14 Essential Items to have in your Surveillance Grab Bag

In this blog I will cover the 14 Essential Items to have in your Surveillance Grab Bag. Some items are obvious and some will be an eye opener to others. I have no doubt certain items aren’t as important to others but for me all of these items live in my grab bag ready to go.

Before I get into the list I want to talk about the grab bag itself. It can be any non-descript bag that fits your profile. I have four bags which I rotate through including one all black backpack, two small shoulder satchel type bags and a larger laptop shoulder bag. Each fits whether I dress smart or casual so they can fit in no matter what the scenario.

Now I won’t hesitate any more and get right into the list. 

1. Handy Camera

Coming in solid at number one is a secondary small handy camera. Having one of these living in your bag ready to deploy on foot with you makes life so much easier! Whilst it makes a pain in video editing later it really has saved my bacon in the past as relying on a covert camera would just not do.

When choosing a small handy camera for your surveillance grab bag I’d advise you look for one with a decent zoom capability and a must have is WIFI so that you can connect to your camera and view remotely if you get the opportunity to from a vantage point like a café or restaurant.

2. Covert Camera

Getting in close and personal is what we do. The results we can achieve by doing this are golden and having your covert camera handy is an absolute must for any professional. Keeping this in your grab bag mostly means you wont lose it in your car when you need it most.


3. Audio/Listening Device

Not as essential as your covert camera but still a must have as the opportunity to place a listening device can arise from anywhere. I have quickly placed them in plant pots in the pub smoking area so I can video record from a safe distance and still get the conversation of my subject and their associate.

4. Spare Camera Batteries

Your handy cam will be your best source of getting clear evidence during your surveillance period. Do not let it die during the day! Camera batteries now are relatively cheap online and worth the price over missing the money shot!

5. Spare SD cards

Mostly for your covert camera but having spares of these with you means you can cure any problems with your devices that are sometimes attributed to the SD card. You may even just fill up an SD card whilst out on foot or if you leave it running as a soak camera. Not having enough data storage space really would be a bad excuse for not getting great evidence.

Currently we are have for sale both SD Cards and SD Card Holders so why not take a look? 

6. Loose Change

I have a pot of loose change in my car as well as a small little bag of change in my grab bag. The ideal amount is anything between £5.00 and £10.00, any more is unecessary.

Having loose change will speed up your time of paying for bus fares or at parking meters where only change is accepted. We all rely heavily on technology now but sometimes it is just far quicker to have change on hand.

One frequent instance is in cafes where you order and pay just before you leave. Being able to throw the correct amount down and dash gives you the freedom not to have to rely on someone else’s speed.

7. Power Bank and Associated Wires

Our equipment uses lots of battery power throughout the day. It is essential you can charge your devices to stay connected and ready to capture evidence.

Usually a 20,000 mAh power bank will suffice for a full days surveillance. Be sure you have the correct cables to each device kept with the power bank so you aren’t left wanting! If you have the correct wire to charge your camera don’t bother carrying spare handy camera batteries.

8. Headphones

Without failure there will be a point in the day you will need to take a call from someone. Headphones are the perfect way of keeping your hands free enabling you to use a camera or do other bits of research using your phone. If you use a pair of AirPod style headphones make sure to carry wired ones as a spare in case of batteries dying and to help with change of appearance.

9. Your Passport

Whilst it doesn’t happen very often there is the very real chance you might take your subject to an airport and get on a plane with them. I’ve done this twice in my surveillance career so far. I have also had to gain access airside of the airport to record which flight my subject departs on and who with so having your passport is essential to separate you from amateurs.

10. Note Pad and Pen

Writing a quick note here and there will never go out of date no matter what technology does. Pen and paper is a must have in your grab bag and can even help as a small prop when you’re in close near to your subject. Be sure to cleanse your note pad at the end of each task if it has task details within!

11. Cigarettes or Nicotine Free Vape Device

Whilst working on foot during surveillance it is highly likely that you will end up stood in a fixed spot for quite a long time. Smoking is a great excuse and visual aid for passers by who may be wondering what you’re doing there. Personally I do not smoke so I carry a nicotine free vape device that acts as a fantastic prop for hanging around on the street for long periods.

12. A Plain Plastic Bag

If you’ve ever worked in London you’ll know that sometimes following a subject on the tube and having a way of changing your appearance really can help. A generic preferably white plastic lets you do this to your surveillance grab bag. After some exposure to your subject this changes what your carrying from a surveillance grab bag to a bag of shopping.

This is especially useful if you’re subject goes into a shopping centre where a plastic bag is much more non-descript than a surveillance grab bag. Avoid the large chain supermarket big orange plastic bag as in terms of branding it’s great but it really can catch the eye!

13. A lightweight Waterproof Jacket

Getting caught out in the rain whilst working on foot during surveillance is incredibly miserable. Plus it attracts attention to you if you’re out in the rain without being equipped for it.

A waterproof jacket again helps you to change your profile and gives you the ability to quickly change your appearance.

From my opinion black or grey  colours always work best as lots of us have them so blend in very well. 

14. A Small Umbrella

A small umbrella goes hand in hand with a waterproof jacket. If it’s raining and you’re outside you will get noticed if you’re not equipped! Working in large cities during commuting hours, having an umbrella really can help you to blend in with your surroundings and when done well make you hidden in plain sight like in the old movies.

To finish up

I imagine I may have missed one or two items. I do feel vehicle trackers could be in there but aren’t essential really for your grab bag in my opinion.

This blog, much the same as the last one – 21 Essential Apps for Private Investigators is all based on my own opinion and how I work. Some people don’t use grab bags at all which is what works for them.

I hope you enjoyed reading and have picked up one or two items for your grab bag! Thank you so much for reading.

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