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Paul Kay

Scuba equipment - is complexity better?

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I have noticed a move towards more complex equipment being advocated by certain quarters in the UK. The old days of single 60 cubic foot tank, wetsuit, a fw lbs of lead and minimal accessories are now a dim memory. Whilst this gladdens me in some ways (I prefer to be comfy rather than cold for example), there seems to be a distinct trend towards ever 'safer' more sophisticated gear. Now it appears that full face masks are becoming an 'in' thing which are apparently safer and offer communications options. Twin sets are far more common (although I personally prefer a 12 and a 3 as the 3 is truly a 'bail out') and wings are often fitted despite lacking any 'life jacket' attributes.

 

I am unconvinced that, except for very specific requirements, ever heavier, more advanced gear really does reduce risk (an 'in' word if ever there was one). I personally prefer to use straightforward, simple equipment (well relatively) which I know to be well tried and tested. As for comms systems, well Cousteau's 'silent world' is anything but that but I do quite like a bit of peace and quiet from the chatter above water.

 

Does anyone have views on whether a 'simple' set-up is safer than a 'complex' one, or any examples of overkill leading to problems, especially with full face masks and photography. I ask this as a serious question as in the UK's highly regulated diving industry, suggestions seen as potentially risk reducing have a habit of being adopted whether or not they actually do reduce risk (I suspect some practices actually increase risk but are perceived/considered to reduce it).

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I have noticed a move towards more complex equipment being advocated by certain quarters in the UK. The old days of single 60 cubic foot tank, wetsuit, a fw lbs of lead and minimal accessories are now a dim memory. Whilst this gladdens me in some ways (I prefer to be comfy rather than cold for example), there seems to be a distinct trend towards ever 'safer' more sophisticated gear. Now it appears that full face masks are becoming an 'in' thing which are apparently safer and offer communications options. Twin sets are far more common (although I personally prefer a 12 and a 3 as the 3 is truly a 'bail out') and wings are often fitted despite lacking any 'life jacket' attributes.

 

I am unconvinced that, except for very specific requirements, ever heavier, more advanced gear really does reduce risk (an 'in' word if ever there was one). I personally prefer to use straightforward, simple equipment (well relatively) which I know to be well tried and tested. As for comms systems, well Cousteau's 'silent world' is anything but that but I do quite like a bit of peace and quiet from the chatter above water.

 

Does anyone have views on whether a 'simple' set-up is safer than a 'complex' one, or any examples of overkill leading to problems, especially with full face masks and photography. I ask this as a serious question as in the UK's highly regulated diving industry, suggestions seen as potentially risk reducing have a habit of being adopted whether or not they actually do reduce risk (I suspect some practices actually increase risk but are perceived/considered to reduce it).

 

I think that the changes in equipment have been driven partly by changes in the type of dives that people, in the UK at least, are untaking and partly by the growth of "internet diving".

It seems to me at least, it is becoming far more the normal for people to run up significant decompression times than it has been in the past. A pony is only really any good when you have minimal stops and is of limited benefit if you have 30 or 40 minutes of hang time. I think that there are also more and more people going onto trimix for which a single and pony is just not an option.

 

Part of the trouble then becomes that these people go onto various forum and speak as if this is the one true path and a nature progression. It is hardly surprising that those in their diving infancy listen to this and see the twin set route as the way to head.

 

Much of the potential difficulties with twin sets have been mitigated. Traditional club appears to be very much on the decline and along with it goes diving from rhibs. Most hard boats have lifts and so getting out the water with weight isn't such an issue. Personally I find wings to be far more comfortable than the traditional stab jacket, and I will say that I have never known anyone, having tried both, say that they prefer the latter.

 

Full face masks with coms? This is something that I haven't seen much of. I think the day I have to listen to others chatting whilst I am underwater will be the day I give up diving.

 

Daniel

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Hell of an interesting question Paul, and I think that Daniel's point re 'internet diving' is also extremely valid.

 

Increasing complexity does not mitigate risk and can in itself contribute to a 'situation'.

 

How often do we read a accident report that is essentially a chain reaction of small ( and potentially manageable ) problems that ultimately stack up to become a big issue.

 

I have a foot in both of the complexity camps mainly diving with what would be seen as kit that was very minimal, I have been accused of being dangerously minimal. Drysuit, single tank, single reg , lead, contents gauge and that is about it.

 

However I also dive Tmix with a lot of kit, and it is pretty much on these dives that I have had equipment issues, so more kit = more variables = more problems ( for me anyhow ).

 

Isn't most of this development driven by instructors that are on 'commission' or outlets that want to sell 'the lot'? Selling (or indeed legislation) based on safety is an easy and powerful mechanism - dear I need this twinset / wing / DSMB / FFM / CCRB etc because I would be safer with it.

 

In some long Tmix dives comms would be a great advantage - no argument there, but how long would it be required to abort a dive due to comms failure ?

 

I have to say that the 'best' divers that I know seem to dive on scraggy, tired and worn looking gear that would not be deemed acceptable on a dive resort boat trip.

 

Now if I could only find a safety angle on a Cannon 1DS Mk 3 I could be on to a winner with the missus.

 

Paul C

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If a pony and adding an SMB will increase safety then I'm all for it. You just have to carry it right? It doesn't get complex until you actually have to use it. :-)

 

Cheers

James

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I don't understand the "more complex". Doubles and wings really aren't more complex. One simply dives with a kit (I love that term) that provides the minimum number of critical failure points in order to meet the objective. At the local 30ft deep quarry, the kit is pretty minimal (no Dive Alert, no redundancy). If it's to 180ft., then it doubles diving 3rds with an isolation manifold, lift bag, etc. Safer doesn't mean more sophisticated and vice versa.

 

Specifically, comm units are not safer unless you are dependent on surface interaction during the dive. They provide an additional failure point. They require additional equipment (backup mask). A DIR diver would say they are never needed. I would say that there would need to be a compelling reason for it.

 

My travel kit has gotten as small and as light as it can get.

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If a pony and adding an SMB will increase safety then I'm all for it. You just have to carry it right? It doesn't get complex until you actually have to use it. :-)

 

Climb on soapbox.....

 

An DSMB is the most dangerous piece of kit that I carry - when letting those off from depth with a significant deco obligation the failure modes can be very nasty. I have watched deployments on a wreck at at 70m and seen what can happen when it goes wrong - it's not pretty. I use a DSMB regularly and hate them.

 

Pony's - depends on how they are used ( and abused ). We regularly see guys diving with 50% or even 100% O2 in their 'safety pony' so that they can short the deco - obviously if deployed at depth it could kill.

 

Of course after a couple of 10 minute deco's the said pony is now only 50% full - not quite 'empty' enough to warrant a refill, but we dive with it anyway... This 'safety' has become self delusional.

 

Then we have the ones that do not seem to monitor their gas consumption 'because I always have my pony', some even seem to use them quite regularly.....

 

If you are serious about backup then manifold doubles with an isolation valve is the only answer.

 

Climb off soapbox.....

 

Paul C

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I have sortof gone the other way, cutting most frivolous items from my gear, of course without endangering myself. I like the KISS principle, it works in any field ive ever worked at, so I dont see why diving is any different ;) So, i would keep things as simple as possible for the task at hand.

 

About pony bottles, ive seen many of the things Paul describes. The worst one was a guy on a liveaboard that kept boasting about his pony (this was not a simple one either), and how he was so much safer, but then on every single dive he would empty his regular tank (how nice of him, im sure the boat loved that one), and then do a safety stop on the 'pony' or even continue diving a bit on the pony. So now he effectively has doubled his risk, because now he is dependent on 2 tanks operating correctly.

 

On the other hand, a well used pony or even spare air can be a live safer, so i can definitely see its use.

 

Cor

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I just wnated to endorse Paul C's comments on the dangers of a using a SMB. The risks are compounded wen carrying a camera housing with long strobe arms etc. etc. - just more places for the line to catch on and cause nasty consequences. Any SMB worth using will have enough lift to kill you if something goes badly enough under the right (or rather wrong) circumstances.

 

When it's full, my 10 foot tall OMS SMB (BCA 268 - OMS Liftbags and Surface Marker Buoys can generate 40 kgs (90 lbs) of lift - three times as much as my wing. So, yes, carry an SMB (the bigger the better) on every and any dive where it might prove necessary, but be sure you have been trained to use it, or else deploy it on or very near the surface.

 

On the larger question, I question that value of unnecessary complexity in principle, but there are no single answers on this. I don't see any compelling need for twin tanks on non-penetration non-overhead dives to recreational depths. Contrariwise, I would never consider doing any dive in the 50+ meter range (or penetration or overhead) without adequate gas supplies (whatever that requires in terms of twin and side-slung tanks, isolation manifolds of course, dive planning based on rule of thirds, and everyone trained to an appropriate standard. Etc. etc.

 

People carrying a pony filled with 100% (or even 50%)( O2 as a standard back-up gas sounds pretty scary to me.

 

Frogfish

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I agree on the SMB thing. Mine is 40+ lbs of lift on a 100 foot sinfer spool. Nice in an emergency situation like a BCD failure or so but I typically also carry another SMB that the boat provides and I will use that in any non-emergency situation.

 

Practice does make perfect.

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As with most incidents the person is usually qualified but is just, shall we say 'rusty' or complacent with kit. How many of us practise safety drills after the initial lessons to keep on top of things.

 

I myself am a culprit of stale safety procedures. Every club meeting we say how good it would be to practise 'scenario's' of all kinds 'just in case' and never do. I know a problem at 70M in a drift is different than a prob in a swimming pool, but it all helps...

 

If you have new kit (and even older) keep yourself acquainted with its complexities. And go through to 'what if' drills.. you never know.

 

Lately while I've been filming my buddy has been amusing himself going through drills...Good idea.

 

Dive safe

 

DeanB

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