I think that most divers are like me, in that we have a love/hate relationship with our equipment. Some stuff we love, and some stuff is a disappointment. 🙁 Okay, some of it just pisses us off because it just does not work, for us, for whatever reason? We are all searching for our own Goldilocks Gear, for the way we dive. So, these are some of the items in my dive locker that I am truly excited about, and work Just Right for me!!
If the water is cold, then I will use neoprene, or dry gloves appropriate to the degree of coldness. Manual dexterity is important, and cold hands are not conducive to getting the job done.
However, I do a lot of warm water diving these days and I am a glove guy, regardless of how cold the water is. That is unless the wearing of gloves is prohibited by the Law. IMHO gloves are necessary protection for wreck divers and hunters, but some reef watchers do not use, or need gloves,
Regular old neoprene gloves, for warm water diving, do not protect me very well, they don't hold up very well, and they are expensive. For me, that is not such a good combination? What usually happens to me, is that the neoprene wears through at the fingertips, and that means you have hand protection, except where you need it. Nice. For this reason, they do not last long, and they don't offer much protection against cuts or punctures.
The latest thing in dive glove tech is gloves made from dyneema. Dyneema is a fabric similar to kevlar, but at least for diving, it is better. It is light weight, puncture resistant, and cut resistant. Dyneema has several uses for spearos, but dyneema gloves rock!! The work extremely well for wreck divers, for all the reasons they work for spearos. They protect your hands, but they are very tactile.
There are a bunch of manufacturers, like Hammerhead, Hatch, and Omer, amongst others. I am not sure which brand is "best", but trust me, dyneema gloves will protect your hands like nothing else out there, and they last!!
Manta Jr Reel
Manta makes a few different reels, and they are all good, but I like the Manta Jr Reel for most wreck diving. It is well made, it is intelligently designed, and it is durable. It has adjustable tension, few moving parts, and it is relatively easy to use. The locking grip release keeps the reel locked until your release it, which helps to control "birdnesting", as well as "runaway reel" if it is dropped.
When it is time for me to blow a bag or SMB, "it is time to go", so I want to get going. Controlling the Manta Jr, and beginning your ascent at the same time, is relatively easy. If you are running a line inside the wreck, the reel is locked as soon as you release the grip, so making your tie offs and wrapping line around wreckage, is also pretty easy. The Highseas Line Stop is awesome on any reel, but it is included with the Manta Jr.
Now, having said all these nice things about the Manta Jr, I have had to make a few modifications to my reel, to make it work better for me. First off, it comes with only two stop notches in the reel. I had to take a hack saw, and add few more. Instead of two notches, 180 degrees out from one another, I have six notches at 60 degree angles. In addition, I also put a loop of small diameter bungee on the end. This means I can get a little tension on the reel for storage to carry.
Finally, I like to use a double dog on the reel, not a clip, so I removed the clip that came with it, and put a solid ring on it. This way I can carry with a double dog, and remove it to make using it easier, when I want.
Manta is a good company, they have been making reels for a long time, and they stand behind their products.
Regulators – Apeks Tek3 Regulator Set
Over the years I have tried probably every brand of regulator out there. Seriously, all of the major manufacturers make a descent regulator, however if there is one single piece of equipment we all obsess over as divers, it is our regulators. It is our life support, and the most important purchase most divers make. Regulator failure is a serious issue that will cancel or turn a dive in a heartbeat, so we all want the best regulators we can get our hands on.
IMHO, the best regulators I have ever used are the ones I am currently using, the Apeks Tek3 first stages with the XTX 50 second stages. I love these regulators for a bunch of reasons. They are rugged, and durable, both of which are important to me because I am kind of hard on gear.
At the same time, the Tek3 first stages are specifically designed for use with double cylinders, with a right hand regulator and a left hand regulator. You can use them with the first stages horizontal or vertical, depending on how you want to route your LP & HP hoses. Regardless of which way you orient the first stage, they are very low profile. Most important, they are extremely reliable, which actually to me means low maintenance.
WOB (Work of Breathing) is a major factor in the body's creation and elimination of CO2. The XTX 50 second stages are reliable, adjustable, and breathe like I want them to breathe, even at depth, and minimizing my WOB. Aside from that, they also have a cool little deal with the purge button that gives a half purge, or Purge Light, when you want it. I can't believe someone did not come up with this sooner, but I like it.
I guess the real test is how well any regulator works in deep water, and I am very happy with the Tek3/XTX50 combination. Apeks is a solid company, they are dedicated to diving, and they make their own products in the UK.
Dive Rite Rec XT 45# Wing
I will try to not make this sound like a rant.
The problem with Wing BCD’s is that most of them are just poorly designed. The Old Horseshoe design is terrible, because gas can only move around when you are in a head up position, and big slugs of gas moving around mess with your trim. They are worthless. With the doughnut design, the wing gas moves around better, and the wing can be designed a little narrower for the same amount of lift, and narrow is good. A big, wide Taco Wing, with two big pontoons of gas inflated Wing wrapped around both sides of your cylinders, makes navigating restrictions difficult, adversely impacts your hydrodynamics, and causes you to expend more energy, and use more gas. All this increases your exposure to DCS, oxygen toxicity, and CO2 narcosis, among other bad things. The more the lift, the wider the wing, for any given design.
IMHO, I do not need 60# of lift, and I do not need the big, wide 60# Taco associated with the big, wide 60# wing!! If I were properly weighted for the dive (and this is critically important), and diving my big twin Blue Steel 120's, with two AL80's for deco gas, that is a lot of gas by any standard you may apply. If I was to breath all of that gas on the dive, my weight differential would only be (400 cf of Air/Nitrox x 0.08 lbs/cf of gas = 32 lbs) 32 lbs. That is for a pretty big dive from a gas usage standpoint, and it would be significantly less than 32# if we were to use Trimix, which is of course lighter. So, with some extra lift for poor initial weighting contingency, I like something like 45# of lift, as a max, for the kind of open circuit diving I do.
When it comes to deeper diving, a Dual Bladder Wing is not a bad idea, and is a requirement for most instruction, not that there are not other ways to deal with a buoyancy device failure, but the Dual Bladder is better. This is especially true for Instructors. So, a Dual Bladder Wing is good, but most Dual Bladder Wings are big, and wide, and heavy, and 60#!!!! A corrugated hose over each shoulder is only like the cherry on top of the Sundae.
So, for deeper diving I want to start out being weighted properly, and I want a Dual Bladder Wing that is no more than 45# of lift, with as small a profile as possible. The Dive Rite Rec XT, which offers the Dual Bladder option, works well for me. It is a rugged, Dual Bladder Wing with 45# of lift, with a side mount Secondary Bladder corrugated hose and inflator that I hardly even notice is there.
When I come out of a wreck, the sides of my Wing are always dirty, simply because I make a lot of wreck contact. The cover on the Rec XT is uber tough!! But the Rec XT also has adjustable bungees to keep the sides trimmed up, which allows me to keep my profile narrow. But the bungees are on my side of the Wing, not the outside of the Wing, where they would get all scuffed up.
The bottom line is that the Dive Rite Rec XT 45# Wing is a rugged, low profile, adjustable, Dual Bladder Wing that is intelligently designed, and built to last. Dive Rite is solid company, with great customer service, and a loyal following. Aside from all that, the Rec XT is reasonably priced.
Hollis F-1 Fins
The things I love about the Hollis Bat Fins are so simple, I can't believe it took so long for a manufacturer to figure it out!! There are all sorts of gimmicky fin designs out there, but the split, vented, hinged, plasticy, whatever fins just do not work for me, and the way I want to dive. I like utility, efficiency, and comfort for the long dive.
The Bat Fin is just like the old heavy duty rubber fins, but totally refined. The rubber material gives the fin itself great snap, but it also makes for a very, very comfortable foot pocket. The fin spring strap is very comfortable as well, and it is the perfect design for wrecks. They have a very streamlined, and featureless side strap connection, so they are far less likely to get entangled in mono or wires, which is good. The heel tabs make the fins fast and easy to remove on the ladder in crappy weather.
I get great kick with these fins even when my hydrodynamics are somewhat challenged with Tek stuff. Aside from all that, these fins are rugged, but relatively light. Did I mention they were really comfortable? I love these fins... in black. 🙂
I have pretty much dived, or seen someone else dive, every dive computer that has come down the pike since my old SOS Meter. Most of them were okay, at least for the technology of the day, but some of them just did not work, which sucked. They all made me think we had a long way to go, at least until I got my hands on the Pursuit. It did what I wanted it to do!!
The Pursuit was intuitive and easy to use, right out of the box. If there was a manual, I never saw it, but I was still able to make it easily work for me, right out of the box. The display was brilliant, and I mean that both ways. I can glance at the screen and see the data, inside the wreck or outside, without having to light it up with my flashlight. Even a blind guy could see these numbers!
As time moved on, I replaced my Pursuit with the then new Predator! I have had it deeper than 500 feet, and I still dive it even though Shearwater doesn't make it anymore. The Shearwater computers changed the way I dive.
Enough history. The god’s honest truth is that the updated version of the Predator is the Petrel, which is even better!! The Petrel is the only dive computer you and I will ever need. At least that is what I thought, until they came out with the Petrel 2!! It even has a compass!!
The whole reason I would want to have a dive computer in the first place is to provide me with the data I need to manage my dive. It is my job to interpret the information, so I want the information I want, right? With the Petrel(1 or 2), I can get all fidgety with the Gradient Factors even on the fly, or I can get info on the status of the battery, or I can change gas on the fly, or whatever? It makes all the data I could want, available. It runs off of AA alkaline batteries which I can change myself. The screen has big, well lit numbers, shows you lots of information, on a home screen that you can even customize!! It runs on Bühlmann GF with the option for adding VMP-B, and has Tech, Rec, Gauge, and CCR modes. I am a compass guy, and the new compass rocks.
I have used the Petrel for Air, Nitrox, Trimix, and CCR. You even have the option for a Fischer connection. Aside from all the features, the best thing about the Petrel is that it is easy to use, and incredibly intuitive. Now, I know not every diver needs a computer that will take them to 500 feet, and for run of the mill recreational dives, divers can get by with far, far less. But if you are not sure how technical or advanced you want to get with your diving, you will never outgrow this computer.
It is Bluetooth integrated, so you can connect it to your desktop, where you can download dives, or upload firmware updates. The Dive Log is awesome. Not only is it the absolutely the best dive computer ever, but Shearwater Research is first class company in every way. IMHO, the Petrel 2 is the best dive computer ever made, period. At the same time, it is way cheaper than computers that do less and cost a lot more.
This computer is so far ahead of everyone else, it is not even funny.
1000 Lumen Lights
I remember a day when my old Darrell Allan light was the wreck diving standard. It was not bright at all, but you could also use it as a hammer!! It was a big can that used like 10 alkyline batteries, and sometimes the bulb would fall out of the socket in the middle of a dive. It was nicknamed "The Prince of Darkness". If you carried a Darrel Allen light, everyone knew you were a serious wreck diver. It was status. That was then, and this is now!!!!!
Modern lights are awesome!! They can give us more light in a smaller package, while they burn longer and at a hotter temperature, than we ever imagined, thanks to LED's!!! For wreck diving, I want my Primary Light to be the best all around light for the diving I am doing. It has to be rugged, have decent burn time, and it needs to be bright. I also want it to be small.
If I am deep in a wreck, I want to have an awesome Primary Light..... but even truly awesome lights can fail. If my Primary goes down, I can't afford to have my old Darrel Allen as a backup to find my way out!! So, I don't want just an awesome Primary Light, I want an awesome Secondary Light, and an awesome Backup Light, as a minimum.
There are a bunch of decent manufacturers of lights. At DEMA, it seems like everyone makes LED lights? With so many light manufacturers, it is not hard to find small, quality, 1000 lumen lights that are inexpensive. They come in a variety of sizes, colors, and power sources.
I use lights with rechargeable lithium ion batteries for my Primary and Secondary, and ones with alkaline batteries for my Backup and the Backup to the Backup, either AA, or C Cell. When I jump in the water, I essentially have a bouquet of very bright, small, reliable, inexpensive 1000 lights. I do not use canister lights, because they are too big and complicated for me and the diving I do.
There are a bunch of manufacturers, like Big Blue, DRIS, Dive Rite, Hog, and others. Pick one, or more than one? When lights are less expensive, you are inclined to carry more of them. 🙂
I wonder where my old Darrell Allan light is these days???
I love to use strobe lights on wrecks!!! They are a fantastic navigation tool, and the brighter they are the better they do what it is I want them to do. I use them to mark the anchor line or stage bottles, as well as for navigation inside or outside the wreck. I regularly use more than one on some dives. Deep inside a dark wreck, nothing gives me that warm and fuzzy feeling on the way out, like seeing the strobe in the distance.
Doc Edgerton invented the strobe light in 1931, but the strobe lights themselves for use underwater have been kind of disappointing until recent history. If you watch my Andrea Doria video from 1991, you will notice that the strobe light I drop at the beginning of the dive to mark my entrance/exit from the stairwell, is not working by the time I am ready to leave. At the other end of the stairwell, I use a flashlight instead of a strobe, simply because I did not own another strobe that was working that day. Reliability is important if you are using it for navigation, and reliability used to be a tall order.
The latest strobe lights from Tektite are the best I have ever used. They are rugged, bright, and reliable. They use either 2 or 3 alkaline C cell batteries, depending on whether you are using the Strobe 200 or the new multi-function Strobe 3500. The two models are equally bright as strobes, but the difference between the 2 and 3 cell version is overall size, and burn time. The multi-function Strobe 3500 also works as a backup light!! I think so much of the 3500, and I think that strobes are so important for wreck divers, that I give one to each of my Advanced Wreck students.