Ocean Explorers Society

April, 2000

I consider a dive light to be a mandatory piece of gear on every dive. We use them in a variety of ways which make diving easier, safer, and more fun.

The most common use is to actually see all those red colors you miss without one. Light falls off rapidly with depth and the more interesting critters hide in dark corners under rocks during the day; no light, no see. This is why one sees divers upside down with their head under a rock like some underwater ostrich.

Pointing out stuff you find underwater is easy when you have a light. We signal something interesting by rapidly waving the light back and forth over the object. Not only does everyone see more, but you can look really cool to your snorkeling friends. I've always wondered if a laser pointer might be useful for this, but have never tried one which was waterproof.
One obviously needs a light for night diving. Lights for this purpose need to be more powerful and have a wider beam.

Dive lights come in many shapes, sizes, and intensities. Rodale's has 4 extensive reviews on their web site. Check out http://www.scubadiving.com/gear/divelights.shtml.

There are lots of good lights out there from which to choose. As with many things in diving, personal preference counts for a lot. I'll tell you what's working for us, and what didn't. However, it's not the only way, and maybe not even the best way to choose.

We each have 2 dive lights. A "pocket light" which goes on every dive, and a primary light which comes along as needed. We also have battery powered marker lights which come along on night dives.

Our pocket lights are all Underwater Kinetics SL-4's. It's a nice compromise between, size, intensity, and battery life. The beam width is adequate for peering into crevices and under rocks. They are also very handy around the house. It's an easy fit in most BC pockets, and my Ranger seems to have one pocket that's custom made for it. SL-4's are frequently seen in OE's SCUBA sales too.

On the down side, it is a little bit too large around for easy holding. I frequently find that holding it at the end is much more comfortable than grabbing it around the middle.

Keeping with our standardization, all our primary lights are UK-400's. They are relatively inexpensive, have enough light, and the batteries last for 3 or 4 dives. We installed a snap on the handle so we can attach them to our BC's. Giant stride entries are much easier without having this large flashlight bashing you in the face.

The problem with the UK-400 is that the amount of light is produces is adequate, but not great. I'm very accustomed to working in the dark so this doesn't really bother me.

One possible solution is to put the bulb from the UK-400R into the UK-400. Battery life would be shortened considerably. However, if you get rechargeable alkaline batteries, you should have a very robust light for substantially less than UK charges for their rechargeable. I haven't tried this, but I may give it a go if I start doing more night diving.

Pelican, and UK have new, more compact lights which are brighter than the UK-400, and have the characteristics of good primary lights. If I were buying now, I'd take a very close look at these lights. The battery life is short, but long enough for a couple of dives. Since I almost always make sure there are fresh batteries in my primary light, this is not a big deal. They are also compact enough to be good day, and night lights. If I were starting over, I'd take a good, close look at these compact, pistol grip lights.

One light to avoid is the UK SL-6. This is a stretched SL-4. It's too long for a BC pocket, awkward for day use, and the beam is too tight for night use. We have one which now rides in the truck. It works OK there.

A while back, we picked up a pair of red, battery powered marker lights for night diving. These are powered by a pair of AAA batteries. They come with a white bulb, a red bulb, a diffuser, and a standard lens. They work amazingly well in all configurations. The red light and regular lens are particularly useful for situations where you need your night vision left intact. Astronomer that I am, it's now my favorite chart light for stargazing.

That's how we set ourselves up here, but don't take our choices as gospel. Analyze your diving, read the reviews, and make the choice which suits your diving.
Dave Ambrose

Copyright 2000, David Ambrose All rights reserved.


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