Old fashioned diving gear
This page provides details and pictures of my scuba diving equipment configuration to date, links to the various dive equipment suppliers and dive stores I've used, plus any other bits and pieces I feel are relevant.
Disclaimer: The scuba gear you use is only a small part of recreational and technical scuba diving, even though critical components are life support equipment.
The right scuba equipment to use is totally dependent upon the type of diving you will be doing, the locations you will be diving at, your physique and temperament. If you choose to use any of the information presented here, then please don't blame me if things go wrong for you.
The following scuba gear list started out generally presented in the order that I purchased the dive equipment. (Please note that this order is simply what happened because of my circumstances. It is highly unlikely to be an optimal order for anyone else. It wasn't even the optimal order for me!) As extra dive gear was added, I started to group things together in "categories" a bit more.
Dive Mask and Snorkel | Dive Fins | Dive Boots and Gloves
Weight Belt | Wetsuits | Dry Suit | Regulators
Diving Instruments | Dive Lights | Scuba Cylinders
Accessories | BCD | Dive Computer | Safety Equipment
Doubling Up | Stage Cylinder Setup
Preparing for Technical Diving
My Equipment Philosophy
There are many schools of thought when it comes to diving equipment. At one end of the spectrum you have those that don't really care and stick to whatever basic recreational setup with jacket BCDs that is available for hire. At the other end of the spectrum you have the divers who adhere strictly to the DIR philosophy.
As you read about my gear you'll probably see that my attitudes to diving equipment has changed over time. As I've learnt more by reading, discussing gear with other divers, watching a wide variety of divers in action, plus using gear by diving with it, I've gained a greater understanding of what works for me in the various situations and environments I dive in.
As I continue to dive and gain experience, plus be exposed to more diving environments, I expect to see changes to my attitudes and philosophy to scuba equipment. And remember, just because this stuff works for me, that doesn't mean it's appropriate for anyone else!
Dive Mask and Snorkel
My then partner purchased a Sonar mask and snorkel package, colour blue, for me for Xmas 2005 from Dive Perfect, a local dive shop in Hastings Victoria. Unfortunately, on our first snorkeling outing at Rye Pier the mask leaked badly. The mask also didn't fit me at all well. It turned out that this was one of a batch of masks that had a manufacturing defect. They all leaked in the same place!
The faulty mask was swapped over for a blue Sonar Explorer "Super View" Wide Fit Silicone Mask. It's made from high quality crystal silicone and has a secure buckle system. The extra large traditional single lens design gives an exceptional field of vision.
In December 2007 I purchased a second one of these Sonar Explorer masks (colour Aqua), plus some spare clips for the two masks. It duly became my main dive mask with the older one in the dive kit as a backup mask.
In July 2010 I purchased a third one of these Sonar Explorer masks (colour Black). It's to become my in the water backup dive mask, clipped into my left side leg pocket.
In mid 2011 I had a mask break when someone stepped on it and got yet another Sonar Explorer to replace it.
In December 2012 I purchased yet another Sonar Explorer mask. They no longer have this model so I'll probably have to eventually consider getting something different.
I have a major problem using a snorkel. Every time I dive down with the snorkel in my month I take on a mouthful of water. My own fault. I have a nasty habit of sucking in air if I have something in my mouth underwater!
Then in 2006, at Aquatic Adventures, in Rye Victoria, I came upon the Oceanic UltraDry snorkel which has a device on it to stop me being able to suck in a mouthful of water when I duck dive with it. Problem solved. Even when I somehow managed to misplaced this snorkel on land, I purchased another Oceanic UltraDry snorkel just the same.
These days I rarely dive with a snorkel. However, it's in my dive kit for when it's required. Though I must remember to take it away on diving trips with me, as it is on these trips that there are often good opportunities for some relaxing snorkeling.
My then partner had heard good things about split fins, though she hadn't tried them herself. She decided that's what she would get me, and thus in early 2006 a pair of yellow Oceanic Vortex V8 fins were purchased from Harbour Dive, in Mornington Victoria.
At first I was happy with them. But I then again, I hadn't tried anything else. The yellow colour does make me easy to find.
I had intended to buy a spare heel strap for these fins to take as a spare in my dive bag. Unfortunately I just kept having problems with the straps on these fins. The straps would slip down over my heel. Sometimes this would result in the fin becoming loose, or even coming off. There were times when I'd finish a dive thinking everything was okay, only to find the heel strap had slipped down again. To try and prevent this, I was pulling the straps so tight at the start of a dive that I ended up breaking one of the pins.
Finally, on one dive I had the left fin come off at the beginning of the dive, which was retrieved. Then at the end of the same dive, the right fin came off and was swept away by the current. Scratch one pair of fins.
So I quickly started to look around for a new pair of fins. I tried a pair of Oceanic Vortex V12 fins, but something just didn't feel right about them. Eventually I decided to get a pair of Apollo Bio-Fin Pro fins, with heavy duty, stainless steel, spring straps as new replacements, purchased from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria. Size Large-XLarge (LL) fins and size XL straps. Colour? Why yellow, of course.
The Apollo Bio-Fin Pro fins are far easier to get on and off, though I have already broken and replaced two of the rubber heel units. There has been no indication that the steel straps are ever going to slip down. These fins are extremely comfortable in the water. Plus, I've finally learnt the correct kicking action for these split fins and it's making a lot of difference.
Dive Boots and Gloves
I started out in 2006 using a pair of Apollo Ecodiver dive boots (size XXL) from Dive Perfect, in Hastings Victoria. These proved to be a good, durable boot. The angled design matches contour of leg when fining providing superior fit and increased comfort. They are 5mm for warmth, with wide fit, heavy duty zipper and heel caps. The toe caps travels up past the arch, preventing wear at the edge of fin pocket, plus the non-slip white sole won't mark boat decks. But after 18 months of use, I'd worn holes through the bottom of the soles of these dive boots.
After asking advice from a number of different diving companions, in 2007 I eventually decided to get a pair of Performance Diver Multi Purpose Boots (size XXL 11-11.5), purchased from The Scuba Doctor in Rye Victoria. These boots should last longer, plus be more suitable for shore entries.
In 2006 I initially chose a pair of Apollo Proflex 2mm gloves (size M/L) from Dive Perfect, in Hastings Victoria. The 2mm neoprene with stitched and glued seams, provide extra durability and warmth. Their super stretch and flexibility means I still have manual dexterity underwater. I'm only using these gloves for recreational diving and I've not been trying to catch any lobsters. For heavier duty work, I'm sure their would be better choices than these gloves.
After not quite a year of diving, the Apollo gloves were starting to come apart at the seams, plus some of the fingertips were worn through. So I replaced them with a pair of Northern Diver Superstretch 2mm Neoprene Gloves, size XL, purchased from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria. While these gloves are supposed to be 2mm, the same as the Apollo gloves, they certainly feel just a bit thicker and stronger. Even so, they are just as easy to get on and off.
In the period between when I did a Try Dive day and before I started my Open Water certification course, I went on a snorkeling outing to Rye Pier with my mask, fins and snorkel. I was accompanied by two highly experienced divers in full scuba gear. They suggested I get a weight belt and duck down and share air with them. Please keep in mind that I was already very mindful of the first rule of scuba diving, "Never Hold Your Breath".
Thus a weight belt was borrowed and the outing was a great success. Afterwards, I was across the road at Aquatic Adventures, in Rye Victoria, and saw the same 14 pocket weight belt. So I bought one, together with some 18 kilograms of 1 kg and 0.5 kg lead bars.
While doing my Open Water dive course in February 2006, I started with 18 kg of lead loaded into my weight belt. It was a difficult to handle, and difficult to keep on me. First we tried using a rope harness to provide me with some support for the weight. But that wasn't a viable long-term solution, so I started to look for alternatives.
I also tried putting a spring loaded buckles onto my weight belt. But it seems as in most things, there are good quality and inferior quality spring loaded buckles. Mine wasn't coping with the amount of weight I had in the weight belt.
It was suggested that some 50 mm (2 inch) dive belt webbing could be fashioned into a releasable harness attached to my weight belt. But I didn't quite like the look of that.
Eventually I came across a review of the DUI Weight & Trim 2 weight harness on the Scuba Diving magazine web site. RRP US0. However, after tracing sources here in Australia, I found it was going to cost me A0 to buy locally. I couldn't try one on first because no one stocked them, and I'd have to pay a deposit for them to order one in for me.
A few weeks later, while ordering some diving lights from scuba.com, I decided to order in the DUI Weight & Trim 2 as well. It turned out to be an effective, though not ideal, solution.
Also, I'm down to just 12 kg of lead with my Faber steel 12.5 litre cylinder when wearing my 7mm wetsuit and using a stainless steel backplate. I could drop down a bit more when using my Faber steel 15 litre scuba cylinder, but rarely do so.
(Later I came across the Northern Diver NDiver Weight & Trim System which is available locally for A5. It looks like it could be a very viable alternative to the DUI Weight & Trim 2.)
When my old DUI weight harness finally needed to be replaced, I sourced Apeks removable weight pockets and had a weight harness made up by Ocean Suits, in Hallam, Victoria, to my own design. It's a beaut!
Once I started regularly diving from private boats, I had to rethink my weight distribution regime. When diving from private boats, it is usual practice to pass up your weight belt, pass up any integrated BC weight pockets, and then take off the BC and pass it up as well.
Great as they are, the dumpable weight pockets in the DUI Weight & Trim harness really weren't meant for this. You can dump them, but catching the pockets and passing everything up would be quite tricky. Plus it would be a pain to put it all back together after each dive.
You can't remove the whole harness until the BC is off. But if you take off your BC with so much weight in your harness, you're very negatively buoyant and sink. Not good!
So I fitted a set of OMS Compact Quick Dump Weight Pockets from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria, to my OMS IQ Pack BC. This integrated weight system consists of two matching, rugged 1600 denier nylon pockets, incorporates no sag features, an inner pouch that holds the weight and is secured by a 2 inch quick release buckle to prevent accidental dumping of weights.
Using these weight pockets adds an "integrated weights" capability to the OMS IQ Pack which enables me to split the weight between the DUI Weight & Trim weight harness and these weight pockets. Problem solved.
Once I started to dive with my dry suit in mid 2007, it was suggested that in order to improve my trim and control while diving in the dry suit, a pair of McNett Ankl Weights might be the go. They were duly purchased from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria.
The long size was required, which fits ankles 13" to 15" and weigh 1.75 kg per pair. They made a big improvement on shallow pier dives, but I find I don't need them when diving deeper.
It was my intention to purchase a custom fitted Sonar wetsuit once my weight was more stable. (At the time I started diving I'd been loosing quite a bit of weight through a change in my diet and exercise regime.)
However, on the Wednesday of the week between my two Open Water course weekends in February 2006, I was at Rye Pier for a snorkeling outing. I actually got a bit cold in the water.
After the dive we made our way across the road from the pier to Aquatic Adventures in Rye Victoria. My then partner pointed out that a wetsuit on special for A0 looked about the right size for me. I tried it on and it was a near perfect fit.
Thus I now have a Neptune Sports Scorpion Gold 7mm "Semi Dry" wetsuit (size 6+) with rear vertical entry G-Lock zip, centre split spine pad, reinforced knee pads, titanium gold slick coated seals and lining, ankle seals and zips, plus a leg pocket. Indeed, that leg pocket is very handy, and it's amazing how often other divers comment that they wish they had one too.
The wetsuit has gold/yellow markings, and thus my yellow, highly visible, colour scheme continues. Best of all, this wetsuit seems to really suit the type of diving I'm currently doing, especially as it starts to get colder in Melbourne as Winter approaches, and as I start to do more night dives.
In July 2010 the slim thigh pocket on this wetsuit was removed and two proper diving thigh pockets were added, one each side, by Mark Ryan from Aquability in Mentone Victoria.
However, coming into summer 2006/2007, it was starting to get warmer in the water, so I ordered a custom fitted Sonar Steamer, 3mm wetsuit with thigh pocket, for summer and tropical diving. And of course, the yellow colour theme continues.
It is so much more comfortable diving in this thinner wetsuit. This is partly due to the greater flexibility and movement it provides, but also because I can drop about 5 kilograms of lead from my weight harness.
In July 2010 the thigh pocket on this wetsuit was removed and two proper diving thigh pockets were added, one each side, by Mark Ryan from Aquability in Mentone Victoria.
Victoria is a world class temperate water diving destination. But "temperate water" is also another way of saying "colder water". As the water temperature dropped in Melbourne to 14oC with the onset of Winter 2006, I started to investigate ways to stay a bit warmer in the water on scuba dives.
Holeproof Explorer wool and nylon socks have helped, as has wearing a cotton T-shirt under my wetsuit. But that was not enough.
So I added a Northern DiverThermalskin undergarment (size XL), which is a close fitting undergarment made from a breathable moisture wicking fleece and super-stretch Lycra. (I can certainly testify that it stretches, because it has to stretch heaps for me to fit inside.)
The Thermalskin is intended to be worm under dry suits, wetsuits or normal clothing to provide additional warmth in and out of the water. It has also proved suitable as my main protection when diving in tropical conditions as well. It was purchased from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria.
On Anzac Day 2006 at Blairgowrie Pier, I noticed it was a bit chilly when I first went into the water. Obviously the water temperature was dropping as we move towards winter and I could probably use a little more protection. So I purchased a custom made 3 mm hood from Ocean Suits, in Hallam Victoria. Naturally, my yellow, highly visible, colour scheme was continued, with the hood being black and yellow.
While I made it through winter 2006 diving in the temperate waters of Victoria reasonably comfortably, for winter 2007 we decided I should get a dry suit as I was now starting to do some deeper dives, plus the dry suit would be more comfortable when going out on dive days where two or more dives are done.
A made to measure Northern Diver CNX2-RI 2.5mm hyper-compressed neoprene dry suit in flame red was ordered on the recommendation of Peter Fear at The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria.
It was customised with size 10 wide boots, rear shoulder zip, fly zip, plus left and right side thigh pockets. For good measure, my name is embroidered on it.
Now I just have to learn how to properly dive in it. What works for me is to keep the minimum amount of air required to overcome squeeze in the dry suit, and still use the BCD for primary buoyancy control.
A dry suit alone won't keep you warm. In a dry suit, your comfort is governed by the warmth from the clothing worn and the nature of the layers of clothing worn.
At first I would just wear my Northern Diver Thermalskin. Then as the water cooled, I'd add a pair of fleecy tracky daks and a sweat shirt.
For winter 2008 diving in my dry suit, I added a pair of Northern Diver SPX Hotmax Sox, size XL, from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria.
The Northern Diver SPX Hotmax Sox are made from wicking fleece which means that your feet remain warm and comfortable. Moisture is always present inside any diving drysuit, often produced by the diver’s own body. The SPX Hotmax wicks this moisture away from the skin to provide foot comfort.
In addition, I ordered a Northern Diver Metalux 100 Undersuit (size 6FT2, Wide 4, 190 cm) from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria. (Many people would be better off with a Metalux 200 diving in Victoria, but I have enough built-in insulation to only need the Metalux 100.)
Metalux is a lightweight, high performance insulating material designed to reduce air movement and reflect thermal radiation. Metalux retains its insulative qualities when wet or compressed and the quilt construction retains thermal integrity throughout the life of the garment.
After asking the opinions of a few people who should really know, plus doing a fair bit of Internet research, I was leaning towards buying Apeks regulators. A comparative review in Scuba Diving magazine finally convinced me.
Thus I decided to purchase the combination of an Apeks ATX100 regulator first and second stage with an Apeks ATX40 Octopus.
In order to keep my options open and for maximum flexibility, I purchased the DIN version of the Apeks ATX100 primary stage, but also an Apeks DIN to Yoke Adaptor. This way I can go with a DIN setup most of the time, but switch to a Yoke (A Clamp) setup where DIN fills and/or cylinders aren't available.
In 2006, I was informed that the best price I was likely to be able to buy this diving equipment for was to be found at Scubastore.com, an online dive shop based in Spain. A week and a half after ordering, the shipment arrived and I was able to switch to diving with a great set of my own regulators, instead of hired ones.
The above set of regs was handed down to my partner Cheryl Lees when she took up scuba diving in 2010.
I now use a single cylinder regulator setup based on an Apeks XTX200 DIN Regulator (i.e. first stage and second stage), with an Apeks XTX200 second stage as my octopus also.
Thus I'm now using XTX200 regulator first and second stages across my single cylinder, twin cylinder and stage cylinder setups. Underwater, the XTX200 doesn't disappoint. These regulators are incredibly smooth to breathe from. There isn't a hint of an initial higher workload to crack the valve, or any over provision of air once the breathing cycle is in place.
Initially my original single cylinder regulator setup used traditional rubber hoses. However, once the light, flexible Miflex Xtreme regulator and inflator hoses became available I switched to them with the help of The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria.
One day in late 2009, I was about to roll back into the water for a dive on the ex HMAS Canberra in Victoria, when what sounded like a rifle shot rang out behind my head. The original rubber high pressure hose had let go. On returning to The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria, after the dive, we proceeded to replace my rubber high pressure hoses with the super-thin and flexible Miflex Xtreme-hi hoses.
A custom made, 380 mm diameter, 80 mm deep, Sonar Regulator Bag, made out of 5mm yellow and black neoprene is used to store my regulators and instruments.
The same knowledgeable sources who steered me towards my Apeks regs, also recommended a Suunto Console Combo for my diving instruments. Again, modularity and flexibility down the track were key decision factors with me.
Thus along with the Apeks regs from Scubastore.com, I also ordered a Suunto CB-Two-In-Line Combo Console. This has a Suunto SM-36 pressure gauge (300 bar) in-line with a Suunto SM-16 depth gauge (40-70 metre).
I then ordered a Suunto CB-71/SK-7/DS Compass from Aquatic Adventures in Rye Victoria. This is the version of the Suunto SK-7 compass that mounts onto the back of the first part of the Combo Console. (Note: You can't save money by ordering a compass from overseas as you're likely to end up with one which is swung for the wrong earth zone. That is, it won't work properly in Australia.)
The end result was a Suunto CB-Double-In-Line instrument console. That is, analogue pressure and depth gauges on the front of the console, and the compass on the back of the console.
A Mirage Gauge Pouch made of 600 denier protects these valuable gauges to and from the dive site. It's Velcro securing system allows the pouch to seal around hoses. This was purchased from Ocean Suits, in Dandenong Victoria.
I had always thought that once I had my own dive computer, I would probably drop the depth gauge out of the combination and end up with a Suunto CB-Double configuration. I haven't done this as yet. In fact, I'm thinking of replacing the depth gauge with an appropriate Suunto digital depth gauge, bottom timer, for better redundancy.
What has happened in the meantime, is that my Suunto SM-36 pressure gauge failed and was replaced under warranty.
I also destroyed my Suunto CB-71/SK-7/DS compass. It simply wasn't protected enough on the back of the console. I looked at buying one of the cage protectors available, but none of these seemed to properly protect the compass when mounted on the rear of the console. Besides, I never really liked using the compass on the console.
Thus I replaced it with a wrist mounted Suunto SK-7 Compass, which I wear on my right wrist. So much more convenient.
At first I didn't think there would be any point in diving at night, but then I did a night dive at Mornington Pier and I was hooked.
For my first two night dives I used a borrowed Ikelite PC Lite dive light. In my opinion, this torch is fine as a secondary/backup torch, but not suitable as a main dive torch. So again I started to ask around and do my research as to which dive lights I'd purchase.
Eventually I settled on the Princeton Tec Shockwave LED as my main dive light. It features triple 3 watt Max Bright LEDS, and uses eight C alkaline batteries to give 12+ hours of burn time on high and 20+ hours of burn time on low.
A Princeton Tec Impact XL started as my secondary/backup torch. It uses a 1 watt Max Bright LED, and delivers 50 hours of a very white light from just four AA alkaline batteries.
A Princeton Tec Aqua Strobe is my emergency strobe light. It uses a Xenon flash tube to deliver 8 hours of 70 per minute flashes from a single AA alkaline battery.
I found out that Oceanic Australia were distributing these dive lights here and that they would cost me A0 from a local Oceanic dealer. Given that the USA retail price for the set is US0, I was expecting an Australian price of about A0. So I ordered the set of dive lights from scuba.com, along with the DUI Weight & Trim 2, plus a few other diving accessories.
On my first dive at Rye Pier with the Princeton Tec Shockwave LED dive light, the difference in available light was amazing. I was only using it on the low setting! Indeed, I found there was little difference in brightness between the high and low settings, so using the low setting would give me longer battery life. Others on the dive commented that they could certainly tell where I was just by looking for my distinctive bright white light.
On my first dive on the 26m Submarine J4, the Princeton Tec Shockwave LED torch got caught on the boat ladder as I was climbing out of the water. The zip tie broke and it disappeared to the bottom. So happy had I been with this torch that I ordered another one to replace it just days later over the Internet from LeisurePro.
I later added an OMS VEGA 3 watt LED Flashlight to my dive kit as my backup torch, from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria.
Some time later the torch died and was replaced by an OMS VEGA K2 LED Flashlight which is a lot brighter. Small and compact like the original OMS Vega 3W LED Flashlight, the OMS Vega K2 LED High Intensity Dive Light has backend optics rather than front end optics and incorporates "graded" high color temperature Lumileds K2 LED.
Powered by two CR-123A batteries (with reverse polarity protection) its very bright (over 180 Lumens). Couple this with a highly collimated beam and a 100 metre (330 fsw) depth rating and this is one very useful and rugged diving light.
I used to wear this torch clipped to my right harness D-ring on almost every dive. It's tethered in place using a piece of bicycle tubing.
These days I dive with the Dive Perfect Stubby LED-1000 Dive Light. It produces a powerful 1000 lumens of light with a 10 degree centre spot beam and a 60 degree spread beam. I use it as a back dive torch on technical dives, and as my primary dive light on recreationl/sport dives.
Scuba Cylinders / Tanks / Bottles
Most of the people I know use and recommend Faber steel dive cylinders. Thus deciding to get one was an easy decision. But which size?
During my Open Water course I was using Faber 12.2 litre cylinders and going through the air real fast. Okay, I'll admit I'm an air hog. My partner uses a 10.5 litre cylinder and finishes a dive with 150 bar, while I use a 12.2 litre cylinder and finish the same dive with 50 bar.
I'm getting better, though. In the beginning on a shore dive I would get 20 to 25 minutes of bottom time from a 12.2 litre cylinder, and of late I'm getting 90 minutes of bottom time. I tried using a 15 litre cylinder a few times and the extra size and weight was okay for me, so that's what I decided to purchase.
Thus a Faber 15 litre (125 cu ft) steel dive cylinder, complete with DIN/K valve, valve protector, yellow tank protector mesh and tank carry handle was ordered from Coastal Water Dive, in Bunbury. I've been able to stop using the Apeks DIN to Yoke Adaptor, just using the DIN fittings on my Apeks first-stage regulator and tank valve. At it's first annual testing, this cylinder was O2 cleaned so that I could use it with Nitrox.
I joined the Victorian Sub-Aqua Group and started to do more dives from small private boats. As we typically go out and do two dives for the day, a second dive cylinder is required. Thus two Faber 12.2 litre (100 cu ft) steel dive cylinders were purchased from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria. One for me and one for my partner. At their first annual testing, these cylinders were O2 cleaned so that they could be used with Nitrox.
As of April 2007, having completed my SDI Deep Diver course, I'm starting to do more dives beyond 30 metres in depth. So I'm now looking to set up two 12.2 litre steel cylinders as a twin pair, giving me more air capacity, plus some redundancy and additional safety. I've also been doing a few dives with a borrowed 5 or 7 litre aluminium cylinder as a pony bottle / redundant air source. I plan to add an aluminium stage cylinder to my setup.
As well as the main equipment, it seems there are a lot of accessories that go with scuba diving. Some are for use in the water, and some are for handling and cleaning the gear on land.
One of the most useful additions to my scuba gear setup, has been to start using a trolley to transport my gear to and from the pier. I already had a Remin Kart-A-Bag Concorde III trolley that I purchased while in the USA in 1989.
The addition of a milk crate strapped to the Concorde III using some bungee cords, plus a locking wire to secure it all to the pier while in the water or out on a dive boat, completed the setup.
Sometimes it is simple things that make a big difference to ones enjoyment of an activity.
Unfortunately the Kart-A-Bag trolley wasn't really ideal for the job. The small non-pneumatic wheels could be an issue on some surfaces. After two years of use as my diving trolley the wheels started to break up. So I looked around for a better solution.
I eventually settled on the Courier Folding Trunk Trolley from Aussie Trolleys in Dandenong, Victoria. (Note: This is the model up from the one available at Bunnings.) It has a load capacity of 150 kilograms, which is somewhat of an overkill, but that's probably what makes the lifelong guarantee on the frame possible. It folds down to a nice compact size for transporting and storage. Best of all, the 8 inch pneumatic wheels make it much easier to move my diving gear about over all of the surfaces I've needed to so far.
A couple of 200 litre plastic drums with removable lids are used for cleaning the gear after a dive.
At A each, these drums are very cheap, yet large enough for the job. The drums are two thirds full of water, to which lemon scented baby hair shampoo and disinfectant are added.
The assembled tank, BC and regs combination is pressurised and lowered into the drum and left for a good clean and soaking overnight, together with wetsuit, boots, gloves, fins and everything else. Then everything is pulled out, rinsed off and hung up to dry.
Hanging up scuba gear properly so that it dries well, isn't damaged and is stored appropriately, is not something you can really do with normal household coat hangers.
For wetsuits we're using Baker Shoulder Saver Ventilator Drying & Storage Hangers which were purchased from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria. The large 5 inch wide shoulders helps with air circulation and puts less stress on the shoulder area.
For the BCDs and regulators, we are using the commonly available regulator/BCD hangers (pictured above) that can be found in most dive shops. These were also purchased from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye.
For my Northern Diver dry suit, I mostly use a Scubapro Drysuit Hanger, purchased from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria. These are just so easy to use and ensure that the dry suit dries out quickly and thoroughly. A Baker Shoulder Saver Ventilator Drying & Storage Hanger is also used from time to time.
Wet Gear Bags
A large, blue Sonar Draw String Catch Bag was added to my kit, purchased from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria. It was not used as a catch bag, but as a convenient wet dive bag to carry my mask, fins, snorkel, hood, reel and surface marker buoy onto a dive boat.
Unfortunately, this bag proved to be unsuited to the task. The fins would catch on the bag's mesh, making it difficult to get them into the bag, and also producing holes in the bag.
It was replaced with a large yellow Mirage Deluxe Catch Bag (50cm x 80cm) from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria. (Yes, I'm back to my yellow colour scheme.) Sadly, the mesh on this bag also proved not to be sturdy enough for using as a dive gear bag and holes eventually appeared.
While doing my TDI Advanced Nitrox course in July 2010, I noticed that Mark Ryan was using a simple and sturdy wet dive gear bag. So I purchased an Aropec Mesh bag from Aquability in Mentone Victoria. It is a Black/Black in colour 420D Nylon/PVC mesh bag (BG-CU35), with hand carrier and shoulder strap, size 24 cm x 14 cm x 14 cm. I think I've finally got a great solution. (If only it was available in yellow! However, I did go and get my name embroidered onto both ends of the bag in yellow so as to make it easier to pick out on a dive boat.)
Yes, I also have a catch bag that is actually used underwater as a catch bag!
It's a Sherwood Scuba Spring Handle Catch Bag purchased from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria. It's an imported heavy duty, spring loaded, catch bag featuring triple adjustable special marine grade stainless springs and lockable-open mechanism.
Okay, so my yellow colour theme is slightly off-track, but this lime-green colour is close enough. Truly!
In December 2007 I realised that if I was going to take any decent abalone while diving, then I really should get a proper abalone tool. A couple of people who should know recommended the Kikusui Eternal Divers Abalone Iron with Sheath from Divers Supplies Australia in Braeside, Victoria.
This tool has knife edges either side, which I believe may make it illegal as an abalone tool in Victoria. Certainly these knife edges could also be dangerous at times. So they have been blunted by Matt Kelly on a grinder. Matt also added lines for the legal size limits for abalone in Victoria onto the tool.
I don't actually use the plastic sheath supplied with the abalone tool. Instead I've added a lanyard to the abalone tool, plus a clip so that I can just clip it to my catch Sherwood Scuba Spring Handle Catch Bag. Sadly, while on a dive trip, this catch bag and abalone tool went missing. They were both soon replaced as they're a great combination.
My Faber cylinders came with folding tank handles. Now you would think that a tank handle is a tank handle. But no. The ones that came standard with the cylinders were somewhat problematic. They weren't really strong enough to handle the weight of the 15 litre cylinder. Plus they had a bolt that would protrude and often catch knuckles. Not nice!
So I started to look around for a better folding tank handle, but everything I found had the same inferior design and build quality. I mentioned this to Peter Fear at The Scuba Doctor and he searched around and found the Northern Diver Folding Tank Handles that are strong and designed well. What's more, they cost the same as the others.
Before doing the Underwater Navigation and Search & Recovery Adventure Dives at Mornington Pier as a part of my Advanced Open Water course in May 2005, I added a Mirage A250 Wrist Slate to my diving kit. It was purchased from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria.
The truth be known, while this slate was with me on most dives, I hardly ever used it. But while doing my TDI Advanced Nitrox Diver and TDI Decompression Procedures Diver courses in July 2010, I needed to start using a dive slate to record my dive plans.
So I duly modified the Mirage slate by removing the extra panels and the pencil. I carved off the retaining clips for the pencil with a knife to leave a simple one panel wrist slate.
My dive plan is written onto Norton Duct Tape PVC, Silver 48mm x 30m from Bunnings using a Sharpie Fine Point Permanent Marker pen from Officeworks. The tape is then affixed to the dive slate.
In addition, I now also have a set of Cordura covered Wet Notes, purchased from Aquability in Mentone Victoria, for my full set of dive plans. It's clipped into the left side leg pocket during dives.
For writing on dive slates and dive notes, I use KOH-I-NOOR Progresso Graphite Pencils, 8911/2B or HB. These are woodless pencils made of the finest Hardtmuth graphite for excellent lay down. Solid weighty feel. Lacquer-coated shaft for comfort. The pencils are sharpened with a standard Staedtler metal single hole sharpener. I've read that Pilot Croquis 6B twist action pencils with lead refills are also good.
For cleaning pencil etc. off of dive slates and wet notes I use Chux Magic Eraser hard surface cleaner blocks. The micro fibres do it easily with no rigorous scrubbing.
Dive Travel Bags
A Mirage GB30 Duffle Bag with Wheels is used on trips away with my diving gear. This is a complete traveling 600 denier bag with wheels, and even a pull-out handle. Mesh pockets on the sides are only accessible from the inside for security. A separate wet pocket is provided as well as a small inner zip pocket for valuables. All corners are reinforced and straps are provided to secure other items to the top of the bag. This was purchased from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria.
A cheap carry bag was purchased from Aussie Disposals, to carry my dry clothes and my save a dive kit in the car to and from dive sites.
A large, black plastic tub with lockable and removable lid from Bunnings is used to carry my dive gear in the car to and from dive sites. When diving from private boats, this tub is also used onboard.
In October 2007 I went to buy another one of these only to find Bunnings were out of stock. However, the nearby Supercheap Auto had them in stock. The item to look for is a Stanley 32"/82cm Pack 'n Away 102 litre storage container (82.9 x 53.6 x 39 cm).
Deciding which BCD to purchase was the hardest decision. It was obvious that this is probably the most important piece of equipment when it comes to comfort in the water and ease of diving. During my Open Water course and subsequent dives using hired BCDs, it became obvious to me that there was a big difference in the performance and comfort of the various BCDs.
Ideally I wanted a BCD configuration that could handle my single Faber 15 litre steel tank, plus enable me to switch to using twin tanks down the track, should I need to. I wanted a BCD which would allow me to transfer some weight from my dive belt onto the BCD. I wanted a BCD that could adapt to the diving I might do later, rather than just be able to handle the diving I'm doing now.
After a lot of questioning and Internet research, I started to lean towards a Dive Rite TransPac with Rec Wing configuration, or an OMS IQ Pack with dual bladder 60 lb lift wing configuration.
On Anzac Day 2006, I had the opportunity to test dive an OMS IQ Pack harness system with 60 lb lift, dual bladder, elastomeric banded wing. I was the most comfortable I've ever been on a dive. This was a simply great setup for me. Thus the same configuration was purchased from Peter Fear at The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria.
Because of my desire to be easily seen both underwater and on the surface, I purchased the OMS wing in red. Peter Fear adjusted my regular hoses and connections to suit the OMS BCD setup.
After much investigation I ordered a Suunto Vytec DS dive computer, with air transmitter, Dive Manager software, cover screen, battery kit and strap from Scubastore.com, an online dive shop based in Spain.
I particular like the Deep Stop mode of the Suunto Vytec DS. I feel better after diving and recover faster when I do the deep stop(s) as recommended by it.
Although the Suunto Vytec DS dive computer has a Nitrox mode, so far when diving with Nitrox I've just left it in Air mode and had the extra safety factor.
I also purchased a Deep Sea Supply Bungee Mount for the Suunto Vytec DS from Scubaroo Diving Supply.
Initially, although I had the Suunto strap and the bungee mount option, I never actually used them.
Instead, I started out with a Waterborne Scuba Safety Strap on the recommendation of Peter Fear at The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria. This patented product, is made from thin but rugged, open weave nylon cloth and is one inch wide. It works such that even if one of the standard strap pins fails, the Suunto will still stay on my wrist. It also has a dual buckling system to ensure the strap won't come undone.
As of November 2007, the Waterborne straps are now sold as Duraflex Scuba Safety Straps. Thankfully, they're also now a lot longer which means it now fits my bigger right wrist even when wearing a drysuit.
In July 2010 in preparation for a TDI Trimix Diver course in August, I purchased a Suunto HelO2 Dive Computer and Suunto Wireless Transmitter from overseas.
Now I use the Suunto HelO2 as my main dive computer and the Suunto Vytec DS in gauge mode as my dive timer. I'm in the process of switching to using the Deep Sea Supply bungee mounts for both dive computers and the Suunto SK-7 compass.
For details of my underwater photo and video setups, please see Underwater Pics.
My partner had a spare Oceanic Spinner Pointed dive knife with no scabbard. Thus all I had to do is order in a scabbard for it from Aquatic Adventures in Rye Victoria, and I had a nice compact dive knife. Initially I mounted this dive knife on my inflator hose.
As I began switching my equipment to handle more technical dives in July 2010, I replaced the knife above with a Trident 75 mm Titanium Knife, colour black/yellow, purchased from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria. The 75 mm (3") Titanium Alloy blade, is made up of, a 60 mm (2.3") leading edge, followed with a 7 mm (1/4") line cutter ground into the blade. The rear of the blade sports a 35 mm (1.5") serrated edge.
The sturdy two tone nylon handle, molds to your hand while a serrated fore finger and thumb grip stops your hand from sliding forward. A hole for a leash to be attached is also Incorporated in the rear of the handle along with an alloy head for cracking shells etc.
It's kept in a pouch based on 2 inch belt webbing, mounted vertically on the left side of my BCD waist belt. I now have another one of these knives for my "recreational" diving setup as well.
An OMS Compact Titanium Line Cutter with Pouch was also purchased from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria. It measures 12.3 cm (4.87") in overall length and incorporates a sharp serrated plus standard cutting edge and is fabricated from pure non-magnetic Titanium.
The supplied pouch allows mounting in a horizontal or vertical position. There is also a mounting hole in the handle that enables the cutter to be tethered to the pouch or harness.
The Titanium compact line cutter is a logical selection when low maintenance as well as non magnetic properties are required. It's mounted vertically on the left side of my BCD waist belt.
I have a Northern Diver Aluminium Dive Reel with tension and locking system which has 15 metres of nylon line on the spool. The aluminium anodised frame makes it very durable. The adjustable tension control drag system prevents the common problem of bird-nesting and back-lashing. While originally intended for cave/wreck diving and deploying lift bags, I at first used this dive reel with my Buddy surface marker buoy. It was purchased from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria.
In June 2010 I purchased a Buddy Pocket Reel with 40 metres of line from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria. I'm now looking to use this very compact reel as my DSMB reel.
In July 2010 I purchased a Stainless Steel Finger Spool with 30 metres of Hi-Viz Yellow Dacron Line and a Stainless Steel Double Ended Bolt Snap from Dive Gear Express, in the USA. The generous sized centre hole features an ergonomic shape for easy handling even with thick gloves.
It's going to take a while to get proficient with a finger spool. Losing a bolt snap on the first dive with it wasn't a great start, but it felt nice to use.
In July 2010 I also purchased a right-handed 90 mm Diameter Stainless Steel Narrow Spool Ratchet Diving Reel (# 47) with 40 metres (130 feet) of yellow nylon line on a 90 mm diameter narrow spool from Kent Tooling & Components, in Kent, UK.
Plus I purchased a 80 mm Diameter Stainless Steel Finger Spool with large centre hole, 30 metres (100 feet) of yellow nylon line and Stainless Steel Double Ended Bolt Snap, from Kent Tooling & Components, in Kent, UK.
Surface Marker Buoy
For safety, an A.P. Valves Buddy Surface Marker Buoy (closed, self sealing), with contrasting red and yellow panels for enhanced visibility and an over pressure dump valve, has been added to my kit. It is 1.4 metres long and 20 cm wide.
I attach the SMB to my dive reel, which in turn is clipped to the centre scooter ring of my OMS harness. I just tuck the SMB itself under the BCD waist band where it is both comfortable and easy to deploy. Thus I have a DSMB for bottom or mid-water deployment, which is great for hanging on a decompression or safety stop. A message slate, strobe or identification marker can also be attached to the top eyelet.
The Buddy Surface Marker Buoy was purchased from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria.
I read about the SOLAS/DSMB Stickers available from DiveSigns in the January 2008 edition of BSAC DIVE magazine. These stickers use Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) grade reflective tape, which is US Coast Guard approved and used worldwide for the marking of marine safety equipment. The sticker fixes directly to the side of the DSMB. The lettering is 65 mm tall. The text on the stickers can be printed horizontally or vertically. I chose the vertical option. This has got to be the most effective way currently available to identify yourself to your surface cover/dive boat skipper during your ascent and deco, or on any dive requiring a surface marker buoy, especially at busy dive sites.
After watching a number of divers using them, in June 2010 I decided to purchase an A.P. Valves Buddy SMBCi (Surface Marker Buoy - Closed with Inflation Cylinder), with contrasting HiViz red and yellow panels for enhanced visibility and an over pressure dump valve, has been added to my kit. Deployment is done by simply unfurling the SMB and cracking open the cylinder. It's just so cool, and fully fills the DSMB every time. Of course, I've added a SOLAS/DSMB Sticker to this DSMB as well.
Wreck/Primary Safety Reel
In preparation for an SDI Wreck Diving course, I purchased an OMS Primary Safety Reel with 100 metres (330 feet) of 2.3 mm (.09 inch) nylon line from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria.
This OMS reel is well known for its reliability and comes with a life-time warranty. I've been told it will make an excellent wreck penetration diving reel.
In July 2010 I also purchased a right-handed 120 mm Diameter Stainless Steel Narrow Spool Ratchet Diving Reel (# 381) with 75 metres (245 feet) of yellow nylon line from Kent Tooling & Components, in Kent, UK. The quality of the design, engineering and construction of the Kent Tooling & Components products is just magnificent.
Personal Floatation Device
When diving from small boats, Victorian regulations are such that we must wear a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) Type 1 when we are in hazardous waters, even though we're typically already in our wetsuits. So for crossing The Rip, we still have to stop and put a life jacket on.
Instead of using the bulky life jackets most boat owners have, I decided to purchase my own Stormy Yoke Inflatable PFD Type 1 (Style: SIY, serial #: F 271833) online from Stormy Australia. It's red in colour and has a manually activated inflation system powered by a CO2 cylinder, plus a backup oral inflation tube. The reflective shoulder tape and signal whistle add to the safety factor.
In tends to be cold out on the water in between dives during winter in Melbourne. So in July 2010 I purchased a Stormy Jacket Inflatable PFD Type 1 (size 2XL, serial #: F 214351) online from Stormy Australia. It's yellow in colour and has a manually activated inflation system powered by a CO2 cylinder, plus a backup oral inflation tube. The warm fleece lining and hand warming pockets, roll away hood, long zip out arms, plus water and wind proof outer shell combine to keep me warm and dry.
First Aid Kit
In September 2007, I completed a Senior First Aid Course with DAN Asia-Pacific, in Melbourne Victoria. That December I decided I should purchase a DAN Asia-Pacific Pro Plus First Aid Kit to have with me in the car when heading out on shore dives.
The DAN Asia-Pacific Pro Plus First Aid Kit is designed for both diving professionals and others. It has all the usual general first aid supplies PLUS more ... including a SAM Splint, Resuscitation Mask and emergency blanket. It comes in a waterproof Pelican 1400 Orange Case.
VHF Marine Radio
In December 2007, I decided to purchase an Icom IC-M33 Hand Held, VHF Marine Transceiver from Prestige Communication in Malaga WA, for use while out diving in small boats.
I chose the ICOM IC-M33 Hand Held, Marine VHF Radio because it is fully submersible and it floats! If you drop the IC-M33 into water, the radio comes up to the surface so that you can easily retrieve it from out of the water. The IC-M33 is not designed to be used in the water, but it will operate after being at 1 metre depth for 30 minutes.
You may have heard about this great new diving safety device. It's a combined DSC capable VHF radio and GPS for divers in a compact, waterproof (130 metres) enclosure, not much larger than a smartphone. I liked the concept so much I purchased one in late 2011, just as soon as they became available in Australia.
This compact device goes underwater with you. When back on the surface, it can function as a VHF marine radio and has a default pre-set channel, so that you can have two-way contact with the dive boat.
If the dive boat can’t see you, you can ask the unit to show your GPS position and then you can relay this information to the dive boat using the radio.
Or you can put out a call on channel 16, the international hail and distress channel.
Finally, you can initiate a Digital Selective Calling (DSC) transmission of distress, sending and displaying an emergency message and your GPS coordinates on other vessels' marine radios within about a 15 kilometre radius.
Some live-aboard operators are now making sure each dive buddy pair has a Nautilus Lifeline. For VSAG club dive days, the VHF radio of this unit becomes a backup handheld marine radio when set to the club channel 73.
I'm in the process of finalising a group purchase of thirty Nauilus Lifelines for two dive clubs. Now a whole heap of the people I regularly dive with will be much safer.
When heading off for a live-a-board dive trip in 2006, almost as a joke a friend lent me his small EPIRB and I took it along and dived with it. As it was based on the old 121.5/243 MHz analogue system, I didn't buy one for myself. However, I could certainly see the benefits of having one.
Eventually small, compact PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons) units based on the new 406 MHz digital system became available. I purchased a GME AccuSat Pocket Pro+ MT410G PLB with GPS from Prestige Communication in Malaga WA. The unit has a 7-year battery life and with GPS accuracy should tell the emergency services where I am to typically less than 45 metres. The unit puts out a 5 Watt digital 406 MHZ signal, plus a 121.5 MHz homing signal and includes a high visibility strobe light. It's sealed waterproof design exceeds the IP67 specifications, but that's not good enough for scuba diving.
I purchased a McMurdo FastFind PLB Dive Canister from Cranbourne Bait and Tackle. Turned from a solid block of marine grade aluminium, anodised to 25 microns, the two O rings complete a seal that's been pressure tested to 150 metres. While this dive canister is intended to house the McMurdo PLBs, at 162mm high and 94mm in diameter, is also houses the GME MT410G PLB very comfortably. The dive canister is designed to be opened at the surface allowing quick and easy access.
The GME MT410G and McMurdo Dive Canister combination had their first outing on my June 2008 trip to dive the SS President Coolidge in Santo, Vanuatu. At the end of 12 dives, with a maximum depth of 62 metres, there was not a drop of water inside the dive canister. I'm considering getting a second dive canister so that I could also take my ICOM IC-M33 Marine VHF radio on dives.
After looking at a few different signaling products I decided to get a Dive Alert Plus by Ideation Designs, purchased from ScubaToys.com.
The Dive Alert Plus is two signaling devices in one. The standard Dive Alert for above water AIR mode... one push of a button emits a loud piercing blast that can get you noticed from very long distances - reportedly up to 1.6 km, 1 mile. Plus the Sub Duck a great little underwater signaling device that make a loud racket that can be heard by your dive buddy even if wearing a hood. In underwater H2O mode, it makes a quaking duck type sound. The Dive Alert Plus is easily switched back and forth between modes by simply turning the dial from AIR to H2O.
Since obtaining my certification to dive using Nitrox, there have been some circumstances where it would have been far preferable were I to have my own oxygen analyser. After looking into a number of options, I chose to get an Analox O2EII Nitrox Analyser from ScubaToys.com.
What sets the Analox O2EII apart from the others is its ease of use. Just a few simple steps and it's done. No fiddly connections to mess about with.
The Analox O2EII comes with an oxygen compensation chart for moisture in the atmosphere. So I also purchased the Analox Hygro-Thermometer to tell me the temperature and humidity. I also added an Analox O2EII Sensor Saver to help to reduce the sensors exposure to oxygen and extend its life.
The Analox O2EII came in a Pelican 1050 Micro Case, which provides a nice neat portable unit.
For some time during the second half of 2007, I'd been discussing with those that I associate with via The Scuba Doctor and the Bass Strait Aquatic Club, the idea of creating a set of double cylinders for increased safety and time at depth. The goal was to create a double cylinder setup, with a separate set of regulators and instruments. My existing regulator and instrument setup would stay pretty much as is, for diving with when I only need a single cylinder configuration.
Peter Fear from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria, was my main guide through the process, though there are a few things I've done outside of Peter's recommendations.
In November 2007, I started to get the gear together.
First up was a new pair of Faber 12.2 litre (100 cu ft) steel dive cylinders from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria. They are O2 cleaned for use with Nitrox.
Yes, they are rather heavy, but I want the extra air capacity that the twin 12.2 litre cylinders provide. Besides, it means I now need a lot less lead in my weight harness.
The two Faber steel cylinders are being held together by a set of OMS Dual Cylinder Bands. These stainless steel cylinder bands are 63.5 mm (2.5 inches) wide to suit 178 mm (7 inch) outside diameter cylinders, with a manifold centre to centre distance of 215 mm and 5/16 inch-18 x 6.5 inch rod length.
An OMS 300 bar Rotating Cross Bar Manifold (V-300RC) with three O-rings per side, constructed from aircraft grade brass, is used to connect the left and right OMS DIN/Yoke Valves (V103L & V103).
Two sets of Apeks XTX200 DIN Regulators (i.e. first stage and second stage by two) were ordered from Scubastore.com, an online dive shop based in Spain. Underwater, the XTX200 doesn't disappoint. These regulators are incredibly smooth to breathe from. There isn't a hint of an initial higher workload to crack the valve, or any over provision of air once the breathing cycle is in place.
A Suunto Wireless Air Pressure Transmitter suitable for use with my Suunto Vytec DS dive computer was also ordered from Scubastore.com, in Spain. The transmitter allows the transmission of data to the wrist computer which recalculates remaining air time based on current air consumption. This allows me to closely monitor remaining bottom time with my Suunto Vytec DS dive computer. So I have a transmitter for each of my regulator setups.
Pro-Dive Cairns were selling off used sets of Suunto instruments from their charter operation at a good price so I ordered one. They had Suunto CB-Three-In-Line consoles consisting of a Suunto SM-36 submersible pressure gauge (SPG), a Suunto Gekko Dive Computer and a Suunto SK-7 Compass.
The compass came off, as I use a wrist compass. So I effectively now have a Suunto CB Two-In-Line Console as I do on my single cylinder setup. But instead of the Suunto SM-16 depth gauge as in my single setup, my double cylinder setup uses the Suunto Gekko dive computer as the depth gauge.
The combination of the Suunto SPG on my left post, plus the Suunto Wireless Air Pressure Transmitter on my right post, means I can monitor the air pressure of each side, even when the cylinders are isolated.
I would have preferred to use a Suunto dive computer that supported a gauge mode, rather than the Suunto Gekko. But for the time being, I'll go with what I've got.
Truth be known, it's very rare that I ever look at my instrument console anyway. With the depth and air pressure being shown on my Suunto Vytec DS dive computer, the console is just a backup system.
An OMS Stainless Steel Backplate, which weighs just 2.7 kg (6 lbs), has been added to my OMS IQ Pack. OMS's superior deburring process eliminates back plate sharp edges and prevents abrasion to webbing and BCs. I chose a stainless steel backplate over an aluminum one so that I could loose even more lead from my weight harness. In fact, when diving with the twins in a wetsuit I don't even need the weight harness, as all of the lead required can fit in my OMS Compact Quick Dump Weight Pockets.
I also have a lighter OMS Aluminum Backplate to switch over to when flying to dive sites on dive trips.
An OMS Stainless Steel Single Cylinder Adaptor Plate allows me to use a single cylinder with my OMS IQ Pack and Stainless Steel or Aluminum Backplates, when required. Plus diving with the backplate and single cylinder tank adapter provides added stability.
Thus my goal of being able to easily and quickly switch between the double cylinder setup and a single cylinder setup was achieved. The best of both worlds.
Setting It Up and Tweaking
When Peter Fear and I started to put everything together one Saturday afternoon in February 2007, a few final touches were made.
The inflator hose configuration fell into position better if we switched to using the rear bladder on the OMS dual bladder wing as the primary bladder and the front bladder as the redundant bladder. It was a very simple modification and works well. I've since noticed a few other divers with OMS bladders doing the same thing.
Later, we also changed to the Jocassee Rigging alternative stringing method for the OMS wing bungee cord.
The final touch to the twin cylinder setup was to use Miflex Xtreme flexible, Jacket, Regulator and High Pressure diving hoses from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria. I really like the lightness, flexibility, plus extra strength and durability of the Miflex Xtreme hoses.
Dual Cylinder Travel Bands
Since early 2010, on liveaboard diving trips I've taken an OMS Dual Cylinder Travel Band System with aluminium rods (BD350-KA). This innovative two part travel band system allows me to pack light, yet be able to dive with independent twin cylinders.
Each assembly utilises two 50 mm (2") cam bands woven through aluminum rods and one 5/16" threaded bolt. This two part band system works with all OMS harness systems and the threaded rod centre to centre distance can be easily adjusted.
All of the above OMS equipment and Miflex Xtreme hoses were purchased from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria.
EAN50 Decompression/Stage Cylinder
To add extra flexibility and safety when diving deeper, longer and/or decompression diving, I asked Peter Fear at The Scuba Doctor in Rye Victoria, to put together an aluminium cylinder, stage kit and SPG for use as a stage/pony/decompression cylinder combination.
A Catalina S80 11.1 litre aluminium cylinder, colour yellow, was decided upon, to which was added an OMS Stage Bottle Assembly (A494S) with continuous 12.5mm stage cylinder strap with carrying handle and stainless steel swivel bolt snaps. The benefit of this aluminium stage cylinder is that it has good buoyancy characteristics and thus sits well during the whole dive.
An OMS Small Brass Glass HP Submersible Pressure Gauge (G-240-SM-BAR) tells me how much gas is available.
I purchased yet another Apeks XTX200 DIN Regulator set (i.e. first stage and second stage) and an Apeks Regulator Bag from Scubastore.com, an online dive shop based in Spain.
Miflex Xtreme hoses from The Scuba Doctor in Rye Victoria are used:
This stage cylinder is normally used to carry an EAN50 mix (50% Oxygen) and is marked with MOD stickers for 21 metres.
Oxygen Decompression/Stage Cylinder
In July 2010 I purchased second-hand a Luxfer S80 aluminium cylinder and a Catalina S80 aluminium cylinder. The plan is for one of these cylinders to be O2 cleaned and tested and then to use it as a 100% O2 stage/decompression cylinder and have the other cylinder in stock for other uses.
I've ordered an Apeks XTX200 Nitrox DIN Regulator set (i.e. first stage and second stage) with an Apeks Regulator Bag and Submersible Pressure Gauge from an overseas supplier.
No doubt I'll end up using another OMS Stage Bottle Assembly (A494S) with continuous 12.5mm stage cylinder strap with carrying handle and stainless swivel bolt snaps, plus Miflex hoses, all from The Scuba Doctor in Rye Victoria.
Preparing for Technical Diving
I started to prepare to do more technical deep and decompression diving by undertaking the TDI Advanced Nitrox Diver and TDI Decompression Procedures Diver courses through June-August 2010. This is a part of getting ready for a trip to dive the HMS Hermes aircraft carrier in Sri Lanka in late August 2010. While on the HMS Hermes trip I'll also be doing the TDI Trimix Diver course.
It soon became obvious I was no longer going to get away with easily and quickly switching my BCD setup between technical (double cylinders) and recreational diving (single cylinder) as too many things now needed to be changed.
So with guidance and assistance from Peter Fear from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria, and Mark Ryan from Aquability in Mentone Victoria, I proceeded to put together a "technical" BCD, make changes to my setup, plus add some new items.
(Note: Neither Peter or Mark are 100% happy with all of this setup. For example, they both recommended a simpler continuous weave hardness system. I tried it, but it just wasn't comfortable for me. They both think I should switch from using split fins. There's much more, but right now I'm still coming to grips with all of the changes made so far. Later, I'll evaluate the rest of their suggestions.)
Backplate, Wing and Harness
An OMS Comfort Harness II with an OMS Aluminium Backplate and an OMS 60 lb lift, dual bladder, elastomeric banded wing were put together.
The backplate was positioned higher on my back and the cylinder bands moved down on the cylinders, all so that I could better reach the cylinder and manifold valves for doing shutdowns.
The Jocassee Rigging alternative stringing method for the OMS wing bungee cord was used. Instead of two shoulder D-rings each side on the harness, only one each side was used.
The three valve hand-wheel knobs on the OMS valves and manifold were changed over to the longer type.
The setup of my regulator, inflator and high pressure dive hoses was changed to be more inline with the standard technical setup (see details above). I'd been using a setup where I clipped the left post 2nd stage regulator to my left side and the right post second stage regulator to my right side.
A Suunto HelO2 dive computer was purchased from overseas. I intended to put it into a Deep Sea Supply bungee mount but that didn't happed. It's worn on my right arm.
My Suunto Vytec DS dive computer was also to be put into a Deep Sea Supply bungee mount. That also didn'y happen, and it's worn on my left arm and used in gauge mode.
My Suunto SK-7 Compass also didn't make it into a Deep Sea Supply bungee mount. It's worn on my right arm.
The Suunto instrument console was simplified down to just a Suunto SM-36 submersible pressure gauge (SPG), without any console.
My OMS VEGA K2 LED Flashlight from The Scuba Doctor, in Rye Victoria became my backup torch for a while.
These days I dive with the Dive Perfect Stubby LED-1000 Dive Light from The Scuba Doctor as my backup dive torch. It produces a powerful 1000 lumens of light with a 10 degree centre spot beam and a 60 degree spread beam. It's clipped to my right harness D-ring on every dive and tethered in place using a piece of bicycle tubing.
In July 2010 I decided it was finally time to get a serous "canister" type dive light. I'd admired the Green Force modular system for some time, but was reluctant to get a HID based light given the rapid advances being made with LED lights.
However, when it came time to make the move, I eventually settled on the Green Force HID 150 Focus Light Head. This strong 200 mm long and 70 mm diameter light head delivers 1,700 lumen but consumes only 26 Watts at 12 Volts. Thanks to the high colour temperature of 6,200 Kelvin the colours reflect naturally. The light head is "Focusable" which allows me to change the angle between 9 and 28 degrees.
The light head is held in my left hand using a Green Force Goodman Handle 'HID'.
To power the light head I chose the Green Force Flexi IV Battery Pack. The heatproof polyacetal casing has 30 cells of NiMh batteries, producing 12 Volt with 13 Ah capacity.
It's 530 mm long and 65 mm in diameter and takes between 15 min to 936 minutes (15.6 hours) to charge.
A Green Force Fast Charger with Charging Plug and Australian Fast Charger Adapter is used to recharge the battery pack.
The light head is connected to the battery pack using a Green Force Umbilical 1 Connection.
When this combination of light head and battery pack is used I can expect a burn time of up to 315 minutes (5.25 hours).
The beauty of the Green Force system is that everything is interchangeable. This means I can later purchase different light heads and battery packs and reconfigure as desired.
My Neptune SportsScorpion Gold 7mm "Semi Dry" and Sonar Steamer wetsuits were modified by attaching two large thigh pockets with zipper closure and looped lanyards to each, by Mark Ryan from Aquability in Mentone Victoria.
Odds and Sods
To clean up this setup my practice of using metal to metal connections and zip ties for some clip attachments has been done away with. Replaced with knots tied with 2mm Zenith Soft Braided Venetian Blind Cord. It's 100% Nylon and white.
3mm, 4mm and 5mm Black Bungee Cord has also been used. (Sadly, I couldn't find any yellow bungee cord.)
A couple of bicycle tubes are also being slowly cut up to create various stowage points. One is 26" x 1.25, and the other 26" x 1.50/1.75.
NOTE: If you're looking to purchase any of the above equipment, please use the manufacturer and purchase details I've provided, or your favourite search engine. Alternatively, contact me at The Scuba Doctor.
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Last modified: Saturday, 07 January 2017