The most common question asked is “What unit should I buy?”
There is no simple answer to this question. There are many good rebreathers, each with its own pros and cons. Purchasing a unit is contingent on the answers to the following questions:
- Ask yourself, what do you ultimately want to do?
- How much of an investment can you make?
Andrew Driver wrote the following article seven years ago. A few updates have been made to the article to help facilitate the purchase of your rebreather equipment.
By Andrew Driver, January 2001
Rebreathers are a contentious subject! There are certain groups and individuals who believe rebreathers are inherently dangerous. Others, including myself, believe they are safer for deep dives than Open Circuit (OC) and far more fun, logistically easier and are the future of diving as we know it. In my opinion, OC is dead for technical diving and rebreathers will be the SCUBA of choice for nearly all technical and many recreational divers. It may be another 10 or 15 years before general acceptance, but it will happen. If you are one of the growing number people considering a rebreather purchase then read on because rebreathers have arrived!
The many advantages to using a rebreather are listed below:
- Gas efficiency
- Deco efficiency
- Helium cost efficiency
These advantages all add up to a better way to dive!
Rebreathers are certainly not a panacea for all diving ills. Listed below are some of the realities one has to accept to be a success:
- Discipline and good training is imperative
- Time for mastery
These listed items are not unique to rebreather diving, they also apply to OC technical diving. Please realize that the “human factor” should be considered the weak link. As units and diver methodologies evolve, deaths in rebreather dives will certainly occur. These unfortunate deaths—in all instances—result because of inadequate training, attitude, experience and inability of the individuals diving the unit rather than the unit itself. I would like to stress that all rebreather problems can be recognized and remedied by the practiced, educated and aware rebreather diver.
Open circuit diving is open to almost anyone. You can start a PADI course at age eight and continue to dive until you are 80. Other than a desire to participate and reasonable good health, there are just a few things that should preclude anyone from taking part.
For rebreathers however, this does not hold true. A greater degree of awareness and discipline is required. It is not that it is difficult to master, it just requires that one not be complacent. If one neglects responsibility to the machine, it can be fatal.
Example: a diver had been using his fully closed-circuit rebreather for only a short while. He had become comfortable diving his unit and it now seemed simple and reliable to use. On one particular dive, he decided he was experienced enough to teach others while using the unit himself. He did not recognize the extra task of loading that is required and became side-tracked by his students while preparing to enter the water. Mistakenly he never turned his unit on. Hypoxia occurred and he died.
The vast majority of accidents on rebreathers are caused by something as simple as not turning on the oxygen or the handsets. However, it is the subtext one should be aware of rather than the final cause. By this I mean it was more a failure of the diver getting ahead of himself—having loading tasks that were too distracting that caused this particular accident.
When you purchase a rebreather, be prepared to dive it for an extended period of time before doing the type of dives you are accustomed to. Rebreather skills must be over-learned. You must be aware that the diver is the weak link in every fatal situation.
This article is not intended to explain how different rebreathers work. If you are considering buying a rebreather, you should educate yourself on the different rebreather types and how each of them work. For a full explanation on rebreather modes use the information guide below.
Rebreathers have been around for a long time, much longer than OC. The idea was first conceived in the 17th century with the first working system in 1878. In the first and second World Wars, a number of different rigs were used, with units taking on their present design in the 1960s.
Now, commercial interests have further fueled their evolution. This has minimized the failure points and made them viable propositions for the technical/recreational market. At this point, 10,000 technical and recreational divers are deciding that rebreathers are the tool of choice.
This article will not tell you what unit to buy but rather what to look for and what to avoid when deciding on a purchase. So why should you listen to my opinion?
I have over 1500+ hours of rebreather time. My first dives were with the LAR V O2 Rebreather in 1987 with the military. Since then, I have purchased the following five rebreathers: Cis Lunar, Inspiration, Atlantis, Megalodon, Kiss and a Hammerhead. I have dived at least eight other rebreathers that include: Mk15.5, Prism, Dolphin, BMD, TP2000, CCR500 and others. I am an IANTD Rebreather Instructor Trainer “T” for most of these units.
Although my rebreather purchasing experience has not always been positive, my entire rebreather diving experience has been completely worth the headaches. Nothing could make me give up my closed-circuit equipment and dive OC again! Following are a few purchase experiences from my past that you too might relate to one day…
I waited 18 months (on a three-month promise) after I paid a deposit on the Cis Lunar before delivery. On receipt, it didn’t work and I waited another six months before it worked properly. I received the Inspiration pretty much on time. I waited 12 months on a six-week promise for a Megalodon.
I dove and supported rebreather trips around the world in areas as diverse as the Arctic and Amazon. I have used rebreathers for cave and wreck diving, up to depths of 450 feet and I have had more electronic failures than I care to remember.
From these experiences, I have compiled a set of questions and criteria, in no particular order (except for rule #1 which should always be at the top of any rebreather list) to aid in the purchasing of your rebreather.