Canyoning, or canyoneering, is the activity of traveling in canyons using a variety of techniques that may include walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling, and swimming. Regardless of the duration or complexity of a canyoneering trip, carrying a good selection of gear is absolutely essential, including clothing and abseiling equipment.
Canyoneering Equipment (Clothing/Apparel)
If a canyon route is very wet and filled with pools of water, wetsuits can provide thermal insulation, abrasion resistance, and buoyancy. Drysuits, on the other hand, will keep you completely dry and require less space to store. However, the major problem with drysuits is that they wear out very fast. If the canyon is dry, thermal clothing will suffice. Alternatively, you can try a combination of the three, experimenting to find out what works best for you.
Canyons are very harsh on clothing, so tough synthetic clothes are the best option (avoid cotton). Always make it a point to carry an extra pair of dry clothes along, in case you have to swim or abseil down a waterfall. This is especially important on a multiple-day trip. In cold weather, a fleece jacket can be a great addition to your kit.
With the large amount of gear that is needed for canyoneering, a good backpack is a must to carry it all. If you are serious about the sport, invest in a specialist canyoning pack made from vinyl or Cordura, with good drainage. Ensure that your bag has chest and hip straps along with haul loops, which will make it easy for you to move around the rough wilderness.
Harnesses are indispensable in technical canyons, as they keep you secured to the ropes while abseiling, and hold a number of tools that you may need. Any kind of climbing harness will work well for basic canyoneering. However, while harnesses with padding provide comfort, those without padding don't absorb water, and are cheaper, sturdier, and easier to maintain.
Although dynamic climbing ropes are suitable for canyoneering, static ropes are preferred, because the limited stretch reduces wear and tear, and makes rope retrieval easier. Always prefer those which are water repellent, having a sheath thickness between 8.5 and 10mm. Extra coils of rope are always useful, especially in case of an emergency.
This is a very essential piece of safety equipment as it can prevent head injuries from falling rocks or other accidents in the wet, slippery canyon environment. Make sure that your helmet is rated properly, and it is equipped with drainage holes. Although not recommended, bike helmets can be used occasionally.
While abseiling, one may have to cut through new or worn slings, for which a knife will be handy. It can also be useful in situations where your hair or apparel gets stuck in a descender, or you have to cut yourself free from a rope in case of an emergency. (Be careful while using knives near loaded ropes, as they are surprisingly easy to cut.)
Miscellaneous Canyoneering Gear
Swimming goggles, although not essential, can come in handy to retrieve any unsecured, non-floating item that you might mistakenly drop in a deep pool.
In a sport like canyoneering, getting yourself and your gear wet is nearly unavoidable, which is bad for things like the first-aid kit. Therefore, waterproof dry bags are commonly used to keep items dry. But since these bags are not completely fail-proof, plastic kegs are also available, which are costlier and bulkier, but much more reliable.
A basic first-aid kit including assorted bandages, thermal blanket, water-purifying tablets, painkillers, anti-inflammatory tablets, Imodium, matches/lighter, disposable gloves, sunscreen, chapstick, insect repellent, etc., is ideal for canyoneering trips. This can help in case of cuts, fractures, sprains, hypothermia, snakebites, etc. Adding a personal locator beacon to the kit is not a bad idea so that rescues during emergencies are performed quickly.
Carrying an appropriate amount of food and water is absolutely essential on any canyoneering trip as reliable sources may not be available in the wild. Food and water will not only provide energy, but will also help in keeping hypothermia and dehydration at bay.