Planning is crucial for caving because your state of mind needs to be healthy throughout the experience to remain calm. So deciding how much time to allocate to the adventure is a good way to start.
It takes 3 to 6 hours of your day to go caving. This includes travelling times, administration, safety briefing, gearing up and time inside the cave. On average, a guided cave tour can last around 1 to 3 hours underground. Experienced cavers easily spend 4 to 8 hours or more exploring caves.
Popular caves like the Mammoth Cave National Park are perfect for anyone who has no caving experience but who’s interested in the activity. There are casual walk-through tours that last around 3 hours and don’t even require any crawling or squeezing through rocks. It’s more of a casual and comfortable sightseeing experience, similar to hiking.
There’s another option at the same location called the “Wild Cave” which involves crawling through tiny spaces while exploring for 6 hours straight. The distance traveled being 5 miles, depending on your exact route, with some depths reaching almost 300 feet.
All these figures are based on how long it takes to go on guided cave tours, also known as commercial cave tours. Experienced cavers usually spend an entire day underground exploring or even mapping out new caves.
What Determines How Long It Takes To Go Caving Caving?
Here are the key factors that play a role in the time it will take you to explore a cave.
The Cave Difficulty
The more tight gaps you need to squeeze through, the more time it’s going to take to get through. Beginner caves are usually much quicker to get through because gaps are bigger and easier to get through. Advanced caves have more vertical ascending and descending sections to navigate through making it long to carefully work your way through.
The Group Size
The more people there are in your group, the longer it takes to navigate through the cave. Each person has to get through tight sections before waiting for the others to get through before moving on to the next challenge.
Having said this, the more people in your group, the safer. It’s best to go caving with at least 4 to 6 people. This makes it a lot safer while not having so many people in the group that it slows the experience down too much. If you have over 6 people in your group, you’re going to be waiting a long time for each person to get through those tiny holes in the cave.
How Fast You Move
This one is obvious but worth mentioning for all those who haven’t experienced caving yet. It can take one person 2 minutes to walk through a certain section of a cave while someone else might stop and take in all the visually stimulating sites and spend ten times longer to get through the same section.
In my experience, caving is far more enjoyable when I’m not thinking about how long I’ve been down there, but I do keep an eye on the time every now and then for safety reasons.
How Far Do You Walk While Caving?
A short 2 to 4 hour cave tour wouldn’t usually be more than 5 miles of walking, especially if you truly appreciate the sights and wonders inside the cave. Longer caving journeys will have you walking well over 8 miles.
Every cave is as unique as your fingerprint so there is no exact distance or time for any one caving experience.
How Do You Get Into Caving?
You can get into caving by joining local grottos and meeting established cavers. If you’re serious about caving becoming a more regular activity, take time to learn the theory behind it, best practices and so on.
For an in-depth look on how to get into caving, follow this link to another article I wrote.
How Dangerous Is Caving?
In terms of raw statistics, the odds of dying while caving is about 1 in 3,332 and the odds of getting seriously injured is 1 in 624. The odds of dying or sustaining injuries are far less with guided cave tours because the cave is regularly inspected and monitored by geologists.
Hang gliding is around 6X more dangerous than caving while canoeing is 3X safer.
For more information about how dangerous cave diving is, follow this link to an article I wrote that answers the question in more detail.
Caving requires at least half the day but ideally, you will probably enjoy the experience more if you set the entire day aside for the caving adventure. Even if you only spend 1 to 2 hours inside the cave, it’s going to take extra time to get to the location and go through the basic safety training and gearing up.
As you go caving more often, you will notice how you spend more and more time underground on every trip.