I received a free Aquafleece for our son’s caving adventures as featured in this Caving Kit List post.
The first few caving trips are likely to be easy trips and it’s unlikely that anyone will want to rush out and spend loads of money on caving. Some people do fifteen or so trips and do not buy their own kit because they only go from time to time – so it just isn’t worth it. But once they get that caving bug it is the time to start investing.
Where to Buy Your Caving Kit
When buying your caving gear it is important to try it on and make sure it fits properly. Therefore, if parents wish to help gift any caving kit it will be mostly a case of giving money.
The market for caving isn’t big enough for wholesale so they sell to shops that mostly do other adventure activities but have a caving section. Early on I was told that climb carabineers and caving were not the same – again a reason to just give money and let our son ensure he has the right kit.
Also look to buy second hand – there’s a group on Facebook called The Caving Gear Exchange. Our son got his SKT Kit, rope, and helmet which would have been £550 new for £400. Which means it is also nice to know it will sell on easily enough.
Essential First Buys for Caving
When starting caving it will mostly be through a club you can borrow kit. What you won’t be given, however, are kneepads and wetsocks. Therefore, these are good first things to buy.
Wellies for Caving
After a few trips you are going to want some of your own gear. Next you are going to want to buy a good pair of wellies. It is nicer to have your own pair that fit well and have good tread. The best place to get them is the Dunlop website. They usually have sales on – like the Black Friday one was 50% off! If you are considering caving for the long run then a mid-range pair (around £20-£40) are a good investment. This is because they are sturdy and a good tread is really important. A pair can last well in excess of 120 trips (as per photo below).
Kneepads for Caving
Then after you have bought wellies get yourself some kneepads. You can either go down the cheap route – using just cycling kneepads, or ones off Amazon or Sports Direct. However, if you go down the more expensive route then the benefit is that they are thick and do not restrict knee flexibility as much. Also they go on over the oversuit instead of under. However, due to the material they can cause you to lose grip – especially when they get muddy.
Our son recommends Warmtext kneepads which cost around £45 from Up and Under, Inglesport or Starless River.
Next you will need wet socks. Neoprene are good. Warmbac make most of the caving kit and again you can buy their stuff from Up and Under, Inglesport or Starless River. These are around £40 but worth it.
Alternatively you could get a cheaper version such as those designed for sailing like at Rooster. These range from around £25-£30 depending on the thickness of the neoprene. Rooster also do a great range of gear useful for outdoor activities such as this aquafleece – which I received for our son to keep warm and dry when outside of the cave. It has adjustable velcro straps around the waist and arms, ensure an even cosier fit meaning the warmth is trapped in more.
Caving Next Investments
Really the next thing to invest in is an undersuit. Although, saying this it is the last thing our son is purchasing! Undersuits can vary in what you want. There is the Warmbac Fleece undersuits (around £80-£90) but these are thick and heavy so not always ideal.
AV undersuits are more expensive (around £120) but are thinner and lightweight – although maybe not as warm. You can find some right bargains for undersuits if you look around – even for as a little as £10. However, all apart from the AV versions really soak up the water and this feels heavy and horrible.
When it comes to an oversuit there is a big debate over whether Warmbac or AV is better. Warmbacs ones are made of cordura and are thicker, tougher and last longer. However, they are less comfortable and AV are thinner and lighter, as well as being more comfortable.
Our son has a Warmbac Digger (£112) he personally thinks that the AVs are simply not designed for bigger people. The stress put on the fabric when crawling and climbing means it tears way too easily. This is not really a problem with smaller people. The AVs are also more expensive at around £150. Warmbacs are easier to get hold of (any of the forementioned places to buy Caving kit) whereas AVs are only available from Starless River.
You need a helmet with a good fit. Petzl do good ones. You can also go into a climbing shop and find one that fits well there too.
This is all good first bits of kit for your caving adventures.