This is often the greatest challenge of a carbide caver. Calcium carbide is dangerous when wet, and is therefore restricted as a hazardous material. This makes it difficult to find a courier that will ship calcium carbide. Furthermore, when a courier is found, they are often very expensive because of the hazardous material fees.
Despite these problems there are three dealers that sell calcium carbide: Inner Mountain Outfitters, Karst Sports, and Rocksports Emporium. You can find both Inner Mountain Outfitters and Rocksports Emporium at different caving conventions, and it may be possible to buy calcium carbide from them face to face. However, you may choose to buy in bulk and pay the hazmat fees for shipping.
There is also a small internet company, Calcium-Carbide.com which sells small quantities of calcium carbide with a relatively lower shipping fee. They will send approximately 11 oz. of carbide to your door for the fee of $12.50.
Also, you may be able to find carbide for sale in your area from dealers who are not caving related. Occasionally one finds it in military surplus stores and hardware stores. However, you may have to use some creativity in how you ask for it. Often, carbide is used to exterminate moles, and the store attendant can help you locate it as such. How one uses carbide to kill moles is left to the imagination. If this fails, attempt to locate a welding supply store. Some of them may still carry calcium carbide for acetylene welding torches.
Regardless of the dealer from whom you buy it, you will probably want to take note of the grade of carbide you buy. The grade of the carbide is the size of the nuggets. Most cavers prefer nut grade carbide for belt generator type lamps, and miner's grade for caplamps. Cavers generally use miner's grade because smaller grades tend to be used more quickly. Some cavers have suggested that if you can only find smaller grades, placing the carbide inside panty hose (knotted at one end) will help extend the life of your charge of carbide. Others remain doubtful of this claim. One way or another, panty hose make the cleanup much easier. You need only remove the panty hose from the lamp bottom, rather than trying to scoop out the spent carbide.
Click here if this page appears outside of its frames.