Got to try out my lights in a REAL cave

wjv

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Today my family and I had a chance to go visit Ape Cave. Ape Cave is actually a dormant lava tube located in Gifford Pinchot National Forest just to the south of Mount St. Helens.

The tubes are divided into two sections. The upper cave and the lower cave. Combined they are just over 13,000 feet long. We did the lower cave which is just under a mile long. The tubes are only 40-60 feet underground (there are stairs). The tube vary in width, but run between 10-15 feet wide. Height wise, the ceiling ranges between 15-30 feet high. There is an air vent at the bottom end of the lower cave which allows for a nice airflow throughout the cave.

Even the lower cave (the easy route) can be dangerous. When we arrived the North County EMS & Rescue were hauling a guy out who tripped on the uneven, wet floor and “blew” his knee out.

The last time we went to Ape cave was 10 years ago. At that time it was my wife, my 3 year old daughter, my sister-in-law and myself. We rented a gas mantel lantern from the US Park Service booth and headed down in. We made it to the end and were about 1/3 of the way back when our US Park Service approved lantern ran out of fuel, leaving us totally in the dark! Thankfully we latched on to some other groups and made our way our without killing ourselves!

This time I came prepared:
- Fenix PD32UE
- Fenix PD32
- Fenix PD22
- Fenix LD10
- 47s Mini-ML
- ITP A2 eos

And a fanny pack full of batteries!

So today it was my wife, my now 13 year old daughter, my 9 year old daughter and myself. I was also happy to see that my daughters decided to each bring their Thrunite Tis lights!

All I can say is a cave swallows lumens like they don’t even exist!! Especially when the walls were formed by lava so the coloring ranges from dark gray, to black!

Of course all the groups entering the cave had a light. Some people rented those gas lanterns. But most just had flashlights. Estimating the breakdown I’d guess the following:

15% had cheap incandescent lights that were dim as heck
50% had over the counter (Walmart, home depot and such) LED lights that were OK, but not that special
25% had LED head lamp of varying quality
10% had what I would call a better class of light than the Walmart OTC specials. . .

I was amazed that I saw some groups of 4-5 people where only one person in the group had a flashlight. I actually saw 2-3 people using the LED on their iPhone as their flashlight!

The PD32, PD22 & LD10 ran on turbo the entire time. I switched the PD32UE between levels a lot as level 3 (140L) & 4 (400L) were sufficient most of the time. Turbo on the PD32UE was especial nice when we wanted to view the ceiling or an entire cavern. I only saw one person who I could definitely tell had a better flashlight than what I had. I could tell the brand, but it looked a lot like a Fenix RC40 or similar format light. When he lit it up it was obvious that he had well over 1,000 lumen of output.

I normally like more focused beams, but in this situation the larger hotspot of the PD32UE was a true benefit!

So here are a couple shots I took. The cavern was probably 10 feet wide and 20 feet high at this point. The far “wall” is actually where the tunnel makes a left turn, and was probably 50 feet away.

LD10 on Turbo - 100 Lumen
LD10_zps10c4f310.png


PD32 on Turbo - 315 Lumen
PD32_zps203626d4.png


PD32UE on Turbo - 740 Lumen (with some lens flare added from holding the light too close to the camera)
PD32UE_zps61fef71b.png
 
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Obijuan Kenobe

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And now you know why cavers prefer flood lights, or at least you should. Having a hot spot move around on walls from 1m to 50m away is not nearly as useful as a uniform fading source as you eyes never need to readjust to light levels as you move the light around. This allows for the use of much less light as well.

obi
 

Imon

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I love caving!

The last time I seriously went I had a incan headlamp with 3x5mm LEDs. This was back when LEDs weren't really a serious high-powered lighting alternative.
Still, even a tiny bit of light can be a life-saver in a cave since it is absolutely pitch dark when you get deep inside a cave.

Wish I still had time to cave now... although I don't have a hard hat anymore (still have my knee/elbow pad though).
 

Slewflash

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Next time you go bring a Thrunite TN30. 3600 lumens to light everyone's way.

Just be prepared to bring a lot of batteries! It's one of the highest output lights which has decent flood and heatsinking.
 

blah9

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That's really neat! Thank you for the writeup. I'd really like to do something similar sometime.
 

socom1970

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Nice pics!

I love spelunking (caving) also. Here in Iowa, we have a network of caves (Makoqueta Caves State Park) in Makoqueta, Iowa. I bring my Malkoff Wildcat (4th gen, 1350 lumens), Malkoff Hound Dog (750 lumens), and a SF C3 bored with Malkoff M91 and my HDS Rotary 200L. Plenty of light for lots of good fun.:cool:
 

P_A_S_1

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That's pretty cool. I did a lava tube in Hawaii at the Volcano National Park but lights weren't necessary as the tube was illuminated with track lighting. I bought a light with me and was a little disappointed when I realized it wasn't needed. The tube in Hawaii was much shorter too.
 

wjv

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That's pretty cool. I did a lava tube in Hawaii at the Volcano National Park but lights weren't necessary as the tube was illuminated with track lighting. I bought a light with me and was a little disappointed when I realized it wasn't needed. The tube in Hawaii was much shorter too.

That's a bummer. . . :(
 

LightCrazy

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Great info. Thanks for sharing. I wish there were more caves near me. As hilly as PA is, and all the coal and limestone mines around, you would think there would be more caves available to explore.
 

LightCrazy

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Did you figure out if there was a difference between XPG and XML emitters? My fenix lights with XPG emitters have a nice hotspot, but my guess is that my Quark QP2l-X light with the warmer (greenish tint) and wider hotspot would work better in a cave. Thanks.
 
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LightOnAHill

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The caves in my part of the country are lava tubes, so the stone is black. They absorb a lot of the light, so the brighter the better.

i find my fenix tk40 does really well. Can't wait to take the ea8 to the caves too!
 

wjv

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Did you figure out if there was a difference between XPG and XML emitters? My fenix lights with XPG emitters have a nice hotspot, but my guess is that my Quark QP2l-X light with the warmer (greenish tint) and wider hotspot would work better in a cave. Thanks.

My Mini-ML was ok, but it's still only ~200 L vs the 740 L from the PD32UE. And in a lava tube with black walls, more lumens are better.
 

JAS

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Got To Try Out My Lights In A Real Cave

I have had the opportunity to use my light in a cave, too. I still recall at one of the caves the employee had an incandescent Mag-Lite. They were even mildly bragging as if THAT is the light to have for cave exploring. Well, without really saying anything to them, I used my own light and nearby jaws were dropping at the night and day difference. The cave employee somewhat sheepishly made a comment that I had a better light than they did!
 
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Shooter21

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Re: Got To Try Out My Lights In A Real Cave

I have had the opportunity to use my light in a cave, too. I still recall at one of the caves the employee had an incandescent Mag-Lite. They were even mildly bragging as if THAT is the light to have for cave exploring. Well, without really saying anything to them, I used my own light and nearby jaws were dropping at the night and day difference. The cave employee somewhat sheepishly made a comment that I had a better light than they did!
I love doing that it's so much fun.
 

TEEJ

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Re: Got To Try Out My Lights In A Real Cave

Caves are very cool.

And, yeah, flood is the way to go down there. Looking at a teeny circle of light get larger and smaller as it crawls along a distant wall, and trying to piece together what's out there is no fun.

Seeing an entire cavern at once as if you hit a light switch is a LOT better and more enjoyable.
 
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