DIY Caving


By Cary O’Donnell

Thinking of going caving? Save time and money by constructing a Manual Underground Caving Simulator in the comfort of your own bathroom.

You will need:

  • 5 litre bucket
  • Hard helmet or large plastic pudding basin
  • Bicycle lamp or torch
  • String
  • Warm clothing
  • Cotton overalls
  • Walking boots
  • 12 house bricks
  • 2-4 kg ice


Take a 5 litre bucket and fill it with garden soil, avoiding small stones. If you can obtain some good quality clay instead then half a bucketful will suffice.

Fill your bath to a depth of 12cm with cold water. Stir in the ice cubes, mixing in the soil gradually. If using clay, make sure all the clay particles become suspended in the water. When ready, the mixture should look brown and slimy, like hot chocolate. Just taste it to reassure yourself. If it tastes like hot chocolate, throw in a handful of leaf mould and stir.

Place 11 of the house bricks in a single layer in the bath, making sure there are spaces between the bricks to damage your knees when you kneel across them. The water should cover the bricks by at least 10cm.

Dress up in all the clothing, with the overalls on the outside. Put on the hard hat, or tie the pudding basin to your head with the string. Tie the bicycle lamp to the hat.

The MUCS experience

For a genuine experience of the comforts of caving: step into the bath, kneel on all fours in the water then crawl backwards and forwards. To improve the authenticity, first board up your bathroom window and do this at night with the bathroom lights off. Don’t forget to turn the torch on, lie face-down in the water and slither about on your stomach occasionally. Get a friend to hit you on the head without warning, at intervals, with the remaining brick. If your friend is really friendly get them to lie on top of you. This simulates squeezing through narrow passages.

If you are doing this for the first time — don’t overdo it. Two and a half hours of this is quite adequate for a beginner to appreciate what caving is really like. As you gain in confidence you can stay there as long as you please.

PS: Abseiling — tie a rope to yourself and jump off a bridge. Don’t forget to observe all the safety precautions.

Copyright (c) 2009 St. Albans Adventure Group. This article was first published in the group magazine Stagger in January 1991.