Ultimate Buyer's Guide for New Cavers on a Budget

Written by Jim Belt in Recommended gear
Picture of dirty cheap caving gear hanging from wall

Want to go caving for the first time without spending hundreds of dollars? I did to. Let's see what the best caving gear is for cavers on a budget. This article gives you a great beginner packing list for about $60, $150 and $300.

I've actually done the research and compiled three complete caving kits for anyone who wants to test it out before committing to the 'real package'. Of course you shouldn't overspend before you've actually ever tried it.

First of all, I encourage you to rent or borrow a helmet and headlamp for your very first caving trip. You can rent an entire outfit for as little as $20 a day. Then, if you decide you wish to continue caving, I recommend you spend about $150 on quality gear, as this gets you stuff you'll be able to use for a long time.

The main takeaway for this post is that if you are clear on where to spend your money on, you end up with equipment you would want to keep using - even after getting the good stuff.

I Want to Talk Fundamentals

Before discussing any gear, let's talk fundamentals. I try not to over-explain in this article, but I do want to help you understand what to look for. If you want to go in-depth on any gear, please read any of the articles I link to at the bottom of this page.

All caving gear should comply to the following standards:

  • Helmets should be safe, resistant to multiple shocks (no impact absorption), and have no roll-off.
  • Any lamps should be waterproof, durable, and reliable. Preferably also rechargeable.
  • Protective padding should be waterproof neoprene as much as possible.
  • Boots should be all-rubber Wellies (no lining) with a thick and stiff sole.

Note: I haven't included any vertical caving gear, as vertical caving is more complex; the gear is quite expensive; and it's usually for more advanced cavers anyways.

What Will it Cost Me?

If you're smart, your first caving trip only costs you about $20. After that, I recommend to invest $150 - $200 in good quality gear, as this ensures you won't replace it anytime soon.

Item Rent Budget Value Quality
Helmet $5 $40 $50 $65
Headlamp $5 $20 $50 $100
Wellies $2 $20 $45
Knee pads $3 $20 $20
Coverall $5 $50
Backup lamps $20
Total $20 $60 $150 $300

Rental: I've used the average rental prices per day (US). Most rental companies provide premium gear, such as Ecrin Roc helmets, Petzl DUO headlamps, and so on. This is all very high quality gear you won't be able to buy for under $500. That's why I think renting at first is worth considering.

Please note: Prices are a rough estimate based on average salesprices from multiple stores on December 1st, 2018.

The 3 Best Cheap Caving Helmets

If you do want to buy your own helmet, these are the helmets I recommend on a budget (don't go any cheaper on your helmet, as it protects your head, and that is reason enough I belief).

Budget Caving Starters Kit

You're probably better off by spending the money on renting some gear. Really, you can get a decent outfit for $20 a day, and you won't buy anything of real value anyways. Buying three items or more ensures the quality of the items will be so bad, you'll need (or want) to replace them within 6 months, which is a waste I think.

If you do want to get your own gear right away, I'd recommend limiting it to buying just a headlamp and helmet:

For the rest, you'll need to do with what you have already. Old clothes, old shoes, a flashlight, and preferably a rain coat. Be sure to check out my article on caving clothes and equipment, in which I give an overview of what you'll need on your first trip.

Quality Mid-Price Beginners Gear

I'd focus on getting a good helmet and headlamp, and maybe throw in a couple of wellies and knee pads. For this kind of money you could actually get good equipment that you'll be able to use for a long time - if you spend it on the right items.

If you're willing to double down on the headlamp, I'd definitely consider switching out the Storm Headlamp for the Zebralight H6000Fw MKIV, which is the real bargain.

My Best Value Caving Starter Kit

For this kind of money, you could actually get a good quality starter kit. This is the kit I've bought and am quite happy with:

More Info on all Equipment