A bit about my gear and Nitrox, my gas of choice as it were...
BCD - Regulator - Pony - Computer - Suit - Weight Belt - Gas
BCD - Buddy Pioneer TD
The BDC I use is a Buddy Pioneer TD. I've taken the 300ml cylinder off it though!
I find it's a great BCD. The pockets are HUGE and can hold my compact camera, a couple of torches, slate, small kitchen sink etc etc. Very useful as my buddy has integrated weights which render the pockets useless other than for a squashed in SMB.
It has a pocket on the left to the back which holds a SMB. I have my SMB in there with the pocket reel attached an clipped to an adjacent D ring. Keeps it out of the way but easy to get it when I need it.
It's got plenty of D rings to clip stuff too so even the most toy obsessed diver will be happy. I paid £650 (in 2004) for the BCD and my regs which are...
Regs - Aqualung Titan LX Supreme
I use Aqualung Titan LX Supreme's. They are cold water rated, environmentally sealed etc etc. They come with a "Comfort Bite" mouth piece. When I first tried it, I hated the mouth piece. It felt strange and not great at all. However I did make the mistake of trying the new kit on a check dive on holiday so I thought well I'll change the mouth piece after the dive and just live with it through this one!
Thank god I did. By the end of the dive I'd got use to it and love it now! No jaw ache, no constant biting down hard. I do really like them now.
A pony is an independent air supply for use in an emergency. It's completely separate to your main air supply so if you run out of air, have an O ring burst, suffer a free flow regulator etc etc you have a small independent air supply to get you to the surface and even have time for a safety stop. I use a 3l pony with Oceanic Alpha 8 regulator. It's a simple set up but hopefully will be adequate if I ever need to call on it. I tried one of those canvas pony bags but they don't work too well especailly on a 15l cylinder. I use a Northern Diver pony clamp. Works great.
Computer - Suunto Vyper
My computer is a Suunto Vyper. Not really much to say as it's all been said before. One of the most popular computers in the UK and regularly wins awards. I got mine in 2004 for £185 from the London International Dive Show (LIDS) and I've not seen one cheaper yet. Amazing how they hold their price.
The Vyper is easy to use, can have personal adjustment settings. Normal, PI or PII each progressively more conservative (I keep mine on PII to be on the safe side and rarely run out of NDT).
OK now for a quick rant... £75 FOR THE USB DOWNLOAD KIT!!!! Do me a lemon that's a rip off! That was the average price at the Birmingham dive show in 2005. If anyone knows of somewhere doing the bit of cable and CD for something vaguely acceptable for a bit of cable and a CD let me know!
Suit - Oceanic Shadow Semi-Dry
I'm still using a wetsuit which does reduce my diving season here in the UK. Drysuit is on the list as a future purchase along with some training. I have a Oceanic Shadow full 5mm suit, 3mm shortie and 5mm boots. The only thing that's not Oceanic Shadow is my hood which I just an unbranded one I picked up at a dive shop.
The Shadow is semi-dry and lined with titanium oxide. After a one hour dive in 17 degree water I'm fine. It's a very popular suit and has a good reputation. It's not unusual to be on a boat with mainly drysuit divers and see another Oceanic Shadow wearing wetsuit diver!
The Oceanic Shadow costs around £160-£200 for the three piece suit. I always see plenty at the dive shows.
I've also just got a Forth Element Thermocline long sleeved top. It's slightly thicker than a rash vest and claims to be equivalent to 2.5mm of neoprene. Got it to dive in the Maldives with but planning to use it under my wetsuit in early or late season dives in the UK.
Drysuit - Otter CORDURA
With wanting to do more diving I decided to get a drysuit. After a bit of research I found out that Otter make the best membrane drysuits with O3 making the best Neoprene. As I wanted membrane I visited LIDS and got myself a Otter Cordura with bag, 200g undersuit, hoses etc for £525. Bargin. Getting used to a drysuit is interesting and after trying it out in a pool then quarry under instruction it slowly comes to you. I find drysuit diving much more comfortable however I do carry more weight and might go back over to the semi-dry in the late summer when sea temperatures are more reasonable.
As I'm not Kate Moss, need plenty of lead to get me down. The traditional blocks and be a tad uncomfortable so I got an Oceanic pocket belt and flexible bags of lead shot.
The bags are really 'squiggy' and mould as you twist and turn and if your cylinder rests on them you've not got blocks forced into your flesh!
Fins - Atomic Split Fins
I use Atomic Split fins. Bought them in 2005 for about £90. Don't see them about much but they are a good fin. They are a split fin with the 'Natures Wing' TM patented system. Also being luminous yellow and black I'm easy to spot underwater.
Fins for Drysuit - Tusa Xpert Zoom fins
The Atomics may have been fine for my wetsuit boots but they didn't fit my drysuit boots very well and were a pain to get on fully kitted up. Someone in the club had a pair of Tusa Xpert Zoom fins and as they weren't doing the 2nd dive offered them to me to try out. So easy to get on with spring straps, big roomy foot pocket and work well underwater. What more do you need? A quick pop down to Mikes in Bristol and I was sorted with my own pair.
Gas - Nitrox
Learning to dive aboard it would appear I have a
completely different view to some UK divers about Nitrox. To me, Nitrox has very
little dangers and gives benefits not only for extending no decompression times
but also in increasing safety.
For those of you who donít know Nitrox (or EANX/SafeAir/Enriched air) is basically air with extra oxygen. The air you normally breathe, hopefully we all should know, is 21% oxygen and the 79% nitrogen in laymanís terms. Nitrox usually contains 32% or 36% oxygen, and therefore 68% or 64% nitrogen respectively. Now hopefully all divers know itís that naughty gas nitrogen that gives you the bends. So the less nitrogen you breathe, the less you absorb. So you can dive on a normal air profile in the knowledge that youíre extra safe as your absorbing less nitrogen, or you can stay down longer increasing your bottom time and end up absorbing the same amount of nitrogen as if you were diving on air. You can use a Nitrox table to work out your bottom times, but with a computer with Nitrox capability (I use a Suunto Vyper) you can set the percentage of air and it automatically works out everything for you including the max depth for that gas mix.
Max depth? The down side with extra oxygen is the possibility of oxygen toxicity. The Nitrox courses teach you all about this but simply you donít want to exceed a partial pressure of oxygen of 1.6 and ideally (which I use) 1.4. Oxygen toxicity leads to you blacking out, not very good underwater as it usually leads to death, which is quite permanent and will stop you diving again (unless you get buried at sea)To work out what the partial pressure is I just take the depth in bar and multiply it by the oxygen percentage expressed as a fraction. So at 30m down (4 bar) using 32% Nitrox the partial pressure of oxygen is 4 x 0.32 = 1.28. Under 1.4 so fine. However if I was using Nitrox 36 then it would be 4 x 0.36 = 1.44. Over the ideal but under the 1.6 dodgy territory.
Basically I use Nitrox 36 on dives were I know I wonít be going to more than 28m and Nitrox 32 when going to 30m (but less than 33m).
Your computer should tell you the max operating depth of your gas when you pop it into your computer.