Tips & tricks

I turn the cylinder on, and something hisses. I turn it off and wiggle the first stage, turn it on and it still hisses. I remove the regulator, and find the O-ring is missing.
A spare O-ring is one of the most useful and cheapest spare parts a diver can carry.
I keep one in my wallet, but there are also O-ring-carrying key-rings, holders on first-stage dust-caps, or you can simply loop them over the string that secures the dust-cap (right).
But even if you take care never to lose the O-ring, and carry a spare, the question remains: Where did that O-ring go?
You can look around your feet, but most likely is that it will be hiding between the cylinder and BC. You may be able to see it down the back, where your fingers can't quite reach.
Lay the BC face-down before releasing the camband (above right). If you usually leave the BC attached to the cylinder between dives, there could be more than one O-ring waiting to be discovered.
Of course, a hissing connection is not necessarily caused by a missing O-ring. The ring could just be worn and scored where regulators have been connected and removed over time.
If a replacement is not conveniently available, a temporary solution may be simply to turn it over. But remember, a flipped O-ring should always be replaced at the earliest opportunity.

It varies from suit to suit, but every now and then a combination of drysuit and undersuit just doesn't want to let the air out of the dump valve.
Some undersuits have mesh panels where the manufacturer expects the drysuit dump valve to be. Some divers mutilate their undersuits with scissors or a hot needle to achieve a similar effect.
But you don't need to reduce the thermal efficiency of the undersuit to let air out. Usually it isn't air trapped inside the undersuit that is the problem but that it can billow up and obstruct the dump valve.
Keep the valve clear, and more than enough air can get round the undersuit to escape.
Divers have various solutions - tubular bandages, rubber bands, chunks of open-cell foam and, my favourite, a patch of duct tape.
Just spread the sleeve of the undersuit flat and make a square patch about three strips wide, centred on the area of the dump valve (pictured).
Applying an air-proof patch beneath where we want the air to escape is counter-intuitive to those who think that air escapes through the undersuit, but the objective is to ensure an easy route for air to flow round it.
There are plenty of other routes for air to get out - all we need is to give it a clear route to the dump valve.

One of the hassles of an assembled twin-set is that the easiest way to carry it between boat and car is on your back. The same applies to rebreathers and rucksack-style dive bags. At the end of the day, all the wet kit tends to be dripping as it's carried.
As the boat comes into the jetty, having just changed into jeans and T-shirt the last thing I want is to get my clothes wet.
A jacket would keep my T-shirt dry, but water will still drip from the wing or bag and down the back of my jeans. I hate having to sit in a pub or drive home with a soggy bottom.
On a trip to California I met divers wearing long, baggy hooded coats. I was so impressed that I went to the local sports hypermarket and bought one, for about $90.
The Dive Parka is a shell of heavy nylon with a fleece liner. Baggy enough to wear over a wetsuit, it makes an effective wind-block but also serves as a general-purpose coat - provided you don't have any fashion sense.
One style-conscious buddy refused to be seen next to me, the first time I turned up in Weymouth wearing one.
When it comes to carrying wet kit on my back, however, the great advantage over other coats is that it reaches down to the knees. It stops my bum from getting soggy.

Attaching a small knife to a BC hose makes it easy to reach, and simplifies kitting up.

Computer, compass, watch, slate, knife - the default arrangement for all of these is that they strap around wrists or ankles.
Small dive-lights or pocket-sized digital cameras also have convenient wrist lanyards.
There are several things I don't like about having all this stuff strapped to wrists and ankles.
Things that strap on individually slow down the kitting-up process - and they can also be forgotten individually. I've done it myself, suddenly realising that I don't have a dive computer with me to fill a gap on my wrist.
A compass is traditionally strapped to a wrist, yet this is not the most convenient place to read it accurately (Getting Your Bearings, June 2005).
Similarly, an ankle is not the best place to carry a dive knife. It is difficult to reach and can easily cause a tangle as you swim past ropes - the very event for which it is carried!
The solution to easier kitting up with less cluttered and more streamlined diving is to store as many accessories as possible on my BC or harness and, except for my camera, to keep them there between dives. This way they are always ready.
I will nearly always be diving with a camera, so on overseas dives I take this a step further and leave my dive computer and compass attached to it (above left). In the UK, I use a VR3 with a cable to a rebreather, so that has to go on a wrist. Everything else has its place on my BC or harness or in a pocket.
Wherever I am, I put on the harness or BC, pick up my camera and am ready to jump in, knowing that I already have all the accessories some other divers are still strapping to wrists and ankles.
Having said all that, unless my dive computer is on my camera and hence always in front of my face, the best place for it is on my wrist. On a console I find it cumbersome and awkward to use. However, after a dive it can be left clipped to my harness, so it won't be left behind on the next dive.
As you work out where to store everything on your BC or harness, remember not to create unwanted dangly bits (Get Those Dangly Bits Under Control, April 2006).

It surprises me how many divers hang a wetsuit up to dry right way out. When I want a nice dry wetsuit for the next dive, the side worth drying first is the inside (below).
Turn your suit all the way inside-out before hanging it up. I would bother to dry the outside only before packing it away to travel home.
When there either isn?t time between dives to dry a wetsuit, or conditions are not right, a cup or two of hot water will turn a cold, wet wetsuit into a warm, wet wetsuit!


Years ago, while moving a computer, I twisted my back. It has been a bit fragile ever since. I suffered through a number of diving trips where shifting kit or luggage aggravated it on the first day.
A physiotherapist friend recommended exercises. An acupuncturist friend applied pressure to the relevant points. A posh hotel was disappointed when I moved the bedding from the soft kingsize bed to the floor. Then a bodybuilder friend suggested a weight-lifting belt.
At the local gym-equipment shop, among soft and hard belts in a range of widths and sizes, I found the sort of heavy leather belt Olympic weight-lifters wear while heaving the equivalent of a small car above their heads. If it worked for them, I reckoned it could easily support my back when shifting twin-sets and rebreathers.
As long as I remembered to put it on before shifting anything heavy, it worked like a dream.
I haven't suffered a serious back aggravation since, but for a time I was still getting occasional minor problems, especially while diving or shifting kit while wearing a drysuit. The hard belt just wasn't practical to wear under a drysuit.
I recommended the idea to a few diving friends with back problems, and like all good ideas it eventually returned to me with an improvement.
A cheap, flexible back support of the sort builders use could be worn under a drysuit, and I ordered one from Screwfix for less than a tenner (pictured left and above).
Bliss. It provided protection for my back while kitting up, and comfortable support on long

A full-face hood is normally worn for extra warmth in very cold water. Rather than a single large hole for your face, it has a small hole just big enough to wriggle a mask inside, with an even smaller slit below to take a regulator mouthpiece.
I use one in winter, and for ice diving. It's easier and simpler to use than a full-face mask, though it requires practice to refit masks and swap regulators.
But thermal protection isn't the only benefit. On a trip to the East Coast I was warned to expect a profusion of lion's mane jellyfish, so I took the hood along.
Other divers found the 'Hannibal' hood an amusing eccentricity - until they decompressed among jellyfish tendrils at the end of the first dive.
While they were dousing their faces with vinegar, I was smugly recounting tales of headbutting jellyfish and the jelly coming off worse.
PS: Urine is reputedly a good alternative to vinegar, although I can't recommend it from personal experience.

A time-consuming hassle of preparing for deeper or technical dives is putting together a dive plan, from gas-planning through to decompression schedules with various contingencies for bail-out. Even with a multi-mix dive computer, it's still a good idea to have a plan in case the unit goes wrong.
The trick to minimising the work is never to throw away an old dive plan. Provided my kit is the same, the plan for one rectangular-profile dive is much the same as for any other dive of similar depth and duration.
Having worked out a set of plans and noted them on my slate, I make a copy in my logbook. On the next similar dive I check the book and copy the old plan back to my slate.
I have tidied up plans I use often on a computer, then printed and laminated them. Every now and then I review these and make a new set based on the diving I have been doing.
So while other divers are working out dive plans, I come prepared and can take it easy!