Surveillance Equipment and Spy Gear for Investigations

Surveillance equipment
Photo by: FDominec, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Surveillance equipment includes any equipment, gadget, or device used to conduct various types of surveillance, counter-surveillance, and investigations.

Spy gear is most often used to perform surveillance, which involves observing the behavior of a particular person or persons, usually from a distance. Spy gear is also used to conduct counter-surveillance to check for electronic bugging devices, prevent others from observing your behavior, or conduct covert investigations. Additionally, spy gadgets are used by private investigators, police officers, bounty hunters, and even the military.

Detectives often use spy equipment without knowing the subjects being observed. This is usually done to gather information such as videos, photographs, or data on a person’s activity. In addition, equipment is becoming essential to personal and home security. For example, people secure their homes with security cameras, window monitors, hidden devices, and wireless cams. 

This article provides an overview of basic and advanced spy equipment. Also, it includes links to websites with various hi-tech tools to meet your investigation, tracking, and security needs.

Types of Surveillance Equipment

The following categories of spy equipment include a quality line of basic and advanced security and covert products. You do not have to be a private detective or police officer to purchase the gear. Many people purchase hidden cameras and other devices for their homes. You’ll find gadgets and electronics such as audio recorders, electronic bug detectors, digital cameras, GPS tracking devices, listening devices, night vision goggles, self-defense products, and other apparatus.

Audio Listening and Recording Devices

Private Investigators, law enforcement, and intelligence experts use various forms of covert audio listening, recording, and analysis equipment to capture conversations, sounds, and noises to be used as evidence in investigations. For example, when a private investigator is monitoring at a distance, they might use various kinds of Audio Surveillance Equipment like amplified microphones, electronic bugging devices, or even mobile phone spy software.

In other situations, an investigator might use a Digital Voice Recorder / Audio Recorder to record witness or subject statements, record notes about a case, capture ideas or reminders, and more. These devices may covertly record people’s conversations without their knowledge. If you plan to use the equipment this way, ensure you are familiar with the applicable laws in your state.

RELATED: Wiretapping: One-Party & Two-Party Consent States

Other audio analysis tools, such as voice analysis and modification tools, voice stress analyzers, voice changers, and transformer instruments, work with telephones and cell phones. Knowing the laws on using audio recording and surveillance equipment in your area is critical. Check first before buying any equipment.

Binoculars, Scopes, and Optics

Binoculars are must-have surveillance equipment for private investigators and law enforcement officials. They help people view things at a distance, which may be necessary to perform a check on your subject or at a stakeout. If you need to see in the dark, Night Vision Goggles, Night Vision Binoculars, and weapons sights are helpful for nighttime sleuthing and security. Learn more about Binoculars and Night Vision Goggles.

Computer Hardware and Software Tools

Investigators, Police, and intelligence experts use specialized hardware and software programs to spy on computers, record internet surfing and other computer activity, log keystrokes, and capture chat conversations and email exchanges. For example, a PI might use keylogging software to catch a cheating spouse chatting online with his or her partner.

In addition to monitoring computer, laptop, and tablet activity, private eyes might use special covert programs to conduct cell phone recon on wireless and mobile phones, get data from cell phones, text messages, instant messages, and more. Learn more about Mobile Phone Spy Software.

Faraday Bags

Faraday bags prevent signals from entering or leaving an electronic device. For example, private investigators may use the bags to block the tracking of their client’s mobile phones, tablets, or even credit cards.

GPS Tracking Devices

Covert GPS Tracking Devices track the movement and travel activities of almost anything, from vehicles to people to physical items. Secretly place GPS tracking devices to follow the location where it goes. Then, trackers monitor the movements using specialized software that uses GPS signals to track the device’s exact location.

Other tracking devices use Bluetooth technology to track the location of smaller items. Learn more about Bluetooth Tracking Devices such as Tile’s best-selling Bluetooth item tracker. For example, a woman may place a Tile device inside her purse. If the purse is stolen, she can track the location of the Tile device using an app on her cell phone.

Headphones, Earbuds, and Headsets

Headphones are small loudspeakers held close to a person’s ears with a headphone connector or in-ear connectors. The headphones are connected to a signal source such as an audio amplifier, radio, CD player, mobile device, or personal computer.

Headphones are also known as earphones, earbuds, or headsets. In personal telecommunications, a headset describes a combination of headphones and microphones used for two-way communication, such as with a telephone.

Private Investigator Use

Private investigators may use headphones during a surveillance mission. Many surveillance cases involve the use of audio equipment and listening devices. Private investigators often need to listen to conversations from a distance, so electronic listening devices and headphones are frequently used.

In addition, private detectives often use headsets to keep their hands free when observing someone’s actions from a distance. This allows a private eye to operate other devices simultaneously, such as a video camera, binoculars, night vision goggles, or another type of camera.

Private detectives may also use headsets or earphones designed to work with spy gear. Some anti-bugging or bug-detection devices work with earphones that allow the user to listen to electronic signals. This aids the user in detecting hidden electronic devices, also known as bugs, by hearing changes in frequency signals. You’ll find a wide variety of Telephone Headsets at

Hidden Safes

Hidden safes (also known as hidden diversion safes) are a unique and straightforward home security product that allows you to hide your valuables safely inside containers that look like everyday household products, such as soda cans, hair spray, soup cans, and more. They are a great way to keep your valuables safe, even from family members.

Experts say that, on average, a typical burglar will spend about eight minutes in your home. Most burglars or home invaders will be in a hurry and grab the most obvious valuable items such as money, jewelry, expensive artwork, electronics, etc. That’s why hidden and diversion safes work so well; they keep things hidden in plain view.

Burglars and thieves who break into a house may know that a diversion safe exists, but they are usually scared, pressed for time, and want to get in, grab what they can, and get out as quickly as possible. Hiding valuables covertly in a diversion safe makes perfect sense and dramatically increases the likelihood that your valuables will remain untouched.

Sometimes, hiding your valuables in plain sight is the best solution for fooling burglars, thieves, and curious children. You can use the same devices to keep things hidden from children or relatives who may have “touchy” fingers. Children can’t get stuff from you if they don’t know where they are being kept.

View a wide variety of affordable safes at the Home Security Superstore.

Mobile Phone Tracking Software

If you’re a concerned parent wondering what your child is doing on their mobile phone or computer, you may consider using mobile phone spy software. These software programs allow you to track and monitor activity on a cell phone or tablet. You can keep track of incoming and outgoing calls, text messages, social media activity, GPS location, and more. Not all programs will work with all phones, so it is crucial to understand what software works with iPhones, Android phones, Windows phones, etc.

Police Equipment

Police and law enforcement officers use various surveillance and security equipment and tools in the line of duty. They use hi-tech devices such as binoculars, night-vision goggles, infrared scanners, metal detectors, and bug scanners. In addition, they use personal security equipment, such as tactical equipment (see above). Examples include firearms, tasers, batons, pepper spray/mace (see below), handcuffs, and more. See Police Equipment / Police Gear for more information.

Pepper Spray and Mace

Pepper spray, also known as mace, OC spray, OC gas, capsicum, or oleoresin capsicum) is a chemical agent. When sprayed, the chemical irritates the eyes and causes such painful physical symptoms as tears, pain, difficulty breathing, runny nose, coughing, and even temporary blindness.

Law enforcement uses these deterrents in many situations, including riot control, crowd control, suspect apprehension, and personal self-defense. The spray’s physical effects on the individual cause temporary debilitation, which helps police officers control unruly situations.

Private citizens may use the chemical mixture as self-defense and personal protection tools. Women most often carry the chemical mixture. The active ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin, a chemical from the fruit of plants in the Capsicum genus, including chilies.

In some cases, the chemicals can be lethal. For example, when the dosage is excessive and in cases where the sprayed individual has heart problems, a respiratory illness, etc. The duration of the effects depends on the strength and amount of the chemical sprayed. Still, the average full effect lasts around thirty to forty-five minutes, with diminished effects lasting up to several hours. The long-term effects are unknown.

Pepper spray typically comes in canisters, which are often small enough to conceal in a pocket or purse. Some products, such as key rings, watches, or pens, also have a pepper spray dispenser inside. Many people carry pepper spray attached to their key chain for quick availability when needed, such as when walking to their car at night. Pepper projectiles, which shoot from a paintball gun, are also available.

Private investigators may use the chemical as a self-defense tool or when providing personal protection services for their clients. Investigators may also consult on its use when teaching clients how to protect themselves. Knowing the different types and how to use them is helpful.

Police also use TASERs for similar purposes, but usually only in more extreme circumstances.

Personal Protection and Self-defense

Professionals use many self-defense products and weapons, which can also be used for personal and home security. This category includes firearms (guns, rifles, etc.), batons, mace/pepper spray, knives, tasers, stun guns, and more. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the applicable laws in your jurisdiction. In the long run, it is wise for private eyes to understand the legal issues surrounding owning and carrying any weapon.

Security Systems for Home and Business

Some high-quality security systems are available to monitor your home or business. Read our overview of Home Security Systems, including DIY home video surveillance monitors and systems like SimpliSafe, Nest Secure Alarm System, and the Nest Security Cam. Also, read a list of tips to keep your home safe.

Spy Sunglasses

Spy sunglasses that contain spy cams are great for covert surveillance and are straightforward to use. They come in very different styles and are one of the most popular types of equipment. Most people don’t realize it, but some of the best spy sunglasses are available.

These sunglasses will contain a camera, a microphone, and a battery source. The most current models will have rechargeable batteries lasting six to nine hours. They can record in color and pick up audio from far away. Most will come with a pinhole or camera, so you can always record.

Tactical Gear

Tactical gear includes anything that law enforcement, military personnel, or investigators wear on their person to provide protection or utility benefits. For example, bulletproof vests, bullet-resistant vests, and other body armor designed to protect you in the line of duty.

Surveillance Equipment and Counter-Surveillance Equipment

Various devices are available to perform surveillance, counter-surveillance, and countermeasure checks. The devices are for your home security or as a service to your clients. For example, Electronic Bug Detectors help detect and locate all major electronic surveillance devices. Find bugs hidden in rooms, phones, furniture, microphones, video transmitters, and tape recorders.

Video Cameras, Hidden Cams, and Drones

Recording and capturing video footage have become one of the most pervasive public and non-public surveillance types. Anyone with a cell phone can capture video footage. The footage can even become official evidence in a court trial.

Investigation professionals use more advanced high-tech equipment to surveillance or capture hidden videos. Such equipment includes packaged camera systems, CCTV, and DVR monitors.

Police officers, investigation professionals, and even the military use drones for aerial surveillance. Drones help law enforcement officials search for subjects,  conduct surveillance, and monitor disaster areas. Drones can capture both photographs and video footage.

Other types of spy security cams include hidden cameras that are covert and out of sight, wireless security cameras, stealth cams for hats, covert glasses, and hidden camera buttons.

Parents can also use nanny cams to monitor babysitters and nannies. This includes wireless nanny observation cams, hidden nanny cameras, and minicams. Also, learn how to find hidden cameras with an electronic bug detector.

Other Spy Gear and Equipment

Survival Kits and Accessories – People use survival kits and accessories to survive in challenging and extreme conditions. These kits can also be helpful for other purposes, like long surveillance missions and stake-out assignments, especially when you need to stay outdoors in potentially uncomfortable or extreme conditions.

We’ll soon add more information on DIY spy gear solutions, undercover jackets, bug detection kits, note pads, and more.

If you’re the DIY type, check out your local supply stores, including stores like Wal-Mart, Target, and Home Depot. You can find some of the best DIY equipment in your local neighborhood store. This includes products for adults and fun stuff for children and teens.

Important Notices

The Buyer must ascertain and obey all applicable local, state, and federal laws regarding the purchase (wholesale, retail, or person-to-person sales), possession, and use of any gear items listed on this website.

Consult an attorney or law enforcement professional about local, state, and federal laws before ordering spy gear. By placing an order, the Buyer represents that he/she is of legal age and will legally use the products. When applicable, instruments sold may be subject to Public Law 90-351, Title 111 18 U.S.C., Section 2511. These guidelines apply to both retail and wholesale spy gear.


Cheap Spy Gear – We recommend buying retail and wholesale items only from reputable vendors. Many companies offer cheap spy gear through their website or on marketplaces like eBay. In many cases, these companies provide lower-quality products without any guarantees. Some offers are outright scams aimed at stealing your money or identity. Do your research before purchasing and lean toward buying through a reputable company with a positive review. In general, buying wholesale will result in a lower per-unit price.

If you have any questions about the surveillance equipment and spy gear discussed above, please leave a comment on the product page for which you have a question.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including Michael created more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at


  1. Security cameras allow for peace of mind when every member of the household is out during the day or the security of a business place. There are a variety of CCTV and security cameras that are used for security purposes. With more advanced security systems now connecting to mobile phone applications. Recently I installed cameras in my home.


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