One of the biggest draws of urban exploration is its simplicity. It doesn’t require a major financial investment to get started with the hobby, and you won’t need to acquire a ton of specialized urban exploration gear to get the most out of it. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t need a few key items to help you stay safe and comfortable as you wander through deserted buildings and abandoned homes.
Fortunately, you probably already own many of the items recommended for urbex outings. If you need to check a few off the list or are ready for an upgrade, consider the following products, all of which are popular and highly-rated within the urbex community.
Our Recommendations For Urban Exploration Gear
A Good Flashlight or Headlamp
In almost all cases, the structures you’ll be exploring—abandoned businesses and residences or infrastructure facilities—will not have working electrical power. Even during the day, many of these structures are poorly-lit, with boarded-up windows or areas that external light simply doesn’t reach.
For this reason, you should always bring a high-quality flashlight with fresh batteries when exploring, or a great headlamp for your urban exploration gear setup. Even if your smart phone has a flashlight feature, it won’t be as bright as a standalone flashlight, and you don’t want to waste your phone’s precious battery power to illuminate your surroundings. A solid flashlight can also be used for self-defense if necessary.
The flashlight models below are affordable, reliable options for urban exploration:
- WdtPro S3000 LED Flashlight: This compact, affordable flashlight boasts a maximum output of 1,600 lumens, more than sufficient to illuminate a whole room. Its metal body makes it both durable and useful for self-defense if necessary. It features an adjustable beam that allows the user to widen or focus the light and includes high, low and strobe modes. It also lasts more than 25 hours before requiring replacement of its four AA batteries.
- UltraFire WF-502B Tactical Flashlight: The UltraFire Tactical Flashlight weighs in at a mere four ounces, so it won’t add weight or bulk to your urban exploration gear bag. It delivers 1,000 lumens to light the path ahead of you, and its military-grade construction and waterproof design will stand up to harsh environments and heavy use. It’s also rechargeable, saving you money on battery replacement. Featuring five light modes—high, medium, low, strobe and SOS—it includes a convenient holster so you can clip it to your belt, pocket or backpack to keep it handy when not in use.
Our Best Flashlight Guide Our Best Headlamp Guide
Work or Climbing Gloves
Gloves are an incredibly important piece of gear for urban explorers. Not only do they protect your hands from dirt, dust and sharp or abrasive objects like broken glass, splintered wood and concrete, they also enhance your grip for climbing and maintaining your balance.
WTACTFUL Touch-Screen Gloves may be the best pair of urbex gloves on the market. Made of reinforced microfiber, they’re both durable and comfortable, with reinforced palms and double stitching to extend their life. The breathable fabric is lightweight and fast-drying, with an anti-slip grip and Velcro wrist strap to keep them securely attached. Best of all, they’re designed to be used with touch-screen devices, so you won’t have to take them off if you need to access your phone or camera.
First Aid Kit
Even though you’re unlikely to use it often, you’ll want to have a first aid kit in your pack just in case the unexpected happens. They’re typically compact, lightweight and inexpensive, so there’s really no good reason not to take one with you. You can put together your own kit with supplies purchased at a pharmacy, but buying an already-assembled kit online will save you time and energy.
The M2 BASICS 150 Piece First Aid Kit fits in the palm of your hand and contains a wealth of useful items, including bandages in multiple sizes, sterile cleansing wipes, a small pair of scissors, safety pins, gauze, emergency blanket and even a carabiner to attach it to your pack. It’s a steal at less than $13.
Boots or Solid Shoes
A sturdy pair of shoes—ideally boots—is a must for urban exploration. Many structures are in various states of disrepair, and quality footwear will protect your feet from nails, glass and other hazards and help you maintain your footing in case the floor below you collapses. Boots will also give you the traction you need to climb through windows and traverse mud and other rough terrain. Consider the following options favored by experienced urbexers:
- Under Armour Stellar Tac Boot: These well-made boots are both slip-resistant and waterproof, with a breathable, lightweight upper that allows for natural movement while protecting your feet and providing essential ankle stability.
- SUADEX Indestructible Steel-Toe Shoe: If you favor a lower profile, these SUADEX work shoes provide the same level of protection as a full boot at half the price. Their steel toes and puncture-proof midsole shield your feet from sharp objects, while a slip-resistant rubber sole keeps you upright even in slippery or unstable conditions. They’re almost as lightweight as a traditional running shoe and offer a similar feel for outstanding comfort.
You probably already bring your phone wherever you go, but be sure to carry it with you while exploring so you can call for emergency help if you get injured, encounter threatening individuals or witness a crime in progress.
If you’d rather not bring your expensive smartphone, buy a cheap burner phone so you can still call 911 if necessary. No matter what type of phone you carry, make sure it has a full charge before you start exploring.
A mask or respirator is generally considered an optional component of an urban exploration gear pack, but if you expect to be exploring old, decaying buildings, you run the risk of encountering potentially toxic substances like asbestos, rodent droppings or mold. Additionally, you can almost guarantee you’ll encounter dust, dirt and other respiratory irritants.
Respirator masks will protect you from both harmful and merely annoying particles by processing air through a filter before you inhale it. The NASUM M101 Face Cover is an affordable half-face covering that uses disposable cotton filters to clean the air; flexible silicone construction comfortably hugs your face while providing a custom fit.
Even though urbex sites are technically “abandoned,” that doesn’t mean you won’t run into other individuals inside. In addition to urban explorers, vacant buildings attract plenty of other groups, including drug dealers and addicts, squatters, vandals and criminals, and they may not react well to seeing someone else in the space.
It’s a good idea to bring some sort of self-defense tool in case your physical safety is threatened, but bringing a gun or knife raises the risk of you accidentally injuring yourself and may violate state or local laws as well. Pepper spray is a much better alternative, allowing you to temporarily disable a potential attacker so you can escape.
Two compact and portable options include the SABRE Advanced Pepper Spray Keychain with Quick Release, which attaches conveniently to your keys or carabiner, and POM Pepper Spray, which comes with a clip for your pocket or belt to keep it within easy reach.
A DSLR Camera
Most urban explorers venture out with the goal of capturing abandoned places in photos, and these locations can be strangely beautiful—if haunting—photography subjects. Hundreds of websites and social media groups are dedicated to documenting the existence of these vacant homes and shuttered factories, and you can share your images on these sites or even create your own.
However, even if you’re not especially motivated to photograph the places you visit, having a camera with you in your urban exploration gear kit can provide good cover in case you’re questioned by law enforcement or property owners.
Explaining that you’re there primarily to take photos will often get you off with just a warning; if you don’t have a plausible reason for being onsite, you’re more likely to end up in legal trouble.
Water and Food
Even if you don’t expect to be exploring for more than a few hours, it never hurts to bring a water bottle and a lightweight snack in your pack to prepare for unforeseen circumstances.
If you become injured or otherwise stuck inside an abandoned building or utility structure, you may have to wait a while for help to arrive, and dehydration and low blood sugar won’t improve your situation. Just remember to take any trash with you when you leave.
You’re going to need someplace to keep the aforementioned urban exploration gear, and a durable, lightweight backpack is an ideal choice for carrying the essentials with you as you explore. The models below are comfortable, versatile and rugged enough to stand up to tough conditions and heavy use.
- Lowepro Urbex BP 28L Backpack: With “urbex” in the name, it’s no surprise that the Lowepro Urbex BP 28L Backpack is perfectly suited for keeping your exploring gear organized and easily accessible. The 28-liter capacity provides plenty of space for the essentials, with five zippered compartments to separate various types of items as well as a water bottle holder and dedicated smartphone pocket on the strap.
- Osprey Talon 22 Backpack: If you prefer a slightly smaller pack, the Osprey Talon 22 is an excellent choice. Its 22-liter capacity is more than sufficient for containing your critical urban exploration gear, with small compartments at hip level to keep snacks and your phone close at hand. A mesh-covered foam hip belt creates a close fit to keep the pack from getting caught as you navigate narrow spaces, while the seamless lumbar wrap provides extra support and comfort.
- The North Face Borealis Backpack: Crafted from ballistic nylon, this rugged pack is designed to stand up to tough conditions and is backed by a lifetime warranty. It doesn’t skimp on comfort features, with an integrated suspension system that lessens the load on your shoulders and back. It also includes a safety whistle attached to the chest strap, which could be useful if you need to alert others to your location or create a deterrent for animals or even threatening humans. Multiple pockets and a bungee web on the back provide plenty of storage options.
While this last item won’t fit in your pack, it certainly shouldn’t be left behind: an exploring partner. If at all possible, you should bring a friend with you on every urbex outing, both for safety purposes and to create a more enjoyable urbex experience. If you get hurt or become lost, you’ll be infinitely grateful to have someone else with you to help.
You’re also far less likely to be the target of any unsavory characters you may encounter while exploring if you’re part of a duo or small group. Finally, you’ll be better able to relax and soak in the joy of discovering new places if you have someone else to help you keep an eye out for safety hazards and law enforcement.
If you don’t have any friends who share your passion for urban exploration, online urbex forums can be a great place to meet like-minded individuals and make new friends. You’ll help keep each other safe as you pursue your mutual hobby.
Final Thoughts on Urban Exploration Gear Needs
At first glance, this list may seem surprisingly long for a hobby that prides itself on low barriers to entry, but chances are you already own many of the recommended items, and most are available at very affordable prices. Especially if you’re a relatively new explorer, don’t shortchange yourself by omitting any of the urban exploration gear discussed here.
Looking for more urban exploration resources? Here are some recommended articles:
- Top 10 Tips for New Urban Explorers: How To Succeed In Urbex
- Take A Friend: 5 Great Reasons to Not Go Urbexing Alone
- Caught Trespassing? Staying Out Of Trouble Urbexing in 2020
- The 9 Most Important Rules and Urban Exploration Tips
As you gain experience, you may decide one or two of these items aren’t necessary, or you may realize there are a few things you want to add to your pack. Until then, it’s better to have more urban exploration gear than you need than to find yourself lacking something critical once you’re out in the field.