Travelling light while caving is a must, but how to do this when each CAVES participant needs to dress in several garments for each exploration occasion is a real challenge.

There is a secret to it – layers.

The cavenauts will wear a first layer of thin and thermal clothing. Pants, T-shirts, underwear and socks will keep them warm and dry. An antibacterial fabric will minimise smells and can be used for several days in a row.

The clothes offer thermoregulation throughout different activity levels and temperatures inside the cave – it provides warmth when the wearer feels cold, and cooling when he or she feels hot.

The second layer is a water-resistant and breathable over-suit.

These boots are made for caving. Credits: ESA – A. Romeo

Special caving boots are another crucial element designed for muddy and wet terrain. The shoes manufactured by Gaibana are designed for extra grip in any terrain. They have been tested during several CAVES expeditions and adapted to the specific characteristics of the new location for safety reasons.

Dressed for the occasion

Comfort and protection are key when it comes to clothing. The cavenauts will use certified helmets with Scurion lamps, and gloves to protect their hands during tough climbing. Kneepads and elbow protection also come with the package.

“The cave becomes your second home, and it is important to be comfortable in it. The right clothing has an impact on the performance of the explorer,” explains Daniela Barbieri, CAVES responsible for astronaut equipment.

She shares another secret – preparations. “We started working on every aspect of CAVES over a year ago, including the testing of every piece of equipment underground. The astronauts might only see the tip of the iceberg,” she adds.

Helmet tower. Credits: ESA – A. Romeo

Much like during a spacewalk, astronauts will use harnesses and carabiners to overcome obstacles in their way. About three kilometres of rope and 300 carabiners will be at their disposal as they climb, descend and move around the cave.

 Stay dry, warm and clean

Cavenauts will use dry suits for crossing underground lakes and rivers. When it comes to bed time, they will have a double-faced duvet cover and sleeping bags for both dry and wet conditions inside the cave.

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps tries dry suit for exploration in cave waters. Credits: ESA – A. Romeo

Participants will carry a special hygiene kit with biodegradable toothpaste in the form of pills and an ecofriendly herbal soap. “We are taking extra care to protect the cave and we follow a strict protocol to not pollute anything with human waste,” points out Francesco Maria Sauro, expedition and logistics coordinator for Miles Beyond.