How to Pick a Caving Suit: Complete Buying Guide

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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.

Wearing the right suit for a caving adventure is essential. The right suit can decide the difference between a good time and a miserable one, because if you are in the wrong gear, you effectively open yourself up to additional risk of illness or injury. Many caves are harsh and unforgiving, and they demand adequate preparation.

Caving suits have become quite popular these days.

Professional cavers from all walks of life count on them, as they know without a caving suit, their comfort and safety are at stake. They never explore a cave without it. Today, we are going to explain how to find the best caving-suit for you with the right features for your needs.

A team explores a cave while wading through a pool.

A Caving Suit is NOT About Luxury

Caving doesn’t complement luxurious suits. Some hiking and climbing suites are luxurious and mountaineers often opt for them, but they don’t assist in the underground environment. The nature of the cave is different.

The challenges are different, the environment is different, and the surface is different as well.

You have to look for normal, casual wear since comfort comes first. The suit can rub its shoulders with some fashion statement but it should be comfy and easy-to-wear before considering anything else. The luxurious suits are fancy and may advertise a million features, but they are rarely very comfortable.

You need a suit that is soft, comfortable, and breathable so that you can challenge yourself on an uneven surface, narrow spaces, and vertical climbs. It should never restrict any of your movement or cause any sort of discomfort if you need to stretch or crawl or anything else.

Choose a Caving Suit with the Right Fabrics

We’ve outlined here some of the main fabrics you will come across while shopping for your caving suit.


Polyester is one of the most popular fabric in the fashion and textile industry. It is a man-made fabric, not natural like cotton or silk, which makes it special and gives it some special qualities.

Because of the material, this fabric is commonly referred to as a type known as Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). It is more breathable than most other fabrics in the market. It is because its thread count variations are usually between 200-1000. The heat retention abilities of this material are medium, whereas moisture-wicking abilities are high.

Experts make it by mixing ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. This makes it machine washable and ideal for all washing temperatures.

What is the drawback of polyester material?

Polyester fabric is packed with a million benefits, but it has some drawbacks too that you should consider, as it is widely used in caving suits.

  • It is temperature sensitive; can’t be used in hot, warm conditions or it may get uncomfortable.
  • Dyeing is tough and the dye-ability of this fabric isn’t good. But then again, a suit doesn’t need dye, as appearance does not matter inside a cave.
  • The anti-melting property of this fabric isn’t up to the mark.
  • It is often contaminated with dust quickly, which can cause that stuffy feeling.
  • In a humid environment, it tends to stick to perspiring skin.
A man wearing a caving headlamp adjusts his orange convertible caving suit.
The Salamander Chameleon Caving Suit, a convertible suit.

Cordura 500d

This fabric is mostly constructed from high-tenacity, air-jet textured nylon. Though its nylon weave varies in thickness, it guarantees performance in high-demanding environments. Many people try to compare it with 1000d fabric as well. The key difference between both of them is the thickness of the weave. In 1000d fabric, the weave is made from thicker yarn.

On the whole, both 500d and 1000d are made from the same underlying material. It is possible to feel the difference in the different varieties of 500d and 1000d, but it is mostly due to the country of origin; it makes a significant difference when it comes to the feel and overall quality.

Suits with Multiple Fabrics

What if a caving suit has more than one type of material?

We’re glad you asked. If a suit is made of different materials, it won’t necessarily affect its durability or quality. Companies mostly don’t mix the materials together. They use layers instead to have the desired effect. For instance, in a waterproof suit, you typically find 2-3 types of material. There can be cotton, wool, and even polyester. However, in order to make it waterproof, they can use 100% vinyl or Ripstop (a nylon threaded material) as a top layer. It works well to keep you dry and leave the suit breathable for sweat.

Before buying any suit, it is good to know which type of cave you are going to explore. The type of the cave, and the challenges, can help you decide which material is good for you.

Machine Washing your Suit

Please note: the machine-washable feature isn’t for every fabric.

For example, non-woven fabrics can’t be machine washed; you have to be immensely careful about them and wash them according to the given guidelines. But if you have a machine washable product, you can wash it in your standard washing machine and cleanse it with a cleaning agent. In case you have to opt for machine wash, find out which machine wash settings the product owners recommend; is it a hot-water machine wash or cold-water machine wash product? Wash wool garments on the wool setting (usually gentle action at 40°C). Details like these matter and proper care will keep your caving clothes in a good condition.

After a long day walking through mud or dirt, you will be happy to throw that suit in the wash.

Your Caving Suit Must Be A Good Fit

We understand that every suit is mostly self-explanatory, and you can typically eye the right suit according to your size and shape, but there are some important details that you need to consider beyond that.

I’m 5’8. What size should I buy?

To be clear, it is hard to define the exact size chart here because each country has its own chart size. If the size guide is confusing, just remember, ‘Medium Regular’ size is perfect for a 5’8″ person. This can assist you in choosing the right size for your body. To be safe, request measurements before buying online, but you shouldn’t have issues most of the time with this kind of gear.

If you are buying a caving suit online, and it is waterproof, you have to pick a slightly bigger size. The waterproof feature adds an extra layer in the suit that can restrict your movement or fit tighter than you’d like. Most people are unaware of this and get a suit that looks like a swimming suit, not a caving suit, and they end up not fitting in it or dealing with discomfort the entire time.

A woman poses for a camera near some stalagmites in a cave.
Don’t just get the caving suit that looks good on instagram!

Ventilation Zips

Apart from this, some other factors can change the dimensions of your caving suit, such as ventilation zips.

Ventilation zips are common now in caving suits. Their main purpose is to provide comfort at key areas that are likely to overheat, like armpits. The armpits receive the most tension in vertical climbing due to the constant arm swinging and stretching. Ventilation zips can be used to protect them and provide additional relief.

A man shows off his ventilation zip on his caving suit, under the arm.

Ventilation zips aren’t just for summers; they can be utilized in the winter season too when most cavers love to explore the underground world. Their layering suits find a little ventilation very useful and comfortable.

Relaxed Fit

You might also consider buying a Relaxed Fit suit, for extra comfort. A relaxed fit is a fit that is looser than regular. Some people think it is an oversized product, which is not true at all. An oversized suit is larger than your body, but a relaxed fit simply gives you a slightly slouchy look. It doesn’t hug your body and allows you more freedom of movement. Cavers have to crawl, walk on uneven surfaces, and in some situations, climb the wall formations vertically, and a tight body-hugging suit won’t make these movements easy. Therefore, if you plan to cave with more active movement and explore in multiple ways including climbing and crawling, a relaxed fit may be more important to you.

Your Caving Suit Should Have Layers and Pockets

Judge a caving suit’s worth by its layers and its pockets.

Each layer serves a different and important purpose in caving. The first layer, which is also the base layer and known as ‘Thermal Layer’, draws the moisture away from your body. This layer plays a significant role in keeping your skin dry in the wet atmosphere of the cave. Therefore, make sure the suit you are buying has a base or thermal layer in it.

In addition, the base layer needs to be hydrophilic, hydrophobic, and a snug fit. These three features facilitate in regulating your core body’s temperature.

The hydrophilic feature absorbs the sweat of your body, whereas the hydrophobic feature provides quick-drying, that doesn’t let the fabric feel cold when wet and in lower temperatures.

In other words, if we say the base layer ensures you are cozy and warm always, it would be correct. There is a second layer too which keeps your body at ease in mid and ultra-cold conditions. In the cold environment of the cave, this layer traps the body’s heat and doesn’t let it escape. It warms you up; you don’t have to wear a jacket in the average environment of the cave if you have a second layer, known as ‘Middle Insulation Layer’, in your caving suit.

A team with matching dark caving suits poses for the camera.


A caving suit without pockets is better off left at home. Pockets in a caving suit let you carry all sorts of important things, such as a flashlight, wallet, batteries, etc. You will want to access those things easily during some times, especially if you are climbing and can’t put your backpack down.

We see cavers use backpack often, and one can use them if they don’t have pockets. But while backpacks are useful for carrying heavy kinds of equipment like a camera or tripod, you should ensure your caving suit has several pockets for the smaller, lighter necessities.

Most suits are for both men and women, but these days the fashion industry is testing its skills on the caving suits. We see many suits now designed specifically for women. They embrace their curves so they can move efficiently, and look good while they do it!

The suits designed especially for women have pockets on the back, as the caving suit companies focus on the style too; it is their aim to create something that attracts women. Furthermore, they play with different colors which complement women’s personality. Don’t get too caught up with the appearance while shopping, but it is certainly a bonus when your caving outfit suits your style and fulfills all your needs.

5 – Keep Weather Conditions In Mind

Before opting for a caving suit, keep weather conditions in mind.

They play a vital role in making the right decision on which caving suit you need.

A dry, warm place or cave doesn’t require special features in the suit. Opt for any comfortable suit with layers; it will fulfill your needs.

However, if you live in a place that is cold and receives heavy rain time and time again, you should choose a waterproof suit. A waterproof suit has a third layer that protects you from dirt and water. It is usually an upper layer – soft, flexible, and prevent water from going inside the fabric. This layer isn’t just for the rain; you can wear it as protection from wind-chill also. The hard outerwear shell keeps you warm in the dry, blustery, cold days.

If you are buying a caving suit for rainy conditions, try to know which type of weather protection it offers. A caving suit with a waterproof feature means it survives heavy rain and keeps rain from getting through to your skin, whereas a caving suit with the water-resistant feature is a bit different. It handles light rain for a brief time. It is more like a windproof suit that blocks a few raindrops.

Water trickles down in a small waterfall above an entrance to Mammoth Cave.
You might not enjoy the waterfall as much if you’re unprepared at Mammoth Cave.

Of course, people may use caving suits for hiking, camping, rock climbing, rafting, and even skiing. They fulfill the needs of almost all outdoor recreational activities. So if you are planning to take yours to activities like rafting or skiing, make sure the suit has a waterproof feature.


Purchasing a good quality caving suit can be challenging.

But if you follow these above tips, you can find a good suit that is well-suited for all weather conditions inside the cave. In case you are buying the suit online, check the customers’ reviews. They often share details not included in the item description and may give you another view of a particular choice.

Besides that, while opting for a caving suit, you should compare the fabric choices.

Some popular fabric options in the caving suits are Polyester, Nylon, Silk, and Cotton. These fabrics excel at soaking up sweat and don’t let you feel clammy and sticky. Moreover, they are affordable and ideal for a strenuous hike.

Some cavers love the wool material also as its fine fibers make it soft and breathable. It is also reasonably quick to dry and doesn’t release any odor.

Make sure you check out our Top 5 Caving Suits Review here.

If you already bought yours, what suit did you end up going with? Feel free to leave your own personal review below.

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