Paper and pencils

I wonder, is it a distinct Welsh thing to have cave logbooks, as used in Agen Allwedd etc?

There appear to be at least two good reasons for them:
1) Obtain insight into cave footfall trends and compare levels of use between caves
2) Know where to start looking for overdue groups in large cave systems if they adhere to a written-down route plan (but they?re no longer on their route plan if they got ?lost?)
3) Reassure national conservation bodies that can?t look at caves themselves, at least not officially for H&S reasons, that caving activity isn?t threating their professional interests.

I?ve just collected the logbook from Ogof Capel which I put there on 29/9/2011, so it tells me.  The last entry is 19/8/2021 with about 20 pages left unused.  It?s one of those A6 size surveying notebooks with plastic waterproof plain pages on which an HB pencil sometimes writes legibly.  My replacement logbook is A4 size laser printed with tables suggesting what details to record, again on allegedly waterproof pages.

Obviously the footfall data is not of urgent interest if it?s only looked at once a decade, and the third reason for collecting now seems irrelevant following the departure of Natural Resources Wales staff from the very same ?cave management committees? that their predecessors such as the Nature Conservancy created many decades prior.

Anyway, people are habituated now to describing their visits in these underground cave diaries and I get complaints if the logbooks get full or the pencils are all broken which brings me to the real purpose of this posting - which is intel on waterproof paper and waterproof pencils.

NRW used to provide logbook pages on fairly thick plastic laser printable sheets but these had a glossy finish that pencil lead does not adhere to at all well.  Of course the sheets got wet and muddy too, then the writing tends to wear off making the entries difficult if not impossible to decipher later on at home under a running kitchen tap to remove the thin mud coating.

I?ve solved the pencil problem with ?Woodless Graphite Sticks? branded Progresso (visit and available on Amazon.  These don?t snap or go blunt easily nor dissolve into a mush in caves.  Not cheap, costing ?15 for ten HB pencils, but ideal for leaving for future use in caves.

Paper is more tricky.  I?ve tried a ?Waterproof Paper? off eBay which turned out to be real paper impregnated with silicone water repellent.  Sure enough, tap water runs off it like a duck?s back, but being fundamentally real paper it absorbs water over a couple of weeks in a cave and starts to go, well, soggy.  The upside is that it is truly matt, so a bit rough to the touch just like paper is (because it is paper) and it works in laser printers, and pencil lead sticks to it permanently even when writing in the wet.  Cost was about ?15 for 30 sheets.

Next up, a Xerox product called Premium NeverTear, also suitable for laser printers.  It comes in boxes of 100 sheets which at the 95 micron thickness weigh 7.5g per sheet (a similar thickness to conventional 80gsm paper).  It is also available in 120, 145, 195u and upwards thickness which might better suit caving use.  The material is plastic film, not paper, so it does not go soggy, it has a semi-matt finish and HB pencil lead sticks well including the Koh-I-Noor pencils.  Cost was about ?35 for 100 sheets.

Any more suggestions out there on notebook paper and pencils that survive a decade in a cave?



Active member
Oddly, I was thinking something similar but for somewhere very different, what do you think about the classic lomo notepad? which is actually plastic not paper, in my experience the spiral binding metal is a bit flimsier that I'd like but designed for HB pencil use
Yes, the 11 year old logbook from Capel was a similar product to the Lobo notebook.  But the experience of everyone trying to read the old entries on the A4 size NRW sheets is that they have got to be washed under a tap to get the mud coating off to make them at all legible and then the writing can disappear too even if only lightly rubbed with just an index finger.  Something like a sponge will erase the writing.

The photos show a random page before and after washing under a tap and enhancing the cleaned up image in Photoshop.  You can see the names and figure out what the dates had to be in this instance, but I?m more interested in where they went and any comments about the cave condition really for which they left no clues (probably as none were explicitly requested).

Laser printing a grid is an advantage so there is a box for the route plan and another box for estimated time out, comments, etc which is useful in larger caves both to get footfall information about their remote regions and also to know where to go look for any lost people.  So I?m looking for an A4 size loose sheet product ideally that can be printed and put into a binder.



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Here's the "before wash" which for some reason didn't attach itself to the previous message.


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Active member

PM me an address and I'll post you a few sheets to play with.


Can you soak rather than wipe the mud off the pages? This worked better for me when I got my survey notebook full of mud, although granted it hadn't been dried on there for a decade!


Well-known member
I think investing in water resistant materials is great.  The vogue for underground logbooks has increased but they need maintenance. We started one in Frozen Deep immediately after it was discovered so it provides a record on virtually all visitors to it since then. I was amused after the near rescue a few years ago to see that the team hadn't signed in there (but I put their names in on a future visit). We keep log books in a couple of the Fairy Cave Quarry caves as well. My daughter and I found  a (full) log book inside one the lava tubes on Lanzarote a few years ago. I find pencils most reliable as pens frequently stop working and gouge soft paper. We store the log books in the old ex WD metal ammoboxes. We ought to add silica gel really.


Active member
Stuart France said:
Here's the "before wash" which for some reason didn't attach itself to the previous message.
Wow, that's like analysing a painting underneath a painting. You need an expert art restorer and a specialist CAT scanner. I won't offer help because my skill levels are closer to this effort  Any text I recover might not be the same as was originally written


Active member
Just wondering: Would shining individual different coloured lights on the page (red, green, blue, UV) make the text any clearer following the turn in the washing machine?  Or would that be no better than the various slider options in Photoshop or similar?  Could backlighting the page make a difference on readability?


Well-known member
I got a couple of Weatherwriter books last year, but haven't really had chance to test them much yet though. However, they do waterproof pens with triangular caps so they can't roll of stuff (genius), and their waterproof underwater pencils have a bloody lanyard attachment! Double genius.


Active member
DOH!!!  figured out my problem with ordering, don't need to order 20 so overwriting previous comment, please ignore
Here's a photo of the Koh-i-Noor pencils I bought from eBay in a box of 12xHB for ?14 inc post.  They're also sold in mixed hardness box sets for artists (some HB,2B,4B etc).

These are all-plastic pencils too.  The only issue is they have a grey colour, and the first time I used one surveying in a slate mine I dropped it in some rocks, and that was the last I ever saw of it.

I sharpen them at both ends and now stick a coloured band on them for caving use and pretty happy with the product.


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I have a set of these that I use for diving, never bother drying them out and the notes I made during a cave course in Mexico about 7 years ago are still very legible and seem a decent enough texture for writing on.

Not, however, cheap.