Basic Caving Equipment

Beginning Basic Horizontal Caver Equipment and  Knowledge List:

1. Helmet – This should have a chin strap and a way to attach lights to it. For horizontal caving, any helmet will do. However for vertical caving a UIAA approved helmet should be worn. Plain construction type helmets can often be purchased at thrift stores for very little money. UIAA helmets are less often found in these places and cost between $50 and $150. How much is your brain worth?
2. Three sources of light. At least two of these sources should be able to be easily attached to your helmet so you can operate hands free. It is always wise to have more than one light on your helmet. Both lights should be on when climbing or in areas where you cannot reach your light if it goes out such as tight squeezes, chimney areas and high climbs.
3. It is wise to have spare bulbs, batteries, tools and parts to fix your lights in a small bag.
4. Sturdy cloths including long pants, long sleeve shirt, sturdy boots (preferably with a narrow welt, and ankle support), leather or other tough gloves. In cold caves it is wise to layer up with warm, water wicking underwear etc. All cloths should be tough and should be those you don’t care about getting dirty. Cold, wet caves require specialized clothing.
5. A pair of sturdy coveralls. This allows you to remove the dirt and mud before getting in your car or truck after the trip. The less pockets and more reinforced the knees, elbows, and rear end the coveralls the better. Bring a large plastic bag to put these in after your trip to keep your car or truck clean.
6. Knee and possibly elbow pads. These are optional however you will generally be very thankful you used them after the trip.
7. A non-breakable water bottle full of water or other non-sugar, electrolyte replacement drink (quart or pint, Nalgene, tough plastic or aluminum are great).
8. Snacks or food appropriate for the cave and time you will be underground. Energy will help you avoid hypothermia problems (cold) and keep you alert and making good decisions in these dangerous environments. If you have special medical problems, come prepared knowing that you will be pushing the physical limits during most cave trips
9. A small pack to put all your supplies, water, food, and gear in. This should be tough and have very few things to catch on sharp rocks as you traverse through the cave.
10. It is always wise to have someone with you that knows the cave. If not, it is wise to have a map. If none of these are possible please use safe cave exploration practices. Check with you local NSS Grotto for this information.
11. Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Make sure your friend or significant other who are not on the trip knows you may be late. Set a wise and carefully thought out time for them to call search and rescue if needed but give yourself a reasonable time bumper so you don’t cause a rescue with no need.
12. If you are in trouble do all that you can safely do to get yourself out of the mess.  You should never cave alone so include the other members of your party in the decision making. It may be wise to  rest up and wait until you have thought carefully before deciding what to do. Then if you need to call for help, call other cavers first, then cave rescue, then County search and rescue last. (Unless it is a life threatening situation then call all of them). Do you have the phone numbers for them? Please leave these and at least the name of the cave you are in for those at home. Be prepared to provide location and situational information to those responding.
13. Other things to consider may include, hypothermia control kits, knife, pliers, sewing awl to fix gear, small cords,  spare parts, repair kits, etc.

For vertical caving, please get special training and know your equipment and how to use it and repair it well before you go. The best place to gain this knowledge and skill is from the people of the local NSS Grottos including the Wasatch Grotto. Remember that gear and how it is used in caves are significantly different from above ground climbing and rescue equipment.