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Do you dive your backups?

We all have them. Or at least, those of us who dive consistently do. We have two, and sometimes even three of everything. They’re our backups and they can do everything from save the dive day to preventing underwater catastrophe. 

Some backups are simple, even cheesy replacements… sort of a “just in case”. Other’s are exact duplicates of our favorite piece of gear. A lot of what we choose is based on familiarity, availability, reliability, and ultimately COST. Having an equal quality mask, for example, won’t necessarily break the bank, unless you’re diving a full face mask MOD-1!

This also changes over time. The longer you dive, the more equipment you already own, picking up another high quality, high priced item isn’t as impactful as it is in the beginning. Many times the new item becomes your primary, and your old faithful becomes your new backup. And why not! The new dive light should be perfect, and your old one that’s been with you for 400+ dives has proven itself to be bulletproof. 

But is it really?

When was the last time you dived you backup?

Backups Need to Be a Primary Too

I was leading a couple divers down to 100′ to spend some time exploring boats and it was much darker than usual. I turned around at depths and noticed that one of the divers, very experienced by all (of his own) accounts did not have a flashlight. 

No problem. I reached into my right cargo pocket and doled out my backup. Identical to my recreational primary, it’s a nice, compact, 1300 lumens Big Blue complete with a butterfly clip and bungee to wrap around the wrist for hands free use.

As my thumb found the switch, suddenly I was struck with a thought… what if it doesn’t work?

…what if it doesn’t work?

~Doc, underwater at 100fsw

As the light came to life I was struck by the realization that I hadn’t used this puppy in over three years. Sure, I charge and cycle my batteries, lube the O-rings regularly, and turn it on and off before I start my dive day, but after that it literally lives in my right side pocket. I never use it as a primary light. Ever. 

It wasn’t until I was diving a bounce solo to 130′ that I had a very serious conversation with myself about that event. I decided that from now on, unless it’s integral to the dive, I need to start rotating my backups into the plan. 

The Pros and Cons

While I suppose an argument could be made for saving the life on electronics, that’s really the only reason not to switch lights from dive day to dive day. I’d be interested to hear feedback from the dive community about this. 

Mask? Done. That’s an easy one. They’re identical save the color, and I suppose I could paint the trim pieces to make my backup more fun. Or more black. But since my backup lives in my LEFT side cargo pocket, I’ve got no clue if it leaks, has a loose whatsit or whizbang, and that would suck if I actually had to deploy it to get through a deco hang. 

I have two drysuits. Granted my Hollis is the favorite, my original Bare got me to dive 300 and hasn’t been back on me since. Maybe it’s time to give her a taste of the ocean again?

I see no downside to diving backups occasionally to make sure they’re in proper functioning order, to whatever purpose they are intended. Better to plan to use it and have it fail, than to have your primary fail and have a worthless backup. 

Just my two PSI. 

What are your thoughts?

Until next time, train hard and dive easy!

Doc Strand

An eight year Marine Corps veteran, Dr. Strand discovered Chinese medicine as a last resort when recovering from a military related injury. He has since dedicated his life to the practice of medicine; a doctor to all - a healer to many. In recent years he has turned to SCUBA diving as a meditation aid in his quest for ultimate peace. The desire to share that gift led to the creation of Spartan Scuba. Doc’s experiences and travels abroad impact not only his writing style, but his passion for life, scuba, and medicine.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kay Case
    Kay Case

    I honestly, have not thought about diving my backups until this post. Like you, I test my flashlight and prep my back up knife and mask just incase my primaries fail. And yes, the occasional time my backup flash light has been deployed it has worked but it does forever live in my pocket and is just along for the ride most of the time.

    Good gear maintenance includes using the gear. You have made a great point. Things don’t tend to break until they are not regularly used.

    I will start diving my backups to give them the love they deserve.

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