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|A place for everything |
A popular feature of the UK's two Dive Shows are the kit-configuration workshops, and this month's London event will be no exception. In the meantime, John Liddiard looks at the vexed question of how best to stow your bits and pieces on a dive
| ||WHATEVER TYPE OF DIVING WE DO, from basic scuba to technical, we end up carrying accessories. These could be items such as torches for shining in holes and to use on night dives; delayed SMBs and reels or spools for launching them; knives and shears for cutting our way out of trouble; strobe lights to attract attention or to leave as a marker; buddy lines; Jon lines; whistles; compasses; EPIRB radio beacons; personal echo-sounders; MP3 players... |
Even when the list is complete, we can always add spares for anything we could lose or break or may need a second of, such as a backup torch, a second delayed SMB, a second reel, or a spare mask.
You don't need to be a technical diver before stowage of accessories becomes an issue.
The traditional stowage solution is to strap things to arms and legs, then stuff everything else into BC pockets.
BC pockets are not a bad way of coping with accessories, and are all I use when travelling. I keep a delayed SMB and a spool in my left pocket, and everything else gets stuffed in my right. On a compact travel BC without integrated weights, I find there is just about enough room.
Integrated weight systems often infringe on pocket space. In some cases this makes the inside of pockets almost uselessly small, compared to how big they appear to be from the outside.
I find that the difficult bit is getting whatever I want out of a pocket without spilling everything else in the process.
Some BCs come with a ring inside, or by the pocket, to which to clip accessories.
I prefer a big loop of bungee, secured to the pocket with everything clipped to it (above). This way I just pull it all out, unclip what I want, and stuff the rest back.
A similar trick can be applied to any pocket.
Unless you have a particularly robust BC with exceptionally large pockets, sooner or later you will reach a stage at which there just isn't enough pocket space.
Or perhaps there is room enough for all those odds and ends, but you would like to have them a bit better organised.
Once you move on to a backplate, harness and wing rather than a jacket BC, you lose the usual BC pockets.
To compensate, one solution is to add a big cargo pouch to either the waist-strap of the harness or clipped across the front of the harness after the waist-strap is done up.
This is often called a "kangaroo" or "joey" (after a baby 'roo) pouch (right).
Pouches won't necessarily have a single big pocket - you can get them with separate pockets and subdivisions if you prefer to organise things in this way.
Some accessories are just too big to fit in pockets. In the case of an SLR or video-camera system, chances are that you're serious enough about using it to want it in your hands all the time you're on a wreck or reef, so a lanyard clipped off to a D-ring
is all you need. Having a pocket big enough to stow it away in completely becomes irrelevant.
Other accessories such as lantern-style dive lights and big reels need stowage because they are not usually in use all the time. Even when clipped in directly with no lanyard and as far back as possible, they still dangle a bit.
A solution from Jack Ingle's Dive Show kit-configuration sessions is a loop of bungee, surgical tube or inner tube around the leg (right). The reel or dive-light clips to a hip
D-ring as usual, and the other end of it is held against the leg by pulling the loop of bungee over it. A similar trick can be used to secure a reel against a stage cylinder.
Some BCs come with special-purpose pockets designed specifically for an accessory such as a delayed SMB, net-cutter or a lifting bag.
Similar specialist pockets are available for threading onto harness webbing, or even piggy-backing on top of other pockets. Some come with the accessory, as with pockets for shears and snips, while others are made by third parties.
Get creative with specialist pockets for everything and you could become the 3D diving equivalent of a Filofax or PADI qualification binder!
If you visit one of Jack Ingle’s kit configuration sessions, you will see that his own preference is at the opposite extreme to stuffing everything into one or two pockets.
Each item has an individual stowage position, mostly inside sleeves of neoprene wrapped around the straps of a harness.
Items that may need to come out and be put away again during the dive have their places near the front of the waist-strap, or on shoulder-straps.
Accessories that come out once to solve a problem, such as snips or a spare SMB, are stored further back, where they are still reachable but may, once out, have to stay out.
Neoprene sleeves provide streamlined stowage with plenty of grip, so accessories can’t fall out by mistake. However, plenty of practice with the system is required before you know instinctively which accessory is stowed under which sleeve when you need it.
A similar system to sleeves on straps is to put rubber bands or loops of bungee round harness straps and secure accessories beneath them.
Strong bands of the right length can be made by cutting up bicycle inner-tubes, either directly across or at a slight diagonal for a longer band.
These are not quite as reliable as neoprene sleeves. The bands will age and occasionally break, so don't rely on a single one to prevent that precious Lenser Frogman torch you got with a DIVER subscription from getting lost. By positioning the bands close to a D-ring, the lanyard of any accessory stored beneath them can stay attached to prevent tragedy.
You could spend hours re-configuring the stowage of your accessories, but it will all be wasted if you can't get them out when diving.
A location that may seem easily accessible from a chair at home may be much harder to reach while under water.
Once reached, can you pull the item out from under a bungee or sleeve, or get the pocket open while wearing gloves? And if it's something you need to stow again, can you put it back again?
One useful trick is to make sure that there are decent toggles on the end of zips or attached to bungees (above).
Another is this: rather than making a neat bungee knot and hiding it out of the way, make a big knot and leave it on the outside of the loop, to be used as a toggle.
With rubber bands, a second band can be looped through to make a "Snoopy loop", as UK cave-divers named it.
Another place in which to keep accessories out of the way is across your back below your cylinders, or across your backside.
Loops of bungee from the bottom of a backplate or BC can be used to stow a delayed SMB or lifting bag. Remove an accessory from one of these locations and it will be difficult to stow again, but this should not be an issue with a delayed SMB, which is removed from stowage only so that it can be sent up.
To stow more accessories across your bottom, you can fit a "fish-tail" (above) to a backplate. This is a triangular tail covered in loops of bungee and D-rings, and held from swinging about by a crotch-strap.
Fish-tails originated with cave-diving harnesses, for securing the lower clips of stage cylinders as far round as possible where they wouldn't dangle in the way, but they are equally good for items such as lifting bags, delayed SMBs and reels.
They can get in the way when kitting up on a RIB, however - it's one thing preparing for a cave dive, another when trying to get ready for slack on a club wreck dive.