Caving Tips and Advice
Always cave with others, and do so with training, knowledge, courtesy, and common sense.
Caving can be dangerous, and people die when they cave improperly. Always seek the advice and guidance of experienced cavers.
Safe Caving Tips: Short Version*
- Have the proper equipment along. The basic equipment page offers advice on helmets, light sources and clothing for safe and comfortable caving.
- Never cave alone. A group of 3 or 4 is small enough to move quickly, yet big enough to allow flexibility in emergencies. If someone is injured, at least one person should stay with them while others go for help.
- Make sure someone knows where you are going and when you are expected to return. Allow some leeway on return times since trips often take longer than expected, but having someone ready to call for help if your group is overdue is a wise precaution.
- Move carefully in the cave. Uneven ground, low ceilings and pits make running and jumping dangerous. Climbs, crawls and rough terrain can make even a sprain a big problem for getting out of the cave.
- Be aware of the nature of the caves you are visiting. For example, caves with streams may be prone to flooding and a sharp eye may need to be kept on the weather. Other caves require climbing skills or vertical equipment that you or others in your party may not have.
- If you run out of light or become hopelessly lost get into a safe position and wait for help (you did tell someone where you were going didn’t you?).
- BASIC EQUIPMENT: At a minimum, you will need a helmet, a light (three, actually), appropriate clothing and footwear. Others can say it better, so check out this page.
- VERTICAL CAVING: Do not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES attempt any vertical caving techniques without proper training, supervision, assistance, and equipment. You can die or be maimed, or at best, be known as a Spelunker, and Cavers rescue Spelunkers.
*Copyright 2002-2004, Bob Robins, lovingly lifted from his website
Cave Safety** – Long Version
Cave exploration is a dangerous activity which potentially could cause serious injury, permanent disability, or death.
Accidents, whether minor or serious, do not result in favorable consequences for yourself, your club, or the sport of caving.
Safety and accident prevention must be practiced by each individual member at all times. Most accidents are avoidable if the hazard is noticed and/or corrected in time.
It is not possible to list every hazard or wrong condition you may find when caving, or every unsafe practice you should try to avoid; however, the following precautions may be helpful to you in doing your part.
Get An Idea Of What It’s Like To Go Caving.
Familiarize yourself with types of equipment available and when you would be wise to wear or carry each type. The use of a hard hat at all times is recommended. Most cavers find that boots are the best footgear to use, with the particular type varying with the individual. Experienced cavers are divided on the kind of clothing which is best. Some use coveralls and others prefer “Levi’s” with sweat shirts and/or fatigue jackets. Many experienced caver prefer polypropylene and nylon caving suits. Bear in mind, when choosing the type of clothing you wear, that it is cold and damp in a cave. Also, arms and legs should be covered to protect them from cuts and scrapes. There are a number of books available which cover the subject of caving clothing and equipment, and you might find them useful.
Never Go Caving Alone.
It is safest to go in groups of four or more. Then, if a person is injured, at least one person may stay with the injured party and give first aid and encouragement while the others return to the surface for help.
Always Tell Someone Where You Are Going And When You Plan To Return.
In the event that you are lost or trapped, help will then be sent to you when you fail to appear within a reasonable length of time.
Obtain Permission Before Entering A Cave.
Many caves are on private land. Get permission from the owner before going caving. The “wrong end” of a shotgun is a rather uncomfortable place to find yourself!
Be Prepared For Common Emergencies.
Carry at least a rudimentary first aid kit, and learn the “basics” of first aid.
Check Your Equipment Before Each Expected Use.
Is your pack complete? Is your carbide light (or other primary light source) in top working condition? Are you carrying enough water and carbide, or spare parts and batteries if you are an electric caver? Is your spare parts kit included? Do you have your alternate light sources? Do you have your emergency food rations? Have you a first aid kit? If vertical work is contemplated, always check your rope and other equipment prior to use for the adequacy of their condition. If in doubt about a piece of rope, or other equipment, don’t use it.
Always Carry Three Sources of Light.
You should carry replacements and/or spare parts for each light source. Carbide cavers need carbide, water, cleaning equipment, and spare parts. Electric cavers need batteries and bulbs. Your alternate sources could include a flashlight, with appropriate supplies, candles and matches waterproofed or in a waterproof container, etc.
Never Go Beyond Your Experience.
If you’ve never climbed cliffs, used ropes, climbed to great heights on a cable ladder, etc., a cave isn’t the best place to learn. Try yourself out on the safer ground outside first. Always try to curb the tendency to engage in “horseplay” or to grandstand. Caves are not the place for this activity.
Know Your Physical Limitations.
Try to learn the limits of your abilities, and follow these self imposed limits. Don’t cave to exhaustion, and THEN head for the entrance. Your fatigue could cause serious difficulties before you get there. Learn whether or not you are a good judge of distance, and whether you have a good “sense of direction”. Find out if constant dampness and/or a cool atmosphere rapidly sap your strength, and act accordingly. If you happen to be the first in your party to tire, don’t be ashamed to say so we’ve all been in that position.
Watch Where You Step.
When underground, or when on your way to a cave, always keep alert and be sure of where you are stepping. Your principal danger outside is snakes; inside it is probably loose rock and holes.
Don’t Over Extend Your Reach Or Jump From Heights.
Think before you stretch for a handhold or object which is slightly out of reach. A serious fall could result; and a strain or sprain which may mean little on the outside could preclude your getting out of a cave under your own steam. You shouldn’t jump down from a spot because it seems to be quicker or easier than rigging or climbing. The distance might be deceptive, or you might land on loose rock.
Watch Your “Housekeeping”.
Don’t scatter trash around in a cave or poison the cave owner’s cattle by dumping spent carbide outside. Try to follow the motto: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.”
Don’t drink Cave Water. This water is often contaminated.
Learn Correct Techniques.
If you don’t know a safe way to do a specific thing, ask someone who has more experience. Or even better, attend our training sessions and learn.
Be Safety Conscious At All Times!
Your safety and that of the other members of your party may depend on you!
Caving can be a dangerous sport.
The total and unremitting absence of light is a constant source of danger to those who explore the subterranean world. The temperature of many caves can cause hypothermia unless proper precautions are taken. The mud and the humid atmosphere create slippery conditions underground and normal above ground climbing techniques are not sufficient to insure a reasonable margin of safety in cave exploration. Virgin or infrequently visited caves almost invariably present conditions of unstable rock and treacherous hand and foot holds. Reasonable safety in caving can only be achieved through a combination of proper attitude, good equipment, and training to those already well versed in the specialized techniques of cave exploration.
Practice safe caving, and you and your Club can enjoy a fine relationship.
Material on this site is presented as information for the consideration of knowledgeable and experienced cave explorers only. Cavers are solely responsible for their safety in caves, and this site works the same way. This site does not provide instruction on cave exploration techniques or safety. This information may or may not be accurate and/or safe. It may lead to equipment damage, monetary loss, injury, or death. There may be hidden hazards that arise only under certain conditions.
This material is being provided to you AS IS and WITH ALL FAULTS. The author(s) and publisher makes no representation and gives no warranty whatsoever, whether express or implied, and without limitation, with regard to the quality, safety, contents, performance, merchantability, non-infringement or suitability for any particular or intended purpose of the material on this site. In no event shall the author(s) or publisher be liable for any direct, indirect, punitive, special, incidental or consequential damages however they may arise and even if the author(s) or publisher has been previously advised of the possibility of such damages.
It is the responsibility of each reader to assess the quality of the information provided and whether it applies to their own situations and needs. No liability will be accepted for the use or misuse of this information, or for any consequences that result from its use or misuse.
** Lovingly ripped off from The Potomac Speleological Club Cave Safety page.