The Spelunking Starter Pack: What You'll Need for Cave Exploration

So, much to Lucius Fox’s utter surprise you - Bruce Wayne - have actually decided to go spelunking! But that original kevlar Batsuit is really not all that you’ll need for this otherworldly experience. In fact, everything from your selected equipment to what you wear will be heavily dependent on what kind of cave you’re looking to explore. If you’re feeling a little lost about what you’ll need to be totally prepared, here are your bare essentials.

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Illumination

Your most crucial tool will be a few quality torches with a high lumen rating, like Fenix torches. The torches you use will also need to be specifically designed for caving, meaning that they come in mostly compact sizes with a powerful and direct beam, as well as possessing the added versatility of being used in a variety of ways, i.e. different mounts, brackets, and straps.

It’s also recommended that you collect a variety of these different mounts and other accessories for your torches, so you can use them flexibly if you ever find yourself in a tight situation. Some areas in caves will have you sidling through minute crevices to the point where your arms will be pressed to your sides. This is where headlights and other body lights come in extremely handy. And you’ll definitely need torches, plural.

All experienced spelunkers have lived through the chilling, petrifying moment that instantly proceeds the very first time the batteries in your torch die out. In those seconds of total darkness, the best thing you can do for yourself is have a reliable pocket torch ready on hand to provide the light you’ll need to get back on your feet.

Body Gear

When it comes to spelunking, you’ll need to be prepared for all kinds of conditions and environments. But the best spelunking spots tend to be the most adventurous. You’ll find that most of the time when exploring caves, it’ll mean facing chills, darkness, rocky terrain, bodies of water, bugs and potentially even heights. That means you’ll need to invest in some comfortable, lightweight clothing, that will be sure to keep you warm and won’t inhibit you from being agile.

You’ll also need a good pair of hiking boots for traction on wet or rocky surfaces. If you’re planning on going swimming, full-body swimsuits are also recommended to keep you warm in subterranean bodies of water. It’s also strongly recommended that you equip yourself with a strong helmet, and potentially even some elbow and knee pads! No matter how bright your torches are, there will always be some obstacles that may take you by surprise or even only be in your periphery.

Other supplies

Bring enough food and water for your trip, secured in a sturdy, preferably waterproof backpack. It’s best to pack a little extra, but not so much that the pack feels cumbersome to carry. Light snacks like muesli bars and packed grapes are always a good addition. And if you’re concerned about running low on water, you can easily add halazone tablets (water purification tablets). 

It’s also good practice to pack a basic first aid kit, some climbing gear for recreational use (and potentially even emergencies), an EPIRB or PLB (personal locator beacon), and a camera! An action cam with a chest strap is sure to provide some great footage.

Research

This one’s not so much about equipment, but the importance of reading up on your cave site cannot be stressed enough. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best not to attempt spelunking in a cave during the area’s wet season, as cave flooding can be an incredibly deadly and equally unexpected occurrence. And as there are many other dangers that can occur when spelunking, it’s always best to go exploring with a friend!

There is a variety of caving clubs across all Australian and U.S. states, and you’ll be sure to find someone who’s just as willing to explore a specific area as you are. So if you can’t find an immediate friend to accompany you, branch out and use the wider spelunking community to your advantage. It’s also neat to make new friends with common interests wherever you can find them! And spelunking is definitely a timeless bonding experiences.

Just remember that it’s definitely always better to be over-prepared than the alternative. Stay safe, and have an absolute blast.

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