Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tools of the Trade

I'm starting to really think about making this little hobby of mine a little more, dare I say, profitable? Perhaps someday compiling this page and my own journal entries into a book in a way similar to the two Marks who started the Weird NJ phenomena.

Anyway, I see on the various forums I belong regarding "Urban Exploration" questions sometimes centering around, "what kind of gear do you bring?"

I generally carry a small backpack that I stole from my youngest brother. Its water resistant, but only to a point and can dig into the shoulders if it's overloaded or not packed properly. So I'm saving up for an Osprey Talon 22 lightweight backpack or a DiamondBack 3Day pack.
However, at well over $100 apiece, I'm happy with my freebies.

Inside my pack I keep a bunch of flashlights, best keeping one in my pocket for a quick draw but its good to have two or three, including at least one VERY bright one. I'm talking like million-candle kind that you get at Home Depot. I've got a $9.52 Workforce 1,000,000 with a wrist strap that can take one hell of a beating... and charge in a convenient wall outlet.

Glow sticks are also really handy when it comes to marking your path and going through the woods. Its great because everybody can see and identify them. They also suck because EVERYBODY can see and identify them. Allow me to explain: if you're in an area that you're "not supposed to be in", especially after dark, and you crack these bright flares and leave a few in your wake... and someone with a badge, gun, and bad temper sees them, they'll undoubtedly think to themselves, "gee, these things last about twelve hours, they weren't here earlier... hmmm, gee, someone must be in there." Use common sense when using these, and remember to pick them up when you're all done. The best idea is to use them as waypoints if you're unfamiliar with an area.

Maps are a great thing. Even better is knowing how to read one. GPS systems are terrific too, dont get me wrong. But if you're running from a landowner who doesn't take kindly to people poking around their neck of the woods, would you rather loose a map which might cost you three cents to print out off Google Earth... or your Magellan GPS system which you paid $200 for when it was on sale at Best Buy? Do the math, and get a compass.

Go onto Google Earth and print out a satelite view of the place BEFORE you go and try to memorize it so you're not constantly taking it in and out of your pocket. Also, know the surrounding roads pretty good too.

Carry ID. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS. How often? ALWAYS! Don't leave it in the car, put it in your wallet or purse and make sure its up to date. Also, if you have a warrant out for your arrest -I know this sounds stupid but- DON'T go anywhere until you get that cleaned up because if you're caught somewhere you ought not be, Johnny Law WILL run your creditentials and then you're SOL and JWF. Shit outta luck and jolly well fucked.

Also, if you happen to run in with the police, be nice. Remember, you get father when a kind word and a gun than just a kind word. Unfortunatly, THEY have the guns so best off doing what they say. Have a camera handy and let em know you're an explorer, lookin for cool stuff to take pictures of, basically tell them the truth: they like it and its good for you. UNLESS it involves you getting a ride downtown then everything I said goes out the window.

Camera. Having a bit of a photography hobby, I take a bunch of pictures of my little adventures. However, keep this in mind: if you're going somewhere "where you ought not be"....caught, take the photos off your digital camera from ALL previous trips. That way, if they decide to investigate you, they only have TODAY'S evidence as opposed to a year's worth of dirt on you. The great state of NJ has -last time I checked- a one year statute of limitation on stuff like this. However, you gotta be in really deep shit to even get a cop to consider locking you up. As long as you take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints -the fewer the better- you have NOTHING to worry about.

As far as the locals go, and by that I mean people who aren’t cops who harass you, be nice, be respectful, and remember, it’s their turf and they know where to dig a hole in case you run your mouth a little too much. If they say ‘leave’, LEAVE. Walk back to your car or off their property, keep your hands visible, and try not to look over your shoulder too much. I haven’t had a gun pulled on me yet but I’m told a good idea is to not look back at them and hope they don’t have a scope.

Also, a good cover story is good to have. I once had a half-deaf and nearly all blind guy catch me in the abandoned office buildings near the Route 80 overpass in Hackensack. They’re part of a pretty big oil field that’s been empty for –nearest I can tell- over thirty years. I heard footsteps and knew I was busted. Rummaging through a desk drawer I found a bunch of papers with King Motor Oil Co. on the letterhead. I memorized it, pulled out my camera, turned it on, and opened my knife, concealing it in my back pocket. He wasn’t a cop, matter of fact, he was probably homeless and living in one of the shacks under Route 80, but once he saw me, which took a while because he had cataracts looking full ashtrays in his eyes, he asked what I was doing there. I fed him a bullshit line about how a close family member – I said my uncle William Costigan -since I had watched The Departed for the hundredth time- was on their deathbed –I know I’m going to hell for this one but it saved me a trip up the road in a cop car- and how they wanted to know what became of the place they used to work at. He said “don’t take ‘nothin.” After a full minute of him staring at me with those dead eyes, I took the hint to leave. As I was walking out he said to the space I was standing in, “Tell Billy I’m sorry.”

Water. Bring a bottle of some high quality H2O or Gatorade if it fits your preference. Also a small bottle of Advil or Tylenol for any aches and pains you may encounter. Also, at a minimum, bug repellent and knowledge of what plants are poisonous or you MAY be allergic to. A small first-aid kit is great too if you’re far away from civilization.

Speaking of civilization, let some TRUSTED people know where you’re going. Family and close friends, you know who I mean. And have your CHARGED phone with you in case you’re stuck, stranded, or need help. A good check-in system is also handy to have. Yes, its childish. Yes, its kinda dumb. But would you rather someone worry about you or not have any idea that you’ve fallen into an open mine shaft and need a little help getting out?

More good ideas… my girlfriend will tell you otherwise, but wear long pants and either durable shoes or comfortable boots. Also, a pair of gloves that give you good dexterity is a great idea in case you need to move stuff around and don’t feel like getting splinters or cut up. They’re even handier in the winter.

Bring a pen and a small notepad to jot stuff down, entry and egress routes, cool places to visit next time around, anything useful.

Most important things of all are common sense and flexibility. If you don’t need any of the aforementioned things I suggested, don’t bring it. I’ve given you a good load-out for an afternoon hike through the woods or a trip around a good-sized nut house. If you scope the place out and think you won’t need something, don’t bother carrying it around all day. However, if you end up needing it, make sure you bring it with you if you plan a second trip.

Common sense: the most equally divided and under-implemented thing in the universe. Do research on a site before going in. Try to find out if it’s legal or not. Are there trespassing signs posted? Is it safe to go after dark? Where are you going to park (if you drove)? A good idea is to cruise by and take a look a few times during the day and night to make sure that no one goes there when you might want to have a look around.

Some may look at this as a Burglars Cookbook, but no, it’s simply a guide for safe exploring. And hopefully, answers a few questions you might ask. I know I’ve left stuff out, and I also know that some may disagree with me on my load-out. Everyone has a preference for their own kit and some may be better off than I. Any way you go about it, know the rules, know the risks, and be careful where you tread.

I’ve learned one thing about these places I go to as a fundamental fact: the scariest things there aren’t alive.



Nicole said...

Heyyy I like my sandals, thank you very much.

Tails said...

YES PLEASE WRITE A BOOK OR STORY. You are a great writer.. and these were awesome tips. I definitely took to memory as much as I could.

I want to go exploring some day :)