Happy Valentine's Day - You're Dumped: The end of the Weight Belt

Happy Valentine's Day from I ARE DIVER


I don’t do Valentine’s Day.


It’s not that I believe it to be a “Hallmark Holiday” created by an evil conglomerate or anything, I just don’t bother.

Thankfully Wifebuddy isn’t a fan either, an added bonus to which I am truly grateful. I imagine this is because ‘one day’ dedicated to Kerri simply wouldn't be enough; and my whole life is a mere proclamation of ensuring her eternal happiness … or something.

To: Wifebuddy


I do remember making a Valentine card, once, for a lucky young gal when I was a wee boy. If I recall correctly, I spent all day in school crafting the romantic gesture and presented it to her at the bike shed on the way home, in a hopeful exchange for a quick snog.



Against all odds, I was rebuked. Since then I vowed never to pen my undeclared love again.



All this talk of Valentine’s Day and love ties in with my intended topic this week; my relationship with the weight belt. Like any relationship, my weight belt and I have had our ups and downs. It has gained a few pounds over the years, and between us, we have made an effort to get it ‘back on track.’



However, I am sad to say, I feel it is possibly time to close this chapter of my life, and dump it.



WEIGHTING

I have already discussed the process of weighting in this post, and I am content I know how much weight I require; I just can’t determine where to put it.



WEIGHTING OPTIONS

There are two options when weighting a scuba rig:

1. Ditchable Weight: This is lead that can be dropped at any stage of the dive. Ballast is secured on a weight belt, or in pockets that are integrated into a BCD or harness.


2. Non-Ditchable Weight: Often referred to as ‘fixed weight.’ This is the process of affixing ballast to the rig that cannot be removed during a dive. This is achieved with the use of weight pockets on tank bands, v-weights, or lead shot weight pouches.

V-Weight blocks



When I began diving I used a weight belt. It was horrible. When I purchased my first BCD I ensured it had integrated weight pouches. I found it to be quite an agreeable arrangement and dived that way for 2 years.


There came a point when I fell out with my BCD, and switched to a wing and backplate system. I won’t explain what happened, I think I should keep that for a separate post; always a fun discussion.

Subsequently my weight pouches were made redundant, and I reverted to the weight belt again. I have to confess I have ‘put up with it’ ever since, but never really reached that happy place most Valentines should.





So, as with any relationship I have been ‘weighing’ up my options. I’m sure my ex-girlfriends would be thrilled to know that was how our relationships came to a close, but that’s how it was; sorry ladies.



With my current twin 12 set up (that’s doubles, for you American folks, and GUE people) I use 4Kg of lead. I have a 2Kg tail weight and have the rest on a webbing belt.



I hate the belt.



I have a can light on one side of my harness, a knife on the other, and a suit inflate bottle tucked against the steel backplate. Once I don the weight belt I find my middle gets a bit cluttered, and can be uncomfortable when moving about, especially scaling a ladder or steps.

Can light and knife restrict weight belt


To be honest I put a lot of this discomfort down to being a small bloke. I’m skinny, and as a result, don’t appear to have the girth required to enjoy a weight belt to its full extent.


The solution is obvious: attach all the weight to the rig and dump my weight belt entirely, ending it’s tyranny of unhappiness forever. However, I must consider the ramifications of such an action before making any rash decisions.




WEIGHT BELT: PROS 

  • Easily removable at any stage of the dive to create instant positive buoyancy
  • The rig is lighter on the surface, as the lead is on the diver
  • Easy to add or remove lead to offset water salinity or thermal protection etc.
  • Weight belts are inexpensive


WEIGHT BELT: CONS
  • Uncomfortable
  • Risk of accidental loss when handing up to the boat
  • Lead is relatively expensive and it’s upsetting to lose all in one go if you do drop it overboard
  • Can migrate around the diver, and often need readjusting at depth
  • Can be accidentally lost at depth leading to loss of buoyancy and a rapid ascent
  • I have encountered many divers that arrive at a site quickly realising they've forgotten their weight belt; dive over before it began. 





FIXED WEIGHT: PROS

  • Doesn’t need handed up to a boat, so can’t be dropped or lost
  • Remains fixed at all time, migrating lead can affect trim
  • Waist is completely free and the rig is more comfortable to wear
  • You can’t forget it 



FIXED WEIGHT: CONS

  • The rig is heavy, maybe too heavy
  • Handing kit up to a boat may lead to you becoming rather unpopular as back injuries plague the dive club
  • In a catastrophic failure of buoyancy devices a diver may be very negatively buoyant





CONCLUSION


There are valid arguments for both.


On my last dive I decided to dump my weight belt and dive with all fixed weight. Personally I found it a tremendous experience. The moment I donned my harness I just felt free.

I have no weight belt - joy to the world!

I fully appreciate the negative connotations of permanent ballast, but I feel the pros outweigh the cons.


I was instantly more comfortable. My harness just “felt” better; as if the system was in equilibrium with itself. I also found my manoeuvrability was much better. This was a big thing for me as the majority of my diving is done from the shore, and clambering around with blocks around my waist can be very restrictive.


I imagined I would be concerned about not being able to dump weight if I needed to, but this wasn’t the case when I thought it through.


My weighting is perfect, and the only real concern is at the beginning of the dive when I am heavy with gas. At that point I have just pre-checked all my gear in the buddy check, and it is unlikely both my wing and drysuit would fail simultaneously.

Also, my dry suit is fed from its own bottle, so even a catastrophic backgas failure wouldn’t affect the ability to inflate my drysuit.


As a final resort I could ditch my entire rig; if it gets to that stage of the game it’s a very bad day out anyway.



My only concern is handing my kit up to a boat.


Unfortunately I don’t have an answer for that. The only solution is to ask someone to hang onto my kit, while I climb aboard and finally haul it up myself. I guess I’ll be hitting the gym and pumping some iron; or maybe trade Kerri in for a body building buddy.

Wifebuddy v 2.0


Ultimately it’s down to the diver, and I think I’m going to dump my weight belt, on Valnetine’s Day; sorry luv.

you're dumped!


This has been heavily discussed on the I Are Diver facebook page, and a huge thanks to everyone who posted, as you fuelled this topic; particularly Matt, Rob and Gavlar for a plethora of valid points, which I hope I have covered here. 


A further consideration would be diving a wet suit. I think i would stomach a belt in such conditions; plus i must be on holiday somewhere warm if i'm diving wet, so i could put up with it for a week in the sun



What do the rest of you do? Any thoughts?

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Safe diving buddy.