To Go Tech or Not? Part II

Things to consider before going tech!
by David Miner

The last article discussed the different types of technical diving, the training involved, and the benefits of technical dive training. This month, we’re going to talk about the types of equipment needed for technical diving, some of the costs associated with technical diving, and the risks involved with technical diving.

Lots of special gear is used in technical diving

Equipment required for technical diving
Technical diving requires much more gear than standard open water diving gear. If you’re a gear head, you won’t be disappointed if you get into technical diving.

Technical diving takes you to places where special gear is required to safely execute the dive. Technical is not about attaching everything in a dive shop to you and going diving, but it is about taking and using the right gear for the type of technical diving you are doing. Cave diving and penetrating deep into a wreck requires special reels with guideline so that you can find your way out of the overhead environment. Double tanks with a manifold for two complete regulators are also typically used in cave diving and deep wreck diving. Other equipment that is used are backplates and harnesses, HID lights, backup lights, wing type BCs, dry suits, stage bottles with a separate regulator, decompression bottles with a separate regulator, oxygen bottle with a special regulator, etc.

As you can see, lots of special equipment is needed to participate in technical diving. On some long and deep technical dives, it is not uncommon for a diver to need four decompression tanks with regulators, their double tanks with regulators, dry suit, technical diving computer or computer software to generate decompression tables, hood, gloves, special backup equipment, etc.

During your training classes, you will learn how to use this gear, manage the gear during the dive, and maintain the gear. However, getting comfortable handling this amount of gear above and below the water is critical and requires much time and practice. Don’t jump into a dive that requires a lot more gear than you’ve managed so far on a dive. Progress slowly and take your time. Learn the equipment and how to manage it comfortably before doing bigger dives that require more and more equipment.

Use the links below to read more about technical diving gear:
Technical wreck diving gear
Gear Guide

Costs associated with technical diving
Getting into technical diving and participating in technical diving requires significantly more money than open water diving training and diving. Training classes are more expensive and typically more than one class is required to get the proper training. An advanced nitrox course can cost you $200-$250, and going from a cavern class through a full cave class can cost around $1000. It’s important to know what type of training you want before sinking a lot of money into something you don’t want to do.

Other elevated costs associated with technical diving are gear costs, charter boat fees, breathing gasses, and travel. As you read above, there is a lot of special equipment required in technical diving and adding up the purchase of this gear can easily go up to several thousands of dollars. It’s not uncommon for a technical diver to own ten or more regulators alone.

When technical diving, you are typically diving a nitrox blend or a trimix (helium, oxygen, nitrogen), plus using decompression gasses, such as nitrox and oxygen. Mixing these gasses costs money. Whether you are getting your mixes from your local dive shop or are trained to add your own oxygen and/or helium to your tanks and then getting air top-offs at your local dive shop, it all costs a good bit. Nitrox fills typically cost anywhere from $10 to $15 per tank and trimix fills (depending on the mix) can cost $30 or more. If you’re purchasing your own T-cylinders from your local gas company, a cylinder of aviator oxygen can cost $22 or more and pre-pure helium can cost $75 or more. If you’re doing a dive that requires trimix in your double tanks and a nitrox and pure oxygen decompression tank, you can see that the gas alone can cost you $50 or more.

Charter boat fees are standard for all types of diving. However, technical diving charters typically cost more because the captain limits the number of divers due to the amount of equipment needed by each technical diver, thus the cost per diver goes up. It is easy to spend $100 to $250 for a one-day technical dive charter.

Dive travel is a big part of all types of diving. Planning a big dive vacation to a tropical location is big in the diving community. However, there are some differences, with respect to travel, if you’re a technical diver. The training alone may require you to travel just to complete a course, but even when you’re finished with your training, you may have to travel to participate in that type of diving. For example, if you are into cave diving, North Florida and the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico are to of the hot spots for cave diving. Travel costs vary depending on how you’re traveling, where you want to stay, for how long, etc. Just remember, there is almost always some travel costs involved even if you live close to where you want to dive. Driving costs, hotel costs, park fees, etc. all add up quickly.

Decompression diving involves risks

Risks involved in technical diving
With any type of diving, there is risk. During your open water training course, you learned about some of these risks, but when technical diving, these risks can be increased and there are other risks involved. Diving deep on a wreck with decompression obligations or diving into a cave all have risks associated. These risks you will learn about in your training classes where you will also learn how to lessen the risks by following proper procedures and techniques.

Decompression illness (DCI), oxygen toxicity, nitrogen narcosis, over expansion injuries, etc. are all risks when technical diving. Each has potentially harmful and even fatal consequences, so every technical diver must learn about these risks and know how to limit the chances of having a problem. Training, education, and practice lessen your chances of having a problem, but do not eliminate the risks. Using proper gasses, following the required decompression obligations, taking things slowly and not rushing, and not pushing yourself beyond your limitations can all reduce the amount of risk involved with technical diving.

To read more about decompression illness, click here.

To learn more about diving related injuries, go to www.diversalertnetwork.org.