The Beginner’s Guide to Caving & Spelunking

What is Caving?

The sport of caving (i.e. spelunking & potholing) is actually pretty intuitive from its title. It is the word for cave exploration and/or the recreational exploration of caves. Someone who explores caves for sport would be called a caver, or if you’re more of a greenhorn, you might be called a spelunker. While caving and the exploration of caves might be considered the world’s oldest sport, given our cave-dwelling ancestors many years ago, it’s a sport cut out only for the most adventurous, non-claustrophobic among us.

Caving can feel like you’re taking a step back millions of years ago, because in a lot of ways, you are. Cave systems are one of the most remote, untouched ecosystems on our planet. One cave takes millions of years to form and is home to some of the oldest, most primitive forms of life on our planet. With great reward comes great responsibility. These cave systems house some of the most beautiful, unique animals and natural landscapes on Earth, but they are also the most fragile.

When caving, it’s imperative to remember to enjoy your experience but to leave no trace. Even the slightest touch out of place can cause impact. If you’re thinking about getting into caving, check out this beginner’s guide to what gear you’ll need to grab and basic safety tips you should know before your first caving adventure.

Fenix Ambassador Jonathan Keith
Fenix Ambassador: Jonathan Keith

What Gear Do You Need for a Caving Trip?

Caving isn’t for the faint of heart. There’s a lot of preparation involved in even the most beginner caving adventures. First and foremost, it’s important to make your gear list and check it twice. Your gear (and your caving partners) are going to be your greatest allies when exploring the Earth’s depths. Of course, when exploring the underground world, you’re venturing out into a world completely untouched by natural light. Thus, your lighting sources are going to be your most essential piece of equipment.

Fenix Ambassador: Jonathan Keith

The Best Practice for Caving is to Bring Three Lighting Sources

It’s best practice to bring at least three lighting options when caving, a handheld flashlight, a light with multiple lighting modes (including red for night vision), and a headlamp. One of your lights absolutely should be a mountable LED light. Headlamps allow you to shine your light where needed while keeping your hands free.It doesn’t take a lot of thought to know how helpful that could be when exploring underground.

When choosing the right headlamp, make sure they check a few key boxes: water resistance, led light, high lumen output, and long battery life. Thankfully, Fenix has some of the brightest headlamps and best led headlamps on the market. Some of our fans have brought along their Fenix headlamps on caving trips all over the world (see the photos above).

One of Fenix’s brightest headlamps is the HP16R. This ultra bright headlamp can shine up 1,700 lumens and has a max runtime of 300 hours on the lowest setting. Plus, should your caving trip extend longer than intended, it is AA battery compatible. This can be a life-saving backup should you experience some unexpected obstacles while caving. Beyond the most reliable, brightest headlamp you can find, we suggest investing in the following items:

Caving Gear Checklist:

  • Three Light Sources (at least one of which are mountable LED lights)
  • Hard Hat
  • Extra Batteries
  • Warm Base Layers
  • Sturdy Clothing
  • First Aid Kit
  • Wetsuit (if cave is wet and or has many pools)
  • Caving Boots
  • Caving Gloves
  • Neoprene Socks
  • Food Source (energy bars etc.)
fenix hp16r headlamp
Fenix Ambassador: Jonathan Keith

What Safety Measures Do You Need to Take on Caving Trips?

Caving can be a very dangerous sport. Novice cavers should do their homework first before even beginning to think about venturing out to a new caving location. Most caving accidents can be attributed to inexperience, poor judgement, or falling. Falling is one of the biggest risks of injury while caving. To avoid this risk, make sure you’re wearing the proper gear and always have at least three points of contact with static surfaces at all times. As with any outdoor adventure, make sure to let a friend or family member know your exact itinerary, i.e. where you’re going, when you expect to be back and directions to the cave you’re exploring. Cell phones don’t work underground so all communication needs to be done prior to your trip.

Double check your equipment before you head out. As we said earlier, this gear is going to be your best friend once you make your way into the cave. Even the brightest headlamp is going to be useless if it’s not fully charged or functioning properly. Your helmet should also be adjusted to fit your head correctly and snug. Loose rocks and low ceilings are always to be expected while caving. Most importantly, make sure to check the weather in the area beforehand. Caves will be the first thing to flood in the event of rainfall and it can happen very quickly. Weather conditions should be clear and predictable during the time of your adventure.

Are You Ready for Your First Caving Adventure?

Now that you know the basics, it’s time to start prepping for your first caving adventure. Fenix has got you covered. With a wide range of handheld flashlights, led headlamps, lanterns, and more, we have all the lighting solutions you’ll need to pull off your first (of many) successful spelunks. Check out our selection of lighting solutions or chat with us on our online chat feature for help finding the perfect light to start your caving adventures.

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