Caving is a rare treat, a glimpse into a sub-terrain and seldom explored part of this world. There are ice caves, tropical caves, underwater rivers and waterfalls, stalagmites, stagnates, and all sorts of other formations just begging to be appreciated. In order to have a pleasant, safe, and optimal experience, the right gear makes all the difference—this includes clothing and visual aids.
There is nothing worse than a sub-terrain adventure that leaves you wet, freezing, and terribly lost (due to poor lighting). Follow these tips to set up your adventure for success, safety, and maximizing fun.
There are 4 things to take into consideration while selecting the proper caving-ready clothing: snag-resistance, warmth, waterproof, and reflective features. Depending on the type of rock, the edges can be very sharp and can easily rip or snag clothing. Because of this, make certain your gear is resistant to tears or snags. Caves are often 10–20 degrees cooler than the ambient temperature above ground, so you need to dress warm and in layers.
Make sure you have a water-wicking base layer. Felt-lined articles are especially effective. Your outer layer should be comprised of waterproof (resistant at the minimum) pants and jacket. Your pants should be flexible to help you climb through small spaces up cracks and through holes. Your top half should offer flexibility, protection, and waterproofing. Add a pair of water-resistant, tactical gloves and a stocking cap and you’re ready for action. It’s also recommended to have reflective features on your clothing in order to keep tabs on your group as you venture through each cave.
Yes, it’s dark inside a cave. Sure, you know it’s dark, but if you’ve never experienced this degree of dark, then you’re in for a surprise. Your typical flashlight is woefully inadequate underground. Some of the more popular touristy caves offer flashlight rentals, but most of your spelunking is unaided, which is why it’s important that you have adequate light. The number-one thing to pay attention to when purchasing a cave-friendly light is lumens. Lumens are a measurement of light output. 1000 Lumens is a good minimum to start with. It’s hard to find that much in a headlamp, so I recommend that you use a headlamp and a handheld flashlight. The headlamp comes in handy when you have to use both of your hands, and it’s helpful to keep tabs on one another. Another way to keep track of one another is to attach a light to your back. Either a hanging bulb (like in these pictures) or bike light would work.
Like with any backcountry adventure—don’t plan on entering a cave alone, and make certain you’ve notified someone that’s staying home where you’ll be and when you expect to be home. Also, abide by all caving rules such as no dogs and seasonal closures for bat migration/mating seasons. To prevent deadly fungus outbreaks (deadly for bats), you are asked to never wear any clothing that has entered another cave. Now that you’re equipped for a safe sub terrain adventure, have at it!