The Hogarthian Concept
"Equipment configuration using common sense"
Consider cave diving as only one parameter, as a constant minor restriction from start to finish. Nothing but a small passageway that twists and turns, goes up and down and forces you as a cave diver to maneuver, to visualize and "think" your way along the way as you negotiate an assortment of challenges trying to the best of your ability and experience not to damage the cave. You do not allow yourself to become entangled in the guideline, not to allow your important "life support" equipment to be damaged by the cave, and not to allow any of your gear to become a nuisance problem as you swim through the cave and enjoy this very unique and beautiful environment.
Hey! Notice something that makes the difference with a constant restriction? It's your equipment!
It is what cave diving is all about. Cave diving is an equipment dependent activity. There is no way you can do it, participate, and enjoy it without the proper equipment. It requires the most correct and best available equipment that is designed, manufactured and made available whether it be done through some type of commercialized production or toiled through your own ability, initiative and know how.
The debate and philosophy of equipment used in cave diving and where it is placed, ease of reach and how it safely used has been going on since the first time scuba was ever used in a water-filled cave. That will never change as the evolution, the creativity, the natural progression of better designs and more comfortable and efficient applications continue.
Nothing was more sacred than improving your equipment, using the best available and there was always the constant debate in what, how and where it is used. Sound familiar? You bet!
So this "constant restriction" makes pure simple sense as the measuring gauge in how a "smart" and safe cave diver should develop their philosophy in configuring their equipment while swimming and negotiating this form of challenge. The restriction forces you to become close to your best friend but at the same time, potentially your worse fear. It is the guideline. The restriction also creates the difference in handling an emergency and one being psychologically comfortable.
As with any free democratic society, each individual has the equal right to make any choice they desire, any philosophy they feel most comfortable with and any method in delivering a message or thought without being violent, rude or inconsiderate. Without any doubt, cave divers definitely subscribe to that to that freedom of choice and expression. What is really interesting and amazing is how many different ways cave divers interpret and practice the meaning of such words as common sense, simplicity, safe, easy, dependability and most important . smart.
It is very true that cave divers are very innovative and creative.
The range exists from genius to bizarre, clever to idiotic, intelligent to basically stupid, and bright to dumb. I'm still learning and try to be very open minded. But it still comes back to the same basic principles as we apply it to equipment configuration. What is used, where it is located, accessibility and dependability are the concept to believe in. The basic principles that need to be "preached" and instilled in each student or cave diver when teaching or practicing safe cave and cavern diving are the following:
Keep it simple. Don't make it complicated. If you want to be a swimming junkyard, then please keep out of the caves and go be Fred Sanford.
If you don't need it, don't take it! Most cave divers take more than they need. What's the point?
No danglies. If anything hangs below the horizontal profile, it is a danglie. Take a pencil and hold it horizontally. That's your swimming profile. If anything hangs below that profile, it's a danglie. Correct it!
Streamlining. Unnecessary drag, friction really hurts your efficiency and air/gas consumption. It is wasted effort and energy.
Keep it clean. Eliminate or minimize anything that can create a nuisance problem. Remember the "constant restriction" where you are forced to be close to Mr. Guideline. Get rid of valve covers; dust caps, whistles, and any trinkets. Shorten pull or dump chords. "Don't" use stainless steel bands with "D" rings (death rings) on your tanks, minimize bungie cords or surgical tubing. Remove tank boots, eliminate everything on your tanks to allow a smooth surface so it is easy to slide through small passageways and restrictions. Make yourself clean as possible. Why torment yourself with crap that will hang up on the guideline.
Routing of hoses. Point them down and in. Protect your gear, protect the cave. Always use the low profile of a multiple-choice first stage.
Easy accessibility. Easy to find, east to get to, be safe! Especially in a life or death emergency.
Dependable equipment. If you insist on using poorly designed inferior materials, Unsatisfactorily constructed, or plain old junk. Get rid of it! If you are not willing to use dependable and reliable equipment, please keep out of the caves.
Eliminate potential failure points. Identify, remove, change or minimize any part of your equipment that can fail on you while diving. Examples are automatic dump valves, plastic buckles, quick release buckles., etc.
Your physical and mental self. Your body is the most important piece of equipment by far. Keeping in good shape, watching your weight, good diet, stamina and be mentally sharp are a few words of wisdom. We are creatures of poor or bad habits; I am certainly no exception. Do the best you are capable of taking care of your most precious commodity. Personally, I run every other day, work out for 30 minutes on the between days and play basketball during the winter months. Because of teaching and guiding cave diving is a passion for me along with exploration, surveying and photography, I am usually cave diving almost every day during my free time. So, I consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity to keep in shape. I realize that many do not have that advantage. Just do the best you can.
These ten principles are nothing new in cave diving. I did not invent, think up or create any of them. All has evolved through the experience of numerous cave divers during the past fifteen years. Personally, I learned from many but I give major credit to two individuals who I truly admire and respect whom made awareness and consciousness more visible during the 1990's. They are Andreas W Matthes and Scott Carnahan from Protec, Dai Jones from Underword Adventures & Nick Toussaint from White arrow. They heavily influenced my knowledge and made a huge difference with my philosophy and the way I teach safe cave diving.
Methodical and meticulous are two accurate words to describe these guys. For those cave divers who know them, they will agree 100%.
Equipment configuration is the "heart & soul" of safe cave diving. Doing it right makes a huge difference between being safe and smart compared to being dumb and dead. Respect for the caves and the sport of cave diving evolves completely around this discussion of principles. The choice is yours.
The following list is the equipment I own and use today.
BACKPATE - Halcyon stainless steel
BCD WINGS - Halcyon, OMS, DiveRite.
REGULATORS - Scubapro MK 25 with the G250 Second Stage, Apex regs.
FINS - Mares Quatro Avanti, Scubapro Jet fin.
MASK - Scubapro Frameless.
DRYSUIT - Santi Space front zip
WETSUIT - Jhonson 2 parts 7mm with attached hood.
PRIMARY LIGHTS - Light Monkey 2 1 watt HID, DiveRite Classic 12 w LED.
COMPUTERS - Uwatec bottom timer, Shearwater Petrel & shearwater Predix.
DEPTH GAUGE - OMS Digital depth gauge.
DIVE TABLES - IANTD.
BACK UP LIGHTS - a wide variety.
SIDE MOUNT HARNESS - Z-sistem UTD with Wing, Ultimate Hrness with X-Deep wing.