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There are several techniques and tips you should know about.

Never cave alone. There should be a minimum of four people on each trip. Contact a local grotto or someone who has prior caving experience to lead the trip.

Always leave word as to which cave you will be visiting and your expected time of return, allowing a few hours for any unexpected incident.

The slowest caver sets the pace. Don't break up the party. Experienced cavers have become lost in even seemingly easy, straight passages. Caving is a team effort.

Caving is extremely tiring. Know your limitations, rest frequently and watch for fatigue in others.

Avoid Hypothermia. Dress well and monitor each other for the first signs of hypothermia, which is shivering. To combat hypothermia keep active, well fed, well hydrated and don't become exhausted.

Don't take risks. Caves can be the most remote places you'll ever go. Even an injury that is minor at home, could put your life at risk in a cave. Rescuing a person from a cave is a very technical and difficult operation.

Leave bats undisturbed. From September to May waking a bat only once could mean its death. Although mostly harmless, bats are wild animals, so you should treat them with respect and never try to touch one or pick one up.

Carry out trash. Take any thing you bring into a cave out with you: it only leaves an unsightly mess for the next person. If you are the next person and find some trash pack it out with you. All responsible cavers do.

Do not touch formations. Even very small cave formations take thousands of years to develop. In a cave any footprint, change or damage is essentially permanent. Touching cave formations puts dirt on them which can become embedded in the formation marring its beauty forever. Some of the most beautiful cave formations occur on the floors of caves so be careful where you step. Please leave all formations undisturbed. Some cave rooms have been destroyed by people removing formations. Remote and difficult places to reach are often very beautiful because the experienced cavers that visit them have preserved their beauty intact.

Bring a freezer bag to remove your waste. Such waste pollutes the cave environment, and water, can harm fragile species that are known to inhabit caves. It is also true that the place you leave your solid waste is likely to be the place you discover that you want to explore during the next trip. In most caves, it is required to bring a bottle to pack out liquid waste.

If lost in a cave panic is your worst enemy. Remain calm, conserve your light and if you followed the rule about leaving word you have little to worry about. Stay in one place. Rescue teams have a difficult time finding you if you are still traveling.

If all your lights fail: Stay put! You've left word with someone so people will come out after you. Caving in the dark will lead to injury and possibly death.
Treat for shock - keep the injured caver warm- and send two people to contact the local authorities.

Protect yourself first then your patient. Don't become a victim yourself.

Ensure that you can obtain access to the injured person safely. Check for unsafe conditions before entering an accident site and correct all dangerous conditions.
Determine extent of injuries and stabilize the patient if you have the skill. Treat for hypothermia prevention.

Determine if the person can walk or crawl out. If he or she can be assisted to walk or crawl out that may be the best coruse of action. If there is any chance of spinal injury, do not move the patient to prevent further injury.

If the injury is serious, use your own judgment. Begin to take notes about your patient. Record his or hers pulse, respiration and skin temperature with times on all data.

If you need outside help, send for it or wait for your backup person to notify authorities. Remember that your backup person can only call for backup if they know exactly which cave you are at and when to expect your return from that cave.

Inventory all equipment in your group to determine what is available to help your patient survive, to aid your survival and determine what may be needed from the outside. Get the information to the surface.

When possible two people should be sent out for help and they should leave as much food, water and dry clothing as possible for the people that remain with the patient. They should carry a copy of all notes concerning patient condition and location. Include information about your needs as well as what you have on site to treat the patient with. Your messengers need to know emergency telephone numbers, have keys to vehicles, have knowledge of the cave and experience to get out safely.
To download an equipment check list prepared by the the National Speleological Society Youth Groups Liaison Committee, click here.


Bring at least three sources of light with spare bulbs and batteries. Be prepared. Your combined sources of light should last at least be three times as long as the planned trip. The entire trip should be able to be done with any one of these lights.

Your primary light should be mounted on the helmet so that you automatically have light wherever you turn your head and your hands are free to climb safely. The second and third light sources must be equivalent to the primary light. Spare parts, including batteries and bulbs, are necessary components of each source of light. Lights employing light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are so inexpensive, small and energy efficient, that their advantages outweigh those of candles and glow sticks. Candles are useful as heat sources in the event you have to wait, but should not be considered alternate light sources.

Caves tend to be cold, so dress warmly. Wet clothes keep you colder than dry clothes, so avoid getting wet. Except in the driest, warmest caves, avoid wearing cotton clothing because it absorbs and retains more water than synthetic fabrics. Polypropylene, nylon and polyester tend to be more abrasion-resistant. They also absorb less water, dry more quickly and retain heat better than natural fabrics.

Dress in layers. Layers of clothing made from synthetic fabrics are suitable for colder caves, while lighter clothing is sufficient for warm caves. The outer layer needs to be able to withstand the abrasive and sharp rocks of a cave. Some caves are so cold and wet that they require more than just layers of warm clothes; do not attempt such caves without proper training. More experienced cavers wear overalls or bibs made with a waterproof nylon coating. Some cavers wear Dickies work coveralls. Other factors to consider in clothing choice are to protect your skin from sharp cave rocks, cave dampness and the cold.

Good hiking shoes or boots with tread is recommended. Ankle protection is key underground. Twisting your ankle in a cave is very easy to do if you don't have the extra support. Also, don't wear old shoes with no traction. On a muddy slope, traction is what you'll need to maneuver the obstacle.
Protective Gear

Wear a helmet that meets UIAA standards, or the European equivalent, with a chin strap. Your helmet protects your head and offers a mount for your lights. Caves are a hazardous environment. You're surrounded by hard rock and protecting your head is vital. After the second or third bang on the ceiling, you'll realize this.

Knee and elbow pads will protect your joints in a crawl. After several feet of an army crawl and smacking your knees against rock, you'll wish you had the protection. Your body will thank you the following day.

Wear gloves it to protect the cave from you. Touching formations with your naturally oily skin can kill the formation. Also, traction for your hands is just as important as for your feet. Common caver gloves are the $3 garden gloves with a rubber lining on the palm.
Cave Pack

Put everything into a sturdy pack. Many cavers use military surplus packs, etc., for durability and low cost.

First Aid Kit: A personal size for each person. You should have at least a knife, gauze pads, an Ace Bandage, garbage bag or space blanket, candle and matches. Store your kit in a waterproof container, like a bowl of Tupperware, Pelican box or in several sealable plastic baggies to keep the contents dry.

Water: Should be in a plastic bottle. Dealing with glass or aluminum containers while in a cave is simply a hassle. You may break the glass and the aluminum may cut you. Better to simply avoid it.

Food: Carry high-energy food sufficient for the length of the trip. It is wise to carry some extra in case the trip takes longer than expected. Caving trips are hard on everything so pack durable foods. Bananas and sandwiches get crushed during a trip but bagels and energy bars usually do fine. Some pack foods in crush-proof boxes to protect it.

Extra batteries: Carry at least three changes of batteries for each of your light sources.

Empty plastic bottle: This should have a tight-fitting lid since it will be used as your toilet in case your must go underground. Polluting the cave environment should never happen. Your pee bottle is a friend.

Polypro top: Take an extra shirt with you in case you get cold or if someone is injured.

Markers: If you are going into a cave for the first time and do not have a map, placing markers along your way will help ensure you find the way out. Markers can be made rather inexpensively with reflective tape on large paperclips or pop-sickle sticks. You can be creative. Remember to remove them on your way out.

Disposable flash camera: Why? To take photos of your underground adventure, of course!

For questions and suggestions contact the Safety and Techniques Committee Chairperson Aaron Bird at

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