Cave exploring is a guaranteed adventure for almost anyone. While exploring alone is attractive to some taking the whole family on a cave diving adventure is just as fun. Exploring a cathedral room or finding a hidden chamber deep underground is the kind of stuff stories are made of, and in the Ozarks caves are definitely not in short supply. But a cave exploring expedition can become treacherous if the right gear is not on hand to deal with situations that might arise along the way.
First thing any caver is going to need while underground is a good light source. This needs to be not only a steady source of directional light but also a solid design that can take a beating and will not need constant maintenance while in the cave. It is also a good idea to take a few forms of light for exploring underground. A headlamp is the first order of business. For the new caver a simple light that is rugged should be used. The Primos Top Gun LED Headlamp is a good starter headlamp because it has both high and low settings for while in the cave and an easily adjustable head strap to keep the light in place.
After the headlamp a good idea would be to have a regular flashlight that can be stored in a pocket just in case the headlamp goes out. For this job the Bass Pro Shops® Mini LED Flashlight Combo - 6 Pack, because there are 6 lights in this pack it is easy to put one in a pocket, one in a backpack and hand one to each child in the cave exploring. Also these little lights are very bright and durable making them perfect for the cave!
Another light source that could be used in an absolute emergency would be a chemical light stick or glow stick. A good choice for glow stick would be the Texsport® Glo Lite Stix™, these glow sticks provide 6 hours of continual low light making them good for an emergency in a cave.
The next stumbling block that many cavers will run into while exploring underground, will be dehydration. While the temperature in the cave might be cool and moist, the physical exertion of climbing over rocks and crawling through narrow passages does tend to cause sweating and dehydration. An easy way to avoid this would be to carry a hydration pack with at least a liter of water in it. This pack will need to be durable enough to make it through the cave without tearing a hole in it and keep the water drinkable for an extended period of time. A good pack for the job is the CamelBak® Rogue™ Hydration Pack, with a coated nylon outer casing this hydration pack is great for the scrapes and bumps a caver is going to run into while exploring. Another pack that is great for the job is the Bass Pro Shops® XPS® 1.5L Hydration Pack, this pack has a low profile and durable polyester coating making it perfect for climbing through tight spaces and over rough surfaces.
In a cave, regular clothing tends to be ripped to shreds on the limestone and gravel that is throughout. So finding the right clothes to cover softer underclothes is needed. Styles that tend to work well for the cave are the coveralls and bib overalls. What a caver should look for in coveralls and bib overalls is the durability and wear ability. If the coveralls are going to fall apart after crawling on knees for a few hundred yards then they are not going to be caving material. While at the same time if the overalls ride up or chafe when walking then they will definitely not be usable in the cramped spaces of a cave. Carhartt® Sandstone Bib Overalls are a great set that fits the bill for the rigors of crawling around a cave. The double ply knees make this pair great for being down and dirty while still remaining comfortable in tight situations.
Now that the clothing is covered it is time for the boots that will be needed in the cave. These boots need to be tough and most certainly waterproof, while also having the traction needed for walking on the slick limestone and loose gravel of the local caves. A good pair of boots that fits the bill is the Columbia Woodburn Mid Waterproof Camo Hiking Boots. This pair of boots has a solid hard sole made for hiking over rough terrain, and is comfortable enough to wear on a long walk, making these boots great for being in a cave environment. Another good set of boots for this job is the RedHead® Osprey Hiking Boots. These waterproof boots have a good set of removable insoles that keep the feet comfortable while providing the support and stability needed for walking and crawling around in a cave environment.
Now that the gear is gathered and clothing is ready to go it is time to head to the cave and go over a few tips and tricks for being in a cave. Before leaving for the cave, it is a good idea to let a friend or relative know the exact location of the cave that is going to be explored. Also tell them how long the trip will take and to contact the proper authorities if a certain amount of time has passes and they don’t get a confirmation that everyone is alright. Keeping a phone turned off in the car is a good idea, while taking a phone into the cave is also important, if more than one phone is available. Note that some phones are able to work well in certain caves so having a phone can come in handy. Keeping a small stock of chemical stick lights is a good way to assure that even if all electronic lights fail there will still be enough light to find a way out of the cave. Finally keeping a length of cord handy, so kids and adults have something to hold on to while walking and keep from getting split up from the group. Now that the gear and tips are dispensed it is finally time to go into the cave! As always happy hunting and good luck!