Introduction: Urban Exploration

Picture of Urban Exploration


Urban exploration (often shortened as urbex or UE) is the examination of the normally unseen or off-limits parts of human civilization. Urban exploration is also commonly referred to as infiltration, although some people consider infiltration to be more closely associated with the exploration of active or inhabited sites. In the USA, it may also be referred to as "draining" (when exploring drains) "urban spelunking", and "urban caving", "vadding", "building hacking", "Reality hacking" or "roof and tunnel hacking". - Wikipedia

Urban exploration has been a hobby of mine since before I knew it had a name. As a kid in elementary school I would regularly explore parts of the building that had been locked off or designated for storage. Eventually, as I grew older, I began to go to more interesting locations such as abandoned military bases, mental institutions, and underground tunnels. It was around this time I started documenting all the places I went to with photos and video.

Step 1: Supplies

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Almost every location explored will require different supplies. This list is just a general suggestion for supplies and guidelines.

Dress appropriately: Boots, long pants, backpack, etc.

Flashlight- always have a backup
Cellphone- in case of emergency
Map- if possible (more on this later)
Gloves- protect your hands
Binoculars- scoping out sentinels
Camera- documenting
Rope- climbing things
Explorers pose- last picture

Step 2: Finding a Location

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I've found the most interesting places to explore tend to be the ones that have been abandoned or unused for the longest. These locations often have the most fragments of history scattered about waiting to be discovered.

Sample Exploration Locations:

- Any type of abandoned building/location (hospitals, military bases, schools, factories, warehouses, etc)
- Utility tunnels (Steam pipe tunnels, sewers, storm drains, telephone wire tunnels, etc)
- Closed off locations in active buildings (roof, basement, service tunnels, etc)
- Any place you have ever thought "I wonder whats behind that door."

Step 3: Map

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A map can be an extremely useful tool; unfortunately, without access to city blueprints, a map is out of the question for most of the locations urban explorers deal with. However, for expeditions involving campuses or grounds, a satellite map of the area can be invaluable.


Creedmoor is one of my favorite places to explore. It is a mental institution with many different buildings spread out over a large campus. It is also the perfect area to demonstrate how to make a map from satellite photos. I've included a Google Earth place mark to show the exact location of Creedmoor.

Before making a satellite map of your location, check the area in Google Earth to make sure the image is detailed enough to be helpful (Can you see individual buildings / roads / sidewalks?) If you are satisfied that there is enough detail to be useful to you, zoom to an appropriate level, and print out a copy at the highest resolution. If the area is too large to fit on one piece of paper, print it out on many pieces and tape them together. My map of Creedmoor came to about 4 pages (8.5 x 11).

If you plan on visiting a particular location more then once it is probably a good idea to make the map a bit more permanent. This can be achieved by carefully laminating it with clear book wrap, which not only protects the map, but allows the navigator to easily draw / erase different paths with a marker.

Step 4: Planning a Mission

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You have your supplies, you have a location, now all you need is to iron out the details.

Decide who you want to go with: A novice should never go alone for safety reasons. You could go with just one person or a group of friends. Just make sure the number of people going is appropriate for the location.

Decide when you want to go: For almost all locations a good rule of thumb is "Go when there are the least people around", which usually ends up being some weekend night.

Decide how you want to go: Stealthily is the most common choice. Less popular choices include loudly, clumsily, and naked.

Step 5: UE Ethics

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Sierra Club motto:

"Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints"

I have a somewhat more liberal motto:

"Take nothing that will be missed, leave nothing that will be noticed"

Step 6: Ft. Tilden

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Step 7: Ft. Hancock

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Step 8: Creedmoor

Picture of Creedmoor

Step 9: 120 Wall St.

Picture of 120 Wall St.


Celtic-Robin-Hood (author)2017-01-15

Be careful with any kind of tools, I was exploring an abandoned hotel with some friends and a passersby called the police because one of them was carrying a camp axe for door busting. Look up how to pop a padlock with nut wrenches, it's a useful trick and two wrenches is less incriminating and more stealthy than any sort of demolition tool

VectorMedia (author)2016-04-21

I do want to point out that if you are trespassing, then having a sledgehammer or similar tool could get you in a hell of a lot more trouble.

hintss (author)2015-06-07

About maps, I've sometimes found sets of building blueprints stored on machinery floors (not sure what they're called, but when there's a floor dedicated to HVAC, etc)

Shadowwalker2551 (author)2014-09-23

would there be some level of parkour involved ?

robonut625 (author)2007-03-12

Might wanna be careful on those military bases. You might step on an old land mine or something. Boom! That would definitely ruin your day! This is a really fun hobby however. If you live on a college campus, find out if you have an old steam heating system. Those huge underground steam pipes are fun to explore. In the summer of course, when they're not on!

Tetranitrate (author)robonut6252007-03-13

I doubt there are very many land mines in Queens (excluding the ones I've made).

ilpug (author)Tetranitrate2011-06-04

I wouldnt worry about landmines in US military bases. if there are mines, a sign will be posted, and there will be a fence. More importantly, look out for old ammo. A basic rule: LEAVE A DUD ROUND WHERE IT LIES. Increasingly, the military just leaves unexploded rounds out in the training grounds and forgets about them.

MandalorianMaker (author)ilpug2014-04-04

no try and step on them or jar them around and if that doesn't work hit them with hammer fail. What would make you think that the military would put landmines on their own base? Landmines are (primarily) for kepeing heavy vehicles out of certain areas IN COMBAT ZONES. My dad is in the navy and we live beside base. We are on base, all day every day, and the only explosives are the live bombs for the FA-18's, which are stored in huge earth bunkers, lined with like a foot thick concrete.

Hey, just cracking a joke! haha? I'm in Air Force ROTC, and I regularly visit Army bases in South Carolina. They generally have land mines planted between two rows of fences and razor wire to keep people out. But that's the Army, I'm sure the Navy's different.

It's a Joint Reserve Base, so we have Army here too, as well as Air Force. I used to be in ROTC, I was Platoon Leader. Then, a huge group of little annoying kids joined, and I quit, leaving command for my friend. But now, I found something better: Tae Kwon Do. I am now a black belt, and I love it.

kwebber321 (author)2013-01-17

those black things. are those missile heads?

letstormdufield (author)2012-10-12

2 miles underground
person 1 "what's that noise!"
person 2 " EARTHQUAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

.Unknown. (author)2011-08-19

Could you explain to me how the lenses are blinded without being damaged just from an airlift gun?
Also, any chances of them using pinhole cameras or something?

ilpug (author).Unknown.2011-08-19

The Airsoft bb is a miniature paintball, so when it hits, it explodes, covering hte target with paint. if you hit a camera in the lens, it will effectively blind the camera because the lens is covered in paint. the BB does not hit hard enough to permanently damage the camera. Pinhole cameras are usually only in places where there is high-value merchandise, like electronics or jewelry stores. most places that you would want to explore dont use them, because larger normal type cameras have better fields of view, resolution, and are a crime deterrent just by being visible.

.Unknown. (author)2011-08-19

Or...learning how to pick locks as a first option. It's certainly a lot more stealthier, and you can get good enough in only a few weeks practise off lockpicking instructables.

goku ssXXX (author)2011-07-12

its too bad i don't live in a "tall building" sort of city (mostly residential) or i would be climbing every where XD very useful guide by the way

Ribs (author)2007-07-13

does any onr here know anything about parkor?

Tetranitrate (author)Ribs2007-07-13

Sure, what do you want to know?

Ribs (author)Tetranitrate2007-07-23

a friend of mine does it at wits (said vits) in south africa. and t sounded cool but what exactly is it?

Tetranitrate (author)Ribs2007-07-23

Urban gymnastics

Tomton (author)Tetranitrate2007-12-30

PKM is a lot closer. It's all about using things that are normally restrictive to be freeing, and flowing through things as opposed to jolting through them. It's a way of moving, so to speak. Most of the people who post youtube videos of themselves doing parkour don't always have the philosophy right, they're in it for the show. They may have the moves down, but there's a mindset that goes with it.

Agreed. Theres a mindset that goes with any talent, and if you do it for show, your not really doing it.

a basic explanation of parkour is a way to travel across urban environments in a straight line. it can be stylized or grimly functional. Basically urban ninja-tude.

PKM (author)Ribs2007-10-02

Tetranitrate has it basically right- parkour is a gmynastic/acrobatic discipline that focuses on mobility in an urban environment, specifically often using features that are usually used to restrict mobility (walls, rails etc) to enhance it. There's something of a split between "freestylers" who include flashy moves that are not strictly necessary (backflips and the like), and "purists" who stick more closely to the original philosophy. It doesn't have as many specific formalised moves as, say skateboarding or gymnastics, but there is a core vocabulary of vaults, jumps and other techniques that will help you to understand more about parkour. Everything you ever wanted to know can be found at, or type "parkour" or "free running" as a keyword on youtube and you'll find a lot of decent videos (and, of course, a lot of rubbish ones, but that's youtube for you).

themasterpyro (author)2007-11-06

nice. any abandoned military bases near the Wisconsin/Illinois borderline?

ilpug (author)themasterpyro2011-06-04

Use google maps. or google earth. the best tool ever for such applications.

tron1o7 (author)2008-03-14

once me and my friends were walking in a drainage ditch to go to another of my firends apartment ( near his apartment are a bunch of old abandoned office buildings) and some old lady caught us in the ditch so we ran to the area where the ditch goes over the road and she literally kept us there for a hour saying she wasing to call the cops. she never did though =D lucky for us.

and some stuff to take with you:
water cause u might be thirsty and far away from a water source.
a ski mask- that way its harder for people to describe u if they decide to be jerks and call the cops
walkie talkies- those incase u r in a area where u dont have service for ur phone or ur phone dies.

bowmaster (author)tron1o72008-03-18

Ski masks are a HUGE no no. The #1 way to not get caught is act like you belong there!

agreed. if you DO get caught, a ski mask is VERY incriminating. wear a wig or something.

dont wear any disguises. the number one way to blend in is to look like a homeless person. Walkie talkies work above ground, but once you get about five feet underground, the service dies. same with CB radios and cell phones.

mwwdesign (author)tron1o72008-06-04

Watch out for those old ladies... so strong, so fast.

Gjdj3 (author)mwwdesign2008-07-08


genius245 (author)2007-08-29

When going into dark tunnels in the middle of the night, if possible, bring friends and a map. Also, just in case there are lunatics who want to eat you, bring a BB gun or a real gun or matches to set off your vast array of fireworks. I always carry a BB gun with me when I go at night. (DON'T forget your grenades!!!)

Haha, in one of the old abandoned factories near where I live, a few people from school and I store some of our firearms, and homemade firearms there. We have also lately been making nitroglycerin in those old abandoned factories to make dynamite! It's kinda funny because it's not too far from the light rail, and for some reason, no one apperantly dares to go in one of those factories, not even police!

because there is a small danger of it collapsing, although it probably wont unless it over 20 years old.

yea lol and if the nitroglceryn blows up then u can probably b shure its gonna collapse on you if it does

ummmmmm they don't leave it sitting around when they abandon places for that very reason.

Best solution to the weaponry conundrum: go unarmed. weapons scare people. scared people are dangerous. If you do feel the need to carry some heat, get a stun gun, or a can of bear spray. You can get a permit to carry both, and they are nonlethal, and not very loud.

ratnator88 (author)genius2452008-07-17

kewl lol i just make homemade bb guns that can fire stones bbs vitamins lol just about anything that can fit in the barral. i take them with me,(easy to get ammo, hurt just as much as the proper ones, and the cops dont give a ahit if u have one) :)

jokerlz (author)ratnator882009-03-07

The problem is the "cops" spot you with a gun like thing, then they start pointing their guns at you and screaming then instead of dropping your homebrew or otherwise contraption, like they ask you, you wave it at them to show them its fake at which point they "fill ya full of lead" for want of a better phrase.

bowmaster (author)jokerlz2010-06-16

I use a wrist rocket-style slingshot. Works as well, and won't be mistaken for a gun.

you know thats a good idea to carry a BB gun with you. its not a firearm so cops cant do nothing, and its just powerful enough to inflict large amounts of non-lethal pain.

yea but it's also a projectile and they are aware of that

true but they cant arrest you for that. just don't pull it out if someone else present has a real gun. good way to get shot.

in my city they're illegal but it may be different in yours my cops would just take it away like my fireworks (also illegal)

oblatsky (author)pepsivanilla932009-06-05

dyu liv en canada

yeah and with a $25 gun, it doesn't really matter, does it, because its not like their gonna catch you every time you buy a new one.

it CAN be as cheap as $2.50 CAD, if you buy it in Ajijic, Jalisco.

oh my word. what kind of gun is that?

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