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Thread: Got to try out my lights in a REAL cave

  1. #1

    Default Got to try out my lights in a REAL cave

    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


    PD32 on Turbo - 315 Lumen


    PD32UE on Turbo - 740 Lumen (with some lens flare added from holding the light too close to the camera)
    Last edited by wjv; 08-26-2013 at 08:17 AM.
    Bill
    Pacific NW

  2. #2

    Default Re: Got to try out my lights in a REAL cave

    Nice,, I love caves.

  3. #3
    Flashaholic* Obijuan Kenobe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Got to try out my lights in a REAL cave

    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
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    Have your knife and light handy at all times.
    Sent from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Got to try out my lights in a REAL cave

    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).

  5. #5

    Default Re: Got to try out my lights in a REAL cave

    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.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Got to try out my lights in a REAL cave

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

  7. #7
    Flashaholic* socom1970's Avatar
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    Default Re: Got to try out my lights in a REAL cave

    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.
    "Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

  8. #8
    Flashaholic* P_A_S_1's Avatar
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    Default Re: Got to try out my lights in a REAL cave

    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.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Got to try out my lights in a REAL cave

    Quote Originally Posted by P_A_S_1 View Post
    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. . .
    Bill
    Pacific NW

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Got to try out my lights in a REAL cave

    I would use a quality low lumen light to keep the place spooky.
    Last edited by dealgrabber2002; 08-26-2013 at 02:58 PM.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Got to try out my lights in a REAL cave

    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.
    FENIX E01, E05, E15, LD22, PD32 S2, TK15 S2, TK35 U2. STREAMLIGHT PolyTac LED, Strion LED[B]. Foursevens Quark Pro QP2L-X. And a couple of old MagLights for nastalgia, and lets face it- if you ever lose your hammer... 18650 Charging provided by Xtar WP2 II.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Got to try out my lights in a REAL cave

    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.
    Last edited by LightCrazy; 09-03-2013 at 11:12 AM. Reason: Content.
    FENIX E01, E05, E15, LD22, PD32 S2, TK15 S2, TK35 U2. STREAMLIGHT PolyTac LED, Strion LED[B]. Foursevens Quark Pro QP2L-X. And a couple of old MagLights for nastalgia, and lets face it- if you ever lose your hammer... 18650 Charging provided by Xtar WP2 II.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Got to try out my lights in a REAL cave

    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!

  14. #14

    Default Re: Got to try out my lights in a REAL cave

    Quote Originally Posted by LightCrazy View Post
    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.
    Bill
    Pacific NW

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    Default 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!
    Last edited by JAS; 09-03-2013 at 02:23 PM.

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    Flashaholic* RI Chevy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Got To Try Out My Lights In A Real Cave

    What light did you use JAS?

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    Flashaholic* Shooter21's Avatar
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    Default Re: Got To Try Out My Lights In A Real Cave

    Quote Originally Posted by JAS View Post
    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.

  18. #18
    Flashaholic* f22shift's Avatar
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    Default Re: Got To Try Out My Lights In A Real Cave

    jealous!

  19. #19
    Flashaholic* Federal LG's Avatar
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    Default Re: Got To Try Out My Lights In A Real Cave

    Awesome!! I love caves!

    "I LOVE THE SMELL OF LITHIUM BATTERIES IN THE MORNING..." - Kilgore

  20. #20
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    Default 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.

  21. #21

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

    My wife and I went to Mammoth Cave a few years back and I was awestruck! I was a geology major in college and found it very interesting. I had an ITP C8 on my belt, a Nitecore D10 in my pocket, and a Gerber Infinity Ultra around my neck, and was actually thinking runtime over brightness if I were to actually go cave exploring without a guide. No way I would do that in Mammoth Cave!! . I used the C8 to look at the ceiling and down side passages. Some of the areas in the cave would fit a football field!

  22. #22

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

    These all sound like really fun experiences! I just visited some caverns in England recently, and I had the same experience with the tour guide having a dim light. I assume my PD32UE's output was appreciated by everyone there, since it certainly made much more of the cavern visible. We had a great time for sure, and I'm looking forward to checking out some more soon! Next time I'll bring along the TK75 as well. There was one opening that went quite a ways (100 meters) away.

  23. #23

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

    Quote Originally Posted by blah9 View Post
    These all sound like really fun experiences! I just visited some caverns in England recently, and I had the same experience with the tour guide having a dim light. I assume my PD32UE's output was appreciated by everyone there, since it certainly made much more of the cavern visible. We had a great time for sure, and I'm looking forward to checking out some more soon! Next time I'll bring along the TK75 as well. There was one opening that went quite a ways (100 meters) away.
    which places did you visit? ive been to wookie hole and cheddar gorge. had no torch with me though

  24. #24

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

    I've explored hundreds of mines but this one was always the most special to me. The Hawver cave was a natural limestone cave filled with prehistoric fossils and other wonders. They dynamited the entrance but as a kid I would squeeze through a tiny opening that would send a claustrophobic person into panic mode and explore for hours. Now they are opening the cave back up to the public and are planning tours as early as this Fall. Can't wait to bring my Tn31mb and Fenix Tk-75 with me this time.

    http://hawvercave.org/MQM_HC_Tour_Guide.html

  25. #25

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

    Quote Originally Posted by jcr71 View Post
    which places did you visit? ive been to wookie hole and cheddar gorge. had no torch with me though
    That sounds like fun! I went to a couple places in the Peak District. One was Poole's Cavern and the other was Peak Cavern. I sort of wish my trip was a little longer so I could have visited some more.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Got To Try Out My Lights In A Real Cave

    Quote Originally Posted by RI Chevy View Post
    What light did you use JAS?
    I think I had the Inova T4 (Gen 2) on that trip.

  27. #27
    Flashaholic Jakeyb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Got To Try Out My Lights In A Real Cave

    Nitecore caveman!!

  28. #28
    Flashaholic* RI Chevy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Got To Try Out My Lights In A Real Cave

    Quote Originally Posted by JAS View Post
    I think I had the Inova T4 (Gen 2) on that trip.
    Thank you.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Got To Try Out My Lights In A Real Cave

    My wife and I did the Ape Caves about 10 years ago, but we did it in winter when there was about 3 feet of snow on the ground. You can't drive all the way to the Ape Caves parking lot because of the snow. We parked at a lower parking lot and then used rented snow shoes to hike to the caves (good excuse to use my GPS). That was our first time using snow shoes. We then did the lower and then the upper cave and snow shoed back. It is still one of our best memories and we really want to do it again. I don't remember what flashlights I had at the time, but they have come a long way in that time.

  30. #30

    Default Re: Got to try out my lights in a REAL cave

    Thanks for relating your experience in the cave. That is a great opportunity to use your different flashlights. I wonder too what most people would carry in a group.

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