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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.


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.


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-millimeter-thick leather upper guards your feet.

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.


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

This story appears in the Fall 2020, Mysteries issue of Popular Science.