Technical diving has evolved rapidly in a relatively short period of time. In less than 20 years, roughly the period of time technical diving has been ‘main stream’, we have seen: the development of technical diving equipment rather than modified sport equipment, computer generated multi gas dive planning software as opposed to manual planning using dive tables and formulas, and finally closed circuit rebreathers readily available. But few of these advancements have made as much progress as dive lights used for technical diving.
The early technical dive lights were modified from sport lights or very bulky, very heavy halogen lights with batteries that felt like they came from a Mack Truck and light heads that would give your arm fatigue – and all this for a little extra burn time and a brighter light. A lot of technical diving takes place in limited visibility, which is not always a factor of the clarity of the water. Many times limited visibility is caused by other aspects of the dive, such as overhead environments blocking the light (caves & wrecks) or the depth of the dive (too deep for sufficient light penetration). For technical dives conducted on wrecks, your buddy’s light can be used for underwater navigation, keeping track of the buddy team and still allowing a little distance between divers. This advantage has become better and better through the years, first with the new HID lights: lights were brighter, light heads got even smaller and burn times longer. Now with LED, lights are even brighter than HID, their heads even smaller, burn times twice as long and battery canisters the size of soda cans.
Along with the advancement of primary light has come the advancement of back-up lights; they too got smaller, brighter and longer lasting. These small back-up lights can be critical pieces of equipment when diving. If a diver finds himself deep inside a wreck or way back in a cave, and his primary light has failed, odds are good that he will never get lost if he has a back-up light ready to go. Some divers carry two back-up lights. These small backup lights can also be strapped to a marker buoy if the diver notices surface conditions have deteriorated or the dive went a little longer and became a night dive. This was not an option with the earlier, larger dive lights; cyalume sticks were commonly used instead.
For the longtime tech divers or the newly certified, take a close look at all your options for primary and back-up lights and choose carefully. With the size of the new lights, they make it very easy to stow away, without causing an imbalance in your trim and allowing a streamlined position in the water. Also with the new battery technology, divers can charge up their lights once and get four to five dives out of them. Pretty impressive!
For new or longtime tech divers wanting to know more about lighting options for technical diving check out TDI’s Intro To Tech Course or search for a TDI instructor in your area to discuss some options.