As a dive instructor we are often asked if students, “Do I need a dive computer?”. I think its fair to say that the general consensus by the dive community as a whole is yes.
We know you can track your dives with a dive table, a depth gauge and dive watch. After all this is how I learnt to dive in 1996 when dive computers were not common place and with the cost being prohibitive to most divers. Thankfully its 2016 and you can now get a lot of bang for your buck. This is why most scuba divers choose to use a dive computer – and it’s way easier. Your (I will come back to this in a minute) dive computer provides you with the real-time dive information you need to dive safely and well within your limits.
I said “your” specifically because some divers ask if they can simply follow their buddy as they have a computer. PADI have a very strong view, as does the dive community, about this. The answer is a solid no. This is because you are not likely to be at the exact depth as your dive buddy at every part of your dive. You will more than likely be completing a Multi-Level Dive at some point and this means that you will be able to track your exact depth and ascent rate. As an instructor my students must dive with a dive computer, for a number of reasons. I use this to ensure that students haven’t broken max depth limits on any given training dive, if they have it shows lack of knowledge about why they shouldn’t, lack of buoyancy control to not be hold their depth or more worryingly a bad attitude to why breaking their depth limits on a training dive is important. Two of these I can help with, the other is up to the diver.
So what does a dive computer do? It tracks your maximum depth, current depth and time and applies it to a decompression model. This decompression model tracks the dissolved nitrogen in your body during your dive. The computer then gives you information about how much time (and gas depending on the model) you safely have remaining. Your dive computer can replace a number of pieces of dive equipment, your depth gauge and timer (sometimes your SPG and compass depending on the model) into one compact piece of kit. Most scuba divers use a dive computer simply because it makes sense.
So what are you looking for in a dive computer?
- Clear, easy to read display
- No stop dive limits
- Current & Maximum Depth
- Dive Time
- No stop time remaining
- Ascent rate
- Emergency decompression
- Previous dive information
- Low battery warning
- Nitrox (enriched air) compatible
These are the pretty essential features, but many computers offer a far greater number of features. See our next post “What features should my dive computer have and why?”
EDIT: If you are looking for a new watch style dive computer, check out the Aqua Lung i200C Dive Computer here.