Lynchburg College Outdoor Leadership Program leads caving programs to a wide array of caves in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and Indiana.
Caving is an exhilarating adventure - caves are so dark that you literally cannot see your hand in front of your face, much less another caver's face or a pit in the unknown path ahead.
Cave conditions, including temperature, and the possibility for becoming trapped for several days, make it is essential that all participants be reasonably prepared for the hazards, challenges, and unexpected events that may be encountered on a caving trip. Your well-being depends on how well prepared you are for caving.
- The National Speleological Society (NSS) provides in-depth information about caves and caving.
Level of Difficulty
Many of the caves we visit are considered to be beginning caves - large spaces with mostly walking-upright passages. Our advanced cave trips can be long in duration, with a large amount of breakdown, rivers running through them or steep drop-offs. In advanced caves we use webbing, ropes, harnesses, and wire ladders to gain access, which assists us in the management of risk.
Basic caving gear for individuals
The safety of every caver must be the primary consideration. Those arriving without the required items will not be allowed to go caving.
Helmets guard against head injury. An adjustable, non-elastic chin strap is vital for keeping the helmet properly positioned. Proper head protection can save a caver's life, and also protects against minor impacts with the cave ceiling, walls, or floor. Additionally, the helmet provides the support for hands-free lights.
Buy the best climbing/caving helmet you can afford. Consider that the most expensive helmet is far less expensive than an emergency room visit, or the special care required after a brain injury.
A helmet-mounted light keeps your hands free for balance and support, reduces the risk of the light being dropped, lost, or broken, and automatically provides light wherever the you look. Fresh batteries should be installed before the trip. Spare batteries should be kept in dry baggies inside your pack.
Any boot with non-slip lug soles and ankle support are acceptable. Caving ruins boots quickly, but applying a waterproofing treatment will help protect boot leather. Flimsy footwear, smooth soles, and athletic shoes can be dangerous in a cave and should not be used.
Synthetic sock liners worn under wool or synthetic socks work best for blister prevention and warmth. Wool and synthetics insulate well even when wet. Cotton socks may encourage blistering and provide no warmth when wet.
Caves vary in temperature and moisture. Most caves are cool (52-53 degrees) enough that warm clothing is required. Dress in layers so that if overheating occurs, a layer of clothing can be removed. Hypothermia, which is a subnormal body temperature, can be a serious risk when inadequate clothing is worn.
In cooler caves, cavers may want to wear wool or synthetic fiber long-john tops and bottoms as a first layer over their normal underwear, and woolen or synthetic fibers for any other layers. Cave clothing should not inhibit freedom of movement, but not be so loose or baggy that it is prone to snagging on rocks. When selecting clothing, remember that cavers may become muddy and wet, and clothing may get torn and dirty.
Work, gardening, or durable rubber gloves will protect the hands from sharp rocks, and help keep them clean. Gloves should fit the caver's hands so that they do not come off easily. Light synthetic liner gloves as a first layer will help keep hands warm.
Knee and elbow pads
Knee and elbow pads are recommended if a cave requires much crawling. Volleyball-type pads are generally sufficient. Additionally, caver supply stores (on the Internet) carry pads that work well for caving.
A small day hike pack or large fanny pack are good choices. Any pack needs to close securely. It also must be carried comfortably, leaving both hands free. Packs may become ripped or permanently stained with mud.
Pack the following items in plastic containers or baggies that fit inside the pack:
A large plastic garbage bag
Complete change of clothes and shoes
Hand warmer pouches
Disposable flash camera
Money for incidentals
Group equipment list
First aid kit
Cave map and compass
Pencil and notepad
Caving is risk-taking; some of the risks are, but not limited to: falling, getting wet, cold, and potentially hypothermic, twisting an ankle, walking in darkness, death.
Lynchburg College Outdoor Leadership Program leaders will make every attempt to lead, guide, and provide a safe environment for participants. We make no representation and offer no warranty about the quality, safety, contents, performance, merchantability, non infringement, or suitability of caving. Neither is the Outdoor Leadership Program liable for direct, indirect, punitive, special, incidental, or consequential damages; however, they may arise, even when they participants been advised of the possibility of such damages. Liability and assessment of responsibility for all who read this must assess the quality and applicability of this information. No liability will be accepted for the use or misuse of this information or for consequences that result from its use or misuse.