Much of what we love to do most in the world that takes place outside take place above the surface. Hiking is one of the most popular activities to take part, but it can pretty much only be done in the day and only when the weather is nice. No one likes to hike in the night, tripping over every little rock and twig and no one likes to hike in the rain. Most sports and outdoor activities are like this. However, there is one activity that can be done in Idaho which does not exactly care about what time it is or what is going on outside. You still tend to do it during the day (And doing it in a rainstorm can be extremely dangerous), but it is unique in that you need to bring your own lights and equipment. What I am talking about is caving, something that not many Idahoans take part in despite having a number of caves at their disposal. Caving is one of the most exciting things you can do on this earth as well as one of the most dangerous, and I would like to introduce you to what you can do with caving within the borders of Idaho.
First, it is important that we talk for a little while about what you should have when you go caving. Depending on how you chose to start, you will probably go with some kind of service or friend that can provide equipment to you, but regardless, you should take some time to figure out what you will need and what you should bring with you that no one is going to provide. The people you go with might already have a helmet in your size that you can borrow but they cannot give you the clothing you will need to be safe and comfortable.
So, let us start with the big stuff. I already mentioned a helmet. This is something you need for two reasons. First, cave diving involves a fair amount of climbing and the potential for falling. You want to be sure your head is protected from shortfalls. Long falls are going to be too much for your delicate little head, but you can generally avoid them. Instead, prepare for the moments when you slip on slick rock and fall on your head. Second, there are a lot of low-hanging rocks in a cave. You might find yourself walking along with no trouble and then your head smacks into an edge of rock or a stalactite. A helmet will keep you on your feet and help you avoid a concussion. Many caves require climbing gear if you want to really get into them. Naturally, this is a big and expensive part of the sport. You need to know how to handle climbing gear safely. I recommend starting with caves that do not need this equipment and working up to it, possibly doing some rappelling when you are not in a cave. Light is another essential. Caves are very dark. In fact, if you do not have a light in one, you are never going to be able to see anything. It is not like a moonless night. It is literally pitch black. I recommend having more than lights than there are people going caving. You always want redundancy.
Now for the small stuff. What clothing you bring with you for caving is very important. First off, you want shoes that are going to stick to the ground and keep your feet safe from stubbing and pointy rocks. Water is also going to be an issue and you do not want to be wandering around a cave with a sodden shoe. Get something waterproof or that is at least comfortable and useable when wet. Caving involves a whole lot of climbing and crawling. You want to protect your knees, elbows, and hands. Knee and elbow pads are musts and you should wear some kind of glove that also allows you to grip and hold on to things. You should also have plenty of supplies with you. This means some food for energy and a generous amount of water. Some kind of first-aid kit is also important as it is likely you will get scrapped up and start bleeding.
So, that is what you should bring with you, but what should you do while you are in a cave? First, you should never go caving alone. Even the most experienced cave divers will go with friends who know what they are doing. Really, it is never a good idea to go to a secluded place in the wild when you are alone because there is always the chance you will get trapped and not be able to get out by yourself. With caving, this is even more of a danger. You add the element of being deep beneath the surface of the earth with only a limited amount of light. Not only is it more dangerous, but the prospects of getting lost or hurt are a lot more terrifying. You should also be aware the caves are not warm places. Not much sunlight makes it down into the deep and there is generally a lot of pooled water in caves. This is a recipe for hypothermia and exposure. Wear clothing that will keep you warm and which will not carry water like a sponge.
You should take your time when exploring a cave, both to savor the experience and to make sure you keep yourself safe. There are going to be parts of the cave that are too narrow for you to traverse them. Do not assume that you will be able to get out of anything that you get into. There are plenty of people that have gotten stuck in caves. I have also mentioned water quite a bit leading up to this moment. Some of the water in a cave is going to be deep and it might even cut off certain parts of the cave. If you attempt to navigate this water without actually knowing what is on the other side or how deep it is, you might end up with a watery grave. So, be prepared and educate yourself for an overall happy and enjoyable experience.