Caving is unlike anything else you might have tried before, and depending on your particular destination, even the experience of caving can vary widely. While all that is excellent news, especially if it’s going to be your first spelunking adventure, it is important to remember that there is also an element of danger in caving. While you (hopefully) won’t be exploring the claustrophobic underground caves of the French Alps on your very first adventure, you will still need to have the right gear to be able to complete your exploration safe and sound. In order to help you prepare for your upcoming adventure, we have prepared this list of essential spelunking gear that you must have at the ready.
The safety helmet is the first thing on this list because it is one of the most important items, just as in any other form of extreme sport or outdoor activity. It’s also necessary because you will need it to mount your headlamp. Also, be sure to wear a balaclava or a skully underneath.
If you are going to explore caves then you will need to see, and to see, you will need a headlamp. Light is one of the scarcest commodities inside a caving system, so you better make sure that you are bringing enough of your own. The helmet mounted headlamp frees up your hands and moves with your head to constantly accompany your vision with a reassuring source of light. Don’t forget to bring a spare (or two).
Your headlamp might be your primary source of light down under, but no sane spelunker should ever leave home without a trusty, tactical flashlight. In case of emergencies, that flashlight could save lives and carrying it is basically the norm for every adventurer out there. The only thing is to make sure that it’s small, powerful and has an excellent battery performance.
Utility Belt/Fanny Pack
This is the place for all your spare lamps, flashlights, batteries, etc.
The waterproof bag will be needed to carry your camera, emergency kit, some food and water, batteries and anything else that you may want to keep dry.
For footwear, opt for tough boots with rubber soles, much in the same way as you would in case of a rock climbing venture. Depending on your location, caving may have you do quite a bit of climbing as well. A Wellington boot or even a climber’s boot might be the way to go, along with some neoprene socks.
If the location has a lot of swimming or wading through water involved, you will need a wet suit.
If you have plans of crawling through tunnels, the one piece tear-resistant suit will keep your skin intact as you crawl through rough, tight passages.
Elbow and Knee Pads
Essential gear if you are planning to crawl through tight, rocky tunnels.
You may not always need them, but it’s better to have them around if the caving system is known for being wet and slimy.
The Harnessing Equipment
This may include the chest harness, ascenders, descenders, cow’s tails, as well as some other special equipment but the exact specifics will depend on your destination so it’s best to consult about this one with your guide.
Remember that while some gear like the helmet and the flashlight are must bring items on every spelunking adventure, you won’t need all items on this list on every expedition. What you will need to bring for a particular caving excursion will depend on the location, the destination and the guidance of your team leader/guide.