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Home » Speleologist equipment: what to take for approaches to the cave and life underground

Speleologist equipment: what to take for approaches to the cave and life underground

The caves are damp, dark and there is a lot of clay, and it is also completely dark and the birds do not sing. It seems that you want to run away from there on the first day, but this is not so. Cavers know how to choose the right equipment to make the expedition a welcome vacation, not a test of strength.

In the article, we share a list of equipment and equipment that will be useful not only for a comfortable life underground, but also on the approaches. After all, you still need to fly to the cave, drive or walk, and sometimes all at once.

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A set of clothes for the approach depends on how far to get to the cave, for how many days the hike is planned and at what time of the year. For a weekend trip to the suburbs, the list of things is minimal. For a winter trip or an expedition to remote mountainous areas, it will be supplemented with warm clothes. In any case, the kit should be selected, guided by the theory of layers. There is a detailed article about it on the blog, and a video on the YouTube channel. In short, you need to dress in layers to remove one if it’s hot, add another if it’s cold, and put on a third if it’s raining or snowing.

  • Thermal underwear. One running kit and a sleep kit. When it’s cold outside, choose a thick one made of merino wool or synthetics. When warm – thin. In sunny weather, it is better not to try to undress, but to wear a long-sleeved T-shirt so as not to get sunburned. In the mountains, this happens imperceptibly and very quickly. The skin burns in a few hours.
  • T-shirt with short or long sleeves. For a hike for a couple of days, a set of thermal underwear is enough. If the expedition is long and there is nowhere to wash the thermal T-shirt, it is worth taking an extra one for a shift.
  • Trousers. For a hot climate – from a thin breathable fabric or transformer trousers, which turn into shorts with a smooth movement of the hand, for the off-season and winter – dense and warm.
  • Fliska. Warm in any situation. And on a summer evening in the camp on the surface, and on a drop in cold weather.
  • Downy sweater. An additional warming layer, if weather forecasters predict cold weather at the approaches to the cave or at the stage of casting. The jacket does not have to be with down insulation. Synthetics are great too.
  • Puff. For harsh winter expeditions. Keeps you warm while walking towards a cave or digging an entrance in the snow.
  • Membrane jacket and trousers. Protect from any precipitation: morning dew, rain and snowfall.
  • Trekking socks. At least two couples. The material is subject to local weather conditions. For the off-season and winter, both woolen and synthetic are suitable. In warm climates, it is better to wear synthetics, they perfectly remove moisture from the skin and dry quickly. The main thing is to make sure that cotton socks do not accidentally end up in the backpack. In the process of walking, they get wet and absorb moisture, rub and dry for a long time.
  • Buff, cap or panama. Save from overheating or sunstroke in the summer.
  • A warm hat and gloves will keep you warm in winter and off-season.

For the cave

On difficult expeditions into deep caves, leaders limit the number of personal items in order to bring less cargo down and up. But there is a minimum list of clothes to keep warm and feel comfortable underground.

  • Isothermal. This is a coverall made of thin or dense fleece or elastic fabric with a fleece like Polartec Power Stretch, which cavers do not take off underground. It keeps you warm when it’s cold and wicks moisture away from your body when you’re active. You can wear thermal underwear in the cave, but overalls are more convenient: the T-shirt does not ride up, and the underpants do not slip.
  • Protective overalls. Required item in the list of things. Protects against clay and sharp stones. It is sewn from a durable Cordura, and the lumbar region, elbows and knees are reinforced with an additional layer of material. For speleologists who often go to caves, overalls do not last long: the fabric and seams are quickly erased and torn. The good thing about Cordura is that it dries quickly.

The overalls can be ordered on the websites of European brands, or you can find the right size in the catalogs of local manufacturers, which were founded by speleologists. If you need a jumpsuit that is tailored to your figure or with additional options, look for piece craftsmen.

In the caves, in which there is a lot of water, they put on “plasticates” – PVC overalls. They don’t let moisture through. In such places it is comfortable to walk under waterfalls or work near waterfalls. You can’t swim in rivers and lakes in them: they are not airtight. If the cave is dry, it is hot to move quickly in the “plastic compound”.

Personal equipment

In speleological expeditions, everything is like in tourism: forest trails, climbing mountains, spending the night in nature. Therefore, for experienced hikers, it is not difficult to collect equipment for a bivouac. Here is a list of things for beginners.

To get to the cave:

  • Tent. It will be needed if you plan to live on the surface. The size of the tent is selected according to the number of residents, overnight stays and the complexity of the cast. For hiking, it is better to take a small and light one in order to carry less cargo in a backpack. For transportation by vehicles and long-term parking at the base camp – with a large and an internal area and a vestibule, which will fit all personal equipment. Do not forget about the sleeping bags.
  • Backpack or machine (frame). The volume of the backpack depends on the number of personal belongings and the timing of the expedition. The larger the backpack, the better: there will be plenty of room to add public cargo so as not to carry it in separate transport bags. For a weekend trip, you can get by with a 50-liter. For a two-week expedition, you need a backpack with a volume of at least 60-80 liters.
  • Speleologists often carry cargo on machines – metal frames with a suspension system, to which several transport bags and bulky cargo can be tied: barrels, large gas cylinders, canteen tents. But with frames it is inconvenient to ride a train and fly in an airplane. To get any little thing, you have to unhook the entire load. Therefore, the machines are sent in advance by a transport company along with food and public equipment, and they are loaded only in areas where the load must be carried on oneself.

Travel a lot, go to caves with pleasure!