[Guide] Caving in Minecraft

  • #1
    This Minecraft Guide is part of a series that I'm writing on Minecraft! To get to the other Guides, click on my avatar! It'll bring you to my About Me page, which includes the links to my other Guides.

    How do I go caving in Minecraft?

    That's a question asked in Minecraft mostly by new players of the game. And while the following guide to caving is directed mostly at new players, even Minecraft pros will most likely get something out of this guide! This guide provides caving techniques, how to get out of bad situations, what you should bring caving, how to get out of a cave... everything a person would ever need!

    Just like the other guides in my Minecraft Guides series, this guide is filled with my strange humor and my over-analyzing of things. A 3,500 word post on caving? Only I would write that.

    And without further ado, here is the Complete Guide to Caving! (sorta)

    What “going caving” means in Minecraft is exploring a cave to find minerals and resources. If you look at it in the wrong way, it looks like a chore, but if you cave well and ensure that you don’t die, then you can relax and look at it as a relaxing activity that you can do in Minecraft after a long day of real-life work.

    First off, let’s ask ourselves a question: do we actually need to go caving?

    Do You Need to Go Caving?
    Do you need to go caving? Lots of people just don’t go caving often because they think they have enough resources. But you can never have enough resources, and after going caving a few times and successfully obtaining a lot of minerals, you may decide that you really like to cave. Personally, I cave in vanilla Minecraft quite often. It’s always fun to have a large stock of materials, and it’s fun to go mining just to relax. Do you die while caving pretty often? Trust me— after reading this guide, you’ll be a pro at caving.

    A technique to gather minerals that people often use instead of caving is branch mining or strip mining. Both of these methods involve making tunnels in the ground; and, while both methods often turn up a lot of ores, they’re fairly boring and safe. Why be boring and safe when you could be dangerous and fun? Go caving! Branch mining involves making tunnels through the earth. Caving lets you run through dark caves, lighting them up and fighting mobs as you go, and navigating around obstacles like lava. Which one sounds more fun to you?

    Yeah, I thought so.

    Location, Location
    Where to go caving? Start around your house, 99% of the time. If you haven’t been caving before, you should light up the caves around your house just because of convenience. Why walk far away from your house to mine for ores if you could find a cave right next to your house? Another advantage to caving near your house is that if you die, it hopefully won’t be very hard to get back into the cave and retrieve your stuff. With caving farther away from your house, dying can be a problem. However, hopefully by the time you have lit up all of the caves around your house and are mining farther away, you’ll have enchanted diamond/iron armor that will keep you safe from every harm that could possibly befall you in a cave.

    A good technique when you go caving far away is to bring a bed. Before you enter a cave that’s far away from your home, lay down a bed and bide your time chopping wood or doing some activity until it’s nighttime. Then set your spawn at the bed before you enter your desired cave so that if you die for some reason, you’ll respawn right above the cave and you’ll be able to (hopefully) find your way back to your stuff. But what if you die and can’t find your way back? Well, this is where markers come in.

    Markers are a technique often used by people caving to show where they’ve already been. These take many different forms, but usually they are a certain kind of block (e.g, a piece of sandstone or something) placed at a crossroads in a cave. To some people, these help them find their way back to the surface. However, I will not be going over them very much in this guide, because most people just dig a staircase up to the surface or don’t care about finding their way back. But I’d just like to let you know that this method exists and that it can be helpful to some people while caving.

    Staircase to Heaven (well, maybe just to the surface, but whatever)
    Once you’re done with caving, don’t you want to leave your cave? Don’t you want to leave it in a safe manner? Digging straight up is what the cool kids do, but honestly that’s just going to lead to an embarrassing death involving gravel falling on your head and suffocating you. Eww. So not cool.

    Introducing the all new way to get to the surface: the staircase! Easy, fast, and fun. Just mine a set of stairs up to the surface, staying behind your pick as you go and not mining directly above you to make sure no gravel or any pesky substance falls on your head. Once you get to the surface, you’ll be happy that you made your staircase mine instead of digging straight up or taking forever to find your way using markers back to the beginning of the cave.

    Well, now we’ve gone over some simple caving techniques. But let’s get back to the basics, and the real questions people might be asking. First off, what do you even bring to a caving trip?

    What To Bring
    Everyone has a different set of tools and materials that they like to use while caving. However, bringing some things are more effective than bringing other things. For a standard caving trip (this applies to all versions of Minecraft 1.4 or before that, generally) here’s what you should bring:

    -1 diamond sword. If you have no diamonds, the equivalent would be 3 iron swords, 5 stone swords, and for wood swords… honestly, who uses wood swords?
    -1 or 2 diamond picks. If you have no diamonds, bring 5 iron ones or a whole dang lotta stone ones. Remember though, you can craft more swords or picks while you’re caving if you need to.
    -A bow, enchanted if you have one. A bow is invaluable for sniping far-off skeletons that are going to become a pain once you get into their shooting range, or that pesky creeper. If you have a bow enchanted with Infinity, you only need 1 arrow, of course. I’d recommend bringing about 2 stacks of arrows if you have a bow without Infinity.
    -Blocks! Bring about half a stack of cobblestone, in general. Remember though, you’ll probably end up getting plenty more cobble on your caving trip, and as it’s not hard to mine any, don’t worry about bringing too many blocks.
    -Wood. This is the single most important thing to remember to bring on your caving trip. If you forget this, you might as well die in your cave because of the face-palmy-ness that ensues if you realize you don’t bring this. In a cave, wood is life. If you run out of torches, or picks, or swords, or whatever, you can always find the materials in a cave for more— except wood. Yeah, you can find wooden planks in abandoned mineshafts, but that’s gonna take a long time to find and it’ll be annoying to mine. Bring a stack of wood logs, not planks, in general while caving. Remember, it’s better to bring too many of them than too little.
    -Food. If you bring a kind of food that fills up a lot of hunger bars, like steak, porkchops, bread, baked potatoes, or other high-saturation food, you probably just need a stack of food. If you bring a food like melons or carrots, you’ll probably need 3 or 4 stacks. Always bring more food than you think you need. It sucks to have to stop a caving expedition short because you just don’t have enough food.
    -Water bucket. This is invaluable for turning lava into obsidian so you can walk over it, especially when you have a large pool of lava.
    -Flint and steel. Read on to find out why you need this.
    -Torches. Bring 2 stacks or so to start. As you mine coal in the cave you explore, you can always craft more torches, but bring some torches just to start you off.
    -Potions, if you have them. If you’ve gone to the nether and found blaze rods and netherwart to make potions, you should certainly utilize these potions to their full extent. Bring them on your caving trips! In general, bring 2 fire resistance potions, each one extended to 8 minutes long, and bring about 2 instant splash health potions. Use the fire resist if you fall into lava and are going to die, and use the splash health if mobs are cornering you and your health is low. Each one of these potions will probably save you at some point or other while caving, even if you’re a Minecraft pro.
    -Armor. Everyone likes to bring a different kind of armor caving, but which one should you choose? Assuming you have access to an experience farm, always enchant your armor with level 30 enchants. If you have a way to get level 30, use it on your armor! Even if you have just iron armor that will run out fairly quickly, take the time to enchant it with good enchants. It could save your life. In general, I’m not going to tell you what kind of armor to bring. It differs for everybody. But vanilla Minecraft is not that hard, and as long as you have your 2 splash health potions equipped and your fire resistance potions equipped, you should be fine no matter what kind of situation you’re in.

    Silk Touch vs. Fortune
    Have a Silk Touch pick in your Minecraft world, or on your Minecraft server? Have a Fortune pick too? You’re well off! But which one should you bring mining?

    In general, it’s always better to bring your Silk Touch pick to go mining. A Fortune pick multiplies the drops that most ores give, so these ores will take up more space in your inventory. And while you can craft some ores into ore blocks (like diamond blocks, iron blocks, or gold blocks) it’s just so much easier to Silk Touch the ores. Instead of having a million coal in your inventory, you can have just a couple coal ore that you can Fortune once you get home!

    Torch Placement
    Honestly, this is not going to be a big deal for most people. But when I see Let’s Players on YouTube going caving, and they place their torches on the walls of caves instead of on the floor… I just hit the roof.

    Just don’t place your torches on the walls of the cave. Place them on the floor. First off, a good reason for doing this is block lighting. If you place a torch on a wall of a cave, it’s not going to project much light to the floor. It’s going to light up the wall, but who cares? Mobs can’t spawn on a wall anyway! The part of a cave you want to light up is the floor, so that the mobs can’t spawn. Secondly, placing torches on the walls of caves takes a lot more time on placing them on the floor! This time is precious time that you could spend obtaining ores and having fun. When you place a torch on a cave wall, you have to stop and place it. But if you place a torch on the floor, you can just look down and place it while still sprinting along. It doesn’t stop your momentum, and it’s so easy that you don’t even have to think about it!

    So you’ve been placing torches the correct way and mining all the ores with your shiny Silk Touch pick. Suddenly, you come to a huge pool of lava! You can see that your cave continues on the other side of the lava lake, but how to get across? Well, it’s easy! Just use your water bucket. Now there’s plentiful obsidian for you to mine also! Yay obsidian. Woot. Yay.

    Disaster (aka The Pause Screen)
    Oh look, lava lake. La-la-la, la-la. Place water bucket. Walk across. Suddenly, your game lags and the water reverts back to nothing, like you didn’t place it, and you fall into the lava! You start to take damage and you can’t get out of the lava. To make it worse, a skeleton suddenly comes out of the darkness and shoots you closer to the middle of the lava lake. What do you do?

    Press the Escape button! (Or whatever button you have mapped to pause the game). Honestly, if you’re in a disaster situation, pressing the Pause button is the best thing you can possibly do. It stops the game to let you think about the situation, you can see the game behind the pause screen, so you can map out what you want to do when you unpause, and there’s no downside to it. When you pause, think about the situation and the best way you can get out of it. Do I have a fire resistance potion on me? Is it in my hotbar? If not, where is it in my inventory? Map out what you want to do when you unpause. Think of yourself getting the fire resistance potion out of your inventory, drinking it, and then sinking under the lava to avoid the shooting of the skeleton. Regain some health under the lava and then come up and kill the skeleton with your bow, or with your sword if it’s now at shorter range.

    If you’re on a server where you can’t pause it…yeah, you’re screwed. Have fun dying in lava.

    If you’re at all decent at Minecraft, dungeons won’t be a problem for you. But if you’ve been hanging out in the area for a while and the spawner in the center of the dungeon has been spawning mobs, you can have real trouble if you come into a dungeon and a bunch of mobs quickly swarm you into a corner. Either pause the game and think about the best way to kill them or kill them all with your sword, disregarding the damage you’re taking. If your health gets too low, pop one of your instant health potions.

    Abandoned Mineshaft
    Especially for players with unenchanted armor, mineshafts can be a nightmare. The main mobs in these places are Cave Spiders, which are mobs that can fit through a 1x1 space, climb walls, and poison you. Yeah, you should be scared. The worst part is that abandoned mineshafts are fairly cramped, so if you’re walking around in a small area, these spiders will have plenty of space to spawn. Even worse, their spawners have spiderwebs around it, making it hard to hack through the webs to get to the spawners. Even worse than that, you can get caught in the webs and not be able to hit the spiders as they slowly kill you!

    There’s no one real way to conquer a cave spider spawner except that you should break it as soon as possible if you don’t intend to keep it for a mob trap. If you want to keep it for a mob trap, make sure you put torches all around the area, and keep in mind that mobs can spawn even behind walls and in dark areas, as long as those dark areas are close enough to the mob spawner.

    The nice part of abandoned mineshafts, though, are the chests. The only really good thing that can be found in these chests are diamonds, and there aren’t that many of them. Still, finding Mineshaft chests are an easy way to get diamonds. Sometimes there’s bread in these chests too, and if you’re running low on food during your caving trip, this bread can sustain you until you get out of the cave.

    Ahhh, ravines. These structures under the ground can be extremely good for you if they are very low underground. If you’re about midway between the surface and bedrock and you come into a ravine, there’s a good chance that it could go down to the level where lava is, which is also the level that you can find lots of diamonds at. So it’s an easy ticket down to diamond-finding level. But usually, when there’s a low ravine like this, there’s lava at the bottom. So, how to traverse the ravine without dying?

    Usually, if you’re in a narrow ravine and you see some skeletons around, drink your fire resistance potion before you explore the ravine. If you fall into lava from high up in the ravine because of a skeleton arrow, you could fall into one-block-thick lava. If you fall into one-block-thick lava or water, at least in some Minecraft versions, you take fall damage, and if you don’t have the Feather Falling enchantment on your armor, you could die of the fall damage and your items could fall into lava. If you don’t die of the fall damage, the little lava damage that ensues before you manage to drink your potion could kill you. So don’t take that risk! Just pop your fire resist before you fall into lava.

    Another great kind of ravine are above-ground ravines. While you're exploring your Minecraft world above-ground, you'll find some of these giant holes in the ground. While most of these don't go down to lava level, they give you a ton of iron ore! And they're perfect for building scenic bridges over, too!

    If you find a stronghold in Minecraft without using Ender Eyes and while just mining, pause your game, yell “Skjdoiwjlkskfjlkhg!” in real life, and then run around your house screaming. Not even kidding.

    Now, if you remember from the earlier part of this post where I told you what to bring while caving, you might recall that I told you to bring a flint and steel. No, this is not to light an imaginary Nether portal while you’re in a cave. Neither is it to light yourself on fire. This is for silverfish.

    In Minecraft 1.4 and up, silverfish blocks spawn in caves. These are blocks that look exactly like stone, but when mined, produce an annoying mob called a silverfish. You can break these silverfish blocks quickly with your hands, but if you have a pick that is enchanted with Efficiency, you won’t know which blocks are really stone and which ones are silverfish. So, if a silverfish pops out of the block you mine, set the ground where it’s walking on fire. If you directly attack the silverfish, it will call on its brethren, and a veritable army of silverfish will pop out of the ground and attack you. But by setting it on fire, it doesn’t register that you’ve attacked it, and instead will just die in a fire! Yay for violence, kids!

    What to do with my resources?
    You’re really asking this question? You just went caving, got a lot of diamonds, and you now don’t know what to use them for?

    Well, it sounds corny, but honestly, if you had fun while caving, it won’t matter that you didn’t actually need those minerals! And you can never have too many ores. Trust me, you’ll use them sometime on some project in your Minecraft world.

    Hey, thanks for reading this! Hopefully you all are caving pros. I haven’t gone over everything in this guide, but this just explains the basics of caving. Hopefully even Minecraft pros got a couple things out of this guide. Congratulations, you’re better at caving now!

    More Helpful Links:
    -the Minecraft Wiki may be found here!
    -The most amazing video ever may be found here!

    That's all for now! I'll add things to this post over time, so please suggest things for me to add! Similar to my last Minecraft Guide, this guide will continually be updated over time. However, I'll probably spend most of my time writing my next guide rather than editing this one. See you all next time!


    If you appreciate the many hours I've spent writing this guide and the days and days I've spent writing all my guides combined, give this post a +1! It's just one click for you and it makes my rep-whoring self feel better about the time I put into these.
    Last edited by isaac_bardin: 11/25/2012 6:00:23 PM
  • #2
    I don't think you mentioned above-ground ravines, they are FILLED with stacks of iron ore, they are so helpful.
  • #3
    Very nice guide Isaac_Bardin! A fun fact: As discovered by Vechs in his Waking Up videos tackling Boomer Castle, Cave Spiders can actually fit through a 1 (length), by 0.5(height) space. Might want to change that as a friendly suggestion. Keep it up! ^_^

  • #4
    Thanks for the comment Witty!

    Thanks for your observation dogeatdog! I shall update the ravines section to include that tidbit! ^_^
  • #5
    The Stronghold tip was very informative, wish I had known that sooner!
    And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.
  • #6
    I haven't read it yet, but I'm going to comment here just in case I can learn something new...
  • #7
    Nice guide overall, but I have to disagree in one point, and add maybe another
    Torch placement: If you enter a big cave is it good to place them on the ground, to, as you said, prevent monsters from spawning.
    On the other hand it is a good orientation if you always place your torches on one side, (left or right), it helps to know in where you come from.
    Another thing that I do is if i enter a cave branch, I dont start mining, but go the dead end or the next intersection, torch it up and mine on my way back.
    This ensures that less monsters spawn while I mine my precious and reduces the ssssss-suprise effect
  • #8
    This seems like it may be interesting. I just might lurk this thread for a bit to see if you add on to it.
    The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage.
    --Mark Russell

    Tá m’árthach foluaineach lán d’eascainn! / Tha mo bhàta-foluaimein loma-làn easgannan!
  • #9
    Isaac, I really like this guide, but I have to point something out. You only covered one style of caving, specifically, your style. Lots of people cave in many different ways, it may be a good idea to cover those as well before you call this the "Complete Guide to Caving". I agree, your techniques work well and can produce good results, but remember that they aren't the only way. Maybe think about adding in alternative methods, they'll work better for some people, but leave in your "recommended" or "personally used" method as well. Good guide!
  • #10
    Good stuff. A couple things I do:

    1. I place torches on the right wall, right at ground level as I explore so I can find my way back. If I need light elsewhere on the floor I will put torches on the ground - but ground torches are never for navigation.

    2. I will often bring a chest with me in case I am about to get into an area with a lot of lava. I put my resources in the chest prior to exploring/mining in the dangerous area in case I die - when you die in lava, there is no going back to get your drops.
  • #11
    How are you not gonna have the tip: Never Dig Straight Down?
    Just your friendly neighborhood otter.
  • #12
    joshgant, I try to use both of those methods as well. The torch on the right is pretty amazing for navigation, just a very easy way to instantly know if you're going further in or coming out of the cave.

    Pretty good guide also, isaac! It will help me more when I finally get to making potions and enchanting things.
  • #13
    Very nice guide.
  • #14
    Very nice guide dude! +1
  • #15
    Yeah wright + everyone else.... this is certainly a work in progress. I'll be adding to it over time, and while it is mostly just MY opinion on caving, I hope it can help some people out. I was just joking about the title, really-- if I made a COMPLETE guide to caving, I'd be here a couple centuries!

    But yup, feel free to bookmark/follow this thread, because I will be adding to it over time, similar to my first guide. :)
  • #16
    Well written guide, all new players should be pointed here!

    It may be wise to link to more advanced topics. You mentioned potions and enchantments, new comers might not know much about these, so it might be nice to include links or reference material.

    Quote me if you'd like me to respond---------------------My Minecraft Settlement Series
  • #17
    Quote from isaac_bardin

    Yeah wright + everyone else.... this is certainly a work in progress. I'll be adding to it over time, and while it is mostly just MY opinion on caving, I hope it can help some people out. I was just joking about the title, really-- if I made a COMPLETE guide to caving, I'd be here a couple centuries!

    But yup, feel free to bookmark/follow this thread, because I will be adding to it over time, similar to my first guide. :)

    If you'd want, I'd love to help out writing parts of this. If not, here are some suggestions on "articles," as it were.
    • Torches on right/left for directions
    • Speed Caving
    • Night Vision Potions
    • X-Ray Machines
    • Exploring Mineshafts vs. Natural caves
    • Digging one by one holes in walls
    • Diamond/Lava level
    • Emeralds
    • Y-Levels of ores
    • Dealing with water source blocks
    • Ravines
  • #18
    i just read a 3000+ article on caving in minecraft...
    I wonder how I'm failing English o_0
    Oh ya i forgot, nice guide bro. Never thought to bring potions, might try it one time.
    Last edited by Stone234: 11/26/2012 7:37:44 PM
  • #19
    Really nice guide, Was just wondering if there any tips in exploring abandoned mineshafts as when ever I encounter one I decide to explore it and always get lost.
  • #20
    Very nice guide, a lot better than the usual ones I see on this forum :)
    Pajama time.
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