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Caving Equipment

Caves in Victoria require a vast array of skills and equipment. While there is the obvious list of equipment required for all caves (not just in Victoria), vertical caves for instance force the use of more specialised devices in order to fully explore them. As a member of the VSA you will enjoy the opportunity to not only go caving but also have the chance to use the various caving equipment and necessary skill to operate it safely. You don’t necessarily need to initially own all of the necessary gear as the club does have a small inventory of its own.

Below is a list of some of the equipment used when exploring caves including a brief description of what the item is used for. Clicking on any of the images will provide you with more detailed information from the Petzl website*.

helmetHelmet: Protects the head when knocked or from falling objects. It should be a ‘hard shell’ as opposed to a ‘soft shell’ (a soft shell has a foam component similar to a bicycle helmet). (Mandatory)
head torchHeadtorch/Headlamp: Usually attached to your helmet, this item is used to illuminate the cave as sunlight usually does not penetrate to the cave depths. Ideally the caver will carry 3 independent sources of light as well as spare batteries. (Mandatory)
Overalls/Coveralls: To protect your body while in the cave environment. Usually made from a material like cordura to allow for minimal moisture absorption and help keep the body warm. (Mandatory)
Boots: Preferably non slip soles and with adequate water drainage. (Mandatory)
Gloves: To protect your hands from cuts and abrasions while also providing grip. They are also useful in protecting delicate cave formations from natural oils contained in your skin should you accidentally touch the formations. (Optional)
caving harnessHarness: Required in vertical caves when abseiling or climbing ladders. The desired harness style is called a ‘sit harness’ which is fastened together using a maillon as opposed to a buckle seen in rock climbing harnesses. This is to allow for the lowest possible croll attachment when ascending back up the rope following an abseil. (Vertical caves only)
Petzl CrollCroll: Required in vertical caves ascending a rope. It keeps the caver upright and enables them to make upward movement along the rope. It can also be used in emergency situations to descend the rope though this is a very slow process. (Vertical caves only)
Rack: Required in vertical caves to descend a rope (abseiling). It has an array of vertical bars to control the descent speed and provides a very smooth ride down the rope. It can be bought in small and large sizes and ideal for very large descents. (Vertical caves only)

 

Petzl StopStop: Required in vertical caves to descend a rope (abseiling). Unlike the rack, this device has an autolocking feature in the form of a brake that stops or slows the caver’s descent down the rope should they let go of the device. This feature is not intended to be used in place of properly locking the device rather it’s useful in a situation like being hit by a falling rock while on the rope and hopefully preventing you from plummeting to the ground. The stop can also be handy as a belay device. (Vertical caves only)
Rope: Used as a means of exploring vertical caves but can also be used in horizontal caves/sections as a safety line. Unlike rock climbing where dynamic rope is used, caving utilises static rope.(Required in vertical caves but optional in horizontal caves)
Ladder: An alternative method of exploring vertical caves without the need to aquire all of the above mentioned vertical equipment. (Vertical caves only)

 

Ascender: Required in vertical caves to ascend a rope. Complimenting the croll, this device aids in making upward progress on a rope. (Vertical caves only)

 

This equipment list is by no means exhaustive and there are other manufacturers such as SRTE which make similar equipment. Care must be taken when using the equipment so please ensure you are properly trained in the use of the equipment and have read the equpiments’ accompanying manuals before exploring a cave system. The Victorian Speleological Association Inc. accepts no responsibility for injury or death caused during the operation of such equipment.

* Images have been sourced from http://en.petzl.com with permission being granted by Spelean Pty. Ltd. for their use. Spelean Pty. Ltd. are an official Petzl distributor within Australia.