Must-Have Gear for the Aspiring Cave Explorer

Cave GearCav­ing 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.

Cave GearLike 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!