So you’ve decided to give up your ordinary life — the family, the 401(k), the evening searches for meaning in a consumerist world– for a chance to work as a spy. Working in the shadows offers neither glory nor the promise of a comfortable death in a warm bed, but with the right tools, you just might survive to see your next assignment. Here are some of the essential spy gadgets you’ll need for a life of covert escapades. Do bring each of them back in one piece!
Using a simple but persuasive cover story, you manage to get inside your target’s corporate headquarters/research facility/secret underground lair. It’s your chance to find the truth behind the insidious and far-reaching conspiracy you have been investigating, but how are you to get it on video? Information-gathering is one of the pillars of espionage, but it’s hard to sneak a camera past security. Thankfully, you can hide a camera in any everyday object if you try hard enough, even a small, simple object like a pen. Nobody will take notice of the pen sticking out of your shirt pocket, and no matter your cover story — intrepid reporter, reclusive investor, etc. — chances are it will seem reasonable to have a pen with you. This specific model stores up to 32GB of footage, and you can connect it to a computer via USB.
The best part of the growing popularity of drones is that nobody will find it suspicious that you, a secret agent, are carrying one. For all they know, you’re just a hobbyist looking to take your new toy for a spin. If, in reality, you’re actually hoping to scout out the country estate of some corrupt politician, looking for points of egress before you infiltrate it to steal some documents, a drone will get the job done. We recommend the DJI Mavic Pro — our favorite drone. The Mavic Pro is equipped with a 4K camera and a three-axis gimbal that allows it to remain stable in flight, so any photos or video it captures will be immaculate. The Mavic Pro’s defining feature is that it folds up into a compact package. If you’re hauling around all the other gadgets on this list for your current mission, a drone that takes up little space is key.
Having scoped out the target’s lair, it’s time to infiltrate. Given the already stringent security, approaching under cover of darkness may be your best bet. You’ll need some way to see in the dark. If you’re working for an agency with a high budget — or if you’re a wealthy, independent operator a la Bruce Wayne (who, while not technically a spy, dabbles in espionage) — you can probably snag yourself a quality set of night vision goggles, which usually cost a couple thousand dollars or more. If you’re spying on a shoestring budget, this night vision monocular should suffice. It’s lightweight, can be adjusted for viewing with either the left or right eye, and has a built-in infrared illuminator for situations where the darkness is particularly stygian.
Unshredder — document recovery software
Rifling through a dumpster outside an evil corporation’s headquarters, you find the files you are looking for. The only problem is that someone — presumably an evil intern — has shredded them. Sweating at the thought of spending days reassembling the strands of paper by hand, you realize there is a better way. Unshredder is software that allows users to reconstruct shredded documents on a computer.
You’ve managed to follow your target on foot, but now they’re stepping into a vehicle. How can you avoid losing them in the tangled streets of the exotic city you’re in? A small, easily concealed tracking device should do the trick. This particular GPS tracker attaches to a car or other object via magnets, and has an IP66 dustproof/waterproofing rating, meaning it should be dust tight and capable of functioning in inclement weather.
You’ve tracked your target to an upscale Italian restaurant. The host guides them to a table. Already sitting there, you’re shocked to see, is a rising star in the U.S. Senate. How curious. You don’t have a reservation, so you can’t get a table next to them. What to do? With a parabolic microphone, which collects sound waves and then focuses them onto a receiver, you can pick up their conversation from a safe distance. This Sound Shark kit, which plugs into a camera or recording device, should suffice for the amateur eavesdropper. Your only challenge will be appearing inconspicuous while aiming it at your target’s conversation.
Nikon D500 — DSLR camera with a zoom lens
You’ve caught your targets, both high-profile subjects, in an incriminating situation. Evidence of the meeting will prove useful. A photograph will suffice, but not just any will do. A powerful DSLR camera will take the high-quality photos you need, and the Nikon D500, which takes immaculately detailed shots, is one of the best around. It’s a bulky camera, and while a tiny model may seem more fitting for a covert operative, if anyone notices you taking photos with a camera like this, they’ll just assume you’re an enthusiast — half of effective spying is blending in, after all. Make sure to outfit your camera with a zoom lens, as you’ll likely need to maintain a safe distance from your target.