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Weight

Yet another major area of difference between recreational diving equipment and cave diving equipment is the use of weight. In short: recreational divers use weight; cave divers do not. The reason cave divers do not use weight is simple enough. Their tanks and other equipment is already so heavy, no additional ballast is needed.

Weight

Recreational divers, in contrast, almost always need at least some lead to offset their bodies’ natural buoyancy, plus the additional buoyancy created by wetsuits, nearly-empty aluminum scuba cylinders and other equipment. The problem is, recreational divers tend to carry far more weight than they really need, and they carry it in the wrong place.

The most weight any recreational diver needs is enough to ensure that, with 500 to 1,000 psi remaining in their tanks, they can hover effortlessly at safety stop depth with no air in their BCs. When divers carry more weight than this, a variety of problems occur:

  • Divers must now add air to their BCs to compensate not only for wetsuit compression, but for the compression of the air in their BCs that is required to offset the unnecessary weight. This requires more frequent buoyancy adjustment as depth changes, and wastes valuable breathing gas.
  • Because most recreational divers carry this unnecessary weight below their bodies’ natural balance point — and compensate for it by adding air to a BC that rides above that same balance point — the combined effect tends to drive them into an inefficient, head-up/fins-down position. This creates additional drag and places beating fins in a position where they are likely to cause environmental damage.
  • A properly weighted diver will tend to have little difficulty surviving at the surface in the event of BC failure. An overweighted diver who lacks the presence of mind to ditch his or her weights should BC failure occur will likely drown.

Recreational divers can benefit by learning to use less weight, and by carrying it in a position that is closer to their bodies’ natural balance point — such as the weight pockets on most integrated-weight BCs. Cave divers may be able to do little to reduce the shear weight of their equipment; however, they do have the advantage of this weight being centered higher on their bodies. As a result, it is easier for cave divers to maintain an ideal, perfectly horizontal body position.

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