As summer rolls in, the temperature climbs and my backyard pool looks ready for entry, I start thinking about scuba gear. I try to test most of our gear regularly – in the pool, in the quarry, on our trips. Only recently, I decided to buy my own personal set of gear. Many of you arrive at the same crossroads as me – which gear to buy – first, or type, or manufacturer, and so on. Let me lead you down my path…
I will begin a several part series discussing how I came to be geared up. Spoiler alert: I dive two computers plus a backup (ScubaPro Luna with transmitter, Oceanic DataMask with transmitter and Beachat Aladin – it’s too much – I like toys…), a ScubaPro Glide X BCD, with Air2, a ScubaPro MK11 1st stage and S360 2nd stage with a simple pressure gauge (that I’m tempted to remove…), both ScubaPro TwinJets fins (for teaching) and Seawings (for diving) with Spring straps, Subgear Sub Vu mask and a ScubaPro Synergy mirrored mask for the quarry, plus a variety from ScubaMax booties and scuba socks, rash guards and wetsuits plus a new ScubaPro Everdry drysuit (but not around students!). I rock the older GoPro 3+ and the Watershot case for my iPhone (I prefer the Watershot). I am armed with a ScubaPro knife and flashlight – so don’t mess with me! Of course, when I am out in the ocean – I also carry a sausage – as should everyone. Now for the discussion:
Those of you that have met me personally know that I am a poor salesman. I’m brutally honest in my opinions and overly cheap to a fault. Still, my original advice remains – your first purchase should be a dive computer. I still own my original computer from 1995 and it has lasted the longest. Since that time, I have owned or demo’d three TUSA Sapience Dive Computers. These were all wrist mounted computers and I had the device to download my logbook to my laptop. And all three lasted a few months before failing. Keep in mind, I dive a lot and in a variety of conditions. At the time, besides training, I also actively dove at the Shedd Aquarium about 5x a week. And I liked the TUSA computer – big display, good algorithm, easy to download. But they broke too easily and TUSA did not stand by any of the three.
Generally, Oceanic computers stand out above the rest. For a while, we carried the Oceanic line so I tried a variety of their offerings. I still love their algorithms, but it stops there. I feel they are a little lost for direction and have gotten too pricey. Oceanic offers some very stylish watch size dive computers that could be worn every day. For over a $1000! And that usually does NOT include all the fun accessories. I rock the DataMask – a computer provided to our US Navy Seals when they drop below the waterline. And it is super cool. And super flimsy. We are certified Oceanic techs – a simple battery change resulted in my first mask failing. Fortunately, Oceanic stands behind their gear and my DataMask was replaced. Oceanic brought air time remaining (ATR) computation to the market first. (Most transmitter computers now offer a version.) If you use the transmitter to broadcast your air pressure, the computer will attempt to predict how long it will last based on depth, air consumption, pressure remaining, etc. I love to play around with my breathing to get a rise out of the computer. This toy is very expensive – around $1000 and that does NOT include all the accessories. But if you can afford it, they are fun but easy to lose. Heed the old advice about wearing your mask on your forehead or you may donate an expensive piece of dive gear to Trident.
Most recently, we decided to bring ScubaPro into the store. While it cost us some other relationships, ScubaPro offers the highest quality across the board for scuba gear. As my spoiler announced, I’m sold on them. But let me be frank – they are not known for their computers. ScubaPro offers a variety of smaller watch style computers – but none offer the air transmitter compatibility that most serious divers expect. Those computers can be difficult to read by those of us with deteriorating vision. The larger versions are…larger. Easy to read displays on a computer the size of your arm. Fortunately, I have big arms. So, I have a Luna.
You may recall that I own a Beauchat Aladin from the beginning of time. ScubaPro has a special relationship with Beauchat – in fact, their S logo is directly from an old Beauchat regulator. I believe that ScubaPro has wisely decided to offer those fine machines under the ScubaPro name. While I cannot profess to know the extent of the relationship between Beauchat and ScubaPro, or who manufacturers the various computer offerings from ScubaPro, I’m excited to recognize that my old trusted computer has been obviously rebranded and offered under the Galileo line of the ScubaPro computer department.
So far, I have enjoyed my Luna. A downside to the ScubaPro computers is a lack of YouTube instructional videos, but not the Luna. I learned everything I needed without picking up the manual. Luna uses infrared technology to link to my laptop – something that I am growing more comfortable using. Plus, the Luna is amazingly customizable. This computer is full of fun features. A very easy to use underwater digital compass includes a function to set your outgoing bearing so to swim the reciprocal back. I also uploaded my name, contact information and emergency contact information right into the computer itself. A variety of air mixes and algorithms are included with automatic altitude adjusting, safety stop count down, ATR and remaining bottom time. Essentially, this device offers everything I have found elsewhere and in an easily accessible fashion.
If you have the arm space, I strongly recommend this device – encourage using the transmitter and buying the IR too. As for the rest of the ScubaPro line – you will find most of our staff has decided to try them You should know that they pay for their own gear and make these choices with great deliberation. The only complaints that I have received refer to the lack of YouTube instructional videos. Otherwise, they do what they are supposed to do and seem to be lasting despite a heavy workload in less than ideal conditions.
To close, let me explain why a computer. The first reason is obvious – pick up a dive table right now and plan a dive. Go ahead, I’ll wait… You didn’t. And you probably won’t on the boat either. And you probably won’t in your logbook afterwards. You are trusting strangers (often young, alcohol infused kids that are in better shape than you and dive regularly) to keep you safe underwater and playing a dive game with your life. These computers will keep you safe – no matter how much you go up and down, how many dives you do, how long you stay out in between – as long as you follow their directions. That level of safety is priceless.
But now, they offer more easy safety factors. Are you swimming up to fast? Forget to STARR? It will beep at you angrily – SLOW DOWN! Do you need a safety stop? Did you forget a watch? It will tell you to stop and then count down when you get there. How much longer can you stay at that depth? How long have you been there? Uh-oh – did you stay too long? These devices tell you how much longer you have. And if you overstay, to some extent, they will plan an ascent with some decompression stop – to help keep you out of the chamber.
At the end of the day, my scuba gear necessities that pay for themselves: a good mask, sufficiently long fins that won’t cramp my feet, my signal sausage, my dive computer and a back up battery for my dive computer. The rest: luxury. So before you even think about buying a BCD, or a regulator, or an underwater camera – get your basic essentials. I’ll talk later about spending a few extra bucks for things – but here – a simple computer and a backup battery. Done. All the rest is for fun.
Stay safe. Get wet. Bubbles Up.