Preparing for Your Caving Trip
While the basic spelunking excursion needs no or little training, the die hard spelunker needs extensive training to reach the furthest corners of the largest cave systems. A simple rock climbing course can help tremendously, as many vast cave systems require climbing and the use of ropes and other equipment. You need to have a good grasp of using the equipment and the strength for climbing, as doing so in caves is often trickier than in other situations. A cave diving scuba certificate is important if you expect to explore water filled caves. Any PADI certification agency or major dive instructor can likely be able to certify you and prepare you for what you might encounter underground.
A good general fitness level is important to go spelunking. The majority of caves require a great deal of walking, climbing, and crawling. Drinking lots of water and eating well balanced meals are a must to maintain your energy. If caving in isolated areas, you may need to be in great shape. You may be hiking up and down mountains, in extreme heat, and carrying a large load of food and equipment just to get to a cave.
Gear Requirements/Packing lists
The most basic and beginner caving trips need little gear outside of say a flashlight a sturdy pair of shoes and perhaps some water. This is for your run of the mill touristy cave site that requires very little knowledge of caving. For the expert spelunker, the proper and safe use of equipment through information, teaching, and demonstration can save your life.
The Head Lamp, one of the most important pieces of caving equipment if not the most important, is in its element while caving. This is one of the most useful items to have so you can see everything whichever way you look and still keep your hands free to climb and swat away bats. White LEDs are the cavers light of choice, although new and more expensive than electric and halogen lights more commonly found. Most cavers carry several backup sources of light in case the primary source fails. Carbide lamps, a favorite with miners and can be found in any coal town flea market are still used by cavers although they are slowly fading into memory.
Falling objects such as rocks and stalactites are the cause of many injuries, most minor, and can be best avoided by always wearing a helmet. You can find old mining helmets near many cave locations or most any other types of head gear will do. Ropes and climbing equipment may be necessary for some of the more involved cave explorations. For a safety precaution try tying a knot at the end of rappel rope, and don’t use a carabiner for attachment to a harness. If you don’t know what that means you should ask someone that does.
Considering the weather in caves varies drastically, so will your choice of clothing. Many caves sit in tropical areas so thin layers may be suitable, although thicker layers are recommended to help prevent abrasions. In colder caves a fleece suit, polypropylene underwear, and waterproof clothing are essential. If diving you will need a wetsuit in order to withstand the cold water, not to mention a full range of scuba gear.