Thursday, March 21, 2013

Urbex Tips: Equipment

Recently, I've received some messages on my Tumblr and Deviantart account asking me some tips about urbex. Questions about photographic techniques, how I enter building, and so on, so I thought about making a serie of posts with tips about urbexing. As I'm french speaking, I'll also add the french translation of the article. First post in this serie of tips is Equipment.

I won't talk about photographic gear here. Instead I'll talk about the equipment that I bring with me when exploring. I buy most of my equipment in sport shop. So, here's what I bring with me:

  • First aid kit
  • flashlight with battery
  • flashlight that works with a dynamo
  • cereal bar
  • water bottle
  • hand cleaner
  • spare batteries
  • cellphone

First aid kit:
It's a small first aid kit with disinfecter, sterile gauze and plasters. It is important to be able to clean and protect a wound while urbexing because usually the places you explore are really dirt. One day that I was exploring an abandoned coal mine and that I was walking among high grass, I didn't notice an old plank with long rusty nails in it. I stepped onto it and a nail just got through my shoes and went into my foot. Even when you're cautious, you can always hurt yourself when urbexing.

I always have two flashlights with me. My main flashlight is a small LED maglite which can light up to 30 meters. It works on battery, so that's the reason why I bring spare batteries with me. The second one, is a small LED flashlight which works with a dynamo. It is not very powerful, but as it is powered by the dynamo, I know that in case the maglite wouldn't work anymore or if I lost it, I will always have light.

When I'm gone urbexing, I know that it will take me all the day, so I always bring a few cereal bar with me as well as a small water bottle. The advantage of the cereal bar over a sandwich, is that it is not as cumbersome, and it has a high energetic value. I also generally leave another water bottle in the car.

Hand cleaner:
Abandoned places are usually very dirty places, so I use a hand cleaner lotion without soap. It has a bactericidal effect and is based on alcohol so you don't have to dry your hands.

Your cellphone is your link with the external world. In case of problem, you can call for help. Nevertheless, don't count on it too much because there are places where it won't work. Typical places where you don't get any network are underground places, and military structures such as old fortress and bunker network where the concrete thickness prevent the network to be reachable. So you 've got to always tell someone where you go and when you plan to come back. I always tell my wife where I go before leaving. As she has access to my google map, she knows exactly where I am. Once I'm in the place, I send her a message to confirm that I'm well there, because sometimes a place is inaccessible so I go somewhere else. She also knows when I plan to come back. When I leave the place, I call her to tell her that I'm coming back home. So she knows that if I'm not there at a certain hour, I've probably had a problem. Fortunately, I've never had any problem until now.

Another trick concerning the cellphone: you should always check that it is in silent mode. Once, as I was exploring an abandoned and forbidden crypt in a graveyard that was not abandoned, a friend of mine called me. The ring of the phone resounded in all the crypt and must have been heard in the graveyard above. Well done for the discretion ! I learned the lesson, and from that day, I always check that my cellphone is in silent mode. Of course you should also check that the battery is ull before leaving on exploration !

I wear clothes that I can get dirty with and possibly tear. For the coours, I wear neutral, preferabky dark colours, as not to draw attention on me. Colours like black, grey, brown, dark blue are fine for me. The main idea is not to draw attention and to be able to hide if it's necessary. Once, I've seen a guy that was exploring wearing an orange fluorescent t-shirt, that was very discrete !

For the shoes, I wear robust walking shoes to protect my feet. The ones that I use don't make too much noise when walking, and that's a reason why I chose them. Some walking shoes make a lot of noise when walking. When you're exploring, you should always think discretion !

I also wear gloves to protect my hands. It took me a while to find the perfect type of gloves and I have finally found it ! I was searching for robust gloves that fit well to the hand not to prevent movement too much, and that could allow me to use my camera easily. Working gloves are fine for thier sturdiness, but they're generally loose, so that was not what I wanted. I found mine in the sailing part of my usual sport shop. These are sailing gloves (see picture): they're sturdy as they have to resist water and ropes, they fit the hand very well, and the must: the end of the index and thumb fingers is cut, allowing easily the use of the camera. Absolutely perfect ! ;-)

Alright, I think that's all concerning the equipment, I hope this little post has been of some use to you !
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