Jun 2014

Be Prepared. Pack a Spares Bag!

By Mike Waddington

One of the things that attract people to scuba diving is the sense of adventure that it offers. You can head out onto a boat and go hundreds of miles out to sea to get to some of the Earths most hard to reach and unexplored dive sites. One thing many divers say attracted them to the sport is the ability to go places that few if any have ever gone before.

So what happens when you have booked yourself onto a nice scuba diving trip, reach the dive boat, head out to sea for a week, get your gear together and suddenly the worst possible happens, A fin strap breaks! This is the moment that you realise that all your planning and money spent all goes to waste as now you can’t swim properly! Now, most boats should carry a spares bag but they will not be able to cover every brand and model of every piece of equipment. You also cannot blame the dive staff for not carrying a spare Tusa Tri-ex fin buckle (for example). What you should have done in advance is a little more planning…

All scuba diving equipment will eventually wear out and need replacing, sooner rather than later if you do not look after it, but some parts do seem to break or fail more than others. Generally the more strain the part has to deal with, the sooner it will break. As a competent and self-sufficient Diver, you should carry at least a few spare parts for your equipment. It always pays to have a little more extra than you need so if another unprepared diver is on the boat with you and their mask strap snaps, you can become the hero of the day!

Obviously we can’t carry everything we may need, but there are several generic extras that can go a long way to make sure you go diving. Here below is a list of items that I will always take with me on a dive trip, with a description of why you may need them.

1) Mask.

You should always carry a spare dive mask with you. It doesn’t need to be the same quality as your primary mask, however, it does need to properly fit and be comfortable. Masks along with snorkels are the most commonly lost piece of equipment. Very easy to get knocked off your head if wearing it like a panicked diver, or if not properly secured to the boat it could fall off on a choppy day.

2) Mask Straps.

The most commonly breaking strap has to be the mask, this is because so many people don’t wear them properly and really over tighten them. Each time you pull it on and off you are stretching the strap a little more and more, and all of a sudden it breaks and there is no way to try to fix it. I would always carry 2 or 3 spare straps. As they are cheap and usually all different designs you could get a collection from all your favourite dive schools. I would recommend getting neoprene as this lasts much longer, as well as feeling more comfortable if you have long hair.

3) Fin straps and buckles.

Maybe the most important piece to have is a spare set of fin straps with an extra buckle for each of your fins. Like I said before the shape and connection of these varies massively, sometimes even within the same company. Fin straps don’t break that often, but when they do it can be the most frustrating thing on the planet! Avoid this hassle by getting a backup.

4)Dive Computer batteries.

If your Dive computer has user-changeable batteries then why wouldn’t you carry a spare?! Normally you would never just buy a battery for the computer, but instead more of a service kit. This will include your new battery, along with any spare O-rings and other pieces it needs to keep watertight.

5) Spare inflator hose.

If you are using your own BCD then I also recommend having a spare inflator to go with it. They rarely fail completely. Often you will see a small tear on the button of the Aqualung Powerline Inflator which allows a small amount of air to escape, or the deflate button is sticking a little bit. While these may not be any reason for you to not use your BCD if multiple things fail or a cockroach gets into your gear and munches through the soft rubber ( Seen this before a few times) then your BCD will be rendered useless. They are very easy to swap over, usually just needing to be unscrewed from the left shoulder, and the new one screwed back in its place. The old one can be serviced back to full working order whenever you have the time.

6) Torch batteries.

More and more we are seeing divers come prepared with their own underwater lamp, which is a good thing. Defiantly my most cherished piece of non-essential equipment, I actually have 3 with different purposes. Back in the day, the burn times were not that good, and quite often they need weird shape and volt batteries that you can only get in the most exotic of battery suppliers. Nowadays many manufacturers have seen the error of their ways and have standardised to AA, AAA, C and D cells. However, you do still get some with other batteries. I would usually carry spare batteries for 2 battery changes for each torch, depending on how long I was going out for and how often I will be using them.

7) Yoke Screw.

No matter how much you remind divers not to completely unscrew them, if the mind wanders for a second then you hear a plop as it sinks down to the bottom of the ocean. This is a common problem I would encounter teaching scuba diving. On our old dive boat, we would have a box full of spare yoke screws, as without the screw a Yoke Regulator will not work, at all! Even if you are an experienced diver and you know you won’t drop it in the sea, it still pays to have a spare as the threads can wear out over time making it impossible to tighten.

8) Regulator Hoses.

Most regulators have standard hoses that can be mixed and matched, but a few regulators second stages have special hose screws that need the matching hose to work (Aqualung Calypso, certain models, Apex Flight) If you have a regulator like this then defiantly carry some spare hoses, one for each port is fine. A spare LPI hose is very useful as is a spare HP (High Pressure) hose. If you are diving in a twinset or Sidemount then defiantly carry spares as you would be very lucky if the dive boat had spares.

9) Regulator Mouthpieces.

I have always had a problem with chewing things, without realising it. When you put a regulator in my mouth with nice soft chewy mouthpiece I can guarantee it will be gone within a few hours of diving. If you are not a chewer all the time, think back to anytime you get stressed out, your teeth will start grinding and being paired up with a bad buddy can enough go through a whole mouthpiece in a dive! You can get these mouldable ones that are much more heavy-duty (think boxing gum shield) but you can gnaw your way through these with time and effort. You should carry a few spare mouthpieces as they are cheap and light, get the ones that feel most comfortable for you. And remember to pack some cable ties to make sure they are properly on.

10) O-rings, Service kits and lubricant.

Again most dive boats will have the basic spare O-rings. They will almost be guaranteed to carry spare Yoke and Din O-rings, but also inside your regulator are many different O-rings. Some of the more common ones to break are the swivel O-rings (ever seen an SPG bubbling everywhere?), The one inside your LPI hose (this one can be awful to change) and where your second stages connect to their hoses. Even if you not trained in fixing equipment, being able to change a swivel O-ring can make you many friends in the diving community! Also, a nice idea to carry service kits for your regulator just in case there is a friendly technician on board who is willing to help a diver in need. Oh and remember if you do change O-rings remember the put some lubricant on it!

If you have a nice set of spare parts you want to keep them all in one container, I personally like this to be watertight and solid, much like a product called Otter Box. That way nothing will get damaged when you go to use it. It shouldn’t take up too much space or weight. Keep it away from the rest of your dive gear so it doesn’t get confused with everything else. And remember if you take anything out of your spares kit replace it when you get back!

‘Be Prepared. Pack a Spares Bag!’ was written by Mike

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Mike Waddington

I first discovered diving in 2008 after going snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. After trying diving at a flooded quarry in England I decided to head out to warmer more interesting waters in Thailand where I ended on the Island of Koh Tao completing my Open Water course. Instantly addicted with money to spend and plenty of time on my hands I decided to continue until I became a Divemaster so I could live what seemed as the perfect life.

After that I headed to the Caribbean to an island called Utila to complete my instructor course, I spent several months out there completing the MSDT internship, teaching students and leading dives. This is also where I discovered my interest in the technical side of diving, taking part in equipment repair courses and learning about blending gasses and running compressors.

With all my new qualifications it was time to head back to where it had all started, Back to Koh Tao where I intended on living the dream. Once I arrived I quickly found a job and started teaching straight away. During my time on Koh Tao I took part in all many technical diving courses, learning how to dive with re-breathers, in caves and even going down to 90m/300ft!

Qualifications:

PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer
PADI/DSAT Tech Deep Instructor
PADI/DSAT Gas Trimix Gas Blender
PADI/DSAT Trimix Diver
TDI Intro to Cave Diver
TDI Advanced Wreck Diver
TDI Inspiration rebreather Decompression Procedures
PADI Professional Videographer
BSAC Compressor Operator
TDI Equipment Service Technician

Dream Dive Locations:

Silfra, Iceland
Cenotes, Mexico
Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
Ice Diving in Russia