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Caving Preparation
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This Document is intended to provide Scouts and parents with information to make caving a safe and enjoyable experience.  The document is broken into 4 major topics, with a check list at the end.  Each sub-title has quick links, allowing you to jump directly to them, &/or back up to the top <here>.  Lastly there is a "Printer Friendly" equipment check list, this is a separate document that contains just the equipment list - fits on one page.

Equipment

Moving Around the Cave

Cave Environment

Cleanup

Minimum Equipment Checklist

Click here for Printer friendly Equipment Check List

 

Equipment              <top>

Light Sources

Each boy should bring 3 light sources.  The primary light source must be attached to caving helmet.  Battery operated light sources should have fresh, alkaline batteries.

 For hands-free caving activity, the boys will need to use headlamps such as sold in sporting goods stores for under $10.  (Avoid using cheap LED type lights for the primary light source, they will not put out enough light for a primary source.)

 The headlamps typically operate on 4 AA batteries, and can be used later for camping and other activities.  One backup light should be another small flashlight (such as a waterproof, metal Mag-Lite),  the third light source can be another small flashlight, or a glow-stick, or a candle and matches in a waterproof container.

 The boys should have NEW batteries in each light source, and sufficient NEW replacement batteries for 2 complete changes in the primary light source, and 1 change in a backup source.  As an example, a headlamp with 4 AA batteries in it should have 8 replacement batteries.  A Mag-Lite with 2 AA batteries should have 4 replacements of its own.  

Helmets

 A bicycling helmet will work fine. Make sure that the hat fits well, and that there is an adjustable chin strap that can be released easily.  The helmet will probably get banged and scratched and muddy.  The headlamp and batteries, when attached to the helmet (with duct tape), will make the helmet be off-balance and tend to fall down over the boys eyes.  If this is a problem, it can and should be avoided by duct-taping some type of counterweight to the back of the helmet in order to balance the load.

Packs

Each boy will need to bring a pack for water bottles, snacks, a personal first aid kit (same type that the boys are supposed to use for hiking), backup light sources and replacement batteries, and any other personal gear carried into the cave.  Suggest  an OLD day pack, since it will get wet and muddy.  Avoid packs with faulty zippers, the dirt and mud will make them worse.


Clothing

Normally, we advise the boys to dress in layers.  Caving is no exception.  Normally, we advise them to stay dry.  This cant be done when caving.  Cave clothes get wet and permanently mud-stained.  What we want to try for is to avoiding getting chilled.  The cave temperature is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and since they will be walking, crawling, and generally moving about, they should stay reasonably warm is they dress in layers:

Layer 1: Since the boys will definitely get wet, it is best to make the first layer (closest to skin) some sort of moisture-wicking fabric, especially for the upper body.  The best choice contains polypropylene (polypro) or some similar synthetic material.  Most sporting goods departments and outdoor stores (Wal-Mart,  Uncle Sams, Boot Camp, etc.) carry polypro thermal tops.  (By the way, Boot Camp gives a discount to scouts.)  Polypro leg wear is recommended but optional. Polypro can also be used for cool campouts.  For the legs, the boys can alternatively use cotton long-johns if they dont use polypro.  Cotton is NOT recommended for the upper body first layer, especially due to the boys small body mass.

Layer 2: Shorts.  Wear shorts over the long johns/under the blue jeans.  When the boys emerge from the cave, they will need to strip down to the shorts in order to change into dry clothes before getting into vehicles.  There are no changing facilities at the cave.  If they wear a pair of loose shorts under the rest, this makes the process easier.  

Layer 3: Loose fitting cotton will work OK.  Jeans and long-sleeved sweatshirts will do fine.   

Layer 4: (Optional).  A pair of used coveralls from Salvation Army or Goodwill, worn over everything else, works really well.  Preferably button down, or with a good quality zipper.  These can also be used on cool weather campouts. 

Layer 5: Knee Pads and Gloves; both are required   Cheap knee protection worn over the other layers will protect the kneecaps and the clothing.  Cheap cloth gloves will protect hands and cave formations.  Elbow pads are optional, but recommended. 

Boots

A few donts  Dont wear high-quality hiking boots.  Dont wear sandals or cheap low-top tennis shoes. Dont wear waterproof rubber boots or waders, they will fill with water and not drain.

A few dos  Footwear should have treads, drain water, provide ankle support, and be relatively inexpensive.  Cheap quality boots are available from Uncle Sams, Wal-Mart, etc.  Avoid a snug fit, and plan on wearing 2 pair of socks for comfort and warmth. 

For Lone Hill Onyx (boys under 14) high top tennis shoes will be allowed (not recommended), they will take a real beating.  For the boys going into Little Scott (age 14 and over) boots of some sort are required.

General Equipment

The boys will need to bring a change of  clothes for after caving, including socks, shoes pants shirts, coat, and hat.  The boys should bring large, heavy duty plastic trash bags to hold their wet, muddy caving clothes in the vehicles for the trip back to camp Mihaska.

Safety

The risks associated with the type of caving activity that we will be doing are not that much different than the risks associated with hiking.  The main sources of injury are those associated with falling down (such as twisting an ankle, minor bruises, etc.), and hypothermia (getting too cold).

   

Moving Around Within the Cave         <top>

There are a number of ways to move through a cave, depending on circumstances.   They are:

Running: Never, Never, Never.

Walking: (Needs no explanation).

Crouch: Kind of like a duck walk.  Use when too low to walk, but not worth trying to crawl.

Bear Crawl: Hands and feet, no knees used.  Not used too often.

Crawl: On knees.  Used most in lower passages.

Belly Crawl: For those really low passages, can be done on belly or on side/hip.

Squeeze: Tight space, usually a narrow space requiring turning sideways.

Each group will move through a cave with a designated leader and designated trailer (last person).  Periodically, the leader will wait for the group to re-assemble, especially when the passage splits.  The leader will mark the path not taken.  A verbal count-off will be conducted to verify that no member of the group is missing.

When moving through the cave, try to keep your head up and stay balanced.  Periodically look back where you have been, and realize that when you come out, the cave passage looks very different from when you came in.

Nutrition

Every member of the cave will need to bring an adequate water supply, and sufficient high-energy snacks for the activity.

 

Cave Environment                <top>

Conservation

The caving environment is fragile.  There are a number of activities that must be avoided.  Specifically, do not disturb the animal life within the cave.  Winter is bat hibernation time, and if they are disturbed it threatens their ability to survive the winter.  Some bats, such as the Indiana Brown Bat are on the federal endangered species list.

Do not touch flowstone formation formations with muddy hands or gloves.

Do not break off any formations, and do not remove any formations that are already broken off.

Leave the cave better than you found it.  Pick up any trash left behind by careless cavers.

 

Geology of Caves

There are a number of geologic formations that can be found in caves.  Keep an eye out for stalactites (hanging from the ceiling), stalagmites (coming up from the ground), columns, draperies (looks like sheets made of stone hanging from the ceiling), and brimstone dams

Biospeology (A Fancy Word for Cave Life)

There are 3 categories of cave life that we can watch for.

       There are animals that cannot normally survive outside of the cave  they are usually white or possess little pigmentation and are sometime without eyes, such as cave salamanders and cave crickets.

       There are animals that can spend part of their lives inside the cave, but can also live outside the cave in similar places, such as bats.

       There are animals that can live in the cave entrances such as frogs, certain insects, and regular salamanders.

Clean-Up (for mom and dad)        <top>

The recommended procedure for cleaning up the muddy clothes is as follows:

Take a garden hose and hose off the outer caving clothes and boots.
After hosing off, stuff dry newspaper into the boots to absorb water.  Replace newspaper as needed.
Send all of the clothes through a cold wash cycle, do this right away to prevent mildew. 
After the initial cold wash, send your clothes through a second cold or warm wash.

Equipment Check List         <top>

Minimal Equipment Required         

Click here for Printer friendly Equipment Check List

     Helmet with adjustable chin strap.  Marked with name to avoid confusion. Primary light source attached to helmet. 

     Two (2) backup light sources.  Test all battery operated lights. New batteries in all lights source,  plus 2 complete sets of replacement batteries for each light source

     Day pack or Fannie Pack sufficient to carry all equipment, must be able to secure so that stuff wont fall out when crawling. 

     Cheap knee pads and gloves.  Mark name on each.  Muddy gloves are pretty much indistinguishable. 

     Adequate layers of clothing (clothing will get wet and probably mud stained) try to use wool, synthetics or synthetic blends for layers closest to body.  Try to avoid cotton; when wet, it draws body heat away:

     Heavy socks, and Long Johns or Polypropylene underclothing (tops & bottoms)

Shorts over long johns.

Old, loose fitting jeans over shorts, long sleeve sweatshirt (also old) over underclothing.

Coveralls (optional) over other clothing.

     Cheap boots for boys age 14 and over (Little Scott Cave); either cheap boots or old high-top tennis shoes for boys under 14 (Lone Hill Onyx Cave) 

     A complete change of clothes for after the caving, including clean gloves, coat, and clean shoes

     Two (2) large, heavy duty plastic bags.  Mark name on outside with masking tape.

     Water.  One or two quarts in rugged containers..  Definitely two quarts for sure for the boys 14 or over, who are going to Little Scott Cave.  

     Snack.  Some sort of high-energy bars, granola, etc.  

     Sleeping bag/pillow, towels, washrag, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. for cleaning up afterwards at the dormitory at camp Mihaska.

 

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