A Dive computer is a device that takes in depth, time and other information and applies it to a decompression model to track the dissolved nitrogen in your body during a dive. It also gives you other important information to help you to dive safely each and every dive.
Why Own A Dive Computer
Before Dive computers became popular, divers used dive tables and dive gauges to keep track of their dives. Many divers found the use of these tables and gauges a complicate process since there were gauges called SPGs that kept track of your air supply, depth gauges, and timing devices that were all needed to help ensure safe and successful dives. Because the whole process seemed complicated to many divers there was a tendency to make errors or worse depend on a dive partner or instructor to keep track of the necessary dive information for them. This resulted in divers diving less safely than they should. While knowing those dive tables is important, and these tables should be used in conjunction with your dive computers to help ensure your computer is accurate, Dive computers have changed the world of diving forever.
Dive computers have been in existence since the 1980s, and from the start they have been revolutionizing the way people dive. These computers allow you to calculate your maximum dive time based on your actual dive. This allows you to accomplish multilevel dives.
Modern computers constantly update you on how much dive time you have remaining based on your actual current depth.
Standard Dive Computer Features
When you purchase a dive computer most come with a set of features which is referred to as standard features. These standard features are found in almost every dive computer regardless of the company that manufacturers the computer or the price of the computer. These standard features include:
Easy to Read Display –These displays vary in size and shape and sometimes come in color. These displays provide the following information.
- No stop limits
- No stop time remaining
- Ascent rate
- Emergency decompression
- Previous dive time
Low Battery Warning- Once you have activated your computer, the computer will need at 24 hours to calculate any changes in dissolved oxygen. Your computers low battery warning will alert you if there is not enough battery power left to perform this function.
Enriched Air Compatible- Once considered an optional feature, the Enriched air compatible feature is now standard in most dive computers. This feature allows you to set your computer to dive with enriched Nitrox.
Optional And Handy Dive Computer Features You May Want to Look For
Along with standard features found on all or most Dive computers, there are also a variety of optional features that are handy to have and worth considering including when shopping for a dive computer. Some of these options include:
- Air Integrated Feature- An air integrated feature displays how much air is remaining in your tank. Some dive computer models connect to the regulator by the way of a hose, while other models receive their air supply information by way of a transmitter on the regulator first stage
- Digital Dive Watch Combined with the Computer. Having your digital dive watch as an actual part of your dive computer cuts down on the amount of gear you need to take on the dive.
- Adjustment for Altitude Diving- When diving altitude is considered to be a 1000 feet or more above sea level the depths and durations used for dives at altitude are different than those for the same dive profile at sea level, so having a dive computer with an automatic or manual altitude adjustment setting can help you to dive smarter and safer.
- Replaceable or Rechargeable Batteries- Some dive computers have batteries that can only be changed by a dive shop. Finding a dive computer that either has a rechargeable battery or one that the batteries can be changed without taking into the shop will save you down time and a lot of expense.
- Multiple Gas Computer for Technical Diving- Some technical diving computers have a Closed circuit Rebreather or CCR mode that is extremely helpful.
- Ability to Interface with Your Home Computer or Laptop- If your dive computer has the ability to interface with your home computer you can share underwater photos with other divers and friends. In addition being able to interface with your computer means that you can keep a complete log of your entire dive history to review whenever you would like.
- Electronic Compass- While an electronic compass isn’t necessary when diving with a dive instructor, it certainly comes in handy when diving on your own with a buddy in a new location so that you can keep track of the direction you want to go in even when visibility may limited. Do keep in mind that come computer compasses are better than others.
- A Built in thermometer- Although it is not vital to actually know the exact temperature of the water you are diving in, knowing that temperature can be helpful.
- Self Adjusting Decompression models- Divers don’t just stay at the same depth when diving, so having a computer that has a self adjusting decompression feature will help you to safely make those decompression stops, as well as tell you how long you safely remain at certain depths and then change when your depths changes.
- Dot Matrix Screens with menus that allow you to play games to pass the time at safety or decompression stops. While this feature certainly won’t make diving safer, it can make those safety stops a lot more fun.
- Mask Display that allows you to view critical information at quick glance.
Choosing the Dive Computer That is Right for You
With so many different dive computers to choose from it may take some time to find the right dive computer to meet your needs. Before you ever head out to purchase that dive computer there are a few things you need to seriously consider.
What type of diving do I currently do and what types of diving do I plan on doing in the future?
A dive computer is an expensive piece of equipment so unless you have an unlimited budget, you want a computer that will not only meet your needs now, but also in the future. For example, if even you haven’t qualified to use nitrox mixes now, but intend to get certified to do so some time in the future you will want a computer that is enriched air compatible, and possibly one that will allow for a combination of difference gases.
What Type of Computer will work with my current equipment?
The next thing you will need to consider is what type of computer will work with your current dive equipment. Unless you are purchasing your computer as part of a package with all your other dive equipment, then you will need to make sure that the computer you buy is compatible with your other equipment.
List the Features in order of how much you want them
Another thing you should do is to list those must have features that you feel you need in a dive computer. Knowing what missing features is a deal breaker for you will help you zero in on those computers that have the most features that are desirable to you. (You may want to speak to an an expert before making this list, as an expert can help to guide you in the right direction.)
Your Computer Budget
You also need to set your computer budget before actually shopping for your dive computer. Dive computers come in a variety of different price ranges, and while you want to purchase the best dive computer you can afford, you don’t want to break the budget.
Shopping for Your Computer
Once you have a good idea of the type of dive computer that will most suit your diving style and your what your budget for that computer will be, it is time to actually start looking at those dive computers that meet your criteria. When shopping for that computer bring along your diving mask and make sure you follow the following steps:
- Does the dive computers features match your dive style, your specific wants, and your equipment set up?
- Can you clearly read the displayed information with your dive mask on?
- Are the menu buttons easy to access with dive gloves on?
- Does the data display make sense to you? Do you prefer getting your information in numbers, in a graph or on a chart?
Buy the very best dive computer you can afford to, as this piece of equipment will help keep you safer and will last you for many years of years.
Taking Care of Your Dive Computer
Once you have purchased your dive computer, you want to take care of your computer and keep it in good working order from the moment you purchase it. So here are a few tips that may help you accomplish that goal.
- Start by reading all of the instructions in the instruction book. (There may also be videos or online lessons on the use of your computer.)
- Push all the buttons and make sure they are all working properly
- Set a few preferences such as time, date, metric or imperial, fresh or salt water. So that you know how things work when you set them.
- After each dive, rinse your computer in fresh water immediately
- Try and keep your computer, especially the display out of direct sunlight
- Protect your computer from damage whenever possible, be careful no to drop or bang your computer.
- Change or recharge your dive computer battery as described by manufacturers
Dive computers are designed to enhance your diving experiences, using them properly only adds to the safety and enjoyment of each new dive.