January 25th, 2010

Sidemount Goes Mainstream


I just finished teaching an IUCRR course. The course is a public safety course I do at least once a year to teach cave divers procedures for interaction with law enforcement and extraction techniques for victims of overhead environment fatalities. This one was interesting because for the first time there were more participants wearing their cylinders sidemount than back mount. Of the ten participants, five were in sidemount, one was in a rebreather with sidemount bailout and three wore conventional back mounted doubles.

The class allowed me to see how people are using equipment and I always learn from what other people are doing. With so much going on in sidemount these days, it’s easy for the new sidemount diver to get lost in contradictory information. We’re working on some new articles and videos that can help with that.

The IUCCR class was a good group of divers. Special thanks to Wendell Nope for assisting me with the class.


*** The IUCRR – International Underwater Cave Recovery & Rescue group are a nonprofit organization of cave divers that make their training and services available to law enforcement around the globe for cave rescue and recovery efforts. Lamar Hires is the Training Chairman of the organization.

January 13th, 2010

Made in the U.S.A: Does It Really Matter Anymore?


Made in the USA has become more important than ever in the dive community. As the economy slows and the unemployment rate rises, we’re seeing boutique scuba gear brands appear. The problem is that these guys are often buying directly overseas and have no QC procedures in place. If you don’t have a reputable manufacturer overseas, eventually there will be a product quality issue and it can be serious. If the product fails, the boutique guy simply closes his garage door or moves to another apartment. There’s no recourse for the consumer. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen in the past 25 years in the business.

We try to build as many products in the USA as possible. That’s not to say that every product that is manufactured overseas is a problem. Take gauges, for example. These come out of Italy and are excellent. However, when we get products overseas we scrutinize the production process and make sure our vendor adheres to our quality control standards. In some cases, we even ship proprietary parts overseas rather than accept knock-offs. This means the external look of some of our gear might look like another overseas brand, but internally it’s not. We’ve got our OEM parts inside. We’ve tried off-the-shelf products years ago and learned quickly that the extra investment is worth it. You won’t find a Dive Rite product distributed in the original box it was shipped to us in either. We personally inspect and QC our products, whether it be from the USA or overseas.

The reason I bring this up in my blog is that Dive Rite is receiving more and more customer emails from dissatisfied customers of these boutique brands. They’ve found a good deal on the Internet and when the product fails, they aren’t getting the support they need. Thankfully, they turn to us and we’re able to help them.

This isn’t to say that all boutique brands are bad. Do your research and ask questions. A busted hose or delaminated wing isn’t worth the savings when your safety is at stake.