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'With virtually indestructible, light weight, rugged aluminium housing and 2 metre waterproof construction, the 1 x AA battery powered Fenix HM23 LED headlamp is ready for anything you can throw at it, and in the harshest environments. Equipped with a powerful Cree XP-G3 S3 Neutral-White LED, this single AA battery powered headlamp provides an impressive 240-lumen output with 53-metre beam distance'.

Ideal as a back up light then  ;) More details to be found here:

(y) Thank you Fenix - great supporters of UKC  (y)

To enter, post on this thread on the theme 'back up lights'

I'm using mine at the moment (and have been for weeks!) to see when looking for something in the understairs cupboard - the light has broken and both Badlad and our mate who's an electrician are too busy digging to fix it!  :LOL:

3 entries per person. Closing date 10pm Sunday 5th December.

Shortlist to be chosen by me and then over to

Good luck!



Active member
Backup light:  throttle and garottle..........Grey Wife Hole in The Neck Brace Squeeze.  (Carried around neck).

Backup light:  Cervical spine spinner........Aardvark Country.
(Helmet side mounted; chiropractic appointment post cave required.)


Ooh, I've had a few rather exiting experiences involving back-up lights  :D

I'll start with a trip to Skye, around Easter 2008, if I remember correctly. At the time, I'd only been caving for a couple of years and my choice of lighting was a Petzl Duo for primary lighting and a small single AA torch cable tied to the side of my helmet as a back-up (see below picture from the same era, but a different cave).

On this particular occasion, we were undertaking the "Uamh Cinn Ghlinn" (Valley Head Cave) through trip. For those unfamiliar with this sporting classic, a sharp an immature vadose passage is followed downstream for some distance to a climb down to where some large chambers come very close to surface. Continuing downstream, the roof drops to a bedding plane, where phreatic arches provide a route on with head mostly above water. After a short distance a hole through boulders provides the downstream exit from the cave.
Disclaimer: this description is based on my memory, more than a decade later.

As we wallowed through the watery bedding, I reached a narrow arch, where it was necessary to put my head underwater for a few seconds to pass through in the wider section below. Half way through, with my face fully underwater, the back-up light on the side of my helmet snagged on the cave wall. Instinctively, I pulled my head back to free it, but being in a stooped position, my head went up as well as back, now jamming the back-up light in that direction too!

For the first (and only) time, I felt real panic. My head was underwater and I couldn't move it forwards or backwards!  :eek:

In reality, I only had to drop my shoulders a few inches, my head was free and I was back where I'd begun, upstream of the duck. Even though, by this time, Andy was talking to me from outside the cave, I was pretty much ready to got he whole way back through, rather than face that duck again and it took several minutes to regain composure and complete the trip.

Had I not been using a back-up light on the side of my helmet, but instead had something like the HM23 around my neck, this would never have happened!  (y)


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I think I've posted about this before but I can't find it now - this is the experience that prompted me to always wear a backup light around my neck:

Rowten Pot in the Dales connects through to Valley Entrance through 3 shallow sumps, the longest of which is about 8m. Before committing to a pull through (which I still haven't got around to yet!) I wanted to recce the sumps from the Valley Entrance side, so I went on a solo trip to check them out. I stuck my GoPro on my helmet to film the action and set off into the cave.

When I reached the first sump I clipped the tackle sack containing my spare light to the bolt that anchors the free-dive rope. I took my helmet off, started the GoPro, and put it back on again. The first sump is very short so I practically stepped under it into the big airbell on the other side. The second sump is a proper sump, so I held my breath, ducked under the water, and started pulling myself through. As I was covered in neoprene and had a couple of lungfulls of air I was quite bouyant so straight away my helmet, with my only source of light, snagged on the roof and fell off my head - I can't have done the chin strap up properly. Unable to turn around and with little hope of scrambling out backwards I kept following the rope through to the airbell and surfaced.

I was in complete darkness in a small airbell with an 8m sump ahead of me and a couple of smaller sumps behind me. Very aware that I didn't want to let go of the rope I ducked under the water to see if I could see any sign of my helmet and light, but could see nothing through the peaty water. The only option then was to retreat, so with great trepidation by feel of the rope alone I set off back through the sump. To my relief I spotted the flashing red light of the GoPro on the passage floor just as I made it through. I rescued my helmet, firmly clipped on the chinstrap, and turned my main light back on.

I can't have been in the dark for more than 20 or 30 seconds, but that was ample time to thoroughly kick myself for not having a backup light on me. Which is why I now always wear one around my neck when caving. For this to be practical it needs to be small enough to never need removing for obstacles, and to survive anything you can throw at it.


For my second entry, I'm going with a tale I've told on here numerous times in the hope of encouraging people to use a separate headtorch as a back-up.

As well as creating a snag hazard (as described above), there is another obvious drawback to having your back-up light fixed to your helmet. What happens if you lose your helmet?  :-\

After a digging trip where I'd had my helmet off to fit up a narrow bedding half filled with liquid mud, the clip got jammed with mud and wouldn't properly engage. I didn't think much of it while we were digging, but when we reached the main pitch back out of the cave, I distinctly remember trying to clear the mud out, so it would clip shut properly. Despite my best efforts, the flat buckle of the Ecrin Roc made it impossible to properly clean in the circumstances, so I shoved it in as best I could and set off up.

40m up, as I looked up to clip in a cows tail in at the pitch-head, my helmet fell off, complete with my only back-up light!  :eek:

I was the last on the rope and the others were well out of earshot by now, in the crawls back to the entrance.

Somehow though, luck was on my side and my helmet jammed between my shoulder and the cave wall; I carefully reached around and grabbed it before disaster struck.

As with my last tale, had I been using something like the HM23 around my neck as a back-up, this would never have happened!  (y)


My third and final entry is actually very similar to Ari's post above, but for me, the cave was Swildon's Hole.

By this stage, I'd realised that a back-up light around the neck was a good idea, but it seems that at times, even that isn't enough. Sometimes, you actually need to switch the thing on!  :sneaky:

I'd stopped by Sump 2 for the familiar ritual of attaching lead to my belt and putting on a Neoprene hood ahead of the free-dives. Visibility was poor on this occasion, due to a high flow in the streamway, and I was later halted at Sump 5, where the dry bypass route was 1m underwater.

Lying flat in the water, I continued my ritual. I took my three breaths, ducked my head under the surface and glided comfortably through to Great Bell, where I surfaced. Without a thought, I'd ducked through to St John's Bell and was repeating my three breath routine before Sump 3.

As I reached the deep point, a couple of metres into the sump, I paused to clear my ears. After this, I gave a firm pull on the rope to get moving again and my helmet hit the roof and broke free of my head!  :eek:

Clearly, the buckle hadn't properly latched after I'd put on my hood...

I reached out for the brown glow ahead of me that represented my light shining through the mud. I grabbed the only thing I could see, promptly switching off my duo in the process!  :eek:

Now in total darkness, with one hand on that precious lifeline that would take me back to surface and the other on the helmet and light I'd need to find my way back there, this wasn't a great situation.

Had this happened to me 10, or even 5 years earlier, I'd doubtless have panicked, as I did on Skye in a far less serious situation. I'd probably have survived, but I'd never have wanted to go near a sump again. Fortunately, by this stage in my caving career I was a fairly proficient free-diver and trainee diver in the CDG, so the instinctive horror of being underwater with no light and a limited supply (one breath) of air was now not too far from my comfort zone.

I continued the 11m free-dive, with one hand carefully following the rope and the other taking care not to drop my helmet, surfacing in Swildon's 4, relieved, but still perfectly calm. I took a breath and switched on my light, only to remember that I'd got a back-up dangling around my neck all along!  :-[

Since then, I always make a habit of checking my helmet buckle and switching on my back-up light ahead of any free-dive.

Unlike my other two posts I'm not going to pretend that my fortunes would have been improved with a Fenix HM23. The issue here wasn't kit, it was just remembering to use it!  :-[


My inspiration for acquiring a backup light occurred when digging in the North York Moors, at the time I was rocking a rather excellent if slightly finicky Speleo Technics SuperNOVA. I remember quite well that in the lamps old age it's battery connections had a nasty habit of stretching outwards each trip. This often resulted in a loose fit, a habit of falling off in caves and in some situations a rather annoying (an headache inducing) flickering effect. It was advised or perhaps more accurately required that before each trip one would bend said connections back into place; something that I may (definitely) have forgotten to do before setting of on this fateful endeavour.

Several hundreds of meters into the cave and in a tighter section my light was doing it damnedest to give me a seizure with constant flickering, this was irritating but not as irritating as what was to follow... With a heave I heaved my body upwards, smacking my helmet against the roof and disconnecting the battery pack with its dodgy connections. "Ok no worries, I'll just reconnec..." With one arm stuck behind my back, no light, no backup light (damm my student budget) and mud like chocolate ganache sticking to every inch of my body, connecting said battery was proving to be somewhat more involved than expected. It was only after some fairly frantic scrabbling about I managed to get both hand on the project, (a distinct advantage I must add) and having found that muddy gloves don't make the best battery connection manipulation devices I was finally making some progress. But.... It just wasn't working! was wrong with the light.. was the battery dead? was it busted by the collision? Were pixie's.... Oh wait I'm just putting the connection on backwards.

It was a shaken and very relieved man who crawled back to the rest of his team after some minutes (time not fully disclosed) of panicked fumbling in the dark. It is of little surprise I acquired immediately after this incident a backup light and a promise to myself to never cave without one. To this day that same light has been faithfully attached to my helmet and has been used a few times in anger.


Well-known member
So there I was, struggling along the Meanders in the Berger many years ago; two big tackle bags dangling off the harness and a standard small Premier carbide lamp "lighting" the way (dimly). I was at the back of the party and had become separated. It dawned on me that I was struggling to see; examination of the carbide lamp revealed the flame had shrunk to a little blue and yellow pimple. No amount of fiddling encouraged more light to be produced and then the inevitable happened.

Reaching for the backup light on the helmet reminded me I'd taken it off the night before to find another bottle of wine amongst the piles of stuff in the depths of the tent. The spare carbide was somewhere in one of the tackle bags. There then followed the most careful of unpacking exercises, by feel. All items had to be placed methodically on unseen ledges until the precious jar of burning rocks emerged. Then the lamp had to be opened up, carbide applied, reassembled, drip valve opened and finally sparked up.

But it wouldn't light . . .  Sucking the jet failed to make it co-operate, so the pricker had to be deployed, together with considerable swearing. That did the trick and with a great bang the lamp fired into life once again. It seemed dazzling after the 30 minutes or so of sensory deprivation. Nothing had been dropped, the bags were carefully re-packed and I was on my way again, triumphantly.

I'm the generation that had to serve a long apprenticeship on carbide lamps as a child, learning the black art of keeping the "vital flame" alive. Setbacks like the above seemed to happen all the time, which is why I've been a strong devotee of backup lights from an early age. The lesson had certainly been reinforced that day in the Berger!


Well-known member
Me and a mate went out on are first ever underground trip we was both age 13 had push biked to a mine we had found on the internet and had stolen 1 wind up torch and a Wilkinson torch , we located the adit and stashed the bikes in the stinging nettles  , we had never been underground before and didn?t no anything about what we would encounter after walking straight for about 30 minutes we decided to take many turns and got ourselves completely lost ! No one knew where we was and we didn?t either really ! All of a sudden the Wilkinson torch started to dull and eventually die on us , many hours later we was still inside and the wind up peppa pig torch was still going strong !!! Eventually after lots of arguing and spotting a pair of original miners boots ?which I have been back to re photograph? we found are way out I remember arguing because there was  no day light but I knew it was the way out from other things I remembered seeing we found are push bikes and cycled home as fast as possible !

Lesson learnt always carry spare torches ! Very high chance We would never of been found !


Well-known member
Three months in to caving, back from an all the cake you can eat inclusive holiday.....knowing all there was to know about the sport and dressed dapper in my shiny new kit, I headed to Giants Hole.
It had been one of my first caves with The Dudley and I was keen to have a go at navigating it myself.
Down the crab walk and to the Vice I strode with confidence, but alas, since my holiday the slot seemed to have shrunk! I pushed and pulled but in the end decided to climb above the constriction.
Up I went in to the aven above razors edge, before I lost my footing and made a rapid descent.
My caving partners rushed to find me stumbling to my feet. My backup torch, which I'd worn around my neck, now half in / half out of my mouth!
After self rescuing with the help of my chums......and yes I went back out through the Vice...the paramedics cut away my shiny new suit, knee pads and under suit. Alas I never found out what happened to my backup torch, perhaps I swallowed it...and so I find myself in need of a replacement, ideally one that I can mount on my helmet as I seem to have gone off wearing them around my neck!




Fortunately they did rebuild me and now I have a jawline Buzz Lightyear would be proud of. Not so many teeth, but cake is pretty soft to chew on  ;)


Well-known member

I've never really liked the idea of a lamp around my neck; I think I should probably try and find something tiny I can stuff in an oversuit pocked (along with my tiny compass and whistle) just in case I do ever manage to lose my helmet while on my own, and then have a better light in my bag (I almost always have a bag underground with me). Maybe oversuits should have a built-in LED button-cell light in the pocket or something :p


Active member
One Xmas I arrived at Braida Garth for an NCC carry down King Pot , just after the main team had set off.
With the cave laddered to the bottom and plenty of gear to come out I decided to follow down for the carry out.
I cajoled 2 others, but after the first two pitches they opted out and so I carried on knowing I would meet the team coming out at some point.
As I got further in I began to hope that I could get to the bottom before meeting them, so raced on.
When I arrived at Elizabeth there was no sign of anyone and I realised I would have to climb down 20m without a line.
I checked my stinky was fully primed, psyched up, reached out, grabbed the ladder and set off.
I was now committed.
Almost instantly the inevitable happened and a small spray of water took out the stinky.
The enormity of my stupidity began to dawn on me.
I could not be certain of getting safely off the pitch at the top as the ladder was belayed out from the pitch head.
I therefore had no choice, but to continue down.
After what seemed like a long way my foot landed - what a relief.
Then before I relaxed I realised it could be a ledge and not the floor.
I felt around with my foot and sure enough the pitch continued.
A little later I again felt what could be the floor, but this time I was far wiser. I looped my arm and as much of my body as I could through the ladder, then carefully removed my helmet and went through the hand drying and stinky lighting ritual.
After a couple of goes just like Pitlamp described the stinky boomed into life, and there I was huddled in a heap on the floor of the shaft hugging the ladder.
I quickly stood up, tried to regain my composure and set off once more to meet the others.
I learnt a few things went well together that day;
Stinkies are good with back up lights
Ladders are good with lifelines
caving is good with your mates



New member
Back up lights: make sure to wear your flashing trainers incase of an emergency. Then all you need to do is jump up and down to create lovely disco lighting.


I thought I had nothing to contribute until last night, when my 21st century technology decided to simulate candle light after a good few hours of digging.

Let me preface the rest of this by saying I'm not a "candle guy". I don't line a bath with candles after a long day, nor am I particularly fussed about having candles on my birthday cake. But I can now confirm that my least favourite place for candle light was at the bottom of a rather large pitch. Rather new to SRT, and having bitten off more than I could chew at the bottom of a 100m rope with 6/7 change overs, this was far from ideal for me...

I arrive at the first change over and quickly began to understand the difficulties that were in store for me. I can only assume that this is what colour blindness is, when trying to distinguish between the spaghetti bolognese of ropes I had cooked up for myself (the bolognese being the thick derbyshire mud.. buon appetito). A romantic candle-lit pasta dish it was not. Is this my cowtail or my footloop? Or perhaps the rope I'm hoping for? What have I just clipped into my chest ascender?

A back-up to get me back up would've been most welcome.... There's a time and a place to practice change-overs in the dark but last night was not the time for me. Even after reaching the surface, a candle-lit walk through a cow-pat minefield was, well, sh**ty to say the least...


Well-known member
Back in the day secondary lights were an expensive luxury, as were main lights. I had acquired some bits and resined 4 F cells into a stripped lead acid battery case, wired as two pairs with a common pole. I reasoned removing the plate and swapping a terminal in the dark would be a cinch! Of course, a flat battery was the only cause of lamp failure possible...
During a Lancaster to Link crossover, which I had never done before, the inevitable happened near the top of the Wormway up pitch to Link. Removing the plate and swapping the wires over was not a cinch while dangling just below an unfamiliar pitch head in the dark. Luckily we exited the cave after negotiating the boulder ruckles that led to Link. The team going the other way had become lost and left the scene and we had climbed out on someone else's rigging. Guess it might have been an epic but we didn't miss the pub.
Had to go back later and retrieve our rope from the other end of Wormway...


Well-known member
Many moons ago a friend of mine went on a solo digging trip into the then recently extended Lumb Hole in the Peak. With drills, hammers and all sorts of stuff back up wasn't on the list! Anyway, while digging away in a flat out bedding tube he managed to smash the bulb in his Oldham's. No worries, he had a spare one. In the dark he set to and dismantled his lamp and battery case ( the spare was under the top plate). Success! Disaster! Promptly fused the cell by shorting it out (it was the fused version, not a cobbled up unit).
After a bit of thought all the kit including the drill were abandoned and he exited the cave by feel alone, negotiating crawls, squeezes and boulders on the way out. Eventually emerging at the top of the climb to the river bed it was cloudy night with steady rain on the trees, or to put it another way, as black as the cave and no audible cues to direction. Continuing blind he crossed the river, following the path up zigzagging past the crags and over the badger sets to reach the car with eyes like saucers! Must have been epic as he missed the pub!


Well-known member
Last one for me. The prize specimen on offer is the same as a friend got for his youngest to go caving. It is really good as a main light on its own, and has different power output settings. Unfortunately the lad has learnt how to up it to max, and then want to talk to you. This means shining it in your eyes! Painful and annoying, forgivable in a child but not so much in the adults that do the same (you know who you are!).
Given the trips he does this is a marvelous unit but the AA's don't last long on max, at least you can buy them everywhere

ditzy 24//7

Active member
When we're just had helmet mounted FXs went for a bar gg trip. When we got to the main pitch and bri had rigged it I had a bad feeling something want right and told him we should go out. Just as we got to the surface both our lights failed. We didn't have backups then either.