Hello everyone, today we are providing a quick refresh on how to assemble your gear and why it is important to check your equipment before going out on a dive. This will be a multi-part series working our way from the tank to the BC, looking at the weight systems, and finally the regulator.
If it’s been a while since you’ve put your gear together or you are used dive masters and instructors putting your gear together then listen closely. It doesn’t matter if you are a new diver or an experienced diver, every diver should know how their equipment works and how to trouble shoot it.
The Buoyancy Compensator or BCD as it is more commonly referred to is the jacket or back inflate you wear when scuba diving. It holds the tank to your back and is responsible for providing inflation at the surface, deflating to allow us to descend, and most importantly ASSIST in compensating for our buoyancy.
If you have read the Breath Work Articles, then you know that your lungs are the true buoyancy compensators when diving. The BC only assists with your lungs as your body position changes in the water column (shallower or deeper).
Since we have already completed our checks on the tanks in the last article it’s time to assemble our equipment and test our BCD. First, open the tank strap and slide it over the tank. Every tank strap is a little different so consult with your dive shop or instructor on how to properly tighten the strap.
Before you secure the BCD to the tank make sure the tank valve is facing towards the back of your BCD. “Air to Hair”. The air should always be blowing towards the back of your head. Second, make sure the BCD is positioned at the right height. The top of the neck roll should be level with the top of the valve. This way when we attach the regulator later, it will be perfectly positioned to where it doesn’t hit us in the back of the head, but still high enough to reach over our shoulder and find our hoses. (If you have the shoulder flexibility for it)
Now, whatever the strap style, make sure it sits flush with the tank (not at an angle) and secure around the tank. You should not be able to move the tank strap up or down when it’s locked in place. When you test the strap, don’t pick up the BCD and shake it up and down to see if the tank slips. Why you ask? Because if the tank slips it will fall. And the last place you want it to fall is on your foot. So, with your hand see if you can move the strap up and down. If the strap doesn’t move, then it is secure. If it does move, then redo the strap.
With the BCD secure to the tank, it’s time to test it before moving on to the regulator. Grab the inflator hose and begin manually inflating the BCD. This does 2 things: one it tells you if the exhaust button is working both to blow air in and keep air out. If the inflator is leaking, you will hear the air leak around the button. Second, this will test the air bladder. We want to ensure that the BCD is both inflated and that it will hold air. If the BCD begins to deflate and you don’t hear air escaping from the inflator, then that means there is a leak somewhere else. Either way you should exchange the BCD and have it serviced.
Straps, Clips, Velcro:
Our last inspection on the BCD is similar to the tank inspection in our last article. It’s a visual inspection of the BCD and all its parts. If you are renting a BCD, you will want to familiarize yourself with the BCD and all its pieces.
Check the shoulder straps to see how they tighten down.
Does it have a chest strap?
Does it have a single waist strap or a Velcro strap and a buckle strap?
Is the BCD weight integrated or will you be wearing a weight belt?
How do you release the weights in an emergency?Check to see if there are trim weight pockets in the BCD.
If this is your own BCD, then you should already be familiar with all of this. What you want to do is double check your zippers, pockets, and clips, ensuring that they are still functional and in good condition. Plus who knows what kind of goodies you’ll find in your pockets.
Our last thing to do is figure out our weight and where to place it on our body. Now everyone’s body composition is a little different and only you know yourself best. I for example am dense like a rock, mentally not physically hahaha. No, but seriously my legs sink, and I have to wear a wetsuit for buoyancy even if I am snorkeling. So, for me I put roughly half of my total weight into my trip pockets where they are positioned higher on my body closer to my lungs. This helps to balance out my trim and allows me to swim more efficiently through the water.
No matter how much or how little weight you wear you will need to adjust how much is going to be in the trim pockets, in the weight pockets, or on a belt. Then you’ll need to play with where you distribute your weight to give you the best trim in the water. Lastly, however much weight you use, no less than half should be ditch able. Meaning you need to be able to dump at least half of your weight in an emergency.
This is part 2 of our series. Next article will focus on the final piece of gear in our equipment assembly, the regulator.
As always, this Brian (owner of Bamboo Reef) your fearless leader. I’m always lost, but happy to share the journey with you.