you’ll identify a few people in close enough geographic proximity to make teaming up feasible.
Always Follow These Rules of the Road
Whether you’re exploring alone or with others, there are a number of guidelines you should follow every time you venture into the urbex field. These recommendations will not only keep you from getting hurt or getting into legal trouble, but also help maintain a positive image for urbexing as a whole so future generations of explorers can continue to enjoy the unique hobby.
- Do your research: Try to learn about the building or structure you’ll be exploring so you have a better sense of what to expect inside. Find out what the building was last used for, when it was abandoned and how it’s laid out so you can watch for potential dangers.
- Make a plan: Before you get to the building, know how you’ll get inside, how you’ll get out and how you’ll respond in case you encounter someone (or something) you weren’t expecting.
- Share your location: Tell someone where you’ll be and when you expect to return so they can respond appropriately if you don’t make it back.
- Take a friend: Ideally, you’ll be exploring with one or two other people for maximum safety and security.
- Bring your phone: Make sure your phone is fully charged and that it gets adequate service at the location of the exploration.
- Take your time: Don’t rush through the building—take time to explore it slowly and carefully, documenting your journey with photos or field notes.
- Carry essential gear: Wear a backpack with emergency food, water, first aid kit, flashlight and knife or other self-defense tool to handle any unforeseen circumstances.
- Dress for conditions: Wear sturdy shoes or boots to protect your feet, long pants to prevent scrapes and work gloves to protect your hands and improve your grip.
Final Thoughts on Urbexing Alone
Any honest assessment of urban exploration must acknowledge the very real dangers of prowling through abandoned buildings and hidden infrastructure. While serious incidents and injuries are relatively rare, the risks increase significantly when you explore by yourself. If you encounter criminal activity or get pinned under a collapsed ceiling inside one of these buildings, having someone with you could literally save your life.
Additionally, exploring with a friend or group not only gives you someone to share the safety burden, but also provides you with partners who understand and appreciate the unique universe found within these forgotten pieces of the American landscape. You’ll stay safe and have more fun if you take someone with you on your urban exploration, making it a win-win situation for everyone involved.