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Avoid Surprises at Your Dive Site

The Ever Important Gear Checklist… Making it easy to get it right on game day

We have all been there. During the usual mayhem while getting geared up for a dive, you discover a critical piece of gear is missing. Over the years, I have seen everything from a missing drysuit to regulators left back in a hotel room, storage shed or car trunk. Some of the smaller “mishaps” – like a forgotten compass – can be overcome with loaner gear from shipmates and dive buddies, but on occasion, a forgotten piece of equipment can mean a wasted dive day. The situation is even worse when your diving takes you overnight or, better yet, overseas. There is nothing worse than standing at a dive site and realizing that something is not where you thought it would be… except, of course, being part-way through a dive when this thought occurs!

The answer to this very common conundrum is a checklist – a top to bottom “roll-call” for essential (and not so essential) dive gear that is suited to your style of diving and the dive trip you have planned.

At SDI we have been asked many times why we do not sell a pre-printed diver’s check-list-slate. The simple answer is that there is no really comprehensive generic list of gear that would make such a product worth the price while remaining relevant and applicable with our associate members around the world. Furthermore, the scope of an equipment checklist is directly proportional to the complexity of the dives being planned, how far the dive site is from the nearest dive shop, and how much room you have in your baggage allowance/vehicle! No single slate can accommodate the dynamism that makes diving so much fun and divers so individual.

But we can share with you what the staff at SDI HQ use to help keep their gear intact and in place, and we hope that it helps you to create – AND USE – a personalized equipment checklist. Here are some suggestions, but remember, your mileage may vary!

Start off by breaking down your list into three categories:

  • Essentials needed for every dive
  • Nice to Have on most dives
  • Non-Essentials to take if there is room

Let’s start with Essentials.

This list really contains three sub-categories:

  • Life-support: This includes a full set of regulators (First stage, long-hose on primary second stage, necklace bungeed backup second stage, SPG, LP inflator(s) with hoses and o rings inspected*), fully charged cylinders (analyzed and marked correctly with MOD and contents), buoyancy (BCD or backplate simple harness and wing), fins, two cutting devices.
  • Thermal protection and Propulsion: This encompasses your drysuit and underwear garments, socks, hood, gloves (right and left hand!), wetsuit, booties, fins, jacket, hat, etc to keep warm during the surface interval.
  • Data collection: These items include a mask, PDC (personal dive computer), compass, underwater notebook and/or slate, graphite stick or pencil, logbook, c-cards, dive insurance card.

Things that are Nice to Have include: primary light, backup light(s), backup tables (more and more sport divers are choosing to carry computer-generated ascent schedules in case of PDC malfunction), spare mask, DSMB and spool, surface signaling device (Fox ref’s plastic whistles are small and work when wet), and a “super-duper” Save A Dive Kit (SADK). There is enough material to discuss in a SADK to warrant a whole new article but should contain at minimum: various orings, oxygen compatible lubricant, adjustable wrench and allen wrenches, LP and HP port plugs, spare mask and fin strap, spare mask and fin buckle, bolt snaps, lengths of 3 mm equipment cord and shock cord, duct tape, markers, a few Band-Aids and a tube of polysporin, seasickness meds, and an SDI Rescue Slate with the five-minute neuro exam on it. For the record, my personal SADK barely fits in a Husky tool bag and weighs about the same as an aluminum 80.

Non-Essentials that got high praise and pack space from SDI staffers include: “a ton more stuff for the SADK,” Food and Drink (CamelBak™ filled with dilute sport drink or Diver’s D-Lite™, energy bars, Gorp** or Trail Mix, fruit, banana-nut muffins, and on and on!), MP3 player and ear buds, warm beanie, sun-block, bug-spray, spare dry socks and other clothing packed in a drybag.

You probably can add to all three categories, and you should! Draw up your own checklist and use it.

One suggestion is to keep your gear in plastic tubs and as you transfer it into your dive bags, use a marker to strike it from the list. Another suggestion: if you pack small containers, never assume a piece of kit is in that small container. For example, a plastic box labeled Dive Computer could contain last week’s peanut butter and jam sandwich – check contents as you pack.

Another invaluable tip is to pack smart. If you are diving with a buddy or group of buddies, share the load. For example, SADK can be spread out between two or more people to conform to luggage restrictions. Just make sure that pre-trip communications eliminates the likelihood of three people taking, say, allen wrenches assuming “the other guy” will turn up with LP and HP port plugs (and be aware that not all plugs fit all first stages!).

But perhaps the most important and valuable advice is to take the time to check and double check that everything on your list has been verified and loaded before you leave home. If you have an early morning start, pack and check the previous evening. If you are leaving at noon for the drive to the dive site or airport, run through your list at least one hour beforehand.

Be cool and be organized and you’ll get it right on game day. Most importantly, have fun and dive safe!

One last word – over on the TDI side of things, a simple equipment checklist takes on a whole other dimension and branches off into an additional “pre-Dive Checklist.” But that’s a story for another day.

* The regulator setup suggested above with a longhose and bungeed necklace is just one option for SDI divers to consider

** GORP is a snack favored by hikers and although the acronym stands for Good Ol’ Raisins and Peanuts, can be ANY mixture of tasty treats including almonds, walnuts, sultanas and M&Ms (the author’s favorite)!

So as you plan a particular dive outing, simply visit https://www.tdisdi.com and visit the SDI™ TDI™ or ERDI™ facility locator for the area you will be visiting and contact them to ask about the particular dive site you will be diving in their area. Simply ask the question “Is there a unique item you add to your dive gear for this particular dive?” Listen carefully, you may be amazed what you hear! Your local facility is also a wealth of information – don’t forget to check them out.

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