Beginner Caver Gear List www.metgrotto.com/about/equipment.php]
As a beginner caver, the idea is to spend as little as possible on clothing and gear while balancing safety and comfort underground. If you get into caving more seriously, you will of course refine your gear, but almost anybody can put together the necessary items for a first cave trip without going to extraordinary measures. Keep it simple and use common sense. Cavers are more than happy to share their opinions, so don't hesitate to post questions to the group or contact people individually with questions. Caving is supposed to be fun — don't let the list below get in the way of having a good time!
In the northeast there is a good chance that you will get damp if not wet. Cotton is a terrible insulator once it is wet, so in general it's a good idea to try to wear as little cotton as possible. Choose synthetic fabrics or wool if it is feasible to do so. Also note that you're going to get dirty. Most of the mud will come out during a wash, but not completely. Your clothes can also take a good beating crawling around, so make sure you don't bring anything that you mind getting ripped or torn.
The caves in the northeast tend to be rather cool in comparison to others throughout the US: air temperature is in the low 50s. It is highly recommended that you wear synthetic or wool base layers, both top and bottom (you may hear cavers refer to this kind of underwear generally as "polypro", i.e. polypropylene; some synthetic underwear is indeed made of polypro). Do not wear cotton long johns. You can find synthetic base layers in many different stores, including outdoor shops like EMS, REI, and Paragon Sports, as well as general sporting goods stores, Wal-Mart, etc. Don't go crazy if this is your first time — it's not necessary to invest $120 in brand new Patagonia base layers.
Wear loose-fitting jeans or any pants of a similar durable nature. Try to avoid pants with tool loops, extra pockets, zippers, or anything else that can get caught on protrusions in the cave.
Long Sleeve Shirt
Wear a long sleeve shirt over your base layer.
Bring an old wool sweater or thin jacket (no cotton!) into the cave as your outer layer. Try to avoid outer layers with extra pockets, mesh panels, buckles, tabs, or anything else that can get caught on protrusions in the cave. Where possible, opt for multiple thin layers over one big bulky layer. If you have loose-fitting coveralls (i.e., able to stretch your arms over your head with no problems), bring them. Many cavers wear special caving coveralls that are reinforced in key areas and are made of durable nylon, but it's not necessary to invest in anything like this until you fall in love with the sport, which will be about 5 minutes after your first trip.
Wear wool or synthetic hiking socks. Another option is to wear neoprene wetsuit socks; many cavers wear these even in dry caves. You can usually find neoprene socks at Wal-Mart, dive shops, or sporting goods stores.
Ankle support and traction are important, so you need to wear boots. Avoid wearing expensive hiking boots because they will get muddy, scratched, and wet. If you don't have a pair of old boots, look for something cheap at Payless, Wal-Mart, or an army/navy store. Steel toes are unnecessary and just add to the weight that you have to drag around on the ends of your legs. Another option is to wear rubber boots with good treads, aka wellies (but don't wear your expensive Hunter boots, because you will be very sad when they get wrecked).
Bring a wool or synthetic stretch cap if you have one. If you get cold, you can put it on under your helmet.
Wear cheap gardening gloves (but try to avoid cotton!) or rubber gloves of the type usually sold for a few dollars in most convenience stores. In addition to providing you with some protection from the cold, these gloves will help you to maintain good traction as you use your hands to move over slippery surfaces.
Northeast caves feature a lot of crawling. A cheap pair of knee pads is a great addition to your cave gear. Different people prefer different style knee pads (soft, hard, sports, construction, etc.), so pick something inexpensive and see if it works for you.
You must wear a helmet when caving: no exceptions, ever. If you have a rock climbing helmet, that is perfect. You can also get away with cycling or paddling helmets, though they are less than ideal. Met Grotto has helmets available for beginners to borrow, so please talk to your trip leader.
Every caver needs a headlamp on his or her helmet. If you have one for hiking or camping, that will probably work. Met Grotto has headlamps available for beginners to borrow, to please talk to your trip leader.
Each person must have 3 independent light sources. If you have made arrangements to borrow a grotto headlamp, you still need to bring two additional flashlights or headlamps into the cave just in case something goes wrong with your primary light source.
In addition to the batteries in your lights, bring spare batteries, especially a full extra set for your headlamp.
Plastic Garbage Bags
Bring at least 2 large plastic garbage bags. Take one into the cave since it can be used as an emergency heat tent (tip: fold it into a small square and keep it inside the top of your helmet). Leave the others outside the cave and use them to store your damp/wet gear for the ride home. Garbage bags can also be used as mats to stand on while changing clothes.
Fluids and Food
Bring a small bottle (not glass) of water or some other fluid in order to prevent dehydration. On your first few cave trips, Gatorade or something containing electrolytes is a good idea. As you cave more often, you'll be able to judge whether just a bottle of water is enough. One or two candy bars or Power Bars is also a good idea. Power Bars will give you a quick source of energy should you become tired and/or cold.
You may want to take photos so all of your normal friends can look at you on Facebook and wonder why you thought caving was a good idea. You can bring a camera, but make sure it's in a protective carrying case if it's not waterproof and shockproof.
Container for Small Items
A wide-mouth Nalgene bottle (available at outdoor shops) is a great container for snacks, batteries, backup flashlights, and more. It's watertight and crushproof, and will protect small items inside your pack. A small Tupperware container will also work, but you may want to duct tape it closed to keep the lid from popping off. A more durable option is a small Pelican case or Otter box if you have one.
Bring a small over the shoulder day pack to carry the above equipment and supplies. A fanny pack also seems to work for some. The important thing is that your hands should be free when moving in a cave.