We all have our ‘go-to’ equipment, and the celebrity diver, presenter, author and adventurer has shared with us those bits of kit that – depending on the type of dive – he wouldn’t dream of leaving behind
I do a lot of different diving. From British sumps, where a minimalist approach is preferred in case I have to negotiate tight squeezes and have long carries through dry caves, to deep shipwreck or big cave penetration, where I might have a rebreather and four large bail-out bottles strapped to me, as well as torch and suit-heating batteries.
Fourth Element hood
It’s top of the list because it’s always the first thing that comes to mind when I get asked a question like this. It’s as if Fourth Element used my head as the mould. It’s such a perfect fit that, even in 1°C waters under ice, I rarely go thicker than 5mm.
The fit is so good that I have even surfaced with dry hair. It covers as much of my face as possible without interfering with masks or regs. If Gieves & Hawkes at 1 Savile Row made a bespoke scuba-diving hood, this is what it would look like.
Suunto EON Steel dive-computer
I love the big, colourful display and buttons that are the right size even with drygloves on (and the three pairs of undergloves). If I’m on a closed-circuit rebreather it acts as my bail-out computer; if I’m on scuba it’s my main and it can cope with any gas-mixes I care to breathe.
The Buhlmann software also means that I can match it perfectly to the Shearwater that runs my CCR. The only time I don’t wear it is when I’m freediving – that’s when I’ll slip on the more modestly sized Suunto D6.
Apeks XTX50 regulator
This is not something I use when freediving, of course, but I carry at least one at all other times. If I’m on scuba, and often side-mounted in caves, I’ll carry two of these as my main regs. If I’m on CCR, there will be at least one acting as my main bail-out.
As with the dive-computer, your bail-out should be at least as good, if not better, than your main. When it’s all going wrong and you need to bail out in the worst-possible conditions, that is not the time to start having to worry about kit reliability.
Trilobite cutting tool
These little double-bladed cutting tools are perfect for cutting the size of lines you normally get on dive-reels, but also the monofilament nets and fishing-line with which a conventional knife might struggle. I slip one onto the wrist-strap of my Suunto EON or D6. I
I also carry two on my skydiving rig (it’s the law to carry at least one) in case I should need to cut lines in an emergency – that’s how useful they are.
Aqua Lung Argonaut knife
Shot-lines, ropes on boats and the climbing rope often used in caving and in many British underwater caves and flooded mines is too thick for a Trilobite. For this I carry my Aqua Lung Argonaut. With one side for cutting and the other for sawing, I’ve yet to find something it couldn’t cut. There is also 5mm Paracord wrapped around the hilt, and you’d be surprised what you can fix with a bit of Paracord.
These come in three sizes and I carry whichever is appropriate. I use them as delayed SMB lines, shot-lines (usually when freediving), jump reels and for lining caves – I’ve even used them as a washing-line on more than on one trip. They’re also colourful, so look good in photos… something not to be sniffed at in my line of work.
Fourth Element G1 gloves
I’ll often wear these 1.5mm gloves for freediving or diving in warmer waters, but I’ll also carry them in much colder conditions. Even if I intend wearing drygloves for diving, I’ll use these when rigging and sorting kit, dressing or helping out someone else.
They keep my hands warm even when wet, so when I eventually don whichever other gloves I’ll wear under water, I do so with warm hands. If you start an Arctic dive with cold hands, they’re not going to warm up when you hit the water.
Fourth Element Xerotherm beanie
I wear these all the time. They keep my head super-warm, pack up in a pocket easily and are even slim-line enough to fit under my helmet when I’m climbing, mountaineering or caving.
Because they still feel super-comfy and warm when wet, I wear mine sea-kayaking and even stick it in a pocket when I go cave scuba-diving. I surface in a dry cave, wring the hat out and stick it on – top bit of kit. We (the whole family) also have red ones for Christmas time.
This, in one form or another, is always in my kit. Whether I’m just going to London for a night or heading to Greenland for a month, a decent head-torch is essential. On the diving front, I’m currently experimenting with the Big Blue HL1000 XXW – a head-torch with up to 1,000 lumen that can go down to 100m.
Whether you’re on a sandy beach or muddy cave or in a filthy car park, keeping yourself – but more importantly your kit – clean is important.
It’s especially important if the kit is sensitive stuff such as filming lights or cameras, or if you won’t have a chance to clean it before the next dive (picture living and diving out of your car for three months – the cleaner you keep things, the less work you make for yourself).
Fourth Element gives out free changing mats with its drysuits. I’ve got four (mats, not suits – I have only two of those). They are also handy to put under picnic blankets to keep them clean and dry, or rig up as a rain-shelter for kit that needs to be left outside… but that’s for another article.
Photographs by Richard Stevenson & courtesy of Andy Torbet