What Safety Equipment Should You Use When Exploring a Cave

Cave hiking is a recreational activity and an extreme sport that is quite challenging and requires skills of varying levels depending on the type of cave you’re exploring. Extreme sport tends to mean that the people who participate have little regard for safety and that is not true with this sport.

When you go cave hiking, you need equipment to help you navigate. The sport is physically demanding but fun and rewarding. It is similar to mountain climbing and diving in terms of the physical demand required and the rush you get from accomplishing it. Throughout the world, there are many caves that you can explore, especially in the larger countries like the United States.

While cave hiking is not extremely popular, the athletes that do participate in the sport find it quite exciting and different from other sports. There are thousands of caves that can be explored and there are still many that have not yet been explored. If you are new to the activity, you should hire a guide to go with you to make sure that you have a safe trip that is enjoyable – the trip stops being fun when you are trapped in a cave and you don’t have the right equipment.

Safety is Paramount in Cave Hiking and There is Equipment You Need:

LED lights: When you are cave hiking, you should have a few different light sources to help you see in the dark caves. Ideally, you will have a LED headlamp and a very bright tactical flashlight, which is a popular choice of equipment with cave hikers. Headlamps offer you a light source without needing to use your hands. It points in the direction your head is pointed, which is usually where you are headed and need light the most. You will also want to have a LED flashlight with you to shine into other spaces, tight spaces or into a different direction something like a tc1200 tactical flashlight. Lanterns offer a lot of light and are great for lighting up an entire cave. You will want to use LED lights because they offer you a longer battery life and longer bulb life. Always have two light sources with you when cave hiking for extra safety.

Knife: You will need to carry some type of survival knife with you as well while you are cave hiking, such as a Swiss Army knife or hunting knife. A knife is paramount in case you need to cut ropes or vines, etc. while in the cave. It also may be needed if you have to mark your direction in the ground or rock.

Other equipment: Items like helmets, ropes, carabineers, ropes, survival backpack, ┬áhiking boots, food, and water are additional items you will want to carry with you when cave hiking. It is best to check with a guide or take a course with a guide on what is the appropriate equipment and attire for the particular area you will be hiking. Don’t cave hike on your own until you have done so with a proper guide.

Always remember – safety first. Tell someone that you are going hiking, when you are entering the cave, where it is located and when you expect to return. This is to ensure that someone knows where to begin the search if something goes wrong and you don’t return on time. Always ensure that if you are new to the area or new to the cave that you take a guide with you who is experienced in that area and cave. This will ensure that you are safe throughout the hike and that you have fun.

Cave Exploring for a Unique Vacation

In caving you will discover the beauty of nature and marvel at rock formations and crystals that took thousands, and even millions, of years to shape and develop. Caves come in different shapes and sizes. There are caves that are horizontal, dry, hot, humid and sandy, while others are vertical, cold, flooded and muddy. There are even caves that are located under rivers and seas.

Another great thing about visiting a cave is that you are able to step back in time a bit, as many caves have served as dwellings for early humans, offering shelter from the outside elements. Another interesting thing about caves – when you’ve toured one, you’re going to want to tour another. Luckily there are numerous caves to explore in America that can keep you busy year after year. Let’s take a look at several which offer guided and self-guided tours perfect for the whole family:

Mammoth Cave National Park – Kentucky

Since 1816, visitors have toured Mammoth Cave, one of the world’s longest and most famous cave systems. The name Mammoth was coined not from the prehistoric wooly mammoth, but because the cave system is so huge – more than 365 miles of it has been explored so far.

Cave tour prices range from $4 to $45 and include tours for all levels of experience, from a 30-minute, self-guided discovery tour to a 6-1/2 hour “Wild Cave Tour” for more advanced cavers which involve free-climbing cave walls and crawling through areas as low as 9 inches high. The temperature inside the cave usually stays around 54┬░ Fahrenheit year-round.

Jewel Cave National Monument – South Dakota

Located just east of the Wyoming border, Jewel Cave is considered one of the best caves in the National Park system, and number three on the list of longest caves in the world! Much of the cave remains unexplored today. But tours inside the cave offer breathtaking walks and intense caving adventure. Aside from stalactites and stalagmites, several varieties of bats reside inside the cave, especially during winter.

Jewel Cave offers three different tour packages, each requiring a different level of experience. The easiest tour is the Basic Tour, which most people should be able to manage. Of course, you have to remember this is a cave, so there will be some steps to climb. On the Basic Tour, there are 723 steps to manage, but you don’t have to climb them all at once, they are interspersed throughout the 1/2 mile tour. The next tour in difficulty is the Historic Tour which enters and leaves the cave through a historic entrance and views the cave from an unpaved trail. You will carry lanterns on this tour, which is considered strenuous. Children under 6 are not allowed on the Historic Tour. For the experienced cavers, Jewel Caves offers a Spelunking Tour, a 4 to 5-hour tour which snakes through 2/3 of a mile of the Cave. You are provided a headlamp by the park service, but you must provide all your other equipment. In addition, you must be over 16 and pass a number of tests before being allowed on the Spelunking Tour, including proving the ability to wriggle through an 18″ X 24″ passageway. Needless to say, people with a fear of heights or claustrophobia definitely won’t be comfortable on this tour. Reservations are required for the Spelunking tour.

Kartchner Caverns State Park – Benson, Arizona

Located in the southern part of Arizona, Kartchner Caverns was discovered in 1974 by cavers and purchased as an Arizona State Park in 1988. What’s cool about Kartchner is that it’s a “living cave,” in that the formations inside are still growing. It also contains 13,000 feet of passages, boasts one of the world’s longest soda straw stalactites – 21 feet 2 inches, and is in near-pristine condition. Typical of most caves, Kartchner Caverns has its share of bats. In fact, during the summer the Cave’s Big Room becomes a nursery roost with over 1,000 female bats.

Meramec Caverns – Stanton, Missouri

Like your caves on the commercial side? Then you’ll love Meramec Caverns, which has a gift shop inside the entrance of the cave. In fact, Meramec Caverns is the largest commercial cave in Missouri, which is known as the “Cave State” due to it containing over 6,000 surveyed caves. In addition to its natural history, Meramec Caverns has some interesting recent history, as legend has it that the cave was used as a part of the “Underground Railroad” to aid escaping slaves. Legend also has it that Jesse James and his gang hid out in the caves after committing train and bank robberies.

Meramec Caverns also has the distinction of having a ballroom inside the caves which hosts many private and public events, such as an Easter Sunrise Service. The ballroom is an interesting combination of chairs, sound system, lighting and, yes, limestone and stalagmites.

Other Missouri Caves and Caverns

As long as you’re visiting Meramec Caverns, why not check out some of the other caves in Missouri? Some notable ones include:

Fantastic Caverns – Springfield, Missouri

Fantastic Caverns is considered “America’s Ride-Through Cave” and is great for seniors, physically-challenged individuals and people with small children because you don’t walk through the cave, but, rather you take a jeep-drawn tram through the cave.

Marvel Cave – Branson, Missouri

Again, if you like your caves on the commercial side, then Marvel Cave is for you. Marvel Cave is another “living cave” with formations that are still growing and is now part of Silver Dollar City, an amusement park with over 30 rides and attractions, the cave being one of them.

Mark Twain Cave – Hannibal, Missouri

The Mark Twain Cave was discovered in 1819 and is Missouri’s oldest show cave, providing tours to the public for over 114 years. The cave is named after “Mark Twain,” the pen name of Samuel Clemens, who explored the cave quite frequently and wrote about its wonders. Again, legend has it that Jesse James and his gang hid out in the caves.

If you’re looking for something interesting and unusual to do with your family on your next vacation, do consider visiting one of the many fascinating caves that America has to offer. You may discover a passion you never knew existed.

Safety While Exploring Caves

What happens when you mix hiking and rock climbing? You get cave hiking and a lot of fun! Cave hiking is considered by some to be an extreme sport. For those athletes who do it, it’s an amazing physical challenge and a great rush! It combines regular hiking with rock scrambling and climbing and allows you to explore exciting underground and in-ground environments. As with any sport, there are dangers associated with it. There are, however, things that you can do to minimize those dangers.

The most important thing to remember when cave hiking, or doing any other outdoor sport; is to notify someone of your location. If you are in a national park, there is generally a place to sign in where you can put your intended route and the day and time that you left. Even if there is no such book, you should always let a friend or family member know where you are going and when you plan to be back. This week, in the event of an emergency, they will know where to send help and how long you have been missing for.

Along with notifying someone of your plans, being well prepared can help ensure your safety during your excursion. There are quite a few things that the well-stocked cave hiker should have in their bag of tricks. One of these things is a survival knife. You may come across vines or ropes that you will need to cut to get through, it can also be used to mark your way when you move along your route. It is helpful to have a sturdy pair of hiking boots with good soles and ankle protection. This will allow you to grip the rocks better and protect your ankles from sprains and breaks. Depending on where you hike, you may need ropes and carabineers and will benefit from having a well-constructed helmet to protect you in case of falling debris or accidents. You can check with the local parks office to see if any other materials are necessary or useful along your hike.

As during any sport, make sure you have adequate water with you to prevent dehydration. It’s also a good idea to have a snack with you to keep you strong during the trip.

Possibly the most important safety gear during cave hiking is your light. The best source is a LED headlamp, which allows you to move about hands-free. It should not, however, be your only light source. It is important to carry a flashlight as well for small crevices and in case your headlamp malfunctions. LED lights have the longest battery life so they are the preferred lamps of hikers.

By having all of your gear and letting people know where you will be, cave hiking can be an awesome experience!