Urban Exploration




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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.

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Step 1: Supplies

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

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

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

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

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

Step 7: Ft. Hancock

Step 8: Creedmoor

Step 9: 120 Wall St.

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    130 Discussions


    2 years ago

    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


    3 years ago

    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.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    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)


    12 years ago

    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!

    6 replies

    Reply 12 years ago

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


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 5 years ago

    no try and step on them or jar them around and if that doesn't work hit them with hammer

    wow...you 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.


    6 years ago on Step 7

    those black things. are those missile heads?

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


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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?

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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.

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    8 years ago on Introduction

    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


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

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