Moving up to REAL caving - equipment upgrade needed

Discuss caving lights, packs, helmets, clothing, etc.
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Postby ek » Nov 13, 2007 9:14 am

I use a Petzl Spelios helmet. But you will surely not go wrong with the Ecrin Roc.

RadonJunkie, you have a lot of lights!

My setup is somewhat similar. I use a Petzl Fixo Duo LED 14 as my primary (it's part of the Spelios), and keep a Black Diamond Spot on my helmet as well. In the rare cases where I don't have my own pack, I have a Petzl Tikka Plus on my helmet, too. But normally, I have my Petzl Myobelt XP (which I got for cheap at an L.L. Bean outlet store) in my pack. That way, if my Duo really failed or I lost my helmet, I would still have a really good light to get out of the cave.

My grotto just bought a whole bunch of Princeton Tec Quads and Princeton Tec Eos for club use. These are small lights (with the batteries in the same unit as the LEDs), comparable to the Petzl Tikka. They come with the same waterproof rating as the Apex, but they seem to actually be waterproof. The Quad lasts a long time and seems brighter to me than a Tikka Plus (which also has four LEDs). And the Eos is very bright for a light of its size.

If I were shopping for backup lights, I would probably go with one of these.

Quad: http://princetontec.com/products/index. ... pe=1&use=0
Eos: http://princetontec.com/products/index. ... pe=1&use=0

Many setups are reasonable. I know a caver who uses a helmet-mounted electric light as his primary, and as backup he has a carbide cap lamp, lots of carbide, and three flashlights.
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Postby NZcaver » Nov 13, 2007 10:47 am

ek wrote:My grotto just bought a whole bunch of Princeton Tec Quads and Princeton Tec Eos for club use. These are small lights (with the batteries in the same unit as the LEDs), comparable to the Petzl Tikka. They come with the same waterproof rating as the Apex, but they seem to actually be waterproof. The Quad lasts a long time and seems brighter to me than a Tikka Plus (which also has four LEDs). And the Eos is very bright for a light of its size.

If I were shopping for backup lights, I would probably go with one of these.

I bought the EOS when it first came out, and it has survived well. My one wish is that light manufacturers would start producing similar size/design headlamps that work on 1 (or maybe 2) AA's, rather than 3 AAA's. There are a bunch of nice 1 AA flashlights out there, so why not headlamps? Please? :cool:

I really prefer to have AA battery standardization, especially on expeditions or other remote trips (however I can understand using one of the "nice" headlamps with an efficient Li-Ion pack, if there is an AA pack option as well). It seems many grottos with loaner headlamps (including my grotto) prefer AA battery headlamps. It's interesting you guys went for AAA's - are those headlamps intended just for backup, or are they the main grotto stock? I guess they should do OK as primaries on easy beginner trips.
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Postby ek » Nov 13, 2007 12:03 pm

NZcaver wrote:I bought the EOS when it first came out, and it has survived well. My one wish is that light manufacturers would start producing similar size/design headlamps that work on 1 (or maybe 2) AA's, rather than 3 AAA's. There are a bunch of nice 1 AA flashlights out there, so why not headlamps? Please? :cool:

I think the reason why there are lots of nice small AA flashlights and not so many small AA headlamps is that if you put AA cells in the same unit as the lamp (rather than in a separate battery pack), the lamp unit becomes thicker.

I really prefer to have AA battery standardization, especially on expeditions or other remote trips (however I can understand using one of the "nice" headlamps with an efficient Li-Ion pack, if there is an AA pack option as well).

I'd prefer that as well--though we don't do many expeditions and remote trips. The advantages wrought by these small headlamps outweigh the benefit for standardization for me. My Petzl Fixo Duo LED 14 and Petzl Myobelt XP use AA's and my Black Diamond Spot and Petzl Tikka Plus use AAA's. Of course, since my grotto is not standardized, the benefit that I would reap from being standardized is less than if we were.

It seems many grottos with loaner headlamps (including my grotto) prefer AA battery headlamps. It's interesting you guys went for AAA's - are those headlamps intended just for backup, or are they the main grotto stock? I guess they should do OK as primaries on easy beginner trips.

We have a lot of different stuff.

SUOC is the Syracuse University Outing Club, and as an outing club we get funding from the University. We used to get it from the Student Association; now we get it from Recreation Services. Our gear is University property and subject to all relevant regulations (e.g. we might have to fill out a lot of paperwork if we wanted to buy a microshaving kit), but we get significant budget money to buy new gear every year. In reality, it doesn't work out quite so well, because there is a long line of people who are involved in purchasing, and if even one of them drops the ball then nothing happens and our money is lost at the end of the year. But we are working on that problem.

We have 11 Princeton Tec Apexes (one of which has suffered from the water issue so far--this was when it was used in the Lost Passage in Gage Cave *after* the power cord's outer insulation somehow came out of the waterproof grommet) and a whole bunch of Princeton Tec Yukons as our primary lights. The Yukons are older--at one time our primary lights were the old Petzl Zooms augmented by newer Yukons. We still have the Zooms but several of them don't work anymore and nobody really wants to use the ones that do. (That was the first headlamp I ever used, though...in Schoharie Cave, my first caving trip.) We also have 3 Princeton Tec Coronas (one of which is somehow missing one of its battery contacts and is thus unusable); a Petzl Myolite 3; a couple Princeton Tec Quests (at least one of which works); a Speleotechnics NOVA something; a StenLight S2; several of those weird lights that rotate in 3-dimensions to point in any direction and are reasonably bright but break a lot (anybody know what I'm talking about?); and a whole bunch of carbide cap lamps, most of which don't work but could be made to work again without too much trouble. Currently only one SUOCer in Syracuse caves with carbide all the time.

We also have several of the Petzl Vertex Duo LED 14 Helmets, which is the Vertex with the Duo Fixo LED 14 on it. The DUO's work great and the helmets are nice except for their weight and lack of ventilation (which doesn't really bother most of us); their large size (preventing them from fitting smaller-headed cavers) and adjustment system that is hard to use in the first place and seems to get clogged up with mud and become permanently even harder to use; and how it is that if you accidentally apply too much upward stress on the headlamp clips (when attaching or detaching a headlamp), they pop off and take the suspension system with them, making the helmets unusable. Petzl has told us that they will fix the headlamp clip issue for free--we just have to send the helmets in.

(Most of our other helmets are Petzl Ecrin Roc and do not have headlamps permanently attached, though for large events we ziptie some headlamps to helmets to discourage them from getting lost.)

For secondary lights we have 20 Princeton Tec Quads; 15 Princeton Tec Eos; several Petzl Tikka Plus and Tikka XP; 2 original Tikkas (one of which works reliably but has a really stiff switch, the other of which turns on and off easily but doesn't work reliably and which we use only around camp); 3 Princeton Tec Auroras (two of which have detached permanently from their headbands); and a Princeton Tec Scout that we can't find the spare batteries for.

So we have a lot of stuff--but it is not uncommon during a large trip to the Schoharie Cabin or our big Spring Break trip to West Virginia for us to have 20 people caving simultaneously--visiting different caves--and using all SUOC gear. Also, club members may sign out gear for use on official club trips, and they have a week to return it, so when gear is being readied for a trip one week, the gear from the previous week's trips might not yet be available. (And then there are always people who don't return their gear on time...) When caving lights are not being used for caving, they may be used in trips for other activities (e.g. climbing).
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Postby NZcaver » Nov 13, 2007 7:07 pm

Thanks for the info - that's a nice load of gear if you have the budget for it.

Our first grotto loaners were Petzl Zoom's as well, and nobody wants to use them any more either! A Zoom was actually one of my first "real" electric caving headlamps back in the early 90's.

Good to know about the issues you guys have had with the Vertex, I'll have to remember that. What's does a Stenlight S2 look like? I'm only familiar with the S7.
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Postby JoeyS » Nov 13, 2007 7:43 pm

NZcaver wrote:I bought the EOS when it first came out, and it has survived well. My one wish is that light manufacturers would start producing similar size/design headlamps that work on 1 (or maybe 2) AA's, rather than 3 AAA's. There are a bunch of nice 1 AA flashlights out there, so why not headlamps? Please? :cool:


NZ, have you seen the zebralight? It runs on a single AA and powers a SSC P4 with no reflector. It's all flood, so not very friendly to others, especially on high, but I consider it a task/camp light. Works great for doing plumbing in a crawlspace :kewl:
I got one when they first came out and I like it alot. It is my go-to camping light now. .Great runtimes too.

http://www.zebralight.com/

It is Chinese-produced (ships directly from China, matter o fact) but it appears very well made. If you're familiar with the quality of Fenix lights, it is of the same caliber fit, finish and function.
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Postby NZcaver » Nov 14, 2007 1:20 am

JoeyS wrote:NZ, have you seen the zebralight? It runs on a single AA and powers a SSC P4 with no reflector. It's all flood, so not very friendly to others, especially on high, but I consider it a task/camp light. Works great for doing plumbing in a crawlspace :kewl:
I got one when they first came out and I like it alot. It is my go-to camping light now. .Great runtimes too.

Thanks, Joey! :woohoo:

I haven't seen those before. They might provide some good wide/close illumination for my helmet cam.

Great - I just got a Fenix, and now I have yet another gadget to add to my wish list... :doh: :tonguecheek:
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Postby Marbry » Nov 14, 2007 2:37 pm

Something to consider, all the lights on my helmet are waterproof. Like I can dive them through a sump waterproof. Not just for that, but if I happen to dunk my head or helmet through a low airspace I don't have to worry about my lights dying.

I've killed several moderately expensive 'water resistant' lights without ever more than a minor dunking briefly into a few inches of water. The 14 LED Duo is a good waterproof option if you don't want to invest the big $$ in something like a StenLite.

I also always have at least 3 sources of light on my helmet. A primary on the front, and a PT Impact XL on either side. Then I carry another primary type light in my pack. This I keep in a small dry box to keep it from getting too beat up in the pack. An extra small drybox or tupperware is handy for keeping your food from becoming mush.

Make sure you try the helmets on before you buy too. This may not be a problem for you, but personally not all the makes of helmet out there fit on my head. I like the Ecrin rocs because they are easily adjustable, well ventilated, and there are no metal parts to corrode over time.

The Swaygo packs are the way to go unless you need to carry a lot of stuff, or oddly shaped things. I wouldn't go any smaller than the sink pack as they all run kind of small, and they're flat enough that even if you don't always fill it up it doesn't really get in the way. As a general caving pack they're great.

And make sure the trashbags you have are large enough to pull over you like a poncho.
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Postby Brett C. » Nov 17, 2007 7:14 pm

Festivus came early this year. All set except for the bag. Ecrin Roc helmet and a Princeton Apex headlamp. Now to go to some of the GOOD caves.

Marbry, I see you're in my area. I'm in Thompson's Station. Feel free to email me, I'm up for a trip soon!

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