No amount of equipment can compensate for lack of knowledge, skill, experience and judgment. Nevertheless, without the right equipment, you will not be safe and your ability to learn will be compromised as well.
Here is a list of the items you will need to take part in any one of our Cave or Technical Diver courses. Certain specialty programs may require additional equipment (such as an expedition-grade DPV for the DPV course). You will not, however, need stage bottles for entry-level Cave Diver training, nor will you need a deco bottle if only taking the Apprentice Cave Diver course.
Some of these items you may already own. Others you may need to purchase. If you will be flying to Florida to take your course, you should plan on renting heavier items, such as tanks, here. Overall, it is best to own as much of your equipment as possible.
Be sure to discuss the equipment you already own with your instructor, as well as any which you plan to purchase. Cave equipment is not exactly cheap. Save time and money by getting the right equipment the first time.
Like all masks, yours should combine a streamlined design, low volume and wide field of vision. Most cave and tech divers prefer masks with black silicone skirts, as these admit less overall light and cause your pupils to dilate. It is a common practice among cave divers to carry a compact backup mask in a separate pocket.
No split fins; no hinged fins — period. You need powerful, flat-bladed paddle fins that offer the least potential for entanglement and which facilitate frog kicking and other specialized propulsion techniques. If your fins do not already have spring heel straps, you will want to get some.
“Room temperature” (21° C/72° F) water sucks heat from your body faster than 4° C/39° F air does. As a minimum, you need at least a 7 mm full-length wet suit and a hood. Most cave divers dive dry. No gloves — unless they have the fingertips cut off (to better feel the guideline). Thigh pockets are essential.
- Two dive computers.
- A dive computer and a depth gauge/timer.
BC air cell/harness and primary cylinders
Students in Cave Diver courses can choose to dive backmount or sidemount. Students who will be using sidemount must either be able to document prior sidemount experience, or have taken the Sidemount Diver course. This can be done before or in conjunction with the Apprentice Cave Diver course.
- Sidemounting students will need an appropriate sidemount harness and air cell and at least two 13-liter/85-cubic-foot or larger cylinders with sidemount attachment hardware.
- Backmounting students will need 13-liter/85-cubic-foot or larger manifolded doubles with a dual-orifice, isolation manifold. Other than tank bands, the cylinders should be completely “clean”̵ — i.e., no additional hose clamps, D-rings or bungees.
Backmounting students will also need either a backplate and harness, or a harness designed specifically for cave and tech diving in doubles (most backmounting cave divers prefer a backplate and harness). Air cells must be capable of providing adequate lift.
For your primary cylinders you need two separate balanced-first-stage regulators (two first stages with one second stage each). First stage port configuration needs to facilitate proper hose routing for back- or sidemounting.
At least one second stage must have a long for gas sharing. A two-meter/seven-foot hose is the most common. Hose length for the remaining first stage, as well as high-pressure and inflator hose length will vary depending on body size and whether you are back- or sidemounting. Consult your instructor for specifics.
If backmounting, you need just a single SPG on the left-hand first stage. If sidemounting, you need a separate SPG for each first stage.
Stage and deco bottles
For all but the first two days of the full Cave Diver course and for any Tech Diver course beyond Intro to Tech, you will need a deco bottle with oxygen. Students in the Stage Cave Diver course will need at least one 11-liter/80-cubic-foot stage bottle.
Deco regs can be unbalanced piston models but must be oxygen service rated. “Button” or stem SPGs are okay for deco regs. Stage regs need to offer the same level of performance as your primary regs and need a full-size SPG on a short hose.
Primary and backup lights
No pistol grips or lanyards, period. Each of your lights nees to have a single stainless bolt snap attached with cave line. We can show you how to do this.
Reels and spools
You will need at least two safety reels or spools with at total of 45 m/150 ft or more of line between them. While spools provide a convenient way to manage short lengths of guideline, many divers feel that reels provide a better means of managing 10 m/30 ft or more of line.
In addition to two safety reels/spools per diver, each team needs at least one primary reel with sufficient line to make it from the cave entrance to the start of the furthest permanent line. 75 m/250 ft is sufficient.
Most new reels come with spools packed to the edge with guideline. This only makes them more likely to jam. Cut off at least 10 m/30 ft of line before use. This helps reduce the likelihood of a jam.
Conventional dive knives are effectively useless when it comes to dealing with entanglement. They are big, bulky, cause entanglement and don’t hold an edge. Some variation on a parachute line cutter (i.e., Z-knife) is better. You will want two line cutters (some divers carry trauma shears as their backup cutter).
Wrist slates are great for tech diving; not so good for cave diving. Wet notes provide a better alternative. Keep them in your thigh pocket, as they will not be seeing much use…unless you screw up.
Surface marker buoy (SMB) or Lift Bag
For technical diver courses you will also need an SMB. Your SMB needs to be the type you can inflate under water using exhaust from your regulator.
Understand this list provides the briefest overview of the equipment you will need. There are issues regarding configuration and mounting that are best covered in person with your instructor. Be prepared to invest in some additional (but generally minor) equipment items, such as snaps and clips, when you arrive for training.
Again, do not make any major equipment purchases without discussing them with your instructor first.