Gear Guide: 10 items to bring on the ultimate ghost-hunting road trip

Professional ghost hunter Steve Gonsalves' recommended gear for the ultimate ghost-hunting road trip

Walkway in abandoned building. | Photo: waewkid/Shutterstock

Going on Steve Gonsalves’ ghost-hunting road trip of a lifetime? You’ll want to pick up some essential gear in order to successfully complete the journey. Not only were these items picked by Steve himself, you’ll find them in his backpack when he’s on the hunt.

1. Flashlight

This might seem like a silly thing to suggest, but you will be surprised how often a flashlight is overlooked. Even as a seasoned investigator, I have to remind myself to grab a flashlight from time to time. A flashlight is not only essential for keeping you safe while navigating the darkness, you might need it to read historical markers or passages in guest books. A lot of times, they include guests’ ghostly encounters. Don’t forget to bring extra batteries.

2. Pen and notebook

Having a pen and notebook will be very handy for a lot of reasons. First, you will want to keep lots of notes during your stops at these haunted locations. Specifically, you will want to log most anything you think you might want to remember or think is interesting. By the time you get to the end of your road trip, it will be nice to look back and read about all of your encounters and findings. I always have a notebook handy on every investigation.

Welcome to the (haunted) Shanley Hotel.
The Shanley Hotel offers nightly ghost hunts. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan

3. Smartphone

This might seem like a no-brainer, but your smartphone is still an essential ghost-hunting tool. I’ve seen many people go on a ghost hunt without their phones and regret it. You never know what might happen. And you never know if you’ll need to call someone for help. If you have a smartphone, this will also give you an extra flashlight, camera, and digital recorder.

Pro tip: If using the digital recorder function on your phone, be sure to set it to airplane or offline mode to prevent the phone from sending and receiving signals. There is a very slight chance that your audio recordings could be contaminated by rogue frequencies and even cell phone transmissions. Airplane mode will negate that possibility.

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4. Camera

Sure, most smartphones have built-in, high-quality cameras. Just keep in mind, however, that there is no real night vision or infrared capability on your phone. That means you will have to use the flash function to see anything in the images.

That being said, it would be wise to invest in a camera that has infrared capability. That way you can take photos and shoot videos in dark places without needing a flash or a light. Using an infrared-enabled camera allows you to record in darkness without requiring a light source. Another reason is that if you are using a light source it will be much harder to see some of the illuminated types of phenomenon. For example, you can’t see a flashlight beam in a room with the lights on.

Pro tip: Ghost hunting doesn’t always have to happen at night. It is still possible to have experiences and capture paranormal evidence on your camera with the lights on and even in daylight.

5. Two-way radios

If you and your ghost-hunting partner(s) plan to stick together, two-way radios might not be necessary. However, if there are more than three of you, or you plan on splitting up when checking out these places, two-way radios can be quite valuable.

Pro tip: Any brand radios will do. However, I recommend a pair that reaches up to at least 2 miles.

6. Digital audio recorder

digital audio recorder is a very valuable—and virtually essential—piece of gear for your ghost-hunting kit. This will help you record what are known as electronic voice phenomena (EVP). A digital audio recorder will also help you recall things that were happening during your hunt.

Pro tip: If doing a structured EVP session, during which you do a Q&A session with the spirit, try to think of questions that relate to the era and to the personality of the spirit you are trying to communicate with. For instance, if you are dealing with a child that died in 1920, you might want to talk about playing with toys or dolls and not video games, as video games weren’t around in 1920.

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7. Headphones

If you are going to record sound on your digital audio recorder or phone, investing in a decent quality pair of headphones is essential. Never try to use the digital recorder speaker or your phone speaker. Earbuds should be a last resort. Ideally, you want over-the-ear headphones. These provide high-quality sound playback while also blocking out additional sound pollution.

8. EMF gauge

If the theory that ghosts are made of energy holds true, then an electromagnetic field (EMF) gauge is an essential tool. You will need it to find fluctuations in the magnetic field that could be caused by ghostly apparitions. Keep in mind that your EMF gauge picking up a reading doesn’t necessarily mean there is something paranormal there, just a better chance of the possibility. By that I mean, make sure your readings aren’t coming from natural or manmade sources such as electrical outlets, wires, and appliances before you credit the reading to a ghost.

Pro tip: If you are just along for a spooky road trip and don’t really feel the urge to purchase an EMF gauge, a compass will work in a pinch. Just watch the needle to see if it has a problem finding magnetic north. That might mean you’re encountering some otherworldly energy.

A cute and cuddly REM Pod.
A REM pod disguised as a stuffed dog. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan

9. Digital thermometer

digital thermometer will be quite useful in finding and recording the temperature fluctuations that are commonly reported at haunted locations. If you plan to acquire a digital thermometer, make sure it isn’t just a surface thermometer. Be sure to buy one that also measures ambient temperature.

Pro tip: Don’t point the thermometer at metal or windows, especially in cold conditions. They will always read much colder than the ambient temperature in the room. This could lead to misinterpretation.

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10. Thermal camera

At one time, a thermal camera was the most coveted piece of paranormal investigation equipment. That’s mostly because of its price, but also the quality of evidence it can capture. If you capture the thermal image of a human shape or some sort of globule, and you are certain it isn’t a thermal reflection or your own thermal radiance, that’s a pretty fantastic piece of evidence. With the advent of phone attachments and cheaper pricing on camera units, thermal cameras have become a more accessible piece of equipment than it once was.

Pro tip: Do not use thermal imaging smartphone apps. Typically, they are not true thermal images. Rather, they’re usually just a theatrical overlay.

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