How to Leave a Cave as Clean as You Found It: 5 Tips

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If you enjoy finding nature’s hidden places, you’ve likely explored a cave or two. Caving can be an exhilarating hobby when done safely, but remember that these ecosystems are delicate, and you can accidentally contaminate them.

In the spirit of environmental stewardship, give some serious thought to your impact. It’s essential to treat these small natural wonders with respect. So how do you preserve a cave if you’re planning an expedition in the near future?

Follow these five tips and you have nothing to worry about.

1. Get Permission to Enter

Some caves are accessible to the public, but many are not. If a cave is located on private property, you need to have a conversation with the landowner. Make sure you clearly establish the date and time of your visit and the route you’ll take to access the cave. Reassure them that you’ll be responsible on their land and won’t disturb things.

You might also offer to share with them any pictures or maps you produce in your exploration. People appreciate getting an understanding of what’s beneath their land. Some owners might not be willing to grant you access, and you should always respect that.

2. Pack Out What You Pack In

It’s the same rule you use when camping, except in a cave, you could be disturbing a far more pristine and delicate ecosystem. Caves are home to some of the world’s most elusive wildlife. They also contribute to our water table by filtering surface water through layers of earth, cleaning it as it moves back into underground aquifers. Leaving your trash in a cave will almost certainly impact the function of this important ecological process.

You will likely need supplies while on your cave exploration, but make sure you bring only things you can pack out. Use recyclable items to the best of your abilities, and understand the sustainability of the snacks and supplies you bring. You always want to minimize your impact while exploring nature.

3. Explore With Caution

As with any outdoor activity, there is a certain element of danger in caving. Always tell people where you’re going and bring enough supplies to see your trip through safely. Use GPS and bring a buddy if you can, to guarantee that you make it out without incident.

Make sure you bring replacement bulbs and batteries for your lights and be careful of water hazards. Loose rocks and slippery surfaces could cause injury if you’re not cautious.

It’s a good idea to pack gloves and knee pads to provide some basic protection when you visit a cave. You should also bring a backpack to store your foodstuffs and plenty of water. Your pack will make a good place to put any trash you need to pack out.

4. Work up to More Advanced Caving

The sport of caving can take you to some of the most remote places on the planet. However, there are also places you can explore with a guide, or as part of a public tour. It’s a good idea to start small and become familiar with the underground landscape before you set off on your own.

Once you know you want to stay with the sport, tap into the caving community. Online communities have sprung up, and you can make friends and find new sites to explore just by reaching out to your fellow cave enthusiasts.

5. Don’t Share Cave Locations

It might sound like you’re being exclusive, but there are real reasons the caving community doesn’t share locations. Irresponsible people who might not know to practice these good habits have been known to litter in caves or use them for unsavory activities. Since cave locations aren’t something the general public is privy to, it’s considered standard practice to keep it “in the family.”

Adhere to These Guidelines

If you can adhere to these five simple guidelines, you can look forward to a long career of fun and invigorating caving. It’s a special sport and one that is growing in popularity, but for the community to get the support it needs, people have to practice good habits.

Set the example yourself so others can follow your lead!