Which backpacks for spelunking are best?
Spelunking, also known as caving or potholing in some countries, is a unique way to explore the world around you. If you want to get underground, whether in wild caves or show caves, your regular backpacking gear may not cut it. To really get the most out of your spelunking experience, you’ll want a durable backpack you can trust, like the Ortovox Trad 30L Dry Backpack.
What to know before you buy a backpack for spelunking
Since not all spelunking is crawling through tiny crevices in rock like it’s often shown to be in the movies, you may not need the smallest backpack possible. However, depending on your goal and the cave, you’ll want to make sure that it’s small enough and stays tight against your back. You may even want to consider getting multiple backpacks to fit different expeditions.
One or two backpacks?
Some spelunkers will use two backpacks: one larger and one smaller. If going this route, you have the freedom to pack a greater number of things and switch to a smaller, lighter backpack once deeper into the cave.
Duration of your adventure
Should you only plan to be in the cave for a couple of hours, the size of your pack isn’t as critical. However, should you plan to spend a day in there (or even go overnight), you’ll want to be able to pack an appropriate amount of food, water and gear.
What to look for in a quality backpack for spelunking
Ease of use
The last thing you want is to be fumbling with your pack while deep in the cave. Ideally, you’ll familiarize yourself with the backpack before going out. You’ll want to keep things simple while having all the features necessary for your journey. If you aren’t sure you need a specific feature, you may want to leave it out of your search. Simplicity is key here.
While you won’t always be pressed up against the wall of a cave, spelunking can be a spatially limited affair. If you know you’ll be in tight spots during your exploration, you’ll want a backpack that can handle getting roughed up while crawling along the cave walls.
This mainly depends on the duration of your spelunking trip, but it’s safe to say you won’t want to be carrying excess weight. While it’s better to carry a heavier backpack with all the necessary gear than try to go ultralight and leave things behind, you’ll want to balance weight savings and features. A good, lightweight backpack will carry everything you need without weighing you down.
How much you can expect to spend on backpack for spelunking
There is a wide range of prices in backpacks for spelunking. Most users will find themselves satisfied with offerings in the $100 to $300 range.
Backpack for spelunking FAQ
Do I need a waterproof bag for spelunking?
A. While this mainly depends on the type of exploring you’ll be doing, waterproofing isn’t a requirement. If you know you’ll be running into lots of water in the cave, you’ll probably want a waterproof pack. Most spelunking enthusiasts could benefit from having at least a water-resistant bag.
Do I need a hip belt on my spelunking backpack?
A. This is mostly a personal choice; however, a hip belt can get in the way in tight spaces. If you want a hip belt, a thin removable one is probably the best choice. Unless you have a big mission with lots of room the entire time, a thinner hip belt is likely your best choice.
What are the best backpacks for spelunking to buy?
Top backpack for spelunking
What you need to know: If you want a durable, technical pack, this 30-liter rolltop pack can fit all your needs.
What you’ll love: If you want all the features, this is the pack. With waterproofing, a roll top and a dedicated helmet-carrying attachment, this pack is prepared for whatever you need. Ortovox’s Full Contact Lite system makes sure the bag stays tight to your back when climbing or crawling.
What you should consider: While it has everything, new spelunkers may feel a bit overwhelmed trying to utilize all the features.
Where to buy: Sold by Backcountry
Top backpack for spelunking for the money
What you need to know: For entry-level spelunking, this durable and waterproof pack combines ease of use and simplicity.
What you’ll love: At 30 liters, this bag from Petzl is just large enough for everything you need but small enough to stay out of the way. The shoulder straps can be unclipped directly, should you get into a tight spot and need to drop your pack for safety.
What you should consider: If you want a technical pack with a more robust organizational system, this isn’t your best choice.
Worth checking out
What you need to know: If you want to go fast and light, this Dyneema-based pack holds a day’s worth of food and can take anything you throw at it.
What you’ll love: At just over a pound, this is one of the lightest daypacks out there. The straps are padded and comfortable and the hip belt is thin and removable. Light and low-profile, this pack always stays close to your back.
What you should consider: Some users have noted that the backpack can get a bit warm against your back in warmer weather.
Where to buy: Sold by Backcountry
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Joe Coleman writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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