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Thread: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

  1. #1
    Flashaholic steveG's Avatar
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    Default Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Hi folks,

    After years of being fascinated by caves and such I've decided to actually try it for myself to see if it's something I'd like to get into. I signed up for Speleo-Ed 2009 (next weekend) and am trying to prep my gear. Since this is my first trip, I don't have anything specific or optimal for caving, but I think I can get by with what I've already got on hand. I was hoping you guys could tell me if I'm on the right track.

    For a headlamp I'm talking my Zebralight H30-Q5 for back up and will be using my modified Cheapo Rayovac 3-in-one headlamp as my primary. I also figured out that I can attach my E1L or E2DL (with diffuser) to the strap using the extra silicone bracket that came with my Zebralight.



    To my eyes, the large LED (used to be incandescent) on the Rayovac is as bright as my stock 6P, so I figure that should be enough light. Right?

    What do you guys think? Will this suffice for my first trip?

    Lastly, although a helmet is not lighting related, I thought some of the members here could help. I realize it might not be ideal, but I already have a skateboarding/cycling/multi-use helmet. It seems to me that it's built to withstand the same typed of impacts (except maybe for huge rocks falling on your head) and that it would protect me just fine, but I'd like to get some more experienced opinions on the subject. Do I need to buy a climbing or caving specific helmet?

    Thanks in advance for your help!
    Last edited by steveG; 03-13-2009 at 11:15 PM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Hi steve,

    For me a good rule of thumb has always been 3 sources of light. 1) A head lamp, just about anything will do for this provided it has a decent run time IMHO it doesn't even have to be super bright, you can upgrade later. 2) A decent compact hand held is what I usually try to get most of my light from, but it should be small enough you can holster, pocket etc it so you can be basically hands free for climbing etc. 3) You should have of course extra batteries, and my head lamp is incan so I have also an extra bulb, but if you are going to get serious about caving and go on extended or tough trips, a back up for your backups is good ie a 3rd source of emergency light. Doesn't have to be super bright just enough to find your way out if you absolutely had to use it. As far as a helmet goes I am no super pro, but I have used a hard hat with a chin strap, and just the other day I purchased a bicycle helmet for this use as well (I have a friend who also uses a bike helmet ) for me the helmet is mostly to protect your head from bumping, or in case the climber in front of you knocks something loose, and not so much for falling. I do recommend having a chin strap though.

    Hope you have fun...
    Last edited by vestureofblood; 03-13-2009 at 11:25 PM.
    In Him (Jesus Christ) was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
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  3. #3
    Flashaholic steveG's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Deleted.
    Last edited by steveG; 03-14-2009 at 08:52 AM.

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    Flashaholic gillestugan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Hi
    Hope you have a good caving trip. In my opinion your lamps are very good for your first trip. You will be surprised how little light the eyes need and you will be able to use the lower levels on the lamps (unless you have age related lower sensitivity). All of your lamps give better light than the average electric caving lamp 10 years ago. I have many friends who have strapped normal bulky flashlight without diffuser to the helmet, kept extra lamp in pocket or simply held it in the hands. Very inconvenient, but works fine unless you will do some climbing. (which you usually don't do with beginners) They had a great experience and will have a even greater next time when they bring a headlamp.
    For the same reason (not climbing) i am sure you will be fine with your skateboard helmet. Just be prepared to get som scratches on it from bumping your head.
    Have fun!

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    Flashaholic* sORe-EyEz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    does the headlamp's strap sit securely on the helmet?

    i wouldn't want the strapto get caught anywhere & get ripped off...

  6. #6
    Flashaholic steveG's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by vestureofblood View Post
    Hi steve,

    For me a good rule of thumb has always been 3 sources of light. 1) A head lamp, just about anything will do for this provided it has a decent run time IMHO it doesn't even have to be super bright, you can upgrade later. 2) A decent compact hand held is what I usually try to get most of my light from, but it should be small enough you can holster, pocket etc it so you can be basically hands free for climbing etc. 3) You should have of course extra batteries, and my head lamp is incan so I have also an extra bulb, but if you are going to get serious about caving and go on extended or tough trips, a back up for your backups is good ie a 3rd source of emergency light. Doesn't have to be super bright just enough to find your way out if you absolutely had to use it. As far as a helmet goes I am no super pro, but I have used a hard hat with a chin strap, and just the other day I purchased a bicycle helmet for this use as well (I have a friend who also uses a bike helmet ) for me the helmet is mostly to protect your head from bumping, or in case the climber in front of you knocks something loose, and not so much for falling. I do recommend having a chin strap though.

    Hope you have fun...
    Thanks! I'll have several lights as well as batteries on hand. I probably won't start with the E1L on the strap but I figured it would be good to have the option. I'll have it, the Zebralight and one other flashlight with me.

    Quote Originally Posted by gillestugan View Post
    Hi
    Hope you have a good caving trip. In my opinion your lamps are very good for your first trip. You will be surprised how little light the eyes need and you will be able to use the lower levels on the lamps (unless you have age related lower sensitivity). All of your lamps give better light than the average electric caving lamp 10 years ago. I have many friends who have strapped normal bulky flashlight without diffuser to the helmet, kept extra lamp in pocket or simply held it in the hands. Very inconvenient, but works fine unless you will do some climbing. (which you usually don't do with beginners) They had a great experience and will have a even greater next time when they bring a headlamp.
    For the same reason (not climbing) i am sure you will be fine with your skateboard helmet. Just be prepared to get som scratches on it from bumping your head.
    Have fun!
    Thanks for help!

    Quote Originally Posted by sORe-EyEz View Post
    does the headlamp's strap sit securely on the helmet?
    Not yet, but I'll figure out a way to secure it. Thanks!

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    *Flashaholic* Marduke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    It sounds like you have your light sources just about covered. Your three sources of light are helmet mounted capable, so that's good. Make sure to have enough batteries to last at least twice as long as the trip should last in every battery format you are carrying.

    I also recommend another small backup worn around your neck. A Photon Freedom or Fenix E01 type light works well. If you have cells that need changing, or something happens to your primary on your helmet, you'll need some quick source of light to fix it, or dig in your pack to get things sorted out.


    As long as the helmet has a working 4 point chin strap, it's just fine for horizontal caves. In horizontal caves, the helmet is just to protect you from bumping your head on the ceiling, which you will do quite often your first couple trips.

    If you ever get more serious into caving, you will learn what you want to upgrade to. Probably something lighter, and better breathing. I personally hate foam lined helmets in favor of suspension helmets, even though they are a tad bulkier.

    I have two skateboarding helmets for loaner helmets, mainly because I bought them cheap at a thrift store for 99 cents each. I personally use a Ecrin Roc.



    PS
    Take 1 Imodium and 2 Aleve the morning of your trip. Don't ask....

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    Flashaholic tnuckels's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marduke View Post
    PS Take 1 Imodium and 2 Aleve the morning of your trip. Don't ask....
    Don’t:
    Drink the water
    Eat the yellow snow
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    And you don’t mess around with JIM … ♪ ♫ ♪
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    Flashaholic steveG's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marduke View Post
    I also recommend another small backup worn around your neck. A Photon Freedom or Fenix E01 type light works well.
    I was planning on wearing my E1L on a lanyard around my neck, but something smaller would probably be better. Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Marduke View Post
    PS
    Take 1 Imodium and 2 Aleve the morning of your trip. Don't ask....
    Ha! Roger that.

    Marduke, is a pack like the one in your pic as big as one should take or will a small back pack be OK?

    Thanks, everyone, for the info. It's very helpful.

  10. #10
    *Flashaholic* Marduke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by steveG View Post
    Marduke, is a pack like the one in your pic as big as one should take or will a small back pack be OK?

    Thanks, everyone, for the info. It's very helpful.
    Pack size varies from person to person. People tend to pack way more than they need their first trip, especially flashaholics

    Most people will use regular backpacks, or purpose made caving packs. I've seen some use old surplus gasmask bags or something similar.

    I am currently using a $10 WalMart fanny pack that holds two .5L water bottles. It doesn't hold a lot, but I don't need it to for horizontal trips.

    What pack you use depends a lot on the caves you go through. If you are vertical, you need room for harnesses and ropes. If you do a lot of crawling, a pack that you can drag behind you is a good idea. Most prefer a bag with some level of waterproofness, I simply waterproof individual items inside my very un-waterproof bag.

    One thing is for certain. Don't use a backpack that has a lot of webbing, or other attachments on the back side that will easily snag when crawling or walking stooped over. The more clean looking the back side, the better. That's one reason I like a fanny pack for caving. I can simply turn it to the front when I have to crawl or walk stopped, so it doesn't get caught on the ceiling.

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    Flashaholic steveG's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marduke View Post
    People tend to pack way more than they need their first trip, especially flashaholics
    Yeah, I tend to pack more than I need no matter where I'm going....

    Stripped of all it's attachments and extra straps the Malaga is not bad, but it still has the webbing. Maybe I'll check out the local thrift stores for a cheap bag I don't mind ruining.

    Thanks again for all the help!

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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    I think you will be fine with what you have for now. If its a big event they will have vendors so bring a full wallet

    Here is a link to a caving Grotto documents page. I sometimes teach the new caver orientation, based on these documents.

    Read Document 6 & 7
    Orientation and equipment check list

    other safety and techniques
    http://www.caves.org/safety/articles.shtml

    Look into joining a local grotto through the contacts on this page.

    http://www.nssio.org/Find_Grotto.cfm

    Good luck and have Fun!
    Light is the activity of what is transparent - Aristotle

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    *Flashaholic* Marduke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?


  14. #14
    Flashaholic steveG's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Thank you for the links, guys. Lots of good info!

    After looking into the helmets is seems that the "climbing" helmets are all suspension type. Is this right?

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    *Flashaholic* Marduke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Some are suspension, some are foam. I suggest going to several stores and trying some on, or trying on those of people you are caving with. How a helmet fits is very specific for every person. It's a bit like buying high end shoes online without trying one on.

    Once you find a style and size that fits and feels good, you can shop for the cheapest place to get one.

    But for your first trip, you should be fine with what you have.

  16. #16
    *Flashaholic* Burgess's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    And be sure to tell us all about it, when you return.


    Good Luck !

    _

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    Flashaholic* kevinm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    +1 on the secure light attachment to the helmet. Zip ties through holes melted in the helmet with a cheap soldering iron work well. Drilling is second best (more fatigue/chance of cracking). I've had lights get pulled off in crawls.

    As for packs, something with no zippers is best. You wouldn't believe how little mud it takes to make your pack unclosable after you have to rip the zipper open. A small pack is good for starting. If you really like caving and someone has Swaygo packs there for sale, get one. That was my second best (after Essential Gear knee and elbow pads) purchase.

    You want a tiny light around your neck because it will end up in your mouth if you have to use it to get things out of your pack and having a big light banging into your sternum sucks.

    Have fun! Some of my best times have been underground...

    Kevin

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    Flashaholic steveG's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by kevinm View Post
    +1 on the secure light attachment to the helmet. Zip ties through holes melted in the helmet with a cheap soldering iron work well. Drilling is second best (more fatigue/chance of cracking). I've had lights get pulled off in crawls.

    As for packs, something with no zippers is best. You wouldn't believe how little mud it takes to make your pack unclosable after you have to rip the zipper open. A small pack is good for starting. If you really like caving and someone has Swaygo packs there for sale, get one. That was my second best (after Essential Gear knee and elbow pads) purchase.

    You want a tiny light around your neck because it will end up in your mouth if you have to use it to get things out of your pack and having a big light banging into your sternum sucks.

    Have fun! Some of my best times have been underground...

    Kevin
    Thanks Kevin,

    The soldering iron for putting holes in the helmet is a good idea... I was thinking about drilling some holes in mine. I think for this trip I'm just going to strap everything on then use duct tape to keep it from coming off. Ugly but effective.

    I checked out the Swaygo packs. They look good, but it seems like a single strap would work better because they're easier to relocate from back to side or to front. It seems like that would be beneficial. Thoughts?

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    Flashaholic* kevinm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    I wouldn't count on duct tape. It's not great wet or cold, and the cave is likely to be both unless you are in Mexico or close to it.

    I don't know anyone who's done this for a while who prefers a single strap. I had an army satchet with a single strap and had problems with it swinging into my way. The Swaygo is flat enough that I seldom have to take it off, even in tight crawls. The other really good type that I have used was the Lost Creek pack (TAG, I think).

    Try out a few; you can almost always convince another caver to let you carry his/her pack for a bit.

    Kevin

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    Flashaholic gillestugan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by kevinm View Post
    I wouldn't count on duct tape. It's not great wet or cold, and the cave is likely to be both unless you are in Mexico or close to it.
    Kevin
    I think it will be fine as long as you use a duct tape with good quality adhesive, like the 3M for example. (cheap tape is usually bad in those conditions)
    I have used duct tape both under water and in temperatures below freezing with no problems. The tape and the surface you tape has to be warm an clean when you apply it, but once it's in place its usually fine.
    I wouldn't recommend drilling holes in the helmet if you are still going to use it as a biking helmet.

  21. #21
    *Flashaholic* mdocod's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Hello SteveG,

    I went on my first "serious" caving trip over a year ago, I hope to do it again someday, but am still recovering from a back injury and am always tight on time and money, someday I hope to go back to it and try it again.

    Here's some pointers I learned on my "new/old" experience:

    *Brightness is really more for fun and comfort. I found that a comforting reasonably bright incan really soothed me when negotiating tight crawls. The biggest danger in a cave for a "new" person to caving, is panic attack [read: claustrophobia]. I was able to keep myself in control by having the ability to "sooth" myself with a powerful incan that seems to "open" things up a bit.

    *For most activities, brightness is not important. The headlamp should have a low mode with a few lumens that you can leave on without any worry of running dry on batteries. I ran my Argo HP on low through most of the trip, with occasional flips to high mode, without any need to swap in a new battery. You will find that a few lumens are more than enough to do just about anything in a cave, more than that is convenience and comfort. High output is generally used in short bursts to get a feel for large areas or check out cool features of the cave. I actually brought 2 spare headlamps with me to start off the trip, and my good friend who organized and invited me on the trip wound up using one of those spares as his was dead from the get-go. That "spare" was a simple $20 LED job from walmart, and it worked just fine for him and works to this day.

    -As a flashaholic, I packed things along that impressed some very serious cavers that I went along with, they said they had not seen the cave in such detail before my flashlights came along with them. Powerful flashlights don't have to be big either. A nice wow light can be in the form of a 2xCR123 form factor, both incan and LED have options that are really bright in this size (500+ lumens). I would suggest bringing one just for fun and to show-off

    *I made the mistake of trying a "fanny" pack as my first cave trip primary "storage" solution. I was able to make it work, but there were many situations where I was removing it and dragging it through tight crawls. I think the ideal cave pack would be a PVC or other heavy duty plastic "dunnage" sack with a simple strap or 2, that you could alternate from being hooked on for dragging (like to your boots) or slung over the shoulder/neck when walking/climbing. Honestly, I bet almost every caver struggles with finding an ultimate solution to the storage solution, but holstering or hanging things from your person/clothing you will quickly find to be an annoyance as you will be rolling over on those things and getting tangled in them as you roll and position yourself in tight crawls/climbs.

    *I bought one of those Petzl Ecrin Roc helmets that Marduke has pictured above. They are very popular in the caving community for good reason. They are comfortable and convenient. However, you don't need to spend that kind of money if you don't want to. If I had to do it over again I don't think I would have bought one considering that I probably won't be spending a *lot* of time in a cave in my life. Anything with a chin strap that has some isolation between your skull and the outer later will work fine. Most hardware stores will have "hard-hat" construction helmets that will work reasonably well for under $10. The Petzl has some built in strap-hooks that make it possible to mount just about any standard headlamp to without problems. If you go with regular construction helmet or something like that, you may need to work out a solution for mounting the headlamp to it.


    Have fun

    -Eric

  22. #22

    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marduke View Post

    PS
    Take 1 Imodium and 2 Aleve the morning of your trip. Don't ask....
    and I thought I was the only one that took immodium as a preventative before caving. . . . ha ha ha!

    Sure beats carrying the mess out with you!

  23. #23
    Flashaholic steveG's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by YuccaPatrol View Post
    and I thought I was the only one that took immodium as a preventative before caving. . . . ha ha ha!

    Sure beats carrying the mess out with you!
    Fo sho! So do you guys carry extra bottles? Some kind of bag?

    One of these?

    http://www.cabelas.com/spod-1/0014250.shtml

  24. #24
    Flashaholic* John_Galt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    So, i have a question... While caving, is an un regulated headlamp or backup light prefered over a regulated light as a primary use light? Because then the batteries would just fail slowly, right, and the light would dim slowly.

    Second... I'm not sure, but I think that the Boy Scout camp where my troop goes every year is having a basic caving merit badge this year. It'll probably just be a simple in and out of some caverns, learn a few knots sort of deal, but if I were to take it, should I get the Zebralight H50 for a small area light? I would like to have a Zebralight anyway, but I was saving up for the new H51. I hope it comes out before I go to camp.
    I love my HDS/Ra Clicky... My only wish would be a 5th(accessible thru a 2click press) mode, and a 2AA tube.

  25. #25
    *Flashaholic* Marduke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by John_Galt View Post
    So, i have a question... While caving, is an un regulated headlamp or backup light prefered over a regulated light as a primary use light? Because then the batteries would just fail slowly, right, and the light would dim slowly.
    A well designed regulated light will not just die on you, but instead dim over a period of time, so it's rather a moot point.

  26. #26
    Flashaholic* kevinm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by steveG View Post
    Fo sho! So do you guys carry extra bottles? Some kind of bag?

    One of these?

    http://www.cabelas.com/spod-1/0014250.shtml
    Wide mouth Nalgene for girls, 1L soda bottle for boys. Get the wide hole bottle! Oh, and two Ziploc freezer bags with toilet paper, in case the Immodium doesn't work.

    Oh, and I've had 3M duct tape fail, too. Maybe the combination of warm and dry to wet and cold? I don't know...

    Kevin

  27. #27
    *Flashaholic* Burgess's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    FWIW --


    A recent article in Popular Mechanics

    (issue March 2009 , page 26)

    compared several brands of Duct Tape.



    The clear winner was "Gorilla Tape",

    which won in every single category.

    _

  28. #28
    *Flashaholic* Burgess's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    PS:


    Could also come in handy

    if you've forgotten to take yer' Imodium.




    _

  29. #29
    Flashaholic steveG's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by kevinm View Post
    Wide mouth Nalgene for girls, 1L soda bottle for boys. Get the wide hole bottle! Oh, and two Ziploc freezer bags with toilet paper, in case the Immodium doesn't work.
    Got it. Thanks for the info.

    Quote Originally Posted by Burgess View Post
    FWIW --


    A recent article in Popular Mechanics

    (issue March 2009 , page 26)

    compared several brands of Duct Tape.



    The clear winner was "Gorilla Tape",

    which won in every single category.
    Good. I just bought some on the way home from work. That makes me feel a little better about spending $11 on a roll of tape!

  30. #30
    Flashaholic* kevinm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Caving light for first trip... and helmet advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Burgess View Post
    PS:


    Could also come in handy

    if you've forgotten to take yer' Imodium.




    _
    Ohhhh.......the chaffing....

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