Ceiling anchor

What To Wear and Bring

What To Wear

Caving is vigorous exercise, which will keep you comfortably warm, but you'll find that you get chilly when you're not moving. You could be underground for at least a couple of hours, so it's important to dress properly.

Wear old clothes, because it's muddy inside most caves. How muddy? That depends on where you go in the cave. How muddy would you like to get?d

Cavers usually wear coveralls over long pants, a shirt and a sweater. On an all-day trip some wear long underwear as well, for warmth during rests and delays. If you do not have coveralls, we suggest slipping on an extra pair of pants at the entrance. You can wear your regular hiking clothes while going to the cave. Put on the coveralls or extra pants for the underground trip, then remove them after you come out. Bring a big green garbage bag, in which to put your outer layer of muddy cave clothes after your trip. That way, you'll be reasonably clean on the way home.

For your top half: try a fleece jacket, or a flannel shirt and a sweater. Over that, wear a shell jacket of some kind if you don't have coveralls. A cheap nylon windbreaker is fine. Expensive 'Gore-tex' jackets can be ruined by cave mud.

For your head: a hard hat with chinstrap, to protect against bumps on the ceiling or a slip on a muddy slope. Head protection is essential.

On your hands: a pair of waterproof work gloves, lined inside with polypropylene gloves for warmth, is best, but regular leather work gloves will be adequate for most trips. Cavers nearly always wear gloves; you will see why when you get inside.

Footwear: light hiking boots are ideal. Heavy mountain boots are okay, and runners with a couple of pairs of socks for warmth will do if you don't have boots. If it's fall or spring trip there could be snow on the path to the cave, so you'd better bring boots just in case.

Clothing for the trail: consider the time of year and the weather. You may want a warm jacket, a toque, mitts and so on. Outdoor clothing can be left just inside the entrance. The plastic garbage bag used to hold your dirty cave clothes can be used to store your outdoor clothing while you are in the cave.

What To Bring

Light: a headlamp is ideal, so you can have both hands free. Many sporting good shops and hardware stores sell inexpensive electric headlamps. Cavers normally carry a second good light and a smaller backup flashlight (usually a small waterproof type, such as the "Tekna").

If a light is going to fail anywhere, it will fail in a cave (corollary to Murphy's Law). So try to bring lights that are reliable. If your second light is a flashlight, it needn't be large; the type with two size C cells will be bright enough. Your little Tekna light can be hung around your neck from a long loop and tucked under your sweater where it will always be handy in an emergency.

For any kind of battery-operated light, be sure that the batteries are fresh and that you have an extra set of NEW batteries with you. A spare bulb is also handy. Never use a Coleman-style gas lantern in a cave. The glass globe will probably break as will the fragile cloth mantle.

Lunch: expect it to get squashed in the cave. Bananas turn into banana pudding; tomatoes turn to ketchup. For munching underground, cavers usually carry such things as salami, lumps of cheese, beef jerky, trail mix, candy bars, canned fruit... things that won't squash or leak. Pack your food in a plastic bag that you can put wrappers or scraps in. Littering underground is bad manners, of course.

There's not much water in caves that's safe to drink, so we suggest that you carry a full litre or half-litre water bottle. A couple of cans of juice or pop will suffice, although anything sugary is not as thirst-quenching as plain water. Don't use a glass container; it will probably break. Get a plastic water bottle (an empty plastic pop bottle works great).

Pack: most cavers carry a hiker's shoulder bag of sturdy canvas or nylon. This kind of bag is easy to maneuver out of the way or take off in constricted places. For your first few trips, a small backpack will be fine. You might want to bring a cheap one, because caves are very hard on packs. Whatever kind of bag you decide to bring, pick one big enough to hold your lunch, plastic water bottle and extra lights.

If you bring your camera: be aware that it could be ruined in the cave. Cave mud is actually silt - very fine sand, full of quartz particles which, when dried, become a very abrasive dust. The stuff is death for an ordinary camera; we suggest you use a cheap disposable camera, or a waterproof camera that can be washed off after each trip. You can protect an ordinary camera somewhat by wrapping it in at least two plastic bags. Pull the camera out for a picture and then put it right back in again. Take your gloves off to handle it. Your camera will need a built-in flash, of course. Oh yes: hold your breath when taking the picture. The flash will reflect back off any mist from your warm breath and obscure your subject.