Caving Safety: How to Cave the Correct Way!

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Beware: You should never explore wild caves alone or without proper gear. Consider getting in touch with a Grotto of the National Speleological Society at or a qualified cave club. These groups are skilled and will train you. Without sufficient knowledge, preparation, and equipment, cave exploring can lead to serious injury or death.

Planning to attend caving events in your area? You must learn the key elements of caving safety. Caving, also known as ‘Spelunking’, comes with more than its fair share of dangers.

It involves steep descents, slippery surfaces, and even unpredictable temperatures.

Before heading out on your next spelunking excursion, follow these below safety tips.

A brightly illuminated cave ceiling, shown with pink and blue light.

1. Never cave alone.

A caving group should always include a minimum of 4-5 people. If you cave alone and something happens to you, who will know? Group caving makes your trip a safe and more enjoyable one. The National Speleological Society (NSS) in the United States also recommends a minimum group of three cavers.

2. Tell someone where you’re going.

To ensure caving safety, even if you happen to travel alone, do not overlook this step! Always tell someone in your family or friends where you are going and when you will return. When you leave word with someone stating what cave you will be exploring and your return time, they will naturally make sure to check on you.

In case you haven’t returned after the designated time, they can call ‘Forest Service’ or the local Sheriff’s office to report that you haven’t returned. The Forest Service will start looking for you immediately.

When people know exactly where you are caving, they won’t have to waste valuable time in determining which area you have gone to.

3. Keep extra light sources.

Make sure each person in your group has independent light sources, first aid kit, and extra batteries. You often spend 5-6 hours in a cave and extra batteries always assist in that. Also, don’t count on the glow sticks or candles as your primary light source – they aren’t considered adequate by the professional cavers. They don’t produce enough, targeted light to explore the cave. To make selecting one easier for you, we’ve reviewed some of the best headlamps on the market here.

In addition to a headlamp, keep extra light sources for emergencies, like light sticks or flashlights.

4. Prepare for emergency situations.

Consider the potential emergency situations. Caving safety is all about preparation. Read up all that you can about the emergencies that could arise before going exploring. Plan who you will contact if you or someone in your group is injured or worse.

In addition, think about how to deliver the message in case of an emergency. There are some other small details also that you need to know – for example, if someone is injured in your group, one person should always be with him while others seek help. Caving comes with risks of infections as well, and you can read about some of the worst diseases here.

5. Know your limits.

Know your limits, because caving is unforgiving. One bad mistake can sign your death warrants.

When you know your limits well, you try to stay within your skillset and don’t take dangerous steps. It is also better to have above-ground training and tips from a professional caver. A professional trains your body for underground maneuvering and teaches you how to head to the surface safely and successfully.

Most people, particularly beginners, spend most of their energy descending into the cave. The thing they don’t comprehend is they need a lot of energy to get out of the cave too. In fact, getting out of the cave requires more effort and an extraordinary skill set.

6. Avoid the rain.

If you can, avoid caving during the rainy season. Caves with streams or bodies of water are not safe in the rainy season; they are prone to flooding. The monsoon rains cause water levels to rise suddenly and could make it impossible for you to get out of the cave.

The ground can be wet and slippery, which makes the exploration process more difficult and dangerous. The rainy season can also delay the rescue process and leave you and, in some cases, leave your team trapped in the cave for months.

If you happen to ignore this rule of caving safety, many of the other rules will go out the window too, because your entire trip may be sabotaged due to the water.

7. Follow the leader.

Two young men climbing up the wall of a cave.
Stay close to the more experienced cavers.

Caves are dark and potentially dangerous. Even a group can lose track. Many tunnels or paths look the same and some places may be pitch-dark. It is hard to understand the formations or stay on the right path. For that reason, have an experienced group leader; he can not only provide an adrenaline rush but also won’t let you lose track.

8. Bring the appropriate gear.

You must have the right gear. Moving through tight spaces isn’t easy for most people. It is common to get knee and elbow injuries, and you might spend some time crawling as well. The right caving gear protects you on a grand scale. At the same time, you should have as little gear on you as possible since heavy gear isn’t meant for spelunking.

The first basic equipment is a helmet. You must protect your head at all times.

Second, wear comfortable and breathable clothes. Experts also recommend knee and elbow pads; they will help you protect your joints from the hardest impacts if you fall. The NSS has a full basic list of optional spelunking gear that is worth checking out. We have prepared a checklist of the essential caving gear ourselves here.

9. Food and water.

Don’t forget food and water. The water especially should last beyond the estimated length of your expedition. Instead of packing any fast food or junk items, opt for high-energy foods that can survive the tight and narrow paths of a cave. Another thing to keep in mind is caving etiquette. Unfortunately, some beginners leave their trash in the cave; it is not good for the cave environment and attracts predators. You need to take out what you bring in.

A beautiful blue pool illuminated by sunlight inside a cave.

10. Prepare for potential injuries.

Understand the types of injuries or complications you may face in a cave. The first danger is from falling objects, which is why wearing a helmet is absolutely necessary. When you see falling objects in the cave, the rule is to yell ‘ROCK‘.

It alerts your team members and other teams in the cave to shelter themselves at once. The second most common issue during spelunking is hypothermia. In a cave, the temperature suddenly drops more than a few degrees at times. If you don’t have extra clothing that can protect you from the cold, you can deal with hypothermia, fatigue, and exhaustion…not fun for your first time!

Dress properly and take extra clothing with you, especially if you are caving in the winter season. You can read more about the dangers of caving in this article.

11. Test your ropes!

Test your ropes; they are needed for extreme caving. They are your lifeline in caving. The ropes should be strong enough to support you and your gear in a lingering hang. The types of rope that work well in caving are single, half, twin, and static. All of these rope types are best for rescue work too. If anything unfortunate happens, you will be more prepared to rescue someone if you brought the right ropes.

A demonstration of the single, twin, and double/half rope options when climbing.


Don’t take unnecessary risks and follow all of the above tips to ensure you have a safe trip.

If it is your first time, choose commercial caves. They provide a sense of adventure and their guided trips are suitable for all ages. Commercial caves are often horizontal caves; they don’t require lavish gear or expensive ropes for climbing.

You still need to proceed cautiously and watch where you are stepping.

Caving is a lot of fun, but you have to be responsible. Don’t make your first trip your last!

If you have more caving safety tips you’d like to share, leave them in your comment below.

A rocky cave opening out toward the beach and ocean.

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