Sprayway people: Eve’s Women in Caving weekend February 07, 2023 At Sprayway, part of our vision has always been to promote diversity and inclusion in the outdoor world. Whether that’s through gender, age, ability… the outdoors is for everyone. That’s why we have a long history of promoting women+ in outdoor sports - including sponsoring the first ever woman to climb Mount Everest!Last Saturday, Speleo Sisters (a community of women+ cavers), hosted a Women in Caving weekend. And a member of the Sprayway team, Eve, went along! Eve has always had a passion for the outdoors, particularly caving which has been a hobby of hers since she was young. Eve explained how she got started at Sprayway, and where her passion for the outdoors and caving came from: “I’ve only been in my role at Sprayway for just over six months, but before starting this job, I worked as a shop assistant at an outdoor shop. I really enjoyed it there and it fostered my love of all things kit. The culture at Sprayway is great, with everyone encouraged to get out and appreciate the outdoors as much as possible. “I started caving as a small child, as my dad used to go when he was a kid and had really gotten into it when he was at university. He signed us up as junior members to the Northern Pennine Club, in Yorkshire when we were kids, and I’ve never looked back. The family meets were always one of the highlights of the calendar – after all, what’s better than getting outside with your mates?” An exciting and addictive sport Caving is the sport of exploring cave systems, from natural formations to underground mines and cavities. It’s a tough hobby, involving having to crawl, climb, and even swim through tight spaces. But it’s great physical activity, and for people who love an adventure and to explore, it’s one of the most fulfilling and exhilarating outdoor sports you can do. It’s so enjoyable, in fact, that Eve joined her university’s caving society, and since graduating has stayed involved in the community. “When I started at the University of Nottingham, I quickly got involved with their caving club and met loads of amazing people. I was lucky enough to hold several committee posts in the club and was president in my final year of university. Nottingham University Caving Club (NUCC) has a fantastically inclusive culture and caters to beginners and more advanced cavers alike. This inclusive culture is also being encouraged by the Council of Higher Education Caving Clubs (CHECC), which is an organisation set up to protect the interests of student caving. “There’s a tight-knit community in caving and in January 2020 I went to a weekend of caving organised by women+, for women+. One of my friends was one of the organisers for this first weekend and I’m so glad that they invited me along to it.” Building a more inclusive space Adventure and extreme sports, like caving, have been notoriously dominated by men in the past. One study showed that the participants of mountaineering and ultramarathons, two popular adventure sports, were 80% men. Eve says that, while there’s been some progress, there’s still more effort which needs to be made to encourage more women+ into these types of sports. And women+ led caving events are a great way to create a safe, supportive environment for new and experienced women+ cavers. “As with a lot of adventure sports, caving has been dominated by men in the past, and whilst there’s been progress in leaps and bounds, it’s important for women+ to be able to get together and discuss things that we might like to change and form a sense of community. “There have been more of these women+ weekends, and an informal group has grown up. It has created a community, and somewhere that I know I could turn to if I had a question, whether it was about something technical, or something more sensitive.” Speleo Sisters is one women+ led caving community which Eve says can help encourage women to both start and continue caving. “Whilst quite a few people join a caving club at university, a lot of these people won’t continue to cave after university, and I believe community groups like Speleo Sisters will help women+ to continue in the sport. In particular, the lack of judgement, opportunities to practise skills and a general atmosphere of fun and sisterhood are all highlights of Women+’s Weekends. “The flexibility of the group is an advantage; last weekend was both a Women+’s Weekend, and the Northern Pennine Club Winter Dinner. I was able to go caving with the Speleo Sisters on Saturday and then nip across to the Winter Dinner in the evening. Even without being with the women+ on Friday evening, I knew that there would be a suitable trip available for me to join because of the wide range of levels that attend the weekend.” How can you get involved? Interested in giving caving a go? There’s loads of ways to get involved. You could go on a trip with an outdoor pursuits company: there are several offering caving trips in each of the main caving areas (Yorkshire Dales, South Wales, Mendips, Peak District) and further afield. Additionally, you can get in contact with a club and see whether they have any members willing to take beginners on a trip. A list of caving clubs can be found on the British Caving Association’s website. Some of these clubs run specific ‘New-to-Caving’ sessions, as do the Council of Northern Caving Clubs and the Council of Southern Caving Clubs. And if you’re off to university, this is a great time to join a society, as there will be lots of beginners and training offered. Some university clubs welcome non-students to join their clubs if you live nearby, so it could be worth getting in contact even if university isn’t your bag or you’re beyond that stage in your life. The ‘Speleo Sisters’ Facebook page is also a great place to get involved or ask questions if you identify as a woman or non-binary. Enter Sprayway Whilst Sprayway doesn’t offer caving-specific gear, Eve says she regularly uses some of our products on trips underground. Sprayway’s clothes are diverse in functionality and many are highly flexible whilst remaining protective, waterproof, and warm, which is perfect for a trip down the caves. Eve recommends the Effra Leggings and Effra Half-Zip under an outer layer to keep cosy. Or, if it’s a warmer cave or you need something more lightweight to move around quickly, swap the Effra Leggings for Escape Leggings. Heading out caving in some Sprayway gear? We’d love to know. 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