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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Spelunking Gear | What You Need to Explore Caves

by: Lauren Fry 

When exploring nearby wilderness areas, you are not limited to climbing or hiking up the mountain. Some of the greatest climbs in the country are hidden in caves. Whether you call it caving or spelunking, it's the exploration of natural cave systems and usually is far underground, with limited to no light.
Wind Cave National Park located in South Dakota

Spelunking gear can range from a flashlight alone, to full climbing gear, where as cave diving is the more extreme and very dangerous fully equipped climbs. Like any other climb or hike, it is important to be prepared and properly equipped. These are the three most important things to have when caving.

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  1. HEADLAMP: Having a headlamp is extremely handy so that you are able to climb and maneuver through the dark cave with both hands free. 
  2. HELMET: Caves can be very hazardous with falling rock and rough terrain. A hard hat is the most used type however any type of head protection is better than none at all! As a plus you can get headlamps that stay right on your helmet!
  3. WORK/CLIMBING GLOVES: Jagged rocks and other rough terrain can easily break skin and when caving through smaller taverns most of the times you are using your hands and feet. Your feet should be protected in good waterproof shoes so why not protect your hands as well. 

It is important to be very careful and aware of wildlife in the caves. Mountain lions, bats and plenty of other animals live in caves and could be very dangerous. While some people carry pistols, I prefer to just carry a pocket knife. The same rules apply to cave exploring as with hiking and climbing, never go out alone and always tell someone where you are going!

Caving is not limited to any specific region - there are tons of places to go in every state! I like to check out the Fun Fix caving website to find new areas! Not all caves are on this specific website so going to talk to other climbers and even park rangers can help you find new areas to scope out!

The picture to the above right is of my cousin and I at the entrance to a long sandstone cave in Eagle, Colorado. There are mountain lions in the area but luckily we did not encounter one in this cave!