Popular Science

Explore rocky depths with these four tools

PROFESSION­AL CAVING MEANS ENTERING A WORLD MORE DANGEROUS THAN ANY WELL-TROD TOURIST CAVERN. THIS BURLY GEAR WILL KEEP YOU SAFE AS YOU VENTURE INTO THE DARK.

- by ROB VERGER

1 Headgear

The tough thermoplas­tic shell on the 12-ounce Petzl Boreo Caving helmet will protect the top and sides of your noggin from bumps against hard rock walls. An integrated mount provides a secure spot for a Petzl Duo S headlamp to illuminate your path.

2 Footwear

Floors can be slick with running water. Tacky Vibram rubber outsoles on Vasque’s Talus XT GTX boots give you traction on muddy surfaces, while Gore-Tex membranes keep that H2O at bay. A 2-millimeter­thick leather upper guards your feet.

3 Joint protection

Wriggling through tight spaces is necessary in most caves—and tough on your knees and elbows. Pads from Gonzo Guano Gear feature neoprene cushioning to shield your bony bits and durable polypropyl­ene webbing that conforms to your body.

4 Backpack

Losing your food, water, or backup light sources deep undergroun­d can be deadly. The Swaygo Pit Pack’s slick nylonpolyu­rethane shell resists tearing, and its roll-down closure forms a waterproof seal that’ll keep your stuff dry even when totally submerged.

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