Gear. Without it, we can’t survive in the underwater world for long, or do much in it. Ever since the middle ages, man has been tooling up to descend under the waves. Hans Talhoffer detailed one such suit in his manual of arms from 1467 CE, and others have popped up from the fevered minds of inventors over the years. Equipment has improved vastly since then (as you can see from the illustration).
This article is for the serious diver, who is looking to maximize both their effectiveness and safety under the waves. The following equipment is appropriate for scientific and recreational divers; next week will be the commercial diver list. Most of these categories are generic description wise, but I do give some name brand recommendations. So, if you’ve got money to burn, here’s the list of must haves:
- Trilaminate or condensed density neoprene drysuit, with undergarment/puff suit. Include a set of 5mm gloves (at minimum), and 5mm hood. 7mm neoprene boots will be warmer than rock boots, and less expensive to replace if you damage them.
- Minimum of a 2.5mm shorty, 3-5mm full wetsuit if you’re prone to being cold. A set of reef gloves (in case you have to touch something), and 5mm dive boots; 3mm dive boots aren’t as durable as you’d hope.
Vision and Mobility:
Mask and Snorkel:
- Try out both clear silicone skirt and black silicone skirt masks, pick the one you prefer and ensure a good fit. I recommend a two lens mask, as in the unlikely event of one lens breaking or popping out, you can still see. Snorkels are contentious in the diving community, but at least get a folding one that fits in a pouch.
Full Face Mask:
- If it’s an option, switch to a full face mask. They’re more comfortable to breath from and give a much better field of view. I prefer the OTS Guardian, but I’ve heard good things about the Ocean Reef Neptune (I haven’t used this one myself). Aside from maintenance and storage, have a mask in your pocket and a second stage as your octopus in the unlikely event of a catastrophic failure.
- Fin design changes every few years, with companies announcing the “most effective” design with regularity. Select a design that has been around for a few years that feels comfortable for you. I like a stiff blade style (classic) for the power, but other divers like split fins for the ease of kicking.
- Poseidon. They make the most reliable and durable regulators on the market. They’re also the last regulators standing from both the brutal US Navy and scientific diving cold water torture tests for and in the Antarctic. Get the complete set: first stage, second stage and octopus.
- DIN is the way to go. It’s safer, can deal with higher pressures, and is more reliable than the more common yoke system. If you’re traveling, you can get an adaptor to use cylinders with the yoke attachment system.
- If you’re doing a lot of diving, purchasing your own cylinders is a good call. Two tanks and a pony bottle will do the business for most divers (two dives and a back up breathing gas source).
- The argument here is vest vs back inflation. I like a vest system for wetsuit and tropical diving, with integrated weights. For drysuit diving, I’ve found a harness system with a back inflation set up allows for better operation of the drysuit for buoyancy purposes. Plus, harnesses have integrated weight systems.
- Integrated weights are the best choice. Why? In the event that you have to dump your weights, you aren’t losing all your weight at once, allowing for a more controlled ascent. Weight belts are okay(ish) in tropics, but integrated weights are that one step safer.
Computer and SPG:
- Double up on your computers. As cool as it is, avoid air integration, as it’s an extra thing that can go wrong. A good combination is an instrument panel mounted computer and a back up wrist computer. Make sure they have matching algorithms, or can be set to be close (i.e.: Suunto and Oceanic can be made to be close for bottom times).
- For your depth gauge, go with a reputable brand. I like Suunto, but as long as it’s accurate you’re good to go.
- Digital compasses are cool, but have a redundancy. A wrist or console mounted compass is a good investment in equipment.
- Surface Signal Devices: the orange sausage and a whistle.
- Knife or Shears: having a sharp set of shears or a knife if you get entangled or caught in fishing line or abandoned net is handy. For the knife, don’t go all Rambo, a 15cm blade is more than enough; ensure it has either a serrated part or a hooked portion for line cutting.
- Dive Light: even when you’re not doing a night dive, having a secondary dive light can be great for looking into the homes of the less social marine animals. Your Primary dive light should at least be a four C Cell affair, but eight is a touch better, with more lumens.
- Lift Bag: not for every dive, but having a small lift bag in your dive bag is a handy thing.
- Line Reel: for wreck penetration, this is an essential piece of kit. Make sure it’s clean and the line is clear of tangles.
Well, that’s the list. You’ll be ready for just about anything diving wise. Good luck and good diving!