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

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Postby cheshire » Feb 24, 2007 11:15 am

The idea of having pockets on the lower leg sounds great in theory, but will be wind up being impractical. It may be find for someone storing small, and lightweight objects, but the more weight you add to the lower leg, the worse it is for the caver. Adding more weight to the foot creates greater strain on the knee in addition to requiring more energy than if the weight was carried elsewhere.

The ankle pocket idea seems to be in conflict with the foot loop concept. The foot loop is only going to work if it goes inside the boot. Personally, I prefer a caving suit that's going to fit snug around the ankle of my boot (snugged with velcro, of course) to try to keep my laces partly clean. If you put foot loops on it, I'd cut them off and modify the suit with velcro myself.

If you're trying to modify the ankle of the suit, I would suggest taking one of my friend's personal modifications to his suit. He's got a large-toothed zipper from the ankle to about halfway up his shin protected by a velcro strap. That way he can take off his suit without taking off his boots. (He placed the aforementioned velcro "snug" on the other side of the ankle.

Stretch points on the crotch and underarm are great ideas. If it's durable but has some give to it, then that would be ideal. I'm not sure I would use the zippers for ventilation though. If I need ventilation I usually just unzip my suit halfway and tie my sleeves around my waist.

You mentioned the possibility of a two-piece suit. Don't do it. The one-piece design is solid and helps keep out water and mud.

I concur on the side of the butt reinforcement. I don't know how many coverall butt-blow-outs I've seen. Extra reinforcement of the seams and the strength of the material is essential here just because of how much we slide or scoot on our rears.

I hope you're getting the input you need!
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Postby VACaver » Feb 26, 2007 3:03 am

I think you should do some more research before deciding the application for the coveralls...I'm guessing that most cavers would prefer a pair of coveralls designed for the 50-degree range.

Zippers...not a good idea. They clog too easily and hurt when leaned on.

Leg pockets...nope. If I'm squeezing through a tight spot and my leg gets caught because of something in my pocket, it would be awkward to reach back and unsnag it.

Neoprene cuffs/collar...too hot and constricting. Same with thumb-hole cuffs...possibility of restriction of movement. If my sleeve creeps up and my arm gets wet or dirty...so be it.

Knee and elbow pad pockets...I've only seen a couple people actually use the pockets on the Lost Creek coveralls because the foam twists and slides out of the way when you need it most.

Take a pair of Meanders, add your super fabric to the high abrasion areas, and leave off the bells and whistles (pockets, zippers, straps, etc)...you'll sell a ton of 'em.
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Postby dem » Mar 5, 2007 2:47 am

Jillian, I'm especially glad to see someone trying to advance some of the features of caving suits. I'm trying to get one made to fit me right now, as a matter of fact, but that's an issue of fit more so than features or material.

My first impression is about the pockets along the knees. I live in Minnesota, and while we do look for walking caves, many of the others involve crawling on one's side, low crawls, and sometimes canyoning, where the knees are major leverage points, and pocketed objects may readily get in the way. What additional pockets I have seen other (local) cavers attach have been on the lower legs, although those were typically for additional carbide and water bottles. I know a few cavers that wear 16" boots, and pocket there would become troublesome. I put my pants legs into my boots to minimize how much the coveralls ride up my legs during caving, especially during digs.

The entire fronts of the knees, and wrapping around the lateral sides, are major contact points that will receive a good deal of wear. A larger area is strongly recommended.

Waterproof zippers are a nice idea, but how well do they hold up against mud? Covering with a flap and then velcro is the best method I've seen, which makes water resistance nearly irrelevant. Just this weekend, the 5/8 mile walk back to our vehicles (yes, I know that's reasonable, especially since the snow plow came through while we were underground) was enough to freeze the mud on the zipper. We were using up a fair amount of water to melting and dissolve it to get our gear off.

I'm not sure about the vents. The only time I've had true overheating troubles was when I was wearing a 5 mm wetsuit and we were in a dry section of the cave for too long. Once I got back to water, I was feeling much better.

I hope this project works well for you.

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zipper + mud = uh-uh

Postby hank moon » Mar 5, 2007 3:37 am

Jillian wrote: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.


You should find an alternative closure method - any zipper will fail long before the suit is ready to be retired. Before it fails, though, it will provide the user with many fun workouts.

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Postby VACaver » Mar 5, 2007 8:27 am

You might also take a look at some other fabric for your wear points. I spoke to a rep from the super fabric company and he told me that their material is twice as heavy as 1000d cordura. Wow...


Edited to add: I received some samples of "Super Fabric"...holy smokes it's heavy! Plus, the sales rep told me today how much it costs. Covering the knees, elbows, and butt of a pair of Meanders would easily cost $40 in material alone.
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Postby l lambert » May 17, 2007 12:03 pm

"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."




Let me know when you find that suit! :grin:
Having pursued the search for the perfect suit and the ultimate fabric I can say that what you seek is an elusive creature. The crotch gusset is a must do for high stepping. Heavier is not necessarily better. I've seen 400 denier nylon smoke the 1000 denier stuff. I have also used zippers with success with regards to longevity and surviving nastiness. They have to be a certain type and size to be of use. I treat mine with wax and protect with a velcro flap. With care and feeding zippers can be used. Good luck with keeping everyone dry and comfortable! Leo
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Postby VACaver » May 17, 2007 1:13 pm

L Lambert wrote:"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."




Let me know when you find that suit! :grin:
Having pursued the search for the perfect suit and the ultimate fabric I can say that what you seek is an elusive creature. The crotch gusset is a must do for high stepping. Heavier is not necessarily better. I've seen 400 denier nylon smoke the 1000 denier stuff. I have also used zippers with success with regards to longevity and surviving nastiness. They have to be a certain type and size to be of use. I treat mine with wax and protect with a velcro flap. With care and feeding zippers can be used. Good luck with keeping everyone dry and comfortable! Leo


Leo,

You sound like you actually take care of your gear! Wow, counting me, I think that makes about a dozen of us!

:laughing:
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Re: Research Student--Developing New Cave Suit--Need Input

Postby Jillian » Jan 24, 2008 4:06 pm

Hey guys!

I know its been awhile since this was orignally posted. But check out our final product. It turned out well for a prototype. We used a 600 denier nylon cordura in black and blue for the base of the caving suit, while the grayish-black areas are the actual superfabric. There is a high resistant velcro closure in the front and velcro closures at the ankles and wrists. These closures are adjustable and when not closed the velcro strap is easily enclosed in a "pocket" to avoid being caught on obstacles. There is a gusset in the inside pant leg to allow for optimal movement and a more comfortable fit when wearing a harness. We included a belt loop carrier on the inside of the suit for a belt, also to avoid being caught on obstacles.


Image

Image

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

Postby Carl Amundson » Jan 24, 2008 4:17 pm

Nice looking suit.

Now you need to "test drive" it in various types of caves and see how it responds.
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Re: Research Student--Developing New Cave Suit--Need Input

Postby CaverCraig » Jan 24, 2008 9:09 pm

Nice suit, when are you going to have one for sale?
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Re: Research Student--Developing New Cave Suit--Need Input

Postby Dwight Livingston » Jan 24, 2008 9:21 pm

I like how it looks. Great! And I see you have no stitching exposed to wear - that is a nice feature. On my suits I must Seamseal all the stitching or the threads will wear away too soon.

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

Postby Cheryl Jones » Jan 25, 2008 12:06 am

Looks good! Congrats! A couple of thoughts:

Are the armpit areas gusseted also, so the whole suit won't pull up when the wearer's arms are put up over his/her head? That would be a great feature. Then the suit wouldn't have to be so long in the body to accommodate arms-up motions. thus reducing some of the bulk.

How about taking out some of the excess fabric behind the knees and thighs? It always bunches up under the straps of my kneepads, and I have to keep adjusting it to keep it from hurting. The knees and elbows might even be made with a slight bend sewn in.

The reinforced section of the knees look very wide, which would be a nuisance. Are they meant to hold foam pads? If so, and maybe even if not, the knee section might need to begin higher above the knee to fully protect the knee.

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

Postby adleedy » Jan 25, 2008 9:16 am

looks good!....i do have a question and a couple thoughts though,

"These closures are adjustable and when not closed the velcro strap is easily enclosed in a "pocket" to avoid being caught on obstacles".... How easy are the closures to retrieve from their "pockets"with muddy gloves on?, When Im on phototrips I like to pull my sleeves up to avoid getting mud on the camera and this seems like it would make it harder to cinch the sleeve.

Personally, I would want the suit a little heavier than 600 denier, maybe 800d.

Again with the kneepads I would recomend not so wide, and a little longer.

Overall though it looks like you did a great job. :kewl:
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