The only choice for Bogg Hall and Jenga’s new extensions. Warm when wet, immersed and moving – but offers little insulation and easily chilled when subsequently smoking fags and surveying. The wetsuits thick second skin provides significant protection from knocks and abrasion and allows a smooth, sleek profile. The latter is an advantage in a horizontal muddy squeeze, but in a vertical muddy chimney simply gives much needed amusement to others wearing Cordura. Wetsuits are often used by Wild Swimmers to great effect and the sleek profile is best observed in the likes of Elle Harrison and Professor Alice Roberts. Normal male cavers are advised to use a boiler suit (see below) to mitigate against the usual “when’s the baby due” jibes from female members.
New (and later old type) Meander.
Waterproof but “boil in the bag” so you can’t afford to get sweaty. Simply the only new fabric suit available if you value waterproofness over toughness. The seams are heat-sealed and are generally tougher than the fabric itself. PVC type suits are also generally easier to clean than textile ones. The big downside is a tear can now prove difficult to fix without stitching with fishing line and doing something to prevent the stitches tearing. The use of these modern eco friendly materials means a decent crotch tear could prove terminal if the user is shy.
ICI green acid suit.
Previously used by the bellwether of the UK economy and the company that brought you indestructible socks. The green suits are meant to protect you from chemical attack so anything found inside a cave (other than Ridley Scott’s Alien) is unlikely to be a problem. Stitched and heat sealed seams, waterproof and does not shrink. These are tough, vintage, and fixable with patches of all sorts of material from DIY shops. The acid suits; when available, are sized for ICI process operators – so are a slack fit on most cavers and not sweaty. While not as sexy as an AV they are manufactured from unobtainium, are made in England, ultra rare and highly desirable. Originally they came with a 1-year warranty that did not include caving and potholing. Used examples could be purchased for a few pence on an ICI scrap chit for those cavers who were not on first name terms with the gatehouse security man.
Petzl and TSA
As per the original Meander (or Troll) for those old enough to remember them. Seen as the Gucci version of the “boil in the bag” suits with the advantages of the AV in being sexy and the advantages of the Warmbac in being tough. Manufactured from defunct eco damaging materials that are fixable with easily available eco damaging solvent-based adhesives and assorted patches bought from DIY stores.
Rarity value pushes the prices up and they tend to be kept for Sunday best. Petzl’s and TSA’s do not come up on the market often and ownership can result in a non-invasive version of underground rape if used in the presence of others wearing Cordura.
The standard suit is tough but does not remain waterproof for long. It is also more flexible than the Warmbac Digger but has a zip as opposed to Velcro seal. The Digger is hugely tough, but again it does not retain its waterproofing. Essentially the Digger is Bomb Proof – but the big downside is the fabric is not supple and you can actually stand a suit up on its own after a month of use. The stiffness of the fabric develops over time and can prove to be irritating on trips longer than North York Moors classics.
Both standard and Digger suits shrink like buggery and need to be bought at least two sizes oversize, which is a major downside for Large People. Basically having to ask Ursula for an XXXXL special order could prove embarrassing. Many people do not believe the extreme shrinkage – hence the good 2nd hand availability of cheap used suits from individuals who think they have put on weight due to Covid lockdowns.
A very well cut Gucci level design and Very Sexy kit on the right person. Especially suitable for lady cavers as the female version shows off feminine curves very well. The arse is the weak point; eventually producing a large loose flap that rather negates the above advantages.
Waterproof for a while but eventually soaks in water, allowing the wearer to become damp. The AV Titan is very flexible, so if you are female and can do the splits – then this is the suit for you. Please be aware that Tony won’t sell Rachel one because she will definitely break it – unlike Warmbac Diggers, which she eventually breaks anyway.
Males owning AV’s have been miss-informed by sales people.
Commonly referred to as “Dry Grots” by anyone capable of remembering Debbie Harry singing Heart of Glass on Top of the Pops. Boiler suits are cheap, light, flexible, compact and easily washed. They form the staple outer clothing of mine explorers and are very breathable. The downside is they are not at all waterproof and once wet increase in weight dramatically. The strategic purchase of a suit with reflective stripes means that underground photographers will avoid oneself like the plague – which is a plus point. The superabundance of pockets is a significant bonus and they are often emblazoned with company logos so other users can tell where they have been stolen from.
Although the above items have their uses – Tweed is destined to make a comeback.
Jackets are available from charity shops and E-bay, but one must take care in choosing the correct fabric. Irish Tweeds such as Donegal Mist are high end, hand woven items but the cashmere, kid-mohair and wool blend is totally unsuitable for anything other than a club dinner.
The Harris Tweeds are available in many weights and come in assorted naturalised shades of colour. The browns and heather’s being more suited to caving than the grey’s which foreign language teachers or artists usually wear. The Scottish Border Twist’s represent the pinnacle of Tweed caving suits. These stylish jackets, made from three-ply thorn-proof & pure virgin wool are both stylish and tough. When accompanied with breeches and an orange bailing twine belt the outfit provides both ladies and gentlemen smart attire for both caving and post caving pub use – negating the need to get changed.