Which Rebreather is a question that I’m asked at least once a week from potential new rebreather students looking to take the step into the silent world. A question that I’ve asked myself numerous times over the years and led to the serial owning of enough different units to make a bank manager blush with pride in the attempt to find the perfect rebreather.
Firstly, I should say that the perfect CCR does not exist, at least from the perspective of one rebreather to rule them all. What any diver should be able to find though is one which addresses their personal needs, diving and of course budget. Technical diving is an expensive pastime, but rebreather diving can potentially take this to a new level. Finding the right one for you can save thousands in a possible mistaken choice later.
Rather than be an article making comparisons between the plethora of manufacturer offerings out there, since there are more than enough polarising internet forums for that debate, here’s a few of the things that you might consider beyond the simple specifications sheet.
Each CCR Instructor will usually teach one or two brands to maintain currency or knowledge. Be wary of the instructor that teaches several different units. I no longer teach some units as I have not dived them actively for some time. Consider an instructor with exposure to several CCRs to be able to make proper comparisons and a broader market knowledge but has current focus on a couple of models and actively dives.
Each rating at every instructor level is issued separately which means that your instructor who may be able to teach you at entry level cannot take you further say, into mixed gas use. Some students prefer to work with one instructor, others like exposure to as many different styles as possible.
A couple of the rebreathers I have owned have meant expensive trips to Europe to progress to another level. Not so attractive since I live in Australia. So, take a look at the possible training pathways beyond the initial that you find acceptable to your budget and time availability.
Water and electronics, what could possibly go wrong ?
At some point the CCR diver will need assistance from an authorised service tech. Here in Australia, this can be an expensive proposition as units made in the UK, for example, mean if you have to send in your electronics then you’re up for a $400 return shipping cost before work is done. Hopefully your local dealer can lend you an electronics set to keep you in the water.
Look for factory trained experienced service options in your country or region that are able to complete any work onsite for a quick turnaround and avoid that unfortunate position where your rebreather has more frequent flier points than you.
I like to travel and I want to take my rebreather with me when diving those tempting crystal blue waters or dark caves. Having owned one of the largest and most capable CCRs in the market, the specification sheet did not really detail just what a pain and how much in excess luggage it would cost to take from A to B.
You’ve not lived until you’ve arrived in some remote airport with a large grey plastic 30kg shipping crate , 3 dive bags and a 1k journey from the airport carousel to the back of the camel with no trolley. Size and transportability is a major factor in my own personal needs for realistically living with it.
So, you’ve got the perfect set up that you’ve agonised hours over tweaking down. Everything is just right and then you arrive at an overseas dive centre to be given a couple of tanks that are sizes you’ve not used before with odd valves. That scenario has happened to me more than once and so ensuring that your rebreather is able to accept multiple configurations and off board options will save a lot of heartache.
Does your rebreather need a travel frame to become versatile? Travel frames often add weight to a unit rather than trim it down but allow use of different cylinders not to mention the additional expense.
In Field Repairs
I’ve sometimes spent a day getting my kit together, prepping my unit and driven a few hundred kilometres to get on a boat and my pre dive sequence is a no go. But it all worked so fine last night is something I’ve heard many times. This is complicated life support and electronics can sometimes throw you a curveball.
Consider whether your choice of rebreather has plug and play capability for fast swap out of components and look at the overall robustness and reputation of the system. What parts are changeable by the user.
Realistic Diving – some thoughts
The adventurer in everyone would like to think that someday they would dive to depths of 100m, but realistically speaking more people have climbed Everest that will actually do this. What’s your day to day diving like and do you need a 200m capable rig?
Does your unit have flood tolerance capability and redundancy of systems? In the real world the loop may get knocked from your mouth or the handset battery die. I dive in overhead environments, so for me this is critical to the outcome of an emergency when direct access to the surface is not an option.
Consumables are needed and if your rebreather needs a particular type of pre-pack or can only accept certain media, is there support for that in areas that you dive or are you going to need to ship ahead of time.
Is a rebreather right for your area ? Up until two years ago in Queensland there was not a mainstream boat operator that would take a rebreather diver due to a lack of understanding of procedures.
Coming up – My personal take on which CCR was right for me
Above are just a few of the things which I has made me think beyond the spec sheet and the raging internet debate on why my unit is the best, marketing or peer pressure in your local diving community. Next week I’ll detail why my own current choice of rebreather and why it might suit you.
Safe diving !