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According to the National Caves Association, there are more than 100 caves open to the public for guided tours and expeditions. Some caving clubs offer organized excursions and teach basic spelunking (caving) skills. While spelunking can be exciting and adrenaline-filled, there are important safety precautions each explorer must take before starting an adventure.
As a basic rule, never go caving alone. A small group of four to six people is preferable, and if you’re not hiring a guide, make sure that at least two people in your group are experienced cavers. Most importantly, let several people know where you are going, who is going with you, and when you plan on being back home.
The single most important piece of caving equipment is your light, and experts recommend bringing three sources, including your headlamp. You should also carry a few extra bulbs and batteries for each light source. Wear a helmet at all times. Because your headlight only illuminates a certain view plane, you might miss low-hanging stalactites. Many caves are cold, so dressing in layers is ideal. The National Speleological Society recommends nylon and polyester over cotton, because synthetics tend to dry faster and are more resistant to scrapes and snags. If there’s a chance you’ll get very wet, you’ll want to bring a change of clothing. Also, pack items like waterproof hiking boots, gloves, thermal underwear, and knee and elbow pads. You’ll need to bring enough food and water for the day and a map of the cave you’ll be exploring. Pack a small first-aid kit for cuts and bruises. You’ll also need enough large plastic garbage bags or crush-proof containers to hold any food waste, dirty clothing, or human waste. Don’t leave anything behind! Also, you can pack a disposable camera, a magnifying glass, pen and paper, and duct tape.
Spelunking can be a great adventure. Using the safety precautions and checklist above, you can ensure that your experience is safe and enjoyable. Happy caving!