How to Dumpster Dive: Essential Equipment

dumpster diveDespite the negative images the phrase may carry, dumpster diving is an art. What better way to find cool stuff for free, while having an adventure as well? If you don’t mind getting a little dirty and doing some spontaneous dumpster rummaging, then you may want to try your hand at a dumper dive. Of course, you’ll need the right tools and equipment to be successful and have fun. Listed below are five general tips on preparing for a night out dumpster diving.

1. Don’t be obvious.

When dumpster diving, you want to remain incognito. This is why the best time to go is at night. Avoid brightly lit dumpsters and areas with heavy traffic; if you can, plan your route ahead of time, and scout or note possible dive spots on your way home from work or to the grocery store. Because you want to remain out of the spotlight, you will need your own light source that you can turn on an off as you need it; how else will you find anything in a dark dumpster? Hence, bring an LED flashlight or two. Headlamps are particularly useful for dumpster diving, as they leave your hands free for rummaging.

2. Two or more.

Successful dumpster diving requires teamwork. Not only does having a friend around help with the diving itself, but if you run into any trouble or need a second eye, having your trusted pal there is essential. Of course, there are always the lone dumpster divers, but the risk is reduced and the reward is much greater when there’s two or more. An extra hand is always handy for holding the LED flashlight while you’re foraging or when lifting, reaching or otherwise getting one’s self out of a dumpster. Avoid more than two or three people around any one dumpster at the same time, as things tend to get pretty obvious at that point.

3. Bring the right tools.

Besides bringing a friend or two and a quality LED flashlight, you will benefit from bringing additional tools. For example multi tools can be useful for cutting open boxes, removing snared clothing, untangling wires and so on. Not only are multi tools versatile for many situations, but they’re compact and easy to carry in a pocket.

Many veteran dumpster divers prefer to wear headlamps rather than carry an LED flashlight, thus leaving their hands free to sort through dumpster contents. LED headlamps generally provide more illumination in a small space (aka in a dumpster) than would a beam flashlight.

4. Save some space.

You never know what you might find while dumpster diving: old electronics or musical equipment, valuable cabling, free paper or other cool graphic materials, old furniture, TVs or computers. All of the good stuff will take up space, so plan accordingly and make sure to have enough boxes, trunk space, or a backup plan in case any larger gems are found. If you’re traveling on foot, you can always use boxes and leftover storage containers you find in or around the dumpster. Also, multi tools are really helpful for on-the-fly box making!

5. Be polite.

The best way to avoid trouble and have future successful dumpster dives is to not wear out your welcome. Don’t leave a mess. Don’t make excess noises. Don’t shout or play loud music. Remain quiet and efficient, like a ninja. In and out.

Above all else, be respectful to private property and off-limits areas. Always divvy up your findings equally with your teammates. Once again, don’t leave a mess; it’s the surest way to get that lucrative dumpster locked up. Return trips can be ensured by leaving little to no trace of your dumpster diving presence!

Remember: Always put safety first, be prepared, and avoid trouble. Skip over locations that are in or around chemical waste, excess garbage or rotten foods. You can easily become sick by rummaging through less-than-sanitary dumpsters. Gloves and sanitation supplies are highly recommended. But, at minimum, you should always plan ahead and have a dumpster diving backpack on standby so it’s ready to go when that spontaneous moment arrives. Now, where did I put my headlamps and night vision goggles?

[ photo by: Angela Tchou ]

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