A Dive is a Terrible Thing to Waste

The Importance of a Complete Save-A-Dive Kit

During your Openwater class your instructor likely mentioned, or maybe even stressed the importance of, a seemingly magical and possibly random collection of extra gear we lovingly refer to as the “Save-A-Dive Kit.” It is likely you noted this suggestion, along with the numerous other bits of knowledge you were bombarded with, and you may have even bought one of the basic assortments of spare parts marketed by SCUBA industry suppliers. If, as a new diver, you did at least that much my hat’s off to you.

Diving is an equipment intensive sport. Possibly that adds to the excitement but assuredly it adds complications. We entrust our lives to manmade inventions to overcome limitations placed upon us by Mother Nature. Practically everything we do underwater depends on some gadget and as we all know, Mr. Murphy loves gadgets.

So you’ve planned a great week diving the wonderful springs of Florida. You’ve done your research and selected the best dives. You mapped out your route and made the necessary reservations at hotels and dive sites. All your equipment is packed and loaded in the SUV and you head to Florida.

Anxious to get in the water at the first beautiful spring; an overzealous tug on a fin strap suddenly yields two shorter pieces of fin strap. You brought your tanks, weights, BCD, wetsuit, mask, fins, and everything you thought you needed for the perfect dive but no extra fin straps!

As you sit on the bench bewildered a stranger approaches carrying what appears to be a massive tool box. He introduces himself, apologizes for eavesdropping and says “I thought you could use a little help.” With that the box is opened to reveal what can only be described as a “mini-dive shop.” In a few minutes a fin strap is located and installed. Appreciation is aptly shown and another dive is saved.

This scenario is repeated frequently at dives sites and on dive boats all over the world. We need equipment to dive. Equipment breaks and we have to be prepared.

The example above actually happened and I have been on a dive boat about to do my giant stride when it was discovered a high pressure hose was leaking on my gear. The stories are endless but the outcome is almost always positive when there is a properly equipped diver nearby willing to share. My attitude has always been that I want to be that properly equipped diver.

As a Divemaster my Save-A-Dive kit is used on almost every dive. It has come to the rescue for O-rings, mask straps, cable ties, clips, bungee, snorkel keepers, DIN inserts, tools, and a myriad of other essentials; not the least of which was a sterile cleansing pad for a doctor who got a little too close to the sharp edges of a wreck recently.

So you ask, “What is a Save-A-Dive Kit?” My answer is, “The anticipation of Murphy’s Law- What can go wrong will!” Your Save-A-Dive kit should be in a reasonably compact resilient container that allows you to organize and protect the contents. A complete kit should have spares for the common failure points on your equipment plus tools, fasteners, repair material and backups for most of your dive gear as well as first aid supplies. Your kit will be dynamic and will change as you gain experience and knowledge. Often it will grow as Mr. Murphy gives you subtle reminders.







In the technical diving world you prepare for self reliance but almost always dive in a team. The same applies to your save-a-dive kit. Thoughtfully consider the things you may need; bring extras and be prepared to share. If you have a complete kit you will find yourself providing necessary backups to other divers often but occasionally you will have to dig into another diver’s kit yourself. Never count on another diver having everything. If you dive with experienced divers there will always be an assortment of back-ups and between you and your buddies most problems can be solved.

So, what does a save-a-dive kit look like? As a new diver your first exposure to one may have been during your openwater class. Experienced Instructors and Divemasters, by necessity, carry an extensive kit with backups for everything. They understand that they are responsible for a group of divers and can’t afford to allow something minor to create problems. When you went into the dive shop you probably found for sale a plastic tube crammed full of dive accessories and labeled “Save-A-Dive Kit.” As an active diver you will want a kit somewhere between the two examples and preferably closer to the one your Instructor carried.

I’m not aware of any specific container (other than that plastic tube) made for a save-a-dive kit. Here’s where your creative juices can flow. I’ve seen tackle boxes, tool boxes, and plastic boxes with compartments like those used for crafts. The choice is a matter of personal preference. There are some basic points to remember when looking for that perfect container. The first consideration is the fact that it will be used out in the elements and around water, fresh and salt. It must be corrosion and water resistant but not necessarily waterproof. This is why many people use a fishing tackle box. It must be large enough to hold the things you need but not so big that you have to pay for an extra slot on the dive boat. It must be designed to protect the contents from damage and allow good organization. Organization is very important. You must be able to quickly and efficiently find what you need because things usually break near the moment of your giant stride and while people are waiting.

Now that you have found the perfect container it’s time to load it. Where do you start? There are some basics that are universal: mask straps, fin straps, mouthpieces, zip ties, snorkel keepers and O-rings are among these items. You should consider the type of diving you do and include activity specific backups. Photography, spearfishing, cave diving, and technical diving will add another level to your needs. Your experience and knowledge will dictate the contents. Here is a random list of some of the things in mine. I won’t explain them all. If the reason for having an item isn’t clear finding out why can be your “homework.”

  1. Tools: Allen wrenches, screwdrivers, adjustable wrench, stainless scissors, O-ring picks, knife, diver’s multi tool, and pliers.
  2. Bungee, surgical tubing, women’s hair bands, and inner tube pieces
  3. Electrical tape
  4. 24# cave line and a lighter
  5. Zip ties
  6. Chemical light sticks
  7. Complete first aid kit- with a pocket mask
  8. Various clips, D-rings and keepers
  9. O-rings and oxygen compatible grease
  10. Silicon grease
  11. Port plugs
  12. DIN inserts
  13. Yoke to DIN converter
  14. Mr. Clean “Magic Eraser”
  15. Insect repellent
  16. Wetsuit tape and Aquaseal
  17. High pressure, low pressure, and inflator hoses
  18. Mouthpieces, fin straps, mask straps and snorkel keepers
  19. SPG spindles and a spare SPG
  20. Reel parts
  21. A bottle of 50% isopropyl alcohol and 50% white vinegar solution
  22. Pencils
  23. Q-tips and makeup remover pads
  24. Weight belt buckles
  25. Fin strap clips

This is a list to give the reader “food for thought.” It’s by no means a complete list. I invite you to consider “the why” of each item and use the answer as a guide to create your perfect kit.

Once you have created your “masterpiece” and have become “bulletproof” you will want to proudly bring your “ultimate save-a-dive kit” into the public eye. Here are some etiquette pointers. Dive boats are just that: boats. They are not ships. Space is at a premium. Explain to the crew what your kit is and ask them to recommend a safe place you can store it that is out of the way but still accessible. They will appreciate your consideration and may even be impressed by your professionalism. If it is below in the cabin it is safe from the elements and other divers aren’t tripping over it. You can easily reach it for that needed zip tie and become the hero of the boat. This brings me to my other point of etiquette. It’s nice to be the hero but don’t be a chump. Other divers will come to expect you to be the provider in times of need. You should be helpful but encourage them to get their own. Don’t do all the work for them. It’s OK to say, “My kit’s down below. Bring it up and let me see what we can find.” After which you provide the O-ring and instructions for replacing your kit. It’s also fine to say “no.” This usually occurs on a hot summer day when you are in a 7mm, just got the doubles on your back complete with canister light, reels, and deco bottle when someone says, “Hey can I borrow an O-ring.” At this moment it’s appropriate to reply, “You know, I used my last one. Joe over there may have one though.” Consider this a learning experience for a fellow diver.

Our ability to overcome limitations and adapt to a hostile but wondrous environment gives us a great sense of accomplishment. We hone our skills and fine tune our equipment in preparation for the unexpected, taking pride in our successes. Preparation for the challenges of our dives makes the activity safer, more relaxed, and ultimately more enjoyable. As our experience and proficiency grow as divers we become more capable and self reliant. Confidence born from experience will be obvious to our peers. That confidence is produced by preparation. We prepare ourselves through thorough training, proper equipment, and experience. Only by gaining all three will you become a capable diver.

Copyright 2011 Richard L. Black

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