Camping gear for long cave trips

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Camping gear for long cave trips

Postby KeyserSoze » Mar 16, 2014 7:26 pm

This weekend we did what was supposed to be a 36 hour survey trip in a cave. The plan was to survey, sleep, survey, and leave. We had to cut the trip short to only 18 hours because of the rain forecast in a semi-wet cave, but we still attempted to get some sleep. We realized the hard way that we weren't prepared to sleep in the cave for any substantial amount of time with the gear we brought with us. This type of trip was a first for all of us and we just don't have the knowledge or experience to pack and plan an overnight expedition like that.

So my question is, what gear do you bring to camp on a long cave trip? What is your checklist? What bag do you carry? What is your plan? I would also be happy with a referral to an article or a book that details this subject; I have looked and can't seem to find anything though.
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Re: Camping gear for long cave trips

Postby NZcaver » Mar 17, 2014 4:48 am

This might be useful - viewtopic.php?f=1&t=7525
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Re: Camping gear for long cave trips

Postby jharman2 » Mar 17, 2014 8:32 am

Looks like you can get a good list of camp items from the link NZ posted.

From my personal experience I'd strongly recommend the Thermarest NeoAir pad and the Mountain Hardware UltraLamina 32 sleeping bag. The UL 32 packs into a 4L nalgene for dry transport to camp. This combo is hard to beat in terms of comfort and size.

If you're only camping one night, you're camping in a relatively dry location and you don't plan to stash gear in the cave you can consider a very lightweight down bag.
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Re: Camping gear for long cave trips

Postby caver.adam » Mar 17, 2014 9:02 am

A nalgene! brilliant!
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Re: Camping gear for long cave trips

Postby caver.adam » Mar 17, 2014 9:04 am

The hard part about this is that we want to try camping on shorter trips before moving on to much longer expeditions. Carrying that much gear for 1 night is a waste, but we would like experience on shorter trips before graduating to longer trips.
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Re: Camping gear for long cave trips

Postby Scott McCrea » Mar 17, 2014 9:31 am

We have had micro-success doing a micro-bivy. On a planned 35 hr trip, we hoped to only carry slightly more than a day trip. We added a stove, extra food, and an extra layer of clothes. When we needed sleep, we spread out the pads from our packs (Swaygo, of course), inflated the pack for a pillow, put on extra clothes and a trash bag "sleeping bag." We were only able to sleep/nap for no more than two hours at a time, when we would wake freezing. I like the idea of a micro-bivy, but it needs some perfecting.
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Re: Camping gear for long cave trips

Postby tncaver » Mar 17, 2014 7:03 pm

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Re: Camping gear for long cave trips

Postby jharman2 » Mar 18, 2014 3:20 pm

caver.adam wrote:The hard part about this is that we want to try camping on shorter trips before moving on to much longer expeditions. Carrying that much gear for 1 night is a waste, but we would like experience on shorter trips before graduating to longer trips.


You have the right idea. You'll learn an incredible amount on your first few 1-2 night trips - like using your folded suit as a pillow, or how damn important ear plugs can be. I can't over stress how important it is to reduce the volume of gear you carry. If you plan properly you can carry a reasonably sized pack and not significantly sacrifice comfort.
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Re: Camping gear for long cave trips

Postby KeyserSoze » Mar 18, 2014 3:28 pm

Thanks for the link. Very useful.

I have also experimented with a micro bivvy. I used the sol emergency bivvy on an experimental cave camping trip and found that it did not work well at all. I was wearing a dry thermal shirt, thick wool socks, and wool pants. I woke up in less than a couple of hours freezing cold. The inside of the bag was covered in a film of condensed water which was intolerable. The problem I found is that it doesn't breath and allow the moisture from your body to escape.
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Re: Camping gear for long cave trips

Postby NZcaver » Mar 18, 2014 3:35 pm

KeyserSoze wrote:I have also experimented with a micro bivvy. I used the sol emergency bivvy on an experimental cave camping trip and found that it did not work well at all. I was wearing a dry thermal shirt, thick wool socks, and wool pants. I woke up in less than a couple of hours freezing cold. The inside of the bag was covered in a film of condensed water which was intolerable. The problem I found is that it doesn't breath and allow the moisture from your body to escape.

You have the wrong Sol bivvy if you want something that breathes. Try the Sol Escape Bivvy. I have one and it works well for me, although I've been using it outdoors in sub-freezing temperatures and not in caves (yet). No product is 100% waterproof AND 100% breathable of course, but I find this one works more effectively than the regular bivvy bag I have which cost twice as much and weighs more.

When you slept in your bivvy, did you have a pad underneath too?
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Re: Camping gear for long cave trips

Postby Scott McCrea » Mar 18, 2014 3:38 pm

jharman2 wrote:I can't over stress how important it is to reduce the volume of gear you carry.

This. Lightweight is fashionable these days, but low-volume increases your speleodynamics and increases your efficiency.
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Re: Camping gear for long cave trips

Postby NZcaver » Mar 18, 2014 3:46 pm

jharman2 wrote:From my personal experience I'd strongly recommend the Thermarest NeoAir pad and the Mountain Hardware UltraLamina 32 sleeping bag. The UL 32 packs into a 4L nalgene for dry transport to camp. This combo is hard to beat in terms of comfort and size.

Suggestion on the NeoAir, make sure you try one in store before you buy. They are nice and light, but sleeping on one is like sleeping on a giant bag of potato chips. NOISY. Some people are fine with that, others like me and many outdoors people I know just want to stab and burn the damn thing after one night trying to get to sleep. There are many similar options out there with varying degrees of weight, comfort, insulation, cost etc. Personally my current choice is an REI Flash.

I hear good things about the Ultralamina bags, and the 32 is probably a good choice for average mid-range lower 48 caving. For warm climate caving, you can go even smaller. I have a little synthetic Guide Gear bag which stuffs down to under 2 liters. Works well in desert caves like Lech, but not much use for anything lower than about 60 degrees.
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Re: Camping gear for long cave trips

Postby NZcaver » Mar 18, 2014 3:47 pm

Scott McCrea wrote:
jharman2 wrote:I can't over stress how important it is to reduce the volume of gear you carry.

This. Lightweight is fashionable these days, but low-volume increases your speleodynamics and increases your efficiency.

Speleodynamics - nice! Is this create-a-new-word-and-hyperlink-it day? :tonguecheek:
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Re: Camping gear for long cave trips

Postby Anonymous_Coward » Mar 18, 2014 4:18 pm

NZcaver wrote: Suggestion on the NeoAir, make sure you try one in store before you buy. They are nice and light, but sleeping on one is like sleeping on a giant bag of potato chips. NOISY. Some people are fine with that, others like me and many outdoors people I know just want to stab and burn the damn thing after one night trying to get to sleep.


A guy brought one of these to Deep Seas Camp in Lechuguilla a couple of years ago. He seemed to think the noise was fine, but I know that other people (with normal sleeping pads) wanted to stab and burn him.

See John's comment above about the necessity of earplugs.
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Re: Camping gear for long cave trips

Postby msm0711 » Mar 18, 2014 7:49 pm

Just a suggestion at the mention of sleeping pads. I love my Klymit Static V (http://www.klymit.com/index.php/product ... tic-v.html). There was mention of a sleeping bag that fit in a 4L Nalgene. I carry my Static V and X pillow rolled into a 1L Nalgene. Super comfy, no noise, and durable on multiple trips (thus far). The price ain't to shabby either
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