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Welcome to Dive Gear Reviews, a comprehensive guide to scuba diving equipment. Scuba diving is an expensive pursuit, so looking up reviews for a particular article of equipment is a wise precaution before investing any hard-earned money in it. However, consumer reviews may or may not be written by an experienced diver, and magazine reviews could be suspect due to the advertising ties of the publication in question. Dive Gear Reviews provides cross-referenced reviews assembled by an expert, making it possible to see at a glance what multiple sources said about a particular piece of scuba equipment. If one magazine loved a scuba regulator or a dive computer, but the consumers hated it, that information will be found here.

Dive Computer Algorithms

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Dive Computer Algorithms Posted in: Dive Computers, Dive Gear Tips, Scuba Product Guides
Suunto Dive Computer

A Suunto wristwatch-style dive computer
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A dive computer’s algorithm is at the heart of what that particular gadget does, because when you get right down to it, everything else on the computer is an accessory. Yes, the depth gauge replaces or supplements the old analog depth gauge, but a dive computer is first and foremost about increasing your margin of safety and liberating you from pesky dive tables. Just like PADI’s familiar dive table, dive computers base their conclusions on formulaic calculations, and these are driven by the algorithm. Having a basic understanding of what the algorithm is and it’s key role in the functioning of your dive computer is therefore a critical piece of information when shopping for a new number cruncher.

Unless you have an advanced degree in mathematics, analyzing any of the several dive computer algorithms out there directly isn’t possible, but thankfully you don’t need to. Reviewers always speak of dive computer predictions as either “conservative” or “liberal.” A conservative algorithm is one that takes a tight view on predicting your nitrogen load, giving a larger margin of safety against decompression sickness while curtailing bottom time. Liberal algorithms make more expansive predictions regarding nitrogen load, which increases your dive time while cutting into the safety margin.

An important thing to remember about the nitrogen load predictions made by dive tables and computers alike is that they are based on models, and those models are generalized. The human variable ensures that it is impossible to know where the exact safety line is for each person. Many higher-end dive computers now have features that allow the user to dial the safety margin on the algorithm up or down to suit their needs.

So, how algorithms work in practice depends a great deal on your health, your past experience, and your typical diving schedule. A diver who has gone deep plenty of times, operates safely, has a light dive schedule that day, and has never suffered even the slightest joint ache might want to dial the safety margin on their algorithm all the way up, and if that describes said diver’s typical diving pattern, she might want a computer with a liberal algorithm in the first place. On the other hand, divers who get wet three or four times a day every Saturday and Sunday and sometimes get a little achy at the end of the day should go conservative.


How to Quickly Check a Rental Scuba Mask for Fit

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on How to Quickly Check a Rental Scuba Mask for Fit Posted in: Dive Gear Tips, Dive Masks
Dive mask.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A lot of casual scuba divers don’t own item number one of their own scuba gear, and the first thing said diver must navigate for virtually every scuba and snorkeling trip is finding a dive mask that fits. Often the dive operator will simply give you a mask, but given that a bad fit can ruin your dive with perpetual leaks or an awful case of “mask face,” getting the fit right on that rental mask is just as important as if you were trying the fit to buy the mask. Following these steps ought to help you sift through dive masks and quickly arrive at a decent fit.

  1. Move your hair out of the way, and make sure none of it winds up under the skirt. For men and women both, long hair sometimes creeps in and breaks the seal of the mask skirt, causing problems underwater. The same thing applies on land, since you can’t test the mask without a good seal.
  2. Push the mask strap up and aside, so you aren’t actually wearing it. Place the mask on your face and gently inhale through your nose, sucking the mask onto your face. Don’t suck too hard through your nose, since using all your lung power would probably hold even a bad mask in place.¬† If you can hold the mask to your face with only moderate suction alone, and the mask feels comfortable, you have a good candidate for the mask you want.
  3. Adjust the mask strap to fit loosely around your head, offering only moderate resistance. Try Step 3’s suction test again. The loose strap and the moderate suction ought to hold the mask in place for several minutes without help. It it can do this and you are comfortable wearing the mask, you have a winner.

Aeris A300 ai Dive Computer Review

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Aeris A300 ai Dive Computer Review Posted in: Dive Computers, Over $500

The Aeris A300 ai is a highly functional, feature-packed console dive computer that puts an emphasis on simplicity of use. The result is a computer that is so simple to use that any novice diver could take it out of the box, screw it into your first stage, and put it straight to work, but also packs so many features that it has almost unlimited growth potential.

The computer has a user-adjustable automatic safety stop, audible alarm with push-button shutdown, ascent rate control, and backlighting. The number crunching uses Aeris’ Dual Algorithms with user-adjustable safety margins, and options for up to four gas mixes and automatic altitude adjustment. The gas controls also have tec-friendly features like high O2 alarms. The computer has a low battery indicator, the battery is user-replaceable, and a fresh, high-quality battery is rated as good for 300 hours. Maximum depth is 330 feet (100 m).

As the name implies, the A300 ai is air integrated. It also sports forgiving, 3-tilt digital compass. The displays are in conventional-but-clear dot matrix characters, and device is run through three push-buttons.

This is a very functional, high-end dive computer, so much so that it won a 2012 Tester’s Choice from Scuba Diving, and the few consumers who have gone on the record about it thus far love it.

The question mark on this computer hovers around its price tag. The Aeris A300 ai is listed at $1,050, although it is routinely marked down to just under $1,000. Even so, it’s fair to say that if a diver wants to spend about a thousand dollars on a dive computer, why not go all the way and get a starship of a number cruncher like the Atomic Aquatics Cobalt ($1,200) or an older Mares ICON ($1,080)? The answer is that you shouldn’t, not unless the A300 ai is steeply discounted on sale, which often happens. This computer isn’t worth it if you have to pay the full, recommended retail price, but thankfully you probably won’t have to.

Average Price: Although it is listed at $1,050, the Aeris A300 ai rarely goes for more than $1,000, and discounts down to $900 are common. Sometimes this computer is available on sale for as little as $650, and that’s a serious bargain.



Scubapro Mk11/C200 Regulator Review

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Scubapro Mk11/C200 Regulator Review Posted in: Between $251-$500, Scuba Regulators

Part of evaluating any Scubapro regulator is asking the question “how does it compare to its cousins?”, in the case of the new Mk11/C200, that means looking at the older Mk 11/C300 package. Both regulators are based on the compact, lightweight Mk11 first stage, a chrome-plated, forged brass unit featuring an identical array of 1 LP, 1 HP, and 1 HFP port on either side of the regulator. The HFP ports are essentially beefed up LP ports, delivering 15% more air. The first stage uses a balanced diaphragm design, with anti-freezing and dry chamber features for cold water use. You can see it right in the name: the heart of this new set-up is the same as its predecessor.

The new part is the C200 second stage, and laying the C200 next to the C300 reveals that the differences are minute. The C200 is 15 g (half an ounce) lighter than the C300, and lacks the diver-adjustable inhalation effort tuner, but otherwise carries all the same features.

The new package still delivers as a high performance, lightweight, compact, general-use scuba regulator, but the technical differences between the Mk11/C200 and the Mk11/C300 is minute. Consumer feedback on both is good, and the C200 package won an Editor’s Pick from¬†Sport Diver.

The real decider between them is in the price tag. Despite being the newer and slightly lighter package, the Mk11/C200 is listed at a full $50 cheaper. Even on sale, the newer regulator routinely comes in priced at at least $50 below the older C300. Apparently dropping that fine-tuning lever is quite a big deal in terms of unit cost.

Average Price: Listed at $449, but sometimes on sale for under $300.