Scuba Gear

"Scuba Diving is an Equipment Intensive Sport", SSI Intro Diving Course

Ultimate Dream Scuba Accessory: Zodiac Dive Boat!

No, I do not have this boat, but I want it!

My Gear Inventory

Exposure Suit, Fins, and BC

  • White's Dry Suit
  • Andy's Undies
  • Scubapro 0.5mm Microprene Skin
  • SeaQuest Balance BC
  • Apollo Bio Fins
  • Prescription Mask

Life Support

  • Scubapro Aluminum Regulator w/ SeaCure mouthpiece
  • Scubapro Octopus
  • Ocean Reef Full Face Mask w/ Voice Communicator

Gizmos

  • Suunto Cobra Nitrox Dive Computer: Air Integrated
  • Suunto Vyper Nitrox Dive Computer: Wrist
  • Uwatec Electronic Compass
  • Uwatec Neverlost Homing System

What you have to have...

If I wanted to boil all of this stuff down to just a few things I'd have to have were I to start over, I would invest as follows:

  •   Air Integrated Dive Computer
  •   Integrated BC
  •   Prescription Mask
  •   Dry Suit

  •   Nitrox Certification
  •   Biofins

Let me just say a few words about each.

Air Integrated Dive Computer

First, I just wouldn't dive without a computer. They add so much flexibility and safety to the business that it just isn't worth thinking about for me not to have one. In fact, I like them so much, I dive with two. More on that in a second. After I get done diving for the day, I like to log my dives and go through the tables for each dive. I find in almost every case that I'm off the tables or very marginal by the second dive. Three dive days are just impossible. I want to emphasize that I am not an aggressive diver at all. It's just that the tables have to make worst case assumptions. They don't know how long you were at each depth so they assume your entire time underwater was spent at the deepest depth. This just isn't a helpful assumption. Many dive operators either require a computer, or make table divers come up sooner than everyone else. So, I guess this makes the computer my favorite gadget. Surprise! I'm a computer guy.

Why do I dive with two computers? You must be wondering. It's simple. I have an air integrated in my console. If I had to live with a single computer, this would be it. There is just no comparison. Being able to see how much air you have left expressed in minutes rather than pounds is hugely useful and much better than trying to do the math in your head while narked. It is also useful for helping you to improve your air consumption. You can actually see when you are doing something that makes you burn a lot of air. It makes you more aware of what things burn air and what things don't, and makes it easier to pace yourself in a dive.

Back to the question, "Why two computers?" The reason is that I like to wear a wrist computer on the right arm. This way I can hold my BC inflator in the left hand and conveniently watch the computer on the right wrist while ascending. This is really convenient. It's also nice to know that when I'm on an expensive dive vacation I have a backup if one of the computers dies. Now I have to admit, I didn't set out to own two computers. I thought I had lost the wrist computer and was very disappointed. After I bought the console, I was lucky enough to have it turn up again.

Be aware that all computers are not equal. Play with the various choices in the store. Many are very counter-intuitive to operate. There are also many degrees of conservatism in the models they use and no "right" answer. I've owned two generations of the Suunto wrist computers--an older Solution Nitrox and the latest Vyper. The Vyper gave 15 minutes less bottom time than the Solution. Suunto's in general are very conservative. Dive magazines will tell you where a computer rates on the conservative/aggressive scale. You decide where you want to be on that scale. With my Suunto, I simply find myself making a decompression stop sometimes while others cheerfully ignore it. Doesn't bother me, I want to be very conservative and safe. Getting bent is not my idea of a good time!

Integrated BC

Weight belts stink. There's just no two ways about it. Having an integrated BC, especially for a big guy like me, is just so much easier it hardly compares. I highly recommend you get a BC with integrated weights. My one mistake was in not getting one with good pockets. Later models have remedied this situation, but my BC works well so I haven't replaced it. I confess I am not really fond of the fancy "tech" BC's. Some of them look downright cumbersome to me. Get the pockets, go for a few extra d-rings to hang a light or camera on, and get the integrated weights. BTW, in reading magazine reviews, I discovered most reviewers like the old-style corrugated inflators better than the new fangled streamlined guys, so I specified that style.

One other comment--I'm not a believer in making your inflator your alternate air source. Some divers like this because it cleans up their rig, but you have to remember that this is not all that common. In an emergency, do you really want to confusion of a non-standard rig? If nothing else, it's gonna force whoever wants to share air to go for your main regulator. No thank you! I want a standard octopus for alternate air. It's more flexible, and I can swap it out to a pony bottle if I want to play those games.

Prescription Mask
My vision isn't all that bad, and the magnifying effect of the water makes it even less of an issue. Also, I do most of my diving in Monterrey, where visibility of 30 feet is excellent. Nevertheless, I really enjoy my prescription mask. Its critical to enjoying the huge vistas made possible by good warm water viz, and it also makes everything you do with your head out of the water that much more comfortable. Having managed to get lost for a bit on a night dive with respect to finding the boat, I can tell you that extra visibility in clear air is also useful!

Dry Suit

As I mentioned, I do a lot of cold water diving in the Monterrey/Carmel area. As far as I'm concerned, a dry suit is ESSENTIAL for this! Before I had the dry suit, I wore a 6mm wet suit. I say the dry suit is essential not because I found it too cold in the wet suit--I was fine. It's because the wet suit is just so much more cumbersome. That neoprene fights you every step of the way, whether we're talking about putting it on, taking it off, overheating on the boat, or moving in the water. The dry suit, by contrast, stays cooler on the surface, is warmer in the water, and goes on and off ten times more easily. You really have to feel sorry for the folks in their wet suits, there just isn't any comparison. With that said, I will readily admit that a good dry suit is an extremely expensive piece of gear. Mine was custom made to my (ahem) dimensions. As such, it traps very little extra air, so I actually needed less weight with the dry suit than I had with a 6mm wet suit. Hurrah!

The other thing is that it is so cool to zip out of that thing for the surface interval and feel like James Bond--you really could wear a tux under there and have it look great when you unzip! It's so nice to be dry between and after the dives. I have also seen cases where I was so warm due to the suit that I could forgo a hood and/or gloves. We did this on a channel islands live aboard and it was great. Such a feeling of freedom is unusual for coldwater diving.

Nitrox Certification

32% was standard fare in Grand Cayman at Fisheye...

First off, Nitrox is not some super-exotic tech diving mix. It is simply compressed air to which oxygen has been added. This accomplishes three things. First, it makes a tank more expensive--average is about $14 for a tank of Nitrox. That's a bad thing. The other two are good things. By reducing nitrogen, you can either get more bottom time, or dive with a safety margin. I usually leave my computer set for normal air (21% oxygen) and take the safety margin. Second, by reducing your nitrogen intake, you are less tired after a dive. When I used to go diving on a vacation, my wife used to be pissed because all I would want to do is take a nap afterward. With nitrox, I can do two dives and be ready for whatever she wants to do the rest of the afternoon. It also helps when hauling heavy equipment around the beaches. Incidentally, you also won't get narked as much, since there is less nitrogen. However, read on. You actually can't dive as deep on Nitrox as on air, so narking is less likely to start with.

One thing it does not seem to do is reduce air consumption, interestingly. This tells you that consumption can be hugely affected by things other than the actual burning of oxygen. There is a downside to Nitrox. You need to get certified to use it. Certification is easy, and I recommend you do it immediately after your normal scuba certification if possible. This is because you need to learn some new dive tables. If you just got certified, dive tables will be relatively fresh in your mind and it'll be super easy. If not, some review may be in order. It's an easy afternoon or two course, though. There is a physiological downside as well. Nitrox imposes a lower limit on your diving. Guess what, you always had a lower limit, you just assumed it was so deep you would never go there. Because of a phenomenon called oxygen toxicity, you can lose consciousness without warning if you go too deep with Nitrox. Not to worry. You will be adept at figuring out how deep that is and making sure you stay out of harm's way. It isn't hard. With 32% I just make sure I go no deeper than 100 feet.

Biofins

These fins, or any of the other split fins, are just awesome. The radically reduce your air consumption. One magazine said they resulted in 40% less air consumption. I'm here to tell you--they work!

They also make it really easy to recognize which one is you, at least until they become more common. Another great feature is they care very little about form. If you want to bend your knees when you kick it's no problem. One secret--if you want to go faster, you have to kick more beats per minute rather than bigger sweeps or harder lunges with the legs. Just increase the rate but keep a tight stroke and you magically speed up.

One downside--you can't go as fast with these fins as with others. I remember following some guys who snorkelled out to a reef from a beach at night. It was Hell keeping up. I don't know why they were in such a hurry, but they were really going fast, and I finally just blew them off and did my own thing. Based on this, I suspect they would make it harder to fight a really stiff current. Since my policy is never to do that anyway, I don't worry about it.

Regulator

Why did I save this for last? This is usually the first thing a new diver wants to buy. I will admit, there is something uniquely personal about the regulator. I bought ScubaPro's super top of line aluminum reg set. Guess what? I wouldn't do it again. It's a fabulous reg, but the extra cost for aluminum, titanium, or solid green unobtanium isn't worth it. Whatever weight you save on this stuff gets put right back into your weight belt anyway, so what did we gain? Buy the next reg down--the best one not made out of exotic materials. It'll have the same mechanism, will breath the same, but will cost less. There is a noticeable difference in how easily regs breath, by the way, and an easier reg is both more comfortable, and in my experience means less air consumption.

As I mentioned, I also opted for an octopus as my alternate air source. I've seen folks dive without alternate air or folks that have the thingey on their BC hose. No thank you. This is tried and true, its easy, and it works.

I get this thing serviced annually and I take real good care of it. This is your life support system. I do not want a rental filling in for this role unless all else fails.

One other key luxury item. Get a SeaCure mouthpiece as pictured on the left. This is a deal that molds to the exact shape of your mouth after you boil it. The tabs extend much further back too, so you grip with your molars as nature intended.

You will not find a more comfortable mouthpiece. Your jaw will be less sore from clenching, your mouth won't get cut, and you will just be soooo happy. Do it.

 
All material 2001-2006, Robert W. Warfield.