Thursday, September 3, 2009
Budget caving for beginners - Headlamps!
Sometimes a hobby becomes a way of life, like when running a couple miles a week turns into training for marathons. Then, you want top of the line gear.
Other times, a hobby is just a hobby. That is how I feel about caving. Don't get me wrong, crawling through dark holes and rolling in mud are wonderful and fill my soul with joy. And, as noted in an earlier post, I would never skimp on my vertical gear, which holds my life in its hands when I dangle, petrified, over a 150' pit. I would also not cave in a bike helmet, similar to my earlier kayaking story. However, when it comes to issues that don't affect my safety and comfort...well, let's just say I am not going to be buying a $100.00 headlamp anytime soon.
For all you novice cavers out there who are not planning to head underground every weekend, there is an easy solution to your gear woes. Walmart and Target both sell LED headlamps in the $10.00-$20.00 range. I have spent a combined total of $25.00 on two of these budget headlamps. For camping I use one, rather than rely on the light of the moon to stumble to the nearest bathroom or hole in the ground, and for caving I use two and carry a hand flashlight as my backup light source.
Another bonus to the cheap headlamp option is batteries. They take AA or AAA, depending which you get, while I had a recent experience where we had to search more than one store in a rural area to find the less common batteries required for a friend's headlamp.
All in all, I have been caving up to 4-5 times a year with one to two (two is recommended) budget headlamps since 2006, and I really can't think of anything bad to say about them. While your local grotto members may all be wearing their $60.00+ Petzl and Black Diamond headlamps with batteries that cannot be purchased at your local gas station on the way to the cave, you will not be catching me in one anytime soon...
Grade: A (note: this is with two. Depending on which lamp you purchase, having only one may limit how far you can see ahead of you, in which case I downgrade to B-).
Note: There are budget versions of the name brands at REI as well, if you want to sport the lifetime guarantee on your headlamp...