Because of the stories I tell from those bygone times, I've had several reader requests to pass on some of the wisdom from these headlamp-wearing, backseat-of-a-car-filling days (and nights). And so I bring you, dear readers, some tips for those of you thinking about trying it out.
- First, understand that dumpster diving is illegal in some places and almost everywhere else is highly discouraged. Dumpster dive at your own risk.
- Don't dig through a dumpster on impulse. Plan it out. Seek out store dumpsters that are not physically hard to access, that aren't connected to an alarm system or filmed by a security camera, and where you won't be visible to a large number of people while you're doing your digging.
- Get insider information about stores and their dumpsters whenever possible. Most grocery stores empty shelves on a schedule. Find out what day of the week stuff is thrown out, and plan to go as soon as possible after this happens. That way, you'll have the best selection.
- Bring the right equipment. Gloves are pretty much essential; headlamps and flashlights are helpful, and if you're putting your findings in the back of a car, putting down a tarp can be a good idea. Also, wear long pants, rather than shorts, and closed-toed shoes.
- If you've never dug around in a dumpster before, start out with something easy, like one outside of a university dorm or one outside of a thrift store. Build up to grocery store dumpstering. I say this because grocery store dumpsters are messier than other dumpsters (this is what happens when a dumpster includes a lot of produce!) and it's often easier to dig around in dumpsters that include things like furniture and clothes.
- Don't forget to have fun! :)