6 Cave Explorers Share How They Pack Their Bags Before Entering the World Underground

Cave exploration isn’t for the faint-hearted. Not only will you journey into the darkness, you will also need to make sure you bring absolutely everything you need underground.

As with any other packing job, it’s difficult to choose what to bring. You don’t want to risk ending up with a bag that is heavier than necessary – or risk that you run out of batteries deep underground!

To improve how we pack our bags, we have talked with 6 experienced cave explorers and asked them to share their best advice.

Read on and learn from their best tips and tricks (all 6 have lots of experience, so they know what they are talking about!).

Cave explorer in a cave

The 6 Cave Explorers

Liz Price

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am from England and am currently in London. I took up caving when I went to university in England. I had to be persuaded to go on the first caving trip as it was something I never wanted to do, as I considered it dangerous and stupid! People lent me the equipment and off we went. I had mixed feelings after the first trip and was persuaded to give it another go – and after the second time I was hooked and have been caving ever since. It has taken over my life!

I’ve caved in many countries around the world.

People often ask which is my favourite cave, but that is impossible to answer. I have been into so many caves and each one is different. Each one has its own charm and character. And I don’t get tired of revisiting the same cave because on each visit you see something different or it’s just simply a different experience.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all cave explorers bring?

I mostly only take items that are necessary. The main ones are a helmet and light. Ideally it would be good to have a spare light as well but nowadays with the modern long-lasting lights, few cavers bother taking a spare. On short caving trips I don’t even bother to take a bag, so don’t carry anything unnecessarily. In cold caves in temperate countries, we don’t bother with food or water on short trips. If the caves have small sized passages you don’t want to be carrying a bag unnecessarily. In contrast, in hot caves in the tropics which often have large sized passages, I would probably take a bag containing water, camera and maybe a small first aid kit. Nowadays most people also have a mobile phone with them and although it can’t be used as a phone underground, the torch on the phone can be used as an emergency light.

I haven’t seen people take any useless items on a caving trip because they know not to take them, or are told before the trip.

How do you bring things with you?

In dry caves, I would just use a small daypack. I currently use an Eastpak, which I have had for a few years. It’s more than big enough for the few things I am likely to carry.

However, there are specialised tacklebags made for cavers and sold by specialised caving shops. Tacklebags are named as they are used to carry necessary tackle such as ladders, ropes and climbing hardware. They come in all different sizes, from very small for personal use e.g. 2 ltr, up to large rucksack size of 55 ltr, suitable for carrying ropes. Some brands are Lyon Bags, Warmbac, Petzl. There are also bags and boxes suitable for underwater.

What are your top tips for other cave explorers?

Most cavers know to pack light and won’t carry anything unnecessarily, especially in small tight caves. As caving is a rather specialised sport, cavers know what they need to take and what is a waste of time. So you don’t see cavers doing anything wrong in that sense.

Many cavers don’t need prompting to go, and will find it easy to get out of the door and go caving.

Visit Liz Price’s website

Robin and Laura

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hey, we’re Robin and Laura! While Robin is originally from France and Laura from the UK, we both live in New Zealand which is famous for some incredible limestone caves filled with glowworms. New Zealand is known for being an adventurous country, so as part of our research for writing our online travel guide, BackpackerGuide.NZ, we have explored a fair few caves around the country. We’ve been doing this for about five years now and still find new caves to explore in New Zealand. Our favourite cave has to be the hidden gem of the Clifden Caves, full of amazing limestone features and glowworm grottos.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all cave explorers bring?

Our top three things that we take into caves include moisture absorbers for our cameras as we do a lot of filming and camera housings steam up in caves. On a similar note, torchlight diffusers are great for filming and photography in caves too. Finally, you can never have too many batteries. The most useless thing we have seen people bring into caves has been a guy using a colander on his head, rather than a helmet. Useless – but funny.

How do you bring things with you?

Because we carry a few cameras for filming and photography in caves, we tend to carry either a Torpedo7 backpack for dry caves or Torpedo7 dry pack for wet caves. Hell, we always feel we have too much in our bags but it’s better to be over-prepared and we haven’t regretted a thing.

What are your top tips for other cave explorers?

We are advocated for getting out of the door and not just dreaming about it. If you have a dream to explore caves then why not give it a shot?! If you’re nervous about starting out, do a couple of tours first and only tackle public-listed caves with plenty of signs indicating the exits. We also recommend going caving with someone else, rather than by yourself.

Check out New Zealand’s Largest travel guide

Margarita Steinhardt

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I grew up in Moscow, Russia and now live in Sydney, Australia. My biggest passion is wildlife watching in the remote corners of the world. My search for wildlife takes me to all sorts of interesting places including a number of caves.

Over the years, I have explored a variety of caves, mainly in South East Asia. My favourite caves are: Gomantong Cave on the island of Borneo, that houses millions of bats and swifts; and a no-name cave in rural Thailand that is home to the smallest mammal on Earth – Kitti’s Hog-nosed bat.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all cave explorers bring?

I am an avid wildlife photographer, so I always bring my camera gear with me.

I also always bring a hat and a long-sleeve shirt. When exploring caves that are inhabited by thousands or sometimes millions of bats, it is a really good idea to cover up to avoid being covered in bat poop.

The last item in my bag is a Mammal guide to the region I am in. Bats are tough creatures to identify and it is easiest to do when you have a reference book in front of you while looking at the bat.

How do you bring things with you?

I don’t bring much gear with me to a cave. The caves I visit are usually reasonably easy to access. To keep my camera gear dry, I pack it in a Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack. This bag is also easy to clean in case it gets covered in guano.

The dry sacks come in a variety of sizes and can easily be matched to the amount of gear I am taking with me.

What are your top tips for other cave explorers?

Caves are fascinating ecosystems to explore. They are inhabited by the most unusual creatures many of which never see the light of day.

The thing to keep in mind is that some of these creatures can be quite dangerous. Any cave that houses a roosting colony of bats, for example, is likely to have a few snakes that hunt these bats. So always watch your step and all the nooks and crannies for any signs of life.

Visit Margarita Steinhardt’s website

Guðjón Guðmundsson

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m born in on a farm close do Vík, Iceland. I’m a mountain guide and we scout for ice caves every month and have been doing that for the last two to three years.

The ones we have in Mýrdalsjökull.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all cave explorers bring?

Head lamps, led lamps, first aid kit, extra gloves, hat´s, ice pick, crampons, helmet, hiking shoes, water proof gear, water and power bar, ropes, ice screws, showel, camera, phone and radio(VHF).

How do you bring things with you?

I have both Grivel and Mammut bag, both are 40-50ltr. and it´s very easy to fit all the gear both inside and out.

There is always room.

Visit Guðjón Guðmundsson’s website

Hilda Kingsley

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Hilda. I am a travel blogger and solo traveller. I am from Toronto, Canada, but I moved to South Korea in 2014, to become an English teacher. Korea is a very interesting places with lots to do. My first cave experience was Gwangmyeong Cave, just outside of Seoul. Since then I’ve been to caves in Malaysia and Vietnam.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all cave explorers bring?

My top 3 things to bring are hand sanitizer, hydrogen peroxide and knee pads. You never know when and accident my happen so you don’t want to be unprepared if not for you then for someone else. I have seen people explore caves in a t-shirt and shorts before, wearing those types of clothes you are exposing yourself to get hurt very easily. It’s also very cold in the caves you want to dress warmly.

How do you bring things with you?

When I go cave exploring, I use a small waterproof backpack. I have the 35 L bag by Sealock. It looks small but it can fit a lot of things inside. I always think I won’t have enough room but always end u having more than enough.

What are your top tips for other cave explorers?

Cave exploring is something you should at least try once! Make sure to pack light, only bring the essentials in your bag like flashlight, water, snacks, first aid kit and empty plastic bag for garbage. Also, please dress warm!

Visit Hilda Kingsley’s website

JB Macatulad

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m 100% Filipino and I’m currently based in Manila. I’ve been inside a few caves in my life but I wouldn’t call myself an experienced cave explorer. The most interesting caves I’ve visited so far are Sung Sot Cave in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam and Kaklik Cave in Pamukkale, Turkey.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all cave explorers bring?

To be honest, nothing really. I just make sure to bring one of those waterproof river bags to keep my valuables dry and safe. Many caves I’ve been to are wet inside so waterproof bags are a must.

How do you bring things with you?

I use Sea to Summit River Dry Bags. They’re waterproof so I just dump all my stuff in there like my wallet, smart phone, camera and video equipment, etc. It’s best to get one with a sling to keep your hands free. Some caves can be dangerous so you’ll need your hands free in case you have to hang on to rocks to keep yourself from falling.

What are your top tips for other cave explorers?

I’m hardly an expert so I’m not qualified to give any real tips. All I can say is this, just make sure you go to the toilet and do your business BEFORE entering the cave. A friend of mine had stomach issues once but he proceeded to enter the cave anyway. It wasn’t pretty.

Visit JB Macatulad’s website

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