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Scuba Gear You Never Knew You Needed

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Every rookie diver knows what they need to buy once they decide to invest in a full set of SCUBA gear. They will spend hours deciding if they need the top of the line regulator or if they can make-do with the second best. They will try on several BCDs and still not be satisfied. Yet, once they have bought their mask, fins, regulator set, BCD and an exposure suit I would argue that they still aren’t fully equipped. This is because I believe that a diver needs more than to simply survive the dive – they should have all the tools necessary to make their dive more fun, more comfortable and, ultimately, more safe. Basically, what follows is a small list of gear that you might not have considered when buying your SCUBA set and a little guide to buying each gadget. Some of these items are obvious and some are less so, but in every case I have heard of a diver who needed one and didn’t have one, or the gear they had was poorly chosen for the task.

Compass

This might seem like a patronizing place to start our foray into the other necessities of diving being as it is common knowledge that you need a compass to navigate underwater, yet I could count on one hand how many experienced divers dive with me and have their own compass. I understand why they don’t want to spend extra cash on an item they have no intention of using or, have no idea how to use effectively. This is especially true being as most divers dive with divemasters and do not guide. Yet it is so easy to split up when in a group of four or more and if the visibility is poor then navigating with natural features is often tricky – so you look at your compass which you set on a bearing before your descent, retrace your steps and find your group. Simple, yet rarely done.

Notes for buyers:

  • If you go for an analogue compass (my preference) make sure it is aligned for your region – one compass will not work perfectly world-wide due to magnetic field variations.
  • Check its tilt angle tolerance – some will stick if you hold it anything other than flat.
  • Make sure its face is luminous, night divers rely on a compass even more than day divers.

Compass which I like is Suunto SK7 Wrist Compass

Suunto SK7 Wrist Compass

Surface  Marker Buoy

Otherwise known as a (S)urface  (M)arker (B)uoy or safety sausage, a SMB is a required piece of a pro-diver’s equipment. It allows a diver to announce his location to the surface without changing his depth. This means that a diver can ascend knowing he will not get a close hair cut from a passing speed boat, he will be able perform a safety stop or deco stop while the boat manoeuvrings to pick him up or, as I tend to use it, a SMB in conjunction with a reel allows a diver to hang at any constant depth with minimal effort – a very useful tool for an instructor with no safe line to ascend with/ do skills on.

Notes for buyers:

  • The SMB needs to be highly conspicuous – they are usually orange or yellow. Some even have small LED lights on the top for night tracking.
  • Ensure the seams are strong – if you intend to hang on this buoy then it needs to be burst-resistant, especially in rough seas. Some are so strong that they can double as lift bags.
  • The carry case it comes in is important to a diver as high-end SMBs tend to be bulky so think about how you intend to store this during the dive.

Xs Scuba Surface Marker Buoy is a great one

 Xs Scuba Surface Marker Buoy

Reel

This essential piece of gear is multipurpose but will most likely be used with the SMB as stated above. A reel will not get tangled as easily as loose line and allows for speedy deployment of the buoy. It can also be used when searching in bad visibility with a buddy, by implementing the circular search pattern. A wreck or cave diver will take great care when choosing a reel as it becomes a lifeline when navigating a complicated overhead environment.

Notes for buyers:

  • A good reel doesn’t need to be expensive but homemade improvisations rarely work and can lead to dangerous tangles.
  • The reel system should be simple – a common finger reel with a good brass clip on the end is sufficient for most recreational divers.
  • Only get as long a reel as you need, if you are an open water diver, a twenty meter reel will suffice as it can reach the surface from eighteen meters, even in mild current.

Our Suggestion – Aluminum Reel with Tension & Locking system

Writing Slate

I find this a difficult piece of gear to write objectively about being as I hate them! They distract divers from the dive and I have seen them send good divers straight into the coral or up to the surface. In short they are a pest. Yet, they are occasionally a blessing when signal communication breaks down into frustrated pointing and exasperated eye rolling. There is also a group of divers who like to take notes while on a dive to document their experiences, this is great as long as they can remain neutral when writing. It is also a great tool for teaching and a very useful piece of kit for a technical diver.

Notes for buyers:

  • A slate is for short notes, not essays – keep it small.
  • You will need a pencil, a standard wooden pencil works well though some opt for mechanical pencils to avoid broken lead underwater.
  • Tec divers tend to use wrist mounted slates to help them keep track of their dive or their dive plan.

If you’ll decide to get this equipment try to get Multi-Page Wrist Slate from LeisurePro

Multi-Page Wrist Slate


Knife

This is a simple one, every diver should have at least one knife that is easily accessible. It should be very corrosion resistant (titanium is great but is very brittle and can snap easily so a high-grade of stainless steel is sufficient if you maintain it properly) and have a sharp blade. Some BCD mounted knifes have a flat head to avoid bursting your BCD, it also doubles as a prying tool. I carry one on my leg and a smaller back-up on my BCD to allow me to detangle myself even if a can’t get to one of my blades.

Notes for buyers:

  • Check for corrosion resistance.
  • Sharpness
  • Heed maintenance guidelines (e.g. Do you need to dry and oil it straight after use?)
  • Consider the knife’s buoyancy – a fisherman’s knife will float which might affect your own position underwater.

Aquatec T-REX Titanium Knife

 Aquatec T-REX Titanium Knife

Flashlight

Here’s another obvious piece of gear that a surprising amount of divers forget to buy or choose inappropriately for their needs. A torch might just be a little light to help a diver see into a cranny, or it might be a medium powered light for poor visibility and occasional night diving, or it might be a technical rig with a tank mounted battery and a strong lamp for deep/cave/wreck dives or regular night diving. Ensure you only buy what you need as torches can be very expensive and very heavy/bulky. Also, I would strongly consider getting a back-up flashlight and maybe even a chemical light for emergencies.

Notes for buyers:

  • Ensure that if you are going to night dive that the torch is sufficiently powerful to give you piece of mind – I’d take at least a five watt LED.
  • Buy a rechargeable model if possible, purely for the economics.
  • Also, for night diving it’s useful to have a wide angled beam to give you maximum light coverage, but if the torch is for poor visibility day-diving then I’d take a focus adjustable lamp so you can pierce the sediment.

Pelican Nemo 2400 Flashlight

Clips

So you have all this great gear, and more (this list is by no means exhausted) so where are you going to put it? It helps if you have a good BCD with plenty of pockets and the less used stuff can be zipped away until required, but nobody wants three kilos of loose gear rattling around in their BCD. So, the smart diver clips their gear in convenient, streamlined locations around their set-up. For instance, a diver might choose to have their SMB on an aluminum carabiner at their waist, they might have their SPG console clipped into a hose rack on their left side, their octopus might be in a quick release clip on their right shoulder strap and they might have their compass on a retractor clip for convenience. Clips are perfect for tailoring your gear to your needs and there is always a clip to suit your requirements but be careful of becoming a Christmas tree, decorated with gear – you need to dive in this outfit too!

Notes for buyers:

  • Aluminum carabiners are cheap and great for small items, they are easy to attach.
  • Brass hooks are stronger, more durable, can be used to bang a tank but cost more.
  • Retractor clips are good for storing gear that you will use frequently throughout the dive, they are costly and some are less than durable. They are spring-loaded wire reels.
  • Bungee clips are lower tech solutions to the same problems the retractor addresses, they are more durable and cheaper but less effective and more bulky.
  • Hose clips and octopus clips are great for keeping gear streamlined and accessible, there are many variations on the same design.
  • Quick-release buckles are good for holding gear in place until it needs to be used, then it can be fully disconnected, used and reattached.

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Author – Jamie Campbell

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