Save-A-Dive Kit

Building Your Professional Save-a-Dive Kit

By: Alan Cale

Once upon a time I was a young diver in Western Illinois University’s Scuba Program.  I would end up minoring in scuba diving and working as a Divemaster helping my instructor with new divers, but before all that I was an open water student myself.  I had a great instructor that could be a little intense at times, but when I became a professional myself, I realized it was because he cared about his students and didn’t want anyone to get hurt.  Now that I work in the diving industry, I still talk to him regularly and enjoy hearing about what is going on in the program.

To me, one of the greatest parts about taking a scuba course that was an entire semester long was the time we had to get into topics that would not normally receive much attention, and one of these that I still use today is the save-a-dive kit.  In the university program every single diver was required to build (or buy) a save-a-dive kit.  No one wanted to be the diver that was sitting out a dive while our friends were enjoying it, so we all took the assignment seriously.  This is the list I was provided then, is still being used in the university program today, and that I provide to my own students:

  • Waterproof box
  • 5/32″ allen wrench
  • 9/16 open end and 5/8 open end plus one crescent wrench

or

  • two crescent wrenches
  • flat tip and cross point screwdriver
  • cutting tool
  • duct tape
  • mouth piece
  • mask and fin straps
  • zip ties
  • octo and gauge holders
  • o-ring kit
  • silicone grease
  • o-ring pick

Now, before anyone jumps in with the items that are missing from this list, keep in mind that this is meant to be a starter kit and the objective of the assignment is to get students to start thinking critically about their gear, the failure points, and how we can be prepared for some of those failures.  So where do we go from here?  Well, I look at the evolution of my save-a-dive kit.  My waterproof box started out as a small box that I found in the camping section at Walmart, but as I grew as a diver and acquired different types of gear, my save-a-dive kit grew to account for those additional items.  Now I have a waterproof “Pelican Case” from Harbor Freight and my original waterproof box just holds the tools.  Not one of the big cases, but rather a briefcase sized one that fits conveniently under my seat on the boat.  I’ve added massively to my kit over the last 15 years of diving and I am extremely confident that I can deal with almost any problem with my kit.  As of writing this article I’ve never had to miss a dive due to equipment failure (and yes, I’ve had failures), but what about when I throw a student into the mix?

I was very fortunate to have a friend and coworker as my IT when I was taking my instructor course.  One evening we sat down together and went through our save-a-dive kits item by item in order to see what we have that was the same or similar, and what was missing from our kits.  My kit consists of the following:

  • Waterproof Harbor Freight case
  • Waterproof camping case for tools:
    • 9/16 open end
    • 5/8 open end
    • 13mm open end
    • one crescent wrench
    • Standard and Metric Allen keys
    • Large Allen key set for DIN tank adapters
    • Innovative T-2 Scuba tool
    • Small Leatherman tool
    • Small knife
    • EMT Shears
    • Small screwdriver with bits in the handle
    • Power Inflator service tool
    • Vindicator tank valve handle tool
    • OTS FFM wrench
    • Brass, steel, and plastic brushes
    • Silicon lube
    • Zip ties
    • Black and silver permanent markers
    • Electrical tape
    • Shearwater battery tool
    • Small tape measure
    • Altoids tin with 3D printed o-ring tray
    • Car tire inflator adaptor
    • Batteries
  • Shearwater softcase 1- Metal Parts (I had these cases lying around but my coworker uses Tupperware)
    • Bolt snaps
    • Steel assembly screws (sex bolts)
    • D-rings
    • Triglides
    • DIN-sert adapters
    • Doubles valve plugs
    • SS washers and wingnuts
  • Shearwater softcase 2 – Rubber and Plastic Parts
    • Second stage mouthpieces
    • Power inflator mouthpieces
    • Snorkel retainers
    • SPG retainers
    • Mask straps
    • Mask strap plastic clips
    • Battery adaptor for my flashlight
    • Surgical tubing
    • Yoke first stage dust cap
    • DIN dust cap
  • Shearwater softcase 3 – Straps and Plugs
    • First stage plugs
    • Hose thread caps
    • Computer straps
    • Knife straps
    • Anything I can use to attach gear in a pinch
  • Shearwater transmitter softcase – Valve Parts
    • Handwheel
    • Springs
    • Screws
  • In the bottom of my case
    • Various length hoses
    • Power inflator
    • Serviced second stage
    • VIP stickers
    • Razor blades
    • Hole punch
    • Mask defog
    • Tank thread plugs
    • Small gauges
    • Cave line
    • IP adjustment tool with gauge

In most cases I believe that I would be able to handle almost any issues that would arise if my student had a problem, but the exception would be for any specific gear that they may have that I don’t.  A good example would be if their dive computer takes different batteries than my own.  Another issue is the need to replace items right after you use them from your kit.  Batteries and hoses are perfect examples.

You can see that my own personal kit has grown considerably from its humble beginnings.  I worked off the philosophy that when I needed something and had to use a replacement from someone else, I would immediately go and purchase one of my own for my kit so I wouldn’t need to borrow again.  I would also add to my kit as I gained more qualifications such as service or VIP inspections. It’s important to keep in mind that you never want to work on any piece of gear that you are not qualified to service, as you may inherit the liability if there is a problem.

What is my point here?  Instructors- talk to your students about making their own kits.  Start them thinking about what they will do and what they will need if their gear breaks.  In the Army we all had medical kits on our gear.  We wouldn’t use our own kits for another injured soldier, but rather use the kit on them to treat their injuries.  A diver’s save-a-dive kit should be the same.  It’s ok if they need help putting o-rings in or putting a new mask strap on, but they should have those items themselves and not assume that the boat crew will have them.  Instructor trainers should take the time to talk to their instructors about their own kits and get them thinking about how they are going to have the right replacements to ensure their students, who don’t know better yet, do not miss out on any dives.

What have I missed?  Feel free to comment with what you have in your kit and your thought process on including it.  I don’t ever believe my kit is complete and I can already see the massive amount of difference between my kit from 2007 when I made my first to the one I have now in 2022.  I’m sure my kit will have several new items in another 15 years.

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