In SCUBA Equipment for Intermediate Divers: Part I, we shared our first recommendations, read on for more!
You’ve learned about masks, fins, snorkels, exposure protection and cutting devices, now it’s time to complete your intermediate diver gear kit. At this point, you have at least 10 dives in your log book and perhaps you’ve even taken an advanced open water diver course or specialty and you know you want to dive regularly. While it’s not yet necessary to buy every piece of gear on the market, there are some basic items that you’ll want to have on each dive.
By purchasing gear in phases that correspond to your skill level as well as your level of activity in the sport, you can make sure you don’t over invest in gear you won’t use while making sure the gear you buy is right for your usage.
Compact, durable and easy to travel with, you’ll be surprised at how much you use your backup light. Even on day dives, having a backup light allows you to restore the colors lost by refraction. Plus, you never know what you might find under a rock or amongst the nooks and crannies of your favorite dive site. Here’s what you should look for:
- Bulb type: For the longest time, the standard bulb was a traditional incandescent bulb. They were bright, but got hot and used a lot of battery life. Then came high intensity discharge (HID) bulbs which were much brighter and significantly cooler, but fragile and expensive. Now, one of the most popular bulb types is light emitting diode (LED) due to its reasonable price, low temperature output, energy efficiency, color temperature and durability. Unless you know you have a specific need for something else, LED lights are a wise choice for the majority of divers.
- Size: Size is dictated by number and type of batteries. A light that requires 8 D-cell batteries will be larger and heavier than one that uses 2 AAA-batteries. The more and larger batteries, the longer the burn time, or time the light stays at full brightness. Most popular backup lights are powered by 3 or 4 C-cell batteries.
- Battery Type: Some lights use rechargeable batteries, some use standard disposable alkaline batteries. From an environmental standpoint, rechargeable would be best, but there are some items to consider: airport security around the globe isn’t standardized on what batteries are allowed so you may lose them at some point, rechargeable batteries require bringing recharging devices and if you forget them you can’t recharge and not all rechargeable batteries fit the same as their disposable counterparts. This isn’t to suggest you should avoid rechargeable, but these are points to consider since they are typically more expensive.
Surface Marker Buoy
If your dives so far have been with dive professionals, you may have noticed they probably brought a float and flag to indicate your presence to those on the surface. This is incredibly important because it helps to prevent boats and jetskis from carelessly running you over while you ascend. While dive professionals often use larger, inner-tube style floats (or support platforms), a diver can accomplish the same surface safety using a surface marker buoy (SMB). Not all SMB’s are created equal though:
- Size: We recommend using an SMB that is at least 5′ long, preferably 7′. If you are on the surface in choppy conditions, a longer SMB will allow boaters to see you more easily. Since SMB’s roll up, a 7′ SMB can still fit easily into a BCD pocket or be unobtrusive when clipped to a BCD D-ring.
- Inflation methods: Depending on which SMB you choose, you can have a variety of options on how to fill it with air. Attaching it to a BCD low pressure hose, inflating it with your lungs or holding a purged regulator underneath the opening on the bottom are all common options. Our personal preference is a sealed SMB with an oral inflate port. For us, it works easiest in rough conditions. Some models come with a variety of methods, this is ideal.
- Over-pressure relief valve: As you learned in your certification course, air expands as it ascends. If you fill a sealed SMB at depth and let it go to the surface, you don’t want it to burst. An over-pressure relief valve, similar to ones found on most BCD’s will allow your SMB to dump air instead of exploding.
- Lift bag: Some SMB’s are also rated to act as a lift bag, helping you to lift and move heavy objects while underwater. Be sure yours is rated to lift before attempting to recover a heavy object and we’d also recommend a search and recovery course to learn how to use lift bags effectively.
You should now have a basic kit of dive gear that will allow you to become more comfortable in the water as well as increasing your diver safety. In our SCUBA Equipment for Advanced Divers series, we’ll cover what comes next!