THE DIVING EQUIPMENT CONFIGURATION shown in this article is based on the kit I was using during the Firebrand Project on the Scilly Isles during the summer of 2009.
The Firebrand is the unique wreck of a 17th century fire-ship, and the project involved the recording and mapping of the wreck site, which lies in 22-27m off St Agnes.
I am a member of the CISMAS archaeology group that carried out the survey off the dive boat Tiburon, captained by Dave McBride, and the photos were taken on site.
My equipment doesnt change much from dive to dive, so whether I am diving to 100m or 25m, the only changes Im likely to make will be for diving gas and bail-out considerations, the environment and the length of the dive. So what I describe here is much the same as I used while filming Deep Wreck Mysteries and other projects.
Over 22 years Ive picked up many ideas and tips about equipment configuration from all sorts of people in diving. Ive always been pretty shameless about adopting somebody elses idea if I think it will work for me.
Im not an inventor or a technical type, so I cant claim to have made any amazing breakthroughs in diving kit or its use. For me, diving has always been about shipwreck history, and how we get there and back safely is a skill Ive left to others to work out.
In that regard, I owe all the instructors whose hands Ive been through over the years quite a debt of gratitude!
OK - my gear...

DRYSUIT
I have only ever been a drysuit diver, and have used suits from many of the UK-based manufacturers.
My favoured suit for most applications is my Otter Britannic. Perhaps surprisingly, this is the first membrane suit Ive owned.
I find it incredibly hard-wearing, and its loose-fitting style makes it comfortable to wear all day, or on very long dives. As a consequence, I have a pee-zip and a pee-valve fitted - you cant be too hydrated.
I also use a crushed neoprene drysuit made by Hydrotech, and it is by far the most comfortable, durable and well-made of the crushed suits Ive owned. I have always favoured neoprene seals, primarily for their ruggedness. I like the inner latex and outer neoprene wrist seals on the Hydrotech.
I struggled for years to find an undersuit I really liked. This changed in 2003, when I discovered the Fourth Element range. I use both the Xerotherm and Arctic two-piece types, either individually or in combination, and find them excellently comfortable, non-restrictive and, importantly, warm.
On ultra-deep dives I use a thin one-piece undersuit over either of the Fourth Elements.

REBREATHER
Rebreathers arent for everyone. However, for longer bottom-times and deep diving, they are the way forward. I have used an APD Inspiration Classic rebreather for the past six years. Its the only type I have, and the only type Ive dived.
I was not an early adopter of rebreather technology, and admit that I was a sceptic for some years before buying mine. Again, I left the technical people in diving to work out how to maximise its deep-diving procedures before I jumped in with one. Once I did, I never looked back.
My unit can hardly be called a concourse example, having been customised to what I like.
I have fitted a Keith Forward steel backplate and harness (with break) to the unit, which I find puts the weight where I need it. This is also the reason why I have retained the old-style glass-fibre case.
I have also replaced the wing with the 100lb one made by OMS. When fully inflated, this is like a little dinghy; its great for lying on ones back while waiting to be picked up after a dive. The Deep Bandits carrying handle is an essential add-on.
I always use independent suit inflation from a cylinder mounted on the side of the unit. I can accommodate an extra O2 cylinder on the other side, as back-up on longer dives.
Rebreathers do require a high degree of TLC and regular servicing, so I recently had the new coaxial loom installed. Other parts are replaced as necessary.
In use, my Inspiration has proved to be very reliable, and I genuinely enjoy using it.

BC
My first (and only) stab jacket is a Buddy Sea King, so I can say that from the start of my diving career Ive used AP Valves equipment. I particularly like the Tonka-toy feel and look of the large plastic mouldings, which are indicative of the ruggedness of its gear.

COMPUTER
For decompression calculations I use a VR technology VR3 dive computer, and back-up tables worked out using ProPlanner.

REGULATOR
When deep-diving, I use Poseidon Xtreme regulators on my stage cylinders. I have used Poseidons for 20 years. They are the default choice of technical divers, and I think that speaks for itself.

MASK
I need optical correction, so the Tusa Liberator is the default choice. Fortunately for me, this mask fits comfortably.
The keen-eyed will note that I wear my hood over my mask, as do many technical divers. In this way Im less likely to lose it, by whatever means.
This is such a simple, commonsense idea that Im surprised the training agencies havent adopted it.

KNIVES
Knives are a bugbear of mine. There are no decent ones anywhere! All those you see for sale today are either too small or too flimsy. This means that they need to be kept sharp, so I keep a sharpener in my dive box and use it whenever I remember to.
I keep a small Ocean Edge knife on my wing feed. The weight keeps the feed in view, and the knife can easily be used without having to grope around at thigh or ankle level for a scabbard. I also carry a net-cutter in my waist pouch.

FINS
Force Fins saved my diving career, because I sustained a damaged ankle as a kid. The way they are designed mitigates against ankle stress, and works well for me.

WEIGHTBELT
I have used rubber weightbelts for years. They are great for deep diving because they shrink as a suit compresses at depth, and stay where you put them! My current belt was made by Omer, and is the best quality I have found.

TORCHES
My three Kowalski HID lights have proven rugged and reliable for general use and video work. A small LED torch is fitted to the handle of my main diving torch, just in case.

REELS
I have used several different reels over the years, and conclude that the plastic McMahon reel is the best for DSMB deployment, while reels made by Kent Tooling make the best bottom lines. The models I use feature simplicity of use and ease of running, which should be the basic criteria by which reels are selected.