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Caving is hard on clothes. To compensate for this, you must wear sturdy, yet warm clothes to combat such obstacles as mud, water, sharp rocks, and other underground nasties. The following list suggests what you might want to wear when caving, and you probably already have several of these items already. Don’t rush out and buy what you don’t have, it takes a little bit of underground experience to decide what combination is best for you.
- Boots: The sole must have some kind of cleat to aid traction in mud. Old hiking boots are good, and some people use the Vietnam-style jungle boot available in any surplus store for around $15. Work boots are OK only if they have an aggressive sole. Tennis shoes are unsafe underground.
- Socks: Should be wool if your feet tend to get cold. Cave temperature is 54°F year round in Virginia, so be aware of possible chilling even if it’s warm outside. (Cave temperatures vary according to latitude, but are quite constant in any particular location).
- Pants: This one’s up to you. Any old pair should be fine, and jeans seem to be particularly durable underground. You may even wish to wear long underwear as many cavers do.
- Torso: Layering is an important principle as you are constantly changing pace while caving from climbing to sitting to crawling, etc. Bring three layers for your torso with something durable for the outermost layer. Suggestions: flannel shirt, tee shirt, jean-jacket, wool shirt, sweater, etc. Note: sweatshirts tend to rip easily and afford little protection from the cold when wet.
- Other: A hard hat and LED headlamp can be provided for you if you don’t have them. The hard hat is essential, and should be worn at all times. It won’t do you any good if it’s in your hands! Leather gloves might also be helpful; some wear them, some don’t.