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Tri-State Grotto

of the National Speleological Society

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A Short Introduction to Caving


The Well Equipped, Responsible, Conscientious Caver

In this section we perhaps tread on a slippery slope. Cavers, and for that matter, outdoor enthusiast in general, tend to be an independent sort. In the USA there is no official training or certification in caving, (with the exception of a federally managed cave here or there) nor is there a mandated equipment list. Yet caving is not a solitary endeavor, a careless or unprepared caver can be a safety hazard not only to him or herself but also to the group they are with. Caves are fragile environments and need to be treated as such. In addition almost all caves in the Eastern United States are located on private property, and maintaining a good relationship with the owner is essential to keeping caves open for visitation.


The underground environment is one that contains many hazards. just as one wouldn't set across the desert without proper clothing and a good supply of water, entering the cave environment requires some preparation both in gear and training. Naturally the type of cave and the length of the trip will be a large factor in the type of preparation needed.

Caving is not for everyone, so try it first with borrowed or inexpensive equipment before investing. The Tri-State Grotto has some equipment that can be rented, in addition many members have some extra that they might be willing to loan. Ask the trip leader what is appropriate for the trip. No list fits every situation, however the following list is generally recommended basic equipment for the novice caver.


The most important equipment a caver carries, beyond good common sense, is light. Never go underground without at least three dependable sources of light.Your primary should be mounted on a sturdy helmet both to protect your head and to leave your hands free. Carry a couple of dependable flashlights as well. Remember to bring spare bulbs and batteries for your lights.


Cave are generally damp and often cold The exact temperature depends on the location and altitude. Caves in the Eastern US are generally in the high 50s, those in the north and higher elevations can be as cold as the low 40s, while desert caves may be as warm as the 70s or even 80s.

The well equipped cavers often wears heavy nylon coveralls designed specifaly for caving, however inexpensive work coveralls (Sears, Army-Navy or discount uniform retailer) with few pockets, reinforced knees, loose enough to wear to a sweater underneath and allow for free movement make a fine start. Secure the waist with an old, which can be used in a pinch for a number fo other items. Also bring: Wool sweater, wool or propylene hat, comfortable leather gloves.


Non-Marring soled boots, uppers covering ankles. Wear two pair of socks with a layer of wool or polypropaline to keep your feet warm when they get wet.

Small Cave Pack:
(A small backpack which you don't mind thrashing)

It should include: First aid kit, Thermal blanket, Drinking water (for 8 hours, about 1 quart) Food (tail mix, energy bars) "bic" type lighter, Small candle, Large handkerchief (as towel, neckerchief, headband), Mini personal emergency kit (use your imagination, do you wear glasses or contacts, need insulin)

FAQ Page

FAQ - Cave Locations
FAQ - Equipment Boy Scouts

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