Spelunking (more recently known as caving) has been around for a long time, and there’s no sign that interest in it is waning. If you’ve ever gone spelunking yourself, you know how exhilarating it is. Caving feels like you’re exploring an entirely new world, and—not to mention—like a total boss. It’s a sport that pushes your strength, challenges your will, and increases your appreciation for the natural world around you.
That being said, spelunking is not for everyone. If unprepared, it’s easy to ruin your experience from the get-go, and that’d just be a shame. We want you to have the absolute best caving adventure possible, so we’ve put together a short guide detailing how to do just that.
Know What You’re Getting Yourself Into
This is as kindly as we can say this: spelunking is not for sissies. Caving is not a simple hike through spacious caves. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Of course, there are many guided tours available at different caves, but many of them still require some work. Much of the time, you’re guaranteed to be squeezed between air-tight passages, either crawling or shimmying through various spaces. Sure, there are some open spaces—but they aren’t the main attraction of the caves you’ll be in.
Additionally, if you are germophobic to any degree, you do not want to go caving. You’ll most likely be covered in dirt (if not drenched in mud) the vast majority of the trip. If you have a paralyzing fear of critters of any kind, spelunking will give you an absolute breakdown. You are guaranteed to cross paths with at least one, and there won’t be much room to flee from it when you do (Bracken Cave is a solid example).
The point is, you need to know what kind of activity spelunking actually is before you sign up for it. Hopefully, you have a better idea of this now and can save yourself from a horrifying experience.
Whether you consider yourself adventurous or not, it’s crucial that you do some research before venturing on a spelunking expedition. This is not the type of activity that you want to enter into blindly.
Depending on your level of experience with caving, there are certain caves you may not want to explore right away. For example, if you’ve never caved before, you probably shouldn’t go to the Iceland Ice Caves on your first go around. Make sure you know all there is to know about the specific cave you’re interested in before locking in on it. This will guarantee that you don’t find yourself stuck in a cave that is too dangerous for your skill level. If you’re new to spelunking and don’t know where to start on doing this research, this is a great article to start with!
Bring the Right Spelunking Gear
This is by far the most important piece of advice to consider when it comes to ensuring the best caving adventure. If you don’t have the right gear, you’ll be limited in where you can go and what you can do. In fact, if on a guided tour, they may not even let you come along and send you on a less daring tour. Don’t wanna ruin your own fun? Then don’t forget your gear!
As crucial as having the right gear is, you won’t be able to bring much of it due to the tight spaces you’ll be in. The equipment you should carry with you also changes based on the location of your cave due to different environments. This is another reason why it’s so necessary to do your research on the type of cave you’re going to explore in advance.
List of Essential Gear
- Headlamps. Yes, headlamps, because things happen and headlamps break. To go along with these, make sure you also pack extra batteries. You do not want to get stuck in a dark passage without any way to see where you’re going.
- Helmet. Protecting your head is a huge priority, so make sure to keep your helmet on at all times.
- Tight-fitting, long-sleeve clothes. In order to avoid getting caught on anything or cutting yourself on formations, wear long-sleeve clothing that is tight but breathable. It can get pretty cool in caves, so try to wear synthetic or wool materials to stay warm.
- Waist belt. This is a crucial piece of gear because it’s where you’ll put many of your other essentials.
- Knee pads. If you’ll be doing a ton of crawling on your trip, these will prevent you from scraping up your knees! They’re not 100% essential, but your knees may thank you later.
- Wool socks. Keep your feet warm with a quality pair of wool socks that you’re not too attached to. They’re most likely to get extremely dirty so you don’t want to wear a pair that you’d wear for fashion purposes.
- Boots with rubber soles. They don’t have to be specifically for caving; hiking boots will do. Just make sure that they have high-quality rubber soles that will endure a strenuous adventure!
- First-aid kit. This goes without saying. You don’t want any accidents in a cave without first-aid materials.
- Snacks and drinks. Your adventure could take hours—in fact, it probably will. Pack your favorite energy bars and water to keep your energy levels up and stay nourished!
Spelunking is an activity for the brave and adventurous in spirit.
We hope that you feel more prepared to go on a caving adventure on your own after reading this. Happy spelunking!
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