by Bill Wiley
Former K.S.S. Safety and Techniques Chairman
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of others, especially nitpicky busybodies.
NEVER GO CAVING ALONE!
Go in a group of at least three or more. This will provide a minimum safe number in case of an emergency. It will allow at least one or more to go for help while the others stay and help the victim.
Don't run, jump, or get rowdy in a cave. Take your time and enjoy.
Be sure to tell someone where you are going, when you plan to go in the cave, when you plan to get out, where you might be parked at, and what to do if you are overdue.
Never break or remove formations in a cave. Some formations take thousands of years to form and can never be replaced.
Dont litter a cave with your trash. Carry everything out that you carried in, even other people's trash.
Know your own limitations of what you can do.
Get permission from the landowner. Be sure to leave the gates as you found them.
Have the proper equipment. Here is a list of the highly recommended items to have:
A good quality rock climbing or mining helmet. The helmet you choose should have sturdy chin strap to keep it in place if you fall and help balance a hemet mounted light. A regular hard hat will work for a starter, but does not give security if you fall or get hit by falling rocks. Try not to use motorcycle, foam bike, or army helmets. The are either too heavy, too hot, or not sturdy enough to hold up. Your helmet will have the primary light mounted on it.
Primary Light Source. You basically have two light sources to choose from. Electric or carbide. There are good and bad with both sources. Carbide is cheaper and more convenient to use. Carbide lamps have been in caving since its infancy and are still being used world wide. Carbide lamps are lighter and cheaper to use and will give you a source of heat if cold. If you use carbide lamps, know how to use it and repair it. You might have to do it in the dark. Carry a dump bag for your used carbide. Zip lock baggies work well. Never dump carbide in or outside the cave; it is poisonious to wildlife.
Electric headlamps hook, snap, or strap to the helmet. The batteries can be either on the helmet or carried in the waist with a cord going to the light head. Most electric lamps can be focused. Electric light batteries can last from eight to 50 hours. It depends on the battery and the bulb amperage. Some batteries are heavy. Be sure to carry extra batteries and spare bulbs for the electric lamps you use. Do not leave batteries in the cave. They are poisonous to wildlife.
Secondary light sources. Carry at least two back up lights. They can be flashlights, small flashlights, cyalume sticks, or candles with waterproof matches. Be sure to carry extra bulbs and batteries for these.
Good sturdy footwear. A sturdy pair of boots are a must. The leather combat boots seem to be the most popular and easy to find. A cleated or lug sole is a must. High tops are better and give good ankle support. Try to get laces instead of zipper boots. Remember they will get muddy and wet.
A small personal first aid kit.
Food and water. How much depends on how long of a trip you are taking. Food needs to be waterproof, and with none or very little preparation needed. Your food should be high calorie and concentrated like granola bars, jerky, candy bars, canned meat or fruits, MRE's and what ever you can dream up to throw together and still taste good.
A pack. It needs to be big enough to carry all of your caving gear. This pack will need to be very strong like the Lost Creek brand packs or army surplus bags and packs. Try not to get packs with zippers because they will clog with mud in a hurry and are hard to fix if broken. If your pack does not have a drain hole in it, you will need to empty water out of it if it gets wet.
Clothing. Wear old clothes. They won't look new very long. Caves are known to be wet, damp, muddy, slimy, dusty, rocky, cold, and icy in any combination. Using the layering system of lighter clothing is best. Use wool or polypropylene materials. They keep you warmer. Cotton is good as long as you keep it dry, but when it gets wet it loses its insulation value. Coveralls are very popular. Wool socks are best. Wool keeps its insulation even when wet. Have a good pair of gloves. They will protect your hands and help keep them a little cleaner.
Plastic trash bags, extra large. Have one or more with you at all times. They could be used to save a life. How? You can cut a head and two arm holes for a rain coat, or extra layer if cold used as a windbreaker. They can also be used as a warming tent. Other uses are for picking up trash or putting your muddy cave gear in after the trip.
Optional equipment. Knee pads, knife, photography gear, mapping gear, vertical gear (training in rope techniques is necessary).
Copyright ©1995 Kansas Speleological Society
The K.S.S. publishes a newsletter, the Kansas Kaver, six times a year. All K.S.S. publications are available to K.S.S. members.
Membership to the K.S.S. is open to anyone who supports cave conservation. Send annual dues of $15 per year to the K.S.S. Treasurer Steve Kite. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org