Urban exploring – The complete guide
Hello and welcome adventure seekers!
I started urabn exploring when I was 19 years old.. I know.. it feels like an absolute lifetime ago 😅 That being said after almost 5 years exploring the natural and urban world I have picked up some very helpful hints and tips for finding hidden jems, staying safe and generally avoiding breaking the law.. So let’s dive straight in.
Urban exploring is also known as urban spelunking, urban rock climbing, urban caving, building hacking, draining and mousing. You may also see the term Urbex knocking about online. These are all terms used to describe the same activity but in different forms. Draining is basically urban exploring but focusing mainly on checking out abandoned storm drains, sewers and underground ‘claustrophobic’ Locations, many advanced explorers prefer these to regular hospitals, factories or asylums. Draining takes a higher level of confidence and nerve. Be prepared to get wet and cold if you fancy giving it a go.
Urban exploration in simple terms is a hobby taken up by individuals who enjoy exploring man-made structures / buildings that are abandoned and no longer in use, Many explorer’s find the history interesting. This hobby also tends to go hand in hand with fans of photography. Urbex is often mistaken as criminal due to trespass. Unfortunately some people don’t respect the sport and damage disused historic structures causing a negative attitude towards genuine UE enthusiasts. Feelings on this hobby have divided people for years and with the number of people getting involved it has become more public knowledge.
Find Abandoned Buildings
Finding that one location with an interesting building, bridge, barn or even factory can be an absolute nightmare if you don’t know where to look! 😥 My first piece of advice would be the Internet, Google Earth to be more precise. Google Earth is an Internet platform that maps out the whole planet on a global scale, With the advantages of 3D mode, Street View and satellite imaging it can be a doddle finding that secret hidden structure. For me this was a bright light as I could see where to go! Start by typing in your address into the search bar, When the image clears on your location, zoom out just enough that you can see your street and surrounding area, From this, zoom into areas where you can see buildings or factories isolated from the public (please don’t head straight off into these locations because they could be owned and still be active)
Take caution and check the street view, open a new Internet tab and Google the findings! Check to see what the structure is, Is it infact abandoned at all? Another way to find locations is to simple travel, Walk, Cycle or drive around. I have found many of interesting places by simply traveling around, Just be aware of the obvious trespassing rules. I will cover this abit later on! Get in touch with urban explorers online and find out what hidden jems they have found, Instagram is brilliant for this kind of thing, people like to share photos of their adventures.
Also websites. Type in urban exploring and many come up. Join Facebook groups and pages, Get involved in the community, Many times urabn explorers would let you tag along on their next adventure. Be prepared to be hushed a lot when asking for locations as many explorers don’t share the locations they find as it can attract vandalism and destruction.
General rules when exploring
It goes without saying, You will need rules and guidelines when adventuring! 🤓 It can be classed as very dangerous so you are best to gain some knowledge before taking the plunge! I’d strongly advise you don’t go alone!! You could never be sure who is already inside the building when you enter, You may get hurt or injured, bare in mind most of these buildings have been standing for a long time and aren’t in the best condition. Never go without a supply bag either! I will list the basic necessities you will need below.
You should take
- Rucksack with double straps
- Flashlight / Torch with new batteries
- Snacks / a drink or two
- Spare coat or hoodie
- Portable phone charger if you have one / power bank
- Mobile phone
- Mask to protect from dust and harmful environments
- Goggles, This is more important than you think
- First aid kit!!
- Sanitiser / wipes and tissues
“Always prepare for the worst”Urban Exploration
I was on this interesting exploration a few years back, These two guys, my best friend and me, We headed off into this abandoned factory where the dust was so thick it was a difficult to breath, the masks went straight on!! Getting deeper into the debth of the factory it was getting darker so the flashlights went on!! perfect enough to see. The floors had cracks and holes everywhere, Each step was terrifying but we took our time and carefully got through. We stopped for a light snack and drink out the back of the factory so we Sanitised our hands. Water and healthy snack bars came in handy. The goggles we didn’t use as at that point in time we didn’t think we’d need any… Oh how wrong we were!! An hour after leaving the factory our eyes became very sore, it wasn’t pleasant. I’d advise wearing some if you are heading into an old factory building.
Don’t break the law!
Okay this can be a real migraine!!… The law varies from location to location, always check the website of your selected police force to find out more detail what you can and can’t do, So how we got away with exploring was pretty simple, The law states that if we step foot on owned property it is trespassing, But no legal punishment comes of this, You are mealy asked to leave. Now… It can be pretty serious if you find the most perfect building but can’t find a way in, So in your infinite wisdom you break a window and gain entrance that way ⛔ Well now you are looking at some serious punishment!
Always make sure you can access the property by an open gate or driveway, An open door or window is usually common. Never break your way in as this is classed as breaking and entering, On top of trespass and any other damage they can pin you with and trust me there is plenty! Just avoid all means of getting into trouble and do it safely!
Time of the day! This skips a lot of people’s minds, but think about what time of day you are less likely to be seen. The whole excitement is finding, exploring and discovering without being seen. Many explorers head out at night time as there is slim chance anyone is going to see you and if the police turn up in their bright uniforms and flashing cars it’s pretty easy to get away in the darkness of the night. Personally I prefer heading out in the early morning as most people are off to work or still in bed and it’s bright enough to not be endangered by rustic woodwork and broken floors.
One nuisance we came across many times was the local neighbours, I can’t blame them for wanting to stop people exploring buildings close to their home but it can be a bit of a pain. You can be in a building for only 5 minutes before the police turn up!! Who wants that?? And you really don’t want that all trouble when you are suited and booted with survival gear in a rucksack.
What to wear
When dressing for the occasion you are best to adapt to your habitat, Just like a gecko!! Become a ninja!
No but seriously dress with appropriate clothing. I know I keep mentioning it but safety is key!! Gloves are very important, when you are creeping around this busted up unused asylum you want to make sure your hands are covered from sharp edges, glass and sometimes climbing (if you decide to climb that is) and not to mention hygiene, you can never be sure what you will be coming into contact with, germs, needles and toxic materials are often found in abandoned buildings.
Next on the list is a comfortable t-shirt underneath a hoodie or jacket (long sleeve) Preferably with zip pockets to keep a phone and torch handy. Avoid longer baggy clothes that can get caught on obstacles, Aim for warmer clothing as many places are very cold when wandering.
Trousers should cover all of your legs for the same reasons as above, strong workwear combats are a favourite here, They tend to have useful pockets. Strong work socks help protect feet and keep them warm as well as strong boots, Preferably waterproof, Nail / puncture proof, steel toecap, oil resistant boots are a win here, I always found boots with heel support are the best as all the walking and climbing can be a strain. I personally wear a snood that acted as a neck protector, It was also handy to cover my mouth if needed, A hard hat may be a bit excessive (not to mention standing out like a sore thumb) but a warm Beanie should be just fine.
What to do
Have fun!! 😎 Take plenty of photographs, And leave if you are asked to leave. Oh a helpful hint I could give you would be to check for an open door before climbing through a window 😅 this can be embarrassing if you don’t check and discover the easy entrance as you are leaving… Yup this has happened to me 😅
Security gates and alarm systems are everywhere these days.. Even on abandoned buildings! Believe it or not.. I known! Its crazy!… Just have a quick look around the perimeter of the target location before heading straight in. I can guarantee you’ll find an easier way in without hurdles… When inside a structure look down when walking around as floorboards are unsteady at the best of times and the last thing you want to do is fall through the floor.
Even thought it may be daylight outside a torch can be an absolute lifesaver, Many times I have been caught off guard struggling with using my mobile phone as a light source… Don’t forget it like I did and you’ll be okay 🤭
With everything being so potentially dangerous it is always important to have an idea of what you shouldn’t do in situations. Below I have bullet points that will give you quick guide on what you should never do when urban exploring, these points are generally frowned upon, Against the law, disrespectful or should be avoided.
- Never have headphones in when exploring, Stay aware of your surroundings.
- Don’t break anything in or outside the property.
- Don’t vandalise, Graffiti or tag anything.
- Don’t start a fire!
- Don’t smash windows! Broken glass can harm animals and people.
- Don’t wear clothing that won’t protect you.
- Never drink alcohol when in a unsafe environments.
- Don’t climb onto a roof, They tend to be very brittle.
- Respect the locals if you are caught, Don’t give explorers a bad name.
- Never take drugs when in a unsafe environments.
- Never urinate or deficate in the buildings.
- Avoid leaning on anything that isn’t structurally sound.
- Don’t share information of your findings to stop people destroying them.
- Keep away from the natural wildlife that has taken shelter.
- DON’T steal from the properties, This goes without saying.
- Don’t go in alone.
“The adventure is only an adventure if no-one gets hurt”Frankie Lang
“If you can’t see a way out, Don’t go in”Frankie Lang
Being an amateur explorer is fun. With the correct safety guidelines it can be even more enjoyable, Finding yourself in a derelict environment with no survival gear can be a buzz for some but I’d never advise it. That extra caution is just a bit of a safety net just in case you need it. Survey your local surroundings, take in the beauty around you! Find people on YouTube who share the same interests, They may let you join them on the next big adventure!! Who knows! I might one day see you on YouTube 🤓
No matter what you decide to do, it may be classed as breaking the law so don’t cause a nuisance, Don’t cause damage and be safe! Follow your gut instinct and don’t do more than you want to do. Be aware that some buildings might be occupied by homeless sleepers or drug addicts, I have seen this and it can be intimidating when you are walking through a dark corridor. Never take items from any of the properties, leave them for the next explorers to discover… And so on and so forth, Don’t share locations on the Internet, And remember to take photos!! Document your adventure 😁 Share a link with me, I’d love to take a look!