Darrin's Dive Gear Post

Ok Tara, Andy and other divers (you know who you are),  here is the promised post on my dive gear.


This is my dive gear all placed out. I don't typically set it out like this, but I thought it was the best way to show in photos.

Darrin's Dive Gear Pic 2

So let's break this pile of gear down and you can see how I currently dive. Please note that not everything I dive with is my preferred dive gear, but this is what I currently have that works for my budget and the type of diving I currently do. Most of this dive gear I use all year round, from 70 degree F (21 degrees C) warm water dives in the summer to 32 degree F (0 degrees C) ice dives in the winter. I would say my current kit is about as flexible as you can get. There are many upgrades I am looking to make as funds allow.

Darrin's 7mm Wetsuit

Darrin's 7mm Wetsuit

  • I dive a 7mm wetsuit with back zipper. Like I said above I dive this all year round. At the warmest time of the year it can be a little toasty, but not too warm that drawing a little water into the suit won't cool off. I also have performed ice dives in this 7mm. I can get between 20 minutes to 40 minutes in ice diving tempurtures if I have prepped properly.  You may be able to see the glue spots where I have performed a few repairs. I have over 150 dives on this wetsuit and it is still warm.
  • I have some stuff fins that I use with a quick release on the back. I like stiff fins for my diving style. The quick release clip on the heal can be handy at times, but it is nothing I would consider a must have on fins.  I have yet to accidentally trip them, but I expect that is a possibility. I might add a spring strap to them, but will probably get a whole new set of fins before then. I will need to upgrade the fins when I finally make the transition to a dry suit diving.  A good dry suit is on the top of my list for gear purchases.
  • Under the fins is a mesh gear bag. I like the mesh bag keeps on of the loose pieces of my gear together. I can see though the mesh to double check what is in there and the mesh lets water drip right through. When I am doing boat dives you will frequently find my fins, goggles (in case), gloves, hood and light in this mesh bag.  Few things a dive boat captain hates more than loose dive gear rolling around.
Darrin's Dive Gloves and Boots

Darrin's Dive Gloves and Boots

  • I dive most of the year around with my 5/7mm three finger gloves.  By my third dive with them they were well broken in.
  •  Only during the warmest dive conditions do I move into my five finger gloves. The zebra and quaga mussles have torn up the five finger gloves and they are due to be replaced. I am not a fan of the straps on the gloves. They seem to be in the way for me way to much. I have separated the neoprene on the inside wrist from wrestling them on when in the water.
  • The dive boots are size 11 1/2 and I normally where a size 12. I got them smalls to cut down on the water movement, but if I were to do it again I would get the correct size. They hurt my feet when hauling gear a long way in them. These are the boots I wear most of the year and they are 5/7mm boots.
  • I have some 3mm summer boots (shown later in wet tub) that I do like. Both pairs have neoprene that I have pulled way too hard on and will cause their early demise. The right size, taking my time and "completely" unzipping the sides would have fixed that.

Darrin's Weight Belt and Hoods

  • Here are my two hoods. In the warmer times of the year I dive with the 3mm summer hood. It is the most comfortable and has a vent on the top to evacuate the air. When conditions are a little more chilly, I go withe the 5mm hood. For ice dives I will wear the 3mm hood over the 5mm hoods. Not my favorite setup as it is a little uncomfortable and it also makes it tough to hear.
  • I have my weight belt with a stainless steal clip. Unfortunately it could be a couple of inches longer. My weighting is perfect for what I need with my kit. I am a touch light for a river dive, but clipping on 2 - 4 lbs (1-2 Kg) more takes care of that. I use standard lead weights. I like to have a variety of sizes and I also have a spare weight belt (not shown) with the same weighting.
  • I have a clear dive mask that works OK for me. I keep them in the dive case for travel and normally have a bottle of defog with them.  I would like to get a black mask next time, but it is now high on the purchase list.
  • I have a pretty basic snorkel. It works OK, but I find it gets in the way with the type of diving I do. I would like to replace it would a fold-up snorkel that I could keep in a pocket until I need it.
  • The slate I have is a basic slate and I rarely dive with it. If I do I will clip it in the pocket of my BC.
  • I also have a safety sausage that clips in my BC. I strongly recommend anyone that dives to have one of these.  In the waves on a boat dive it can help you get spotted.  I would like to get a larger (longer) safety sausage as budget allows (OK, you can stopped giggling now... geesh!)
  • The blue gym bag is what I used to carry around my dry cloths and to keep the clothes I change out of in. I also tend to keep a couple of water bottles and some spare batteries in here. There are also a couple of dry towels in there when I don't forget them.
Dive Lights

Dive Light

  • I bought these basic lights for my advanced open water class. There are nothing fancy, but work well. The main light is an 8C battery light with two bulbs that can be selected by the switch.
  • The backup like is a simple (non-LED) light that uses 4 AA's. I plan to upgrade both of these to some serious dive lights at some point.


  • I dive with matched environmentally sealed regulators. These are rated for cold water.
  • I have a dive computer,
  • compass and
  •  pressure gauge on the console. I plan to replace the compass to something better on a retractor.
  • I keep a dive knife on my inflator hose. I know some people think that is dangerous, but for me it has been my favorite place for a dive knife.
Buoyancy Compensator Vest

Buoyancy Compensator Vest

  •  Here is my trusty BC. I bought it used and have 200+ dives on it. It just keep working. The velcro is starting to get old and I don't put anything in the pockets I can't clip in as they won't stay shut.  This is on the list to be replaced with a back plate and a wing (after I buy that dry suit). 

Wet Tub

  •  This is my wet tub. I use it to haul around anything that isn't stored in my full gear bag before a dive. After the dive anything wet goes in here. It keeps all the lake juices from dripping in the Scuba Vehicle.  It has a lid which allows it to be stacked with other gear. My backup set of 3mm wet boots are in the tub in this picture.
Gear Bag and Parts Bag

Gear Bag and Parts Bag

  •  The small clear PADI bag I use to keep spare parts and some basic tools. I have a variety of 'O' rings in here. I also have some spare change in here and couple of pens.
  • The large red bag is my dive gear bag. It is large enough to hold just about all the dive gear I have minus my tanks.
Priming Water Jugs

Priming Water Jugs

  • Now hear are my two water priming jugs. The red jug has hot water and the orange jug contains warm water. I use the warm water to prime my wetsuit before the dive. If you don't fill you wetsuit up with warm water than COLD water will find a way in. I was very surprised how well this works the first time I tried it.  


  • Here is a bailout I borrowed from Kirk for this Lake 16 dive. When doing some of the deeper dives it is nice to have the redunancy.
  • I also dive with my dive flag which didn't make it in these photos. It was already bobbing in the water waiting for me to get done taking the photos and to start the dive. Here is an old post showing the dive flag's creation. http://darrinjillson.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/diy-dive-flag-and-float/
Dive Buddy

Dive Buddy - Jim

  •  And while he was too big to fit into the gear bag I did bring my dive buddy Jim! You will notice him here pimping his hat. I am sure he would be happy to sell you one. 😉

Overall I consider my gear a work in progress. It will be interesting to see what I will be diving with next year at this time. Hopefully much of it has been upgraded.



Cave Diving Video Every Scuba Diver Must Watch

You should never attempt cave diving without proper training. Please take a moment to watch this video on cave diving. If you are a diver or a friend or spouse of a diver this is a good video to watch. Hopefully with this information the right decisions get made.

There are some activities that look deceptively easy.


Tips for Being Warm When Scuba Diving Cold Water in a Wetsuit

We have been diving all winter under the ice in a wetsuit so I am always surprised in the spring when I see all the questions on how to cold water dive. Cold water?!? This is downright balmy in 40 degree water. 😉

I would like to thank Riaan from our message forum for asking this question.
Darrin & Jim,

I've been diving wet in ~40 to 45F water with my son for two years now.  From your podcasts it sounds like you've got the process of prep before a dive down to an art.  It would be nice if you could give us some tips.  Our number #1 issue is our finger tips.  I've tried various brands and thicknesses, have even improvised but with no success; 20 to 25 minutes at ~50ft and I can’t take it anymore.  Note that I would not prefer to move away from 5-finger gloves.

Looking forward to hear from you.



It is this same subject that got me hooked onto your podcast.  It is a great podcast.

Thank you for listening Riann and a great question!


I know much of what I am going to cover you already know, but we will still cover it for those who might not know about it.

Cold water robs the body's heat 32 times faster than cold air. The biggest myth in wetsuits is that the water between the wetsuit and your skin is what keeps you warm.  The only way that would be true is if the water is above your body temperature and you didn’t have to warm it from your own body. It takes one Calorie (kilo-calorie) to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius. With this in mind there are three things that are the key to keeping warm as long as you can when you dive in cold water with a wetsuit. First is start off warm (your heat bank), the second is to prime with warm water (your body will use less of its heat bank warming the water) and the third is to reduce heat loss (this is insulation).  Your body is a chemical engine that produces heat, but it is nowhere near up to the task to combat 33 degree F water on its own, so we need to give it a hand to give us a comfortable dive as long as we can.

Priming Water

Priming Water

You can probably guess what my first answer is going to be. 🙂 I don't like cold hands either so I did upgrade to the three finger gloves a few months ago.  My hands still get cold in them but not anything like a five finger gloves.

There are a few items to help you have warmer hands. First thing is start off warm. Keep gloves on while you prep and when you change into your wetsuit gloves make sure you do it in a warm area. Don't let that cold wind get to your hands. We will get changed in a heated ice shanty which is awesome! Whatever wetsuit gloves you use keep them on while you gear up. It may take some practice and a good way to do that is to wear them at home and do your house chores for an afternoon. Once you get used to it you will be amazed what you can do with your gloves on.

I have a box of latex gloves and I will put those on my hands under my gloves. It keeps the water from coming directly in contact from my skin. If for some reason my wetsuit gloves do come off (my bad if they do) I don't get that evaporation directly on my skin.

Cold Water Scuba Diving Ready

Cold Water Scuba Diving Ready

In cold water diving we prime our wetsuit with as warm of water as we can stand (not burning hot but really warm). I have two 2-gallon jugs one is red and the other is orange. The really warm water goes in the orange and very hot (too hot water) goes in the red jug.  I have a little flip-top cooler where I also will pour very warm water in. I will put my boots, hood and gloves in this cooler to steep in that warm water. That gets the neoprene saturated with warm water. I also have a small un-insulated 2-liter Tupperware jug that I will fill with very warm water. I chose this because the two larger jugs (the red & orange one) and the Tupperware jug fit nicely in a wheeled cooler. It makes it easier for getting all the water to the dive site and it really keeps everything warm.

You said you want to stay with 5 finger gloves so I would recommend layering with the latex gloves and going with the thickest neoprene gloves you can find and still move your fingers. There are 7mm out there in a 5 finger. Watch the seams and if you gloves are getting old make sure you keep the seams sealed. This is a bad place to get any water movement.  Here is something that sounds simple but if you are pulling gloves on an off while you are getting ready that you can overlook. Make sure you overlap your wetsuit with your gloves. If you have straps on your gloves make sure to tighten them down to keep water movement to a minimum.

Now something I wanted to try but I am torn between being warm and cheap. You can get some semi-dry dry gloves. I have tried these on in the dive store but not used them in the water.



I really like my three finger gloves. I can operate all my gear in them and they are much warmer than my 5mm 5 finger gloves were. If you get them a little large you can pull your pointer finger out of its solo spot and turn them into mittens during your dive and reduce your heat loss. I haven’t tried regular mittens but those will be warmer yet. I am not comfortable enough with the loss of dexterity to get some, but I would try them with some more experience and if I was doing more than one ice dive in a day.

Other than gloves the best wetsuit upgrade for keeping warm was better boots. I was using 3mm (yes 3mm) boots for my ice dive. Any sub-30 degrees F water was starting to freeze my feet in the first 10 minutes. I upgraded to some high sided boots and that made a world of difference. I zip them up and then roll my wetsuit over the outside. Surprisingly it made my fingers warmer too.

For my wetsuit I wear a 7mm AquaLung. Make sure the wetsuit is tight fitting. If it is loose anywhere that allows in cold water.  The biggest myth in wetsuits is that the water between the wetsuit and your skin is what keeps you warm.  For cold water diving I will wear polyester long johns and socks under it. I think it makes a difference, but I have had arguments with others who say it can’t help. Now prime, prime, prime and then prime again. Like I said before I steep my glove, hood and boots in warm water. As I am setting up I will pour some of that very hot water in my boots. When I get out of the shanty with my wetsuit on I will slip my feet into the primed wetsuit boots, but now that water cooled to bareable and is a good start. In the colder weather I will prime with my wetsuit all the way on. My warm water jug has a spout and I will start pouring down the front of my suit at the neck (between the suit and my skin). I will pour slowly and I will stop when I start to see water leaking out the seam between my boots and my suit. You can feel the warm water and you want the warm water everywhere. Then with the help of your dive buddy have them pour plenty of warm water down your back then zip you up and pour in some more warm water. Next is the arm sleeves. You may need a plastic cup for this. Fill the cup with warm water. If you start to run short of warm water by this point fill the cup up with some cold fresh water and cut it with the hot water from the red jug. Now have your dive buddy pour the warm water down your sleeves. More is better so get a couple of full cups in each arm.

The hood is another good upgrade. I am still diving in a 3mm hood, but I know that upgrading it will make me warmer. My next wetsuit upgrade will be a vest with a hood that I will put on. Our mentor Don has a vest with hood and then adds a second hood that has a zipper on the back to allow for an easy donning.

OK you’re dressed, primed and ready. I guess I should have mentioned make sure you have your other gear all set.  You don’t want to waste time out in the cold getting gear together. Warmth is like  sand in the hourglass (to burrow for the soup opera intro) as soon as you are ready and dressed you will start to lose heat. Let’s get in the water and get going. The rule of thumb is the slowest dressing dive buddy gets dressed first. The quick dressing diver dresses last. It is less heat loss for the team.  Now get in the water and get the dive started. If you waste 15 minutes in the wind that will be 5 minutes of lost dive time as you cool.

While in the water keep streamlined and tucked. Avoid using your arms when possible. Also have a relaxed grip on anything you are carrying. I can tell when I have a death grip on my dive light or buoy line; that hand will be much colder than the other hand. Lots of body movement also makes you lose heat quicker. You won’t be able to warm yourself with activity in cold water and can lead to the first stages of hypothermia. On ice river dives I will lean into the current with one side and protect the other. As that side gets cooler I will switch and break the current with the other side.

The next trick is knowing when to call the dive. There is no shame in being the one to call it. I will kid Jim that I have to outlast him, but if I am cold I will not hesitate to call it. You have to leave enough strength to get out of the water and undressed. I have a litter more body fat than Jim so I have some natural insulation that gives me a little extra body time. Not a good reason to be overweight but it is a side benefit.  Staying the water when you’re cold can cascade into more serious problems and may leave you unable to come to the aid of your dive buddy.

OK now you’re out of the water the trick is to stop the heat loss and get comfortable again.  Keep gloves and hood on until you are ready to undress and preferably in a warm location. I like to start at the top when I get out of my gear. The water drips down so I can dry from the top. I will take my hood off and towel dry my hair (yes there is a little hair still there). I will get a stocking cap on as soon as I can. Next is to strip down to the waist in the wet suit. Dry you top off and put on a dry shirt and coat. You should be feeling warmer now. Next is to get the boots off and bottom of your wetsuit. Dry off as before and finish getting dressed. If you through ahead enough to have a warm thermos of your favorite heated beverage now is a good time for that.

I keep thinking of more items. There is always something to do better. Mac keeps trying to put a heat pack under his cloths in the shanty so that when he gets back in it is toasty. Sounds like a good idea but seems to be hit or miss. I think that has to be one of the best things about diving… there is always something new to learn and something to improve on no matter how long we have been diving.

Dive warm and dive safe.  🙂


Welcome 2010

Scuba Obsessed and team are excited about the possibilities that the year 2010 may hold. We started the year with an awesome dive in 33 degree F water on January 1st. We feel like we have started on the right foot and hope the year brings health and prosperity to you and your family.