I’M THE LEAST KIT-CONSCIOUS person you could possibly talk to,” says James Brickell although, like most divers, once he gets talking about his equipment we find that there’s a fair amount to discuss.
Brickell rarely dives purely for fun now, and unlike other subjects of this column the weight of his personal dive gear is not a major issue when travelling abroad, as it constitutes a fraction of the entire weight of a film-crew’s equipment.
Having said that “we tend to take the important bits and then buy stuff at the destination. We use a lot of rental gear because with a lot of us diving it’s better to rent it all than pay excess baggage.”

MASKS
My mask is a Hollis. It’s all black at the sides and that’s good for photography. I’ve also got a really old mask that has side-windows – I don’t know the make. If I’m filming I wear the Hollis mask because I can see what I’m doing, but if I’m directing and not having to film I wear the one with the side-panels, because I have better peripheral vision and can keep my eye on the presenters and support-divers, see what’s going on.
We also use full-face masks so that we can speak under water. In the UK we use Guardians, AGAs, OTSs – there’s quite a few.
I like the Kirby Morgan M-48 with the removable mouthpiece – that’s what I used on Great Barrier Reef. I’m mostly minimal use, listening and throwing the occasional comment in.
Abroad we use a Diveways mask. It’s not kitemarked in the UK because it’s not oro-nasal, but I think it’s got amazing sound and you can actually see the diver’s face.

FINS
I use Ocean split-fins. A lot of my job is spent semi-upright in the water watching or filming, and they’re good because I only need to make tiny movements to adjust my position.
I don’t have to be anywhere in a hurry and they’re fantastic for fine control. And they’re indestructible, I’ve had them for ages.
I learnt with Mares Plana Avanti Quattros – great if I needed to get anywhere in a hurry, but mostly when filming if you’re chasing stuff you’re usually too late. The split-fins are better for fine-tuning.

DRYSUIT
I use an Ri2-100, which is O’Three’s ultra-posh crushed neoprene drysuit. It’s probably the best single bit of kit I’ve got.
Sitting still in cold water can be uncomfortable and it is expensive but it’s amazing, and for what I do it couldn’t be better.
We don't go to one supplier as it’s against BBC practice but a few of the presenters use O'Three drysuits, so they are clearly great bits of kit. Mine is fitted to me and I’m a funny shape, short and stocky.
If I buy an off-the-peg drysuit either the arms are too long or the shoulders are too small, so O’Three fiddles with it for me and that’s made a huge difference to my diving.

UNDERSUIT
Fourth Element Arctic thermals are brilliant in combination with the O’Three. If they were knackered I’d try O’Three ones, but they keep going.

WETSUIT
Embarrassing, it’s an O’Neill surfing wetsuit and it’s 13 to 15 years old. It was black but it’s now bleached to pale grey. But to be honest if it’s cold I wear a drysuit, and if it’s warm, it doesn’t matter.
I’ve got an O’Three semi, which is fantastic as well, but usually it’s just shorts and T-shirt for me.

BC
My BC is an Oceanic Probe and it’s brilliant because it has a lot of D-rings. As a director I end up carrying a lot of things, secondary lights, secondary camera and stuff, and that’s why I use it.
I like the quick-release weight-pouches too, it’s a good bit of kit. I’ve had it about five years, since making Great Barrier Reef, and it’s been to hell and back. It gets a lot of hours in the water and I don’t need a technical kit.

COMPUTER
I use an Oceanic OC1, just because it’s a nice watch/computer. I’ve had it a year and a half and it’s a great bit of kit. The only problem is that the bracelet is awesome for day-wear but you need to wear the rubber strap for diving to fit over a suit, and changing them if you’re at all clumsy you have to be careful because the pins pop off.
Oceanic has been good but it’s had to replace them. I use the OC1 as a back-up as much as anything. I’ve got a very basic computer on my console, and if I’m rebreather diving I use proper Sherwood stuff that comes with the rebreather.

REGULATOR
I’ve got a Scubapro MK17. When I first learnt to dive my instructor serviced Scubapro regs and told me they don’t break. This unit has never broken. It had to be upgraded from one Scubapro to another but in 20 years I’ve only had the two.
It’s the one bit of dive-kit where it’s not really about looks. I know we all love good-looking kit but that’s the bit that goes in your mouth and keeps you alive. I don’t even care what it breathes like, as long as it keeps working.
Of course, the second stage is huge – you could beat someone to death with it!

REBREATHER
I’m trained on a Poseidon MKVI and I’ve used the Hollis Explorer. I’m not a technical diver but I was interested in the Hollis because it opens up an avenue for presenters using them.
I don’t think there’s anything dangerous about rebreathers but there are a lot of dangers surrounding the situations you use them in and who’s using them. If you’re going to play around with rebreathers and dive with them infrequently you’re probably going to kill yourself.
It’s no accident that we talk about flying a rebreather – if you’re not going to keep your hours up then do not dive a technical rebreather.
The MKVI is great because it allows you flexibility to push some of the operational depths you get with a technical rebreather, but you can fall back into idiot mode.
The Hollis is another stage – when I dived with it
I had thought it won’t be that easy, but it is. It’s an amazing bit of kit but the jury’s still out on it perhaps.
There’s a load of divers who love tables and geekery, but diving shouldn’t be just about them. Why shouldn’t novices and people who just want to get the best out of their diving benefit?
Also, diving at your optimum mix at any depth has got to be safer, it’s better for your body. I think the MKVI and Se7en are really interesting because they showed the way, but I wonder where the middle ground will go.
I reckon we’ll end up with technical rebreathers you can just stick on your back and chuck in your mouth and what I loved about the Hollis was that, yeah, you can get into the settings if you want, but also you can just dive it.
Our camera operators each tend to have a favoured rebreather unit, whether it’s a Revo or a Megalodon or an Inspiration, and we encourage them to use their own kit.
With presenters you can’t do that unless you’re working with one who keeps his hours up, like Andy Torbet or Monty Halls.
If the presenters are working in other areas they won’t have time to keep their hours up, so an easier unit that’s safer becomes really attractive. We’re not quite there yet.
Hollis rebreathers look good, and rebreathers are not generally great-looking bits of kit. But we’re really interested in speaking under water, so I think the next step for us will be a full-face mask that can be used with a rebreather.

SMB
I used one that was so bloody dangerous it nearly killed me – as I sent it up it jammed and I went skyborne with it. Luckily my buddy grabbed my legs. I knew he had me and I was hammering at it but I couldn't get it working, so I just let go. I recovered it later, but I wouldn’t dive with it again.
So I just bought a new one – I can’t remember who it's made by, but it's suitably chunky.

CURRENT HOOK
I use these a lot as I have to stay still in the water, and its other use is that it has two clips and a lanyard, so if the presenter has a prop or the cameraman's changing bit's of kit he can pass it to me, I can clip it on and it's not going anywhere.
I call it a current hook but it's a hook on your BC, a lanyard and a pincer-hook.

KNIVES/CUTTERS
I've got a knife but I’ve never used it, other than to catch my tea on one occasion.

CAMERAS
I don’t do photography for fun, that would be such a busman’s holiday! I wouldn’t be allowed to anyway because I’m away from home enough as it is.
Also, I work with professional award-winning underwater photographers, so it would be like getting your football out in front of Alexis Sanchez and saying here, look at this!
I guess I’d be intimidated by my colleagues being so good at it. I do take reference shots but I just use whatever happens to be around.
Professionally there are lots of good cameras but we’re sort of defined by who’s making the housings which you can get for the Reds, originally the Epic but now the Dragon. That’s the go-to model, but we also use Phantoms in custom housings.

BAG
I’ve got a really plush Oceanic wheelie one with lots of compartments, but I can’t get everything in it so I also use an ancient Army-surplus camouflage bag to carry bits. It has holes in it and doesn’t look like something that should be stolen. In fact it looks as if it should be carrying animal feed!

James Brickell was talking to Steve Weinman.