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Research Student--Developing New Cave Suit--Need Input

PostPosted: Feb 21, 2007 12:08 am
by Jillian
Hello Everyone

I have just been introduced recently to caving and having been researching it extensively. I am a one of three research students at the University of Minnesota developing a new caving suit funded by a company who has just developed a new fabric called "Super Fabric."

Super Fabric is extrememly cut resistant, abrasion resistant, puncture resistant, and flame resistant. If you want to check it out go to

One of our team members has contacts who have done some caving in the past, and this is where our ideas have developed from. And also from doing research online.

Currently we are looking for input on our design we have developed. We are focusing on caving that involves cold tempertures, mud, and water.

Using the information we found we developed the included preliminary sketch. The base of the coverall style cave suit will be made from a cordura with a waterproof backing. The superfabric (blue dotted areas) we are using is made on a laminated sheet that will be heat set onto the shown areas. These areas we thought to be high abrasion points.

It will be heat set to avoid to much seaming that would cause extreme leaking. We also plan to waterproof all seams in the suit.

The green lined areas at the cuffs and neck will be a neoprene for comfort, sizing issues and for waterproofing the suit. There is also a thumb hole in the neoprene hand cuffs that could be used over a glove or inside a glove.

There will also be waterproof zippers placed in the red lined areas. The main zipper will be a two-way zipper with a velcro flap closure to prevent muddy build up on the zipper.

More waterproof zippers are at the underarms to allow venting when the body becomes too hot.

There are also zippers in the seams at the elbows and knees. These areas have the heat set superfabric on top of the cordura but also will have the option for padding. The padding has the option of being inserted or removed via the zippers.

We understand that cave packs are usually carried in a back pack style but we were also wondering about an additional storage areas. These areas are the pockets on the pant legs and also packs around the ankles that would be optional, being attached by elastic bands. The pant leg also has a elastic band that loops under the foot to keep the pants down in place.

There is also a belted area around the waist. The belt would be looped inside the suit for sizing abilities.

I think I have pretty much gone over everything! Pheww..

We are really excited to get feed back from anybody who has input. Anything will help. We also have some specific questions...

Are there are preferences in colors for the base of the suit? We are thinking of going with red for the ease of visibility in the caves.

We have heard that there are issues in using a harness for repelling when in a coverall style suit. That it restricts movement in the back and crotch area. Any comments on this? We could do a two piece suit.

Is there a better option for the cuff areas other than the neoprene?

Is the pocket on the legs and optional ankle bags necessary? Or would it hinder movement? Is the cave pack enough storage?

Would the option of having removable knee pads not work well? As of now they are not held in place in any way, but there could be elastic straps on the inside of the pants to hold them in place. But would this be uncomfortable or restrictive to use elastic?

Any other comments would be great.
Talk to you soon.



PostPosted: Feb 21, 2007 12:13 am
by wendy
Personally I don't think the pockets on the legs are needed.

And insted of using zippers on the knees and elbows, why don't you use velcro? I see the zippers becoming uncomfortable when crawling and clogged up with mud.

How does the front of the suit close up? With a zipper as well?

PostPosted: Feb 21, 2007 12:32 am
by Jillian
The front zipper will be a two-way zipper with a velcro flap closure to prevent muddy build up on the zipper.

The zippers we plan on using are highly resilient to damage caused by dirt/mud, but they will also be protected by a velcro flap.

PostPosted: Feb 21, 2007 2:05 am
by fuzzy-hair-man
Perhaps have some small pockets inside the suit about chest hieght because pockets outside catch and they can be a pain to unhook. If you are going on a short trip or only need to take a few packs (not everyone is carrying a pack) then pockets on your suit can be very handy IMO, close the pockets with a zip or velcro I reckon you want to make sure nothing can escape.

Just watch out that the pocket isn't going to interfere with things like chest rollers or chest harnesses.

Never had any issues with harnesses and overalls.
Elastic running under the foot might get cut easily when walking over rocks etc maybe something similar to what gaiters use? or do you mean inside your boots?

Don't know about ankle bags I think they might feel a bit strange but I've never tried it.

Again I don't know but I'd say people don't expect a suit to stop water unless it's falling from above (waterfall) so if you need to wade or go for a swim you expect to get wet so just make sure it won't absorb water. So wouldn't worry about neoprene cuffs and neck but make them comfortable and so they can be done up nice and snugly, I think Petzl put fleece around the neck of thier suits.

I don't own a proper cave suit so I might totally wrong.

PostPosted: Feb 21, 2007 8:21 am
by Dwight Livingston
The wear patches look too small and not in the right places. Knees, butt, and elbows are all that are needed. For the knees, about half around the leg and extending down almost to the ankle. For the butt, again half around (hip-to-hip) and extending a little below the crotch. For elbows, again half around and extending half way to the wrists.

No zippers, please. And I did like the fleece collar I had a few suits ago. I'd like one breast pocket big enough for a survey binder, but I don't know many who'd go for that. No other pockets.


PostPosted: Feb 21, 2007 8:55 am
by JoeyS
How about adding some attachment points on the front for casters? That would help me alot on those nasty crawls.

PostPosted: Feb 21, 2007 9:32 am
by tagcaving
The butt needs better coverage. Not because of a large arse, but because cavers slide on their ass a lot while climbing and moving. The knees and elbow areas have the greatest wear.

PostPosted: Feb 21, 2007 10:21 am
by BenC
If you are going to have a zipper for the main closure make sure it has big teeth or it'll get clogged, leave the reinforcement on the front. In tight stuff the zipper itself will eat through the fabric while crawling. Get rid of the elbow/knee zippers and all the pockets minus a chest pocket or two. Looks wicked neat though!

Also the majority. at least I think so, of caveralls are red. Please choose some other color, any color.

PostPosted: Feb 21, 2007 10:26 am
by JoeyS
BenC wrote:If you are going to have a zipper for the main closure make sure it has big teeth or it'll get clogged, leave the reinforcement on the front. In tight stuff the zipper itself will eat through the fabric while crawling. Get rid of the elbow/knee zippers and all the pockets minus a chest pocket or two. Looks wicked neat though!

Also the majority. at least I think so, of caveralls are red. Please choose some other color, any color.

Yeah, a two tone would be nice. Cordura one color, superfabric a contrasting color.
Also need to add a roll up, tuck-away waterproof hood.

PostPosted: Feb 21, 2007 10:29 am
by Teresa
After looking over the superfabric site, it says it 'may' be air breathing or made to allow water vapor to pass.

This is important. Even in cold caves, cavers work up a sweat walking, climbing, crawling-- if the suit is entirely waterproof this will be miserable.

Also, you need to take into consideration that much of your potential customer base is in wet/muddy/moderate temperature (high 40s-low 60s F) environments--not alpine, but in water cold enough that hypothermia is an issue. So, the suit needs to keep a person warm and dry enough that they can enter these environments, but not so warm that it generates sweat on the way to the cave/when moving in relatively dry passage.

The all-nylon 'Brit Suit' or a dry suit approach is way too warm for those conditions.

Have you considered stretch points? It looks like superfabric can be stretchy... One of the pains of any coverall is that it restrains movement when stretching, lifting one's leg, etc.

PostPosted: Feb 21, 2007 10:36 am
by bperkins
Why not make the whole suit out of super fabric if it is a really good fabric? Meander's design seems to work well. Remember, to keep it simple. Zippers = bad; velcro = good. One main chest pocket should be sufficient. Other than that try to minimize the amount of pockets and stitching. The are a bear to restitch once the threads begin to go.

PostPosted: Feb 21, 2007 11:31 am
by Cheryl Jones
I like a good sized interior pocket, located at lower rib level, with a Velcro-secured opening parallel to the suit's main zipper/velcro strip.

I also like the outside pocket designed with the pocket fabric extended up above the side seams so that it folds over along with the top flap when the pocket is closed -- this helps to keep water out and the contents in.

A gusseted crotch would make the suit ride better during caving contortions.

Stretch points would be cool, but I wonder about the durability of stretch fabric.


In response to everyone's responses

PostPosted: Feb 21, 2007 10:08 pm
by Jillian
Wow! Everyone has great input! I love it.


What kind of attachments for canisters do you have in mind? A simple loop styled like a belt loop? Would this be at the waist or higher/lower?

What kind of material would you suggest for the waterproof hood?

Also the Superfabric will be a gray and black color and we are thinking the cordura will be red or blue.


For this application a stretchy base fabric most likely will not work. The superfabric is formed by printing small guard plates over a base fabric. On a stretchy fabric the plates would stretch apart creating more wear. Also stretch fabric would not be as durable as a woven in general.

I haven’t heard any comments on elbow and knee pads. What does everyone think of the idea of having them removable via a pocket? Also it looks like we may change this to a Velcro pocket not a zipper one.

Or we could do separate pads that would be attached over the suit with superfabric applied to them and not directly onto the suit.

Any comments on the pit vents? Whether they are Velcro or zipper functioning.

PostPosted: Feb 21, 2007 10:32 pm
by JoeyS
LOL.. Jillian, I was joking about the casters (not canisters). Casters are like the wheels on a grocery cart.
The hood material: Some type of lightweight packcloth that is coated with a waterproof laminate layer would probably work. 99% of the time, the hood is never used. Only deployed in an emergency situation, like being stuck on a rope in a waterfall, for example. So it doesn't need to be as heavy as cordura.

PostPosted: Feb 21, 2007 11:54 pm
by Realms
knee pad pockets tend to be a bad idea as the knees in your suit will wear out before the knee pads do. Also knee pads of some types aid drastically in traction during a slip and should remain on the exterior of the suit in my opinion. Some of us are taking 3 types of knee pads and combining the best of each to make a nice setup.
I wonder if the idea if detachable wear areas has ever been considered and tested.