"Odd Stuff" I Sometimes Carry

by

Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D.

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Every diver  assembles a variety of "dive stuff" they carry with them to dives. Much has been written about the necessity for tool kits, spare parts (often called a re-dive kit), and emergency management equipment (first aid kit, demand oxygen delivery apparatus, Emergency Assistance Plans, etc) on the dive site. This article describes a collection of devices, tools, and implements I have collected over the years that sometimes, depending on the type of dive, accompany me to the dive site. Typically, these are objects intended for a non-diving use or just plain time-killing toys that I have adapted for my personal diving,  teaching or amusement between dives. Since these objects were not intended for diving, their use in diving is the sole responsibility of individual divers who must determine if their use meets their individual requirements for the type of diving done.

Posse Box

This is an aluminum mega-clipboard that is typically found in law-enforcement supply outlets. It provides a sturdy, convenient three-tier storage place for documents associating with dive operations. My box typically contains class rosters, checklists, deco tables. administrative forms, current estimation tables, first aid forms, underwater geometry calculators, a star finder and a tray containing small tools, pencils and pens. I added a clock/timing device to provide uniform time for diving operations (students sign-in and sign-out of the dive site).

Beach Scraper

I picked this up in a children's water toy display. It provides a convenient tool for removing light sand, debris or soil in an underwater excavation site

Boat Fender

Boat fenders  (used to protect boats from scraping docks) make excellent sources of floatation. My favorite (shown below, with bottom side up) is a large fender. I added an inner tube around the float to provide means of attaching  carabineers to hold objects used in a variety of diving operations. The large carabineer in the center is typically attached to an anchor line.

"Bow Wow" Towel

This is a 20" x 27" piece of chamois sold in pet stores as an absorbent material to protect car seats from pet accidents when traveling. It absorbs about 17 x its weight in water. So, this provides a convenient large, lightweight, towel for divers, or a convenient seat protector for the times a diver needs to drive an automobile while still wet-suited.

Camp Towel

This is an REI camp towel - it is small, extremely absorbent and easily cleaned. It folds to about 4" x 8."

Neoprene Beach Mat

I use this mat to stand upon when changing into dive gear. It rolls to a small package and because of the neoprene material is easily cleaned. It also provides a colorful background for digital photography.

Dry Bags

Dry bags have all sorts of uses on the dive site to keep items from getting wet. They can be found at most outdoor outfitters, particularly those that have kayaking supplies. I typically store my clothes in a dry bag while I am diving.

 

Folding Buckets

Useful for carrying water or (when weighted) as a means of moving small objects from the surface to underwater and visa versa. They collapse and fold for storage.

Folding Tables

A table can always be useful on a dive site. The folding variety  tables made for camping are easy to transport and deploy. The folding camping table on the left unrolls to 27 1/2 " high with a slotted table that is 27 1/2" x 27 1/2". A much more substantial sold table on the right has a variable height (1'10",  2'1", 2'5", or 3') unfolds to a table top that is 24" x 48".

  

 

Canopy-Self Contained

For some protection from sun and light rain for shore-based operations, I sometimes use a 10' x 12' canopy. This particular one from Swiss Gear easily covers a standard picnic table. I prefer this unit for its overall size, ease in single-person assembly and built-in anchor points free of support lines. These units are heavy, so a carrying case with wheels is a desirable feature.

Canopy- For Picnic Tables

This canopy from Hammacher Schlemmer is specifically designed to mount on a picnic table. The adjustable-tilt  10' x 7'4" canopy is an excellent sun shade when working training sites that have picnic tables.

Carabineers

I consider carabineers (available at most outdoor outfitters) to be extremely useful since they provide dependable, reliable connectors. For diving operations, the 'bineers should "weight bearing," not novelty items intended for nothing heavier than a key chain. I store mine is a food storage container (Lock & Lock) with an O-ring seal. (Incidentally, the lock & lock boxes make superb, water-tight containers for dive gear, computer parts and astronomy small optics). I store load bearing (from climbing or marine supply vendors) separately from non-load bearing devices.

Clothes Line

A camping clothes line can be a convenient way to hang wet scuba gear between dives.

Gardener's Hand Pruners

These are good small-job cutting tools.

Gardener's Saw

This is a tool sold at garden supply stores. The wrist/arm brace makes this a useful underwater tool for light cutting operations. It can be stored in a folded position (right) with the handle opened for use (left). The blade is approximately 10".

 

"Wrap-Rage"

This is one of those "as seen on TV" products that truly is wonderful. This cutting tool makes short work of cutting through modern plastic-encased product packaging and tie-wraps.

"One-Trip Grip"

This is a convenience device for carrying up to 50 pounds of objects (primarily shopping bags) in one hand. However, it can be used for carrying all sorts of objects (buckets, anchors, bags, etc) with minimal stress on the hands. With a lanyard (all my underwater tools have lanyards), it can facilitate carrying odd-shaped objects or bags from the surface support platform to the underwater work site.

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A black piece of rubber holds the bottom "grip" open

To use: pressing the gray button opens the ring ... objects that fir through the slot are put into the grip ... the gray button is released is objects are carried in a convenient hand-hold.

Hula Hoops

One of the best methods of acquiring buoyancy control skills (and working as a team) is using a hula hoop (see Of Buoyancy and Hula Loops) on an ascent/descent line.  Before using hula hoops in open water, I open the hoops to remove the little beans (that make the rattling sound). If these beans are not removed, they will eventually absorb some water, rot and generate a most foul smell. After the beans are removed, I reassemble the hoop with PVC pipe glue and a staple through the hoop into the short inner connector on each side of the connection joint. I wrap three hoops together with duct tape to provide both a better handhold and a bit more rigidity (compared to a single hula hoop). Before connecting the hoops, I run them through a short, double eye-spliced line. 

Pounding  Board

This is simply a piece of wood with an eye hook to allow suspension in the water (below the above boat fender using a small line and a carabineer). Typically students (not in a basic class)  are asked to pound 4 nails and drive one screw into the wood while suspended at a depth of 10-15 ffw. 

Air Tools

There are a variety of adaptors (tools) that attach via the low pressure B.C. hose. I prefer a separate regulator with tank pressure gauge and pressure gauge to indicate filled pressure. Since the tools are an upstream valve, it is wise to include an over-pressure relief fitting in the high pressure port of the regulator. Adaptors for air-impact tools are also available.

Digital Microscope

This is a Celestron portable digital microscope. It uses an USB port to connect to a laptop. Its image capture feature can be quite useful.

Distance Estimator

I have distance measuring devices built on two different technologies. On the left is an optical device (measurement based on superimposition of 2 images). This is typically sold in marine supply stores. A similar device is often sold in golf supply stores. On the right is a laser based distance measuring tool obtained at a home improvement supply store.

Optical Sonic Laser

Wind Gauge

This analog device (on left)  was acquired at a sailing supply outlet. It provides an estimate of surface wind speed. The second (on right) displays wind speed, temperature and wind chill.

 

Thermometers

On the left is a thermometer found in fishing supply vendors ... it is dropped into the water and left at depth for about 30 seconds. The device records temperature at the max depth (to about 130 fsw). I use about 50 feet of utility cord marked at every foot. This provides a quick estimate of temperature at depth prior to dive.  On the right is a digital laser guided thermometer ... just aim the laser at an object and it electronically determines the temperature.

Lightening Detector

These  devices detect and counts lightening strikes and gives a distance estimate of the latest detected strike.

 

Secchi Disk

The colored disk (painted lead) is lowered into the water until the surface observer can no longer distinguish the boundary between light and dark. This provides an estimate of in-water vertical visibility. I added a thermometer to mine, so this version of the Secchi Disk provides both visibility and temperature information prior to entering the water.

Magnets

Magnets can be used to search for (and lift to the surface) large metallic objects. I have two: a small (red) ceramic magnet that can lift 200 pounds and a large neodymium (Big Brute) that can lift up to 1200 pounds.

Shockles

I picked these up at REI in the kayak department ... they are sold as a replacement for bungee cord tie-downs. There are several sizes available. They make superb cords for securing all sorts of stuff. These list a maximum 600 pound capacity.

Spiral

This is sold as a pivot point for animal leashes. However, it makes a superb center anchor point for running underwater searches. A small wrap of colored duct tape on one end of the top handle can be used as a point of reference for completing a circle.

Mini-Megaphone

This small hand-held device provides a reasonable voice amplification in a small package.

Monocular/Binoculars

Occasionally, it is convenient to have an optical device for viewing distant objects. The smaller monocular (left)  is always in my car and a larger one  (spotting scope from my archery days), is often used when scouting new dive site.  Occasionally, I will even carry zoom binoculars.

 

My Sky

This is a fascinating astronomical tool and just-plain fun diversion for looking at the night-time sky. Using location and GPS satellites, aiming the pointer towards the sky will display the most likely object in the sky that corresponds to the indicated direction. The device contains multi-media video about thousands of objects in the sky. I carry a sound splitter and extra earphones to share the experience. I store the device in a flat cake-pan carrier (department store storage solution or kitchen storage area ... these intended-for-cake-transport make excellent storage and carrying containers for a variety of things. They are not water tight, but they are stackable and quite versatile.)

This device will also, with an appropriate connector cable, aim a Meade telescope such that the scope can be used in a point-and-shoot fashion.

Oxygen Sensor

This device measures and displays the amount oxygen dissolved in the water

Underwater Video

There are 2 different Cabela's underwater camera that we use. Although designed for fisherman, these camera system can be used to evaluate underwater objects to a max depth of 65 feet. Both are battery powered with a 7" B&W monitor. The 65' cable reel spool acts as a handle. Although limited, compared to far more expensive commercial-grade systems, they do provide reasonable imaging of shallow sites. The "Advanced Angler Camera II" (left) has a camera that can be panned (either hard-wired or wireless) from the surface ... a convenient feature. The "Advanced Angler"  Camera (center), with a single tie-wrap can be converted into a down-ward only viewing camera. The self-contained carriers have built-in sun-shades. The color fish view 9" monitor (right) with a 30 meter cable can be illuminated with either white or Infrared light.

 

Power Tank

This is a 12 amp-hour portable power supply that was originally designed as a power supply for astronomical telescopes. It makes a great universal DC power supply since it provides 6, 9 or 12 V DC with a variety of outlet connection options. It can be recharged from either car battery or AC current.

Stream Machine

Besides the obvious recreational use as squirt guns, these toys make excellent tools for rinsing dive gear at the end of a dive. Addition of an accessory hose assembly (from REI) allows the device to be rapidly filled from a local water source.  I carry and store my stream machines in a teacher's tote bag.

 

Swim "Noodles"

Swim "Noodle" are flexible tubes of buoyancy that have a variety of uses around swimming pools. I use them primarily as Marker Buoys  and as cushions to prevent storage chains from scratching my scuba cylinders.

 

Travel Hangers

These are light-weight plastic hangers that fold for travel.

Water Bottle

It is always a good idea to have water on the dive site and there was something about this particalr bottle's shape that appealed to me.

Horizontal Scanning Unit Down-looking Unit

 

Weighted Line

When boat diving, it is often convenient to raise and lower objects into the water using a line. A small 4 pound plastic-coated weight eye-spliced into the line helps keep the line vertical in the water column.  I use a 21' line ... the weight has a piece of attached  3 M reflecting tape to facilitate visibility. At night, a strobe can be attached to the line to mark the entrance/exit point.

 

Finally, diving is not all in the water. So, social shore stuff is always a part of any diving activity. Here is something I found at an outdoor outfitters that definitely adds a cool refresher to post-dive festivities:

Mega-Ball

The mega-ball can be a source of both amusement and refreshment. It is a plastic ball whose internal cylinder is filled with your favorite ice cream makings. The cylinder is surrounded with an ice/rock salt mix, sealed and then tossed around for about 15 minutes. The movement of the ball churns the ingredients and produces about 1 qt. (0.946 l) of ice cream.

 

Conclusion

While most diving supplies are best obtained from your friendly, neighborhood dive store, there are all sorts of things that can be found in other places. There are enormous numbers of gadgets that not-intended for diving that can be useful on a dive site. The only limitation is imagination. So, look at every shopping venture as an opportunity to add unusual, occasionally useful objects to your dive kit.

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About The Author:

Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D. is a biochemist and Diving Safety Coordinator at the University of Michigan. He has authored more than 100 scuba related articles. His personal dive library (See Alert Diver, Mar/Apr, 1997, p. 54) is considered one of the best recreational sources of information In North America.

  Copyright 2001-2022 by Larry "Harris" Taylor

All rights reserved.

Use of these articles for personal or organizational profit is specifically denied.

These articles may be used for not-for-profit diving education