MASK
The one I seem to be using most is an OMS low-profile mask, low-profile being the most important element. Like anything else, it’s all about the comfort of the mask. I’ve had it for three years.

HARNESS & BC
On every dive I use the Farrworld Explorer 1 cave-diving harness. It’s so versatile for use underground, or at sea, I wouldn’t dream of using anything else. And it’s light, so brilliant when it comes to air travel. I produce these harnesses myself now.
For buoyancy I have a small Halcyon Eclipse wing, which is ideal on this side-mount harness.
Primarily I’m a side-mount diver because of cave conditions, but in recent years I have felt distinct benefits from side-mounting, as I have a weak back.
I can get completely prepared before I get into the water, and the cylinders are the very last thing I attach to the harness once in the water, which removes all the physical stress from the body.

REGULATORS
My regulators for many, many years have been Poseidons, because they’re very versatile. They’re the workhorse of British cave-divers, and they’re the time-trialled most reliable regulators for use in cave-diving – particularly the Cyklons, because they’re not prone to any blow-offs. Obviously a blow-off in a cave-diving situation would be critical.
5000s are the most common, but I use 300s as well. I’ve got something like eight Cyklons!

COMPUTER
I use Suuntos, and have a Vytec and a Stinger. They’re just simple to use, very clear and they’re reliable. That’s the most important attribute of all the equipment I use. I’m not so interested in performance but reliability is essential.
I do have a VR3 for more technical dives, but it’s the Suuntos I wear most of the time.

FINS
I’ve got quite a few pairs of fins, but my favourites are Apollo Bio-Fins and they’ve been magic.
I was on traditional Jet Fins for 30 years, but when split-fins came out and the Apollo got the highest rating I got a pair. I’ve used them solidly ever since, for over seven years. I’ve got the same straps as I originally bought. They’re fantastic fins.
You can’t frog-kick with them as effectively as with, say, Jet Fins, but I use a sort of modified flutter-kick. They’re ideal because of the propeller-like action that drives the water back where you’ve come from, so it doesn’t involve any down-blast, which stirs the silt up.

SUITS
I have three Otter suits, and its Britannic is like a battleship. It’s so resistant to abrasion and the rigours of a rock, cave and mine environment, which Neoprene suits are not so good at tolerating.
Of all my Otter suits, it’s the little Travel suit that I’ve become most enamoured with of late. It’s so light and strong, it’s fantastic.
For my normal Britannic I’ve now incorporated an O’Three heated vest, which is great for longer dives. I’m good friends with O’Three, though my allegiance for the strength of its suits is with Otter, but the two companies are very supportive of what I do. I wear an Otter Deluxe undersuit.

GLOVES
I don’t wear dry gloves, only fingered wet gloves, because most of our activities, whether in training, exploration or photography, require the use of fingers. I’ve tried dry gloves, but managed to puncture more than one, so even though I’ve been ice-diving in Russia and Finland I’ve got away with 5mm fingered wet gloves.

LIGHTS
I’m a firm Underwater Kinetics man. Its products are unquestionably the best value for money, and the most reliable lighting units in the present marketplace. But there are many other high-performance lighting units out there, and I do have a Halcyon 10W HID, though I’ve found it very fragile.
So my base lighting unit is an Underwater Kinetics SL4 (LED), with eLED Mini Q40s as back-up lights, and they’re bomb-proof. I can’t praise them enough.
On a typical dive I would have four or five lights, not all of them on a helmet, some in pouches and perhaps one on an arm as well.

HELMET
I use old canoeing helmets; they’re the best for us. The solid-structured shell helmets that are used in caving and climbing are not as good for underwater activities.
You need the slots and holes to allow exhaled air to filter through, so obviously they have no significant impact strength. Fitted with elasticated chin-straps, the all-important requirement is that the helmet will fit snugly right down on your head.

CAMERAS & LIGHTS
Since 1976 my favourite bit of kit has been my Nikonos 5 with a 15mm lens. You would never believe the incredible use this has given.
With the constraints imposed by the underground environment, photo equipment must be compact, rugged and reliable.
In the past couple of years I’ve moved on to using a Canon Powershot G11 camera. It’s fantastic when used on its own, but I also use a slightly bigger Fantasea BigEye lens on the front.
Recently the most stunning images have come from my Sony NEX5 camera in a Nauticam housing. That certainly takes some beating.
I have a multitude of strobes, some home-made but generally Ikelites. They’re reasonably priced and give a good light output.

REBREATHERS
There’s no way I can ignore the future; I have a Kiss Classic at the moment, but I think it’ll be my new side-mount rebreather that will be far and away the most useful in the years ahead.

DPVs
I have a couple of scooters but it’s the Submerge N19 which, importantly, being light enough to carry, is the present machine of choice.
This will make useful penetrations of up to 1km at an acceptable speed.

KNIVES & CUTTERS
I have a great little knife, but I don’t have a clue which company made it. It has a substantial handle, a short blade and it’s contained in a sheath with elasticated straps. I’ve had it for over 19 years, and I feel I’d be lost without it now!
In the past few years my partner Helen Rider has produced armbands made of 7cm-wide elastic to contain any number of invaluable, or back-up, tools.
This slides over the arm, and it has pockets for a knife, a torch and any other items that you might want in an emergency situation. And that is absolutely the bee’s knees. We do sell them, too.
While I have my trusty knife with a decent handle and a short blade, my main cutting tool is a plastic Stanley knife, which I also keep in the armband. That is unequivocably the very best cutting tool for cave-diving, because it has a retractable blade.
I would only ever incorporate one blade in it at a time because obviously they rust, but they last three or four months, remain sharp throughout and they’re easy to change.

REELS & SPOOLS
I’m a firm Kent Tooling reel man. They might be a bit heavy but they’re definitely the best reels used in our demanding cave environment. For emergencies I’d use a Kent stainless spool.

Martyn Farr was talking to Steve Weinman