Why should you always carry a dive light?

There are many reasons for carrying a dive light on every dive you do, for reasons of both utility and safety – as I list here - but the fact is that the question these days is not really "why should you?"

The question is, "why wouldn’t you?"

Anyone who hasn’t bought a new dive light in a few years and who still thinks that a good dive light has to be a big, solid, heavy lump of plastic with a rifle grip is in for a pleasant surprise next time they go surfing the Internet for options.

The state of the art lights for sport divers now are tiny, lightweight metal tubes with powerful beams, adjustable settings and long-lasting rechargeable batteries. They are hard-wearing and easily configurable. They can be tucked inside a neoprene sleeve on a BCD harness, slipped into a small pouch on your waist belt, zipped inside even the smallest of BCD pockets or clipped to a D-ring and secured by a loop of bungee cord.

From being an additional piece of equipment that you only carry on specific types of dive – night (obviously), wreck, cavern – now your dive light can be just as much a permanent feature of your dive gear as your computer.

And so it should be, because you need a dive light:
- To communicate with your team when the visibility is poor
- To peer under overhangs to look for eels or little gems like comet fish or pineapple fish
- To point out critters like pigmy seahorses, cuttlefish or bobtail squid without getting too close and spooking them
- To look inside caverns, swimthroughs, chunks of wreckage
- To spotlight photo subjects for a camera wielding buddy
- As a signalling device if you surface in stormy weather
- To shine up through your safety sausage, turning it into a light sabre, making you more visible to searchers if a late day dive has turned into an evening dive.
- To signal to searchers if, heaven forbid, your dive boat has lost you and you are left drifting at sea after night has fallen.

In some of these situations, a dive light is not only nice to have it can save your life. Indeed, in my books I recount a couple of true stories where a dive light did save lives.

The light that I feature here is the TEC-1200 made by Tecline, but that is because this is the one I use. There are other comparable lights out there.

This light is just 14 cms (5.5 ins) long and weighs only 325g (11.5 ozs) (including battery and lanyard) It is made of aluminium and its high intensity LED emits 1200 lumens on full power. A long push on a magnetic switch button turns it on, then short pushes of the same button cycle through three power level settings 100% / 50% and 20%. A further long button push will turn it off. It is pressure rated to 200m (660ft).

The light is powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery – the charger comes as part of the package – which gives you 3 hours of life at full power / 6 hours at 50% and (yes, you guessed it) 15 hours at 20%. This is quite astonishing performance given the small size and the strong light levels – even at 50%, if you shine this light into your buddy’s eyes, you will quickly find yourself with a very upset team-mate!

This particular light comes in a hard pack box containing the charger, a lanyard, spare o-rings for the double sealed battery compartment, a battery adapter (so you can use a single use AAA battery instead of the rechargeable one in the event you have no access to electricity) and a Goodman handle so you can mount the light to the back of your hand leaving your fingers free – (ideal for cave divers and wreck divers who need to deploy a reel and line).

Even a couple of years ago, this level of technology was not available to sport divers at reasonable prices. Here, possibly more than in any other area of diving equipment, change has happened rapidly.

And, as I suggested earlier, not only are the new models nicer toys than their predecessors – in terms of power, duration and features – their compact size and light weight means there is no reason ever to leave your light behind on a dive and this has a significant positive impact on dive safety too.