The DIR Equipment Setup
The approach to the dive kit is probably what DIR is most known for, and many producers of dive gear now sell “DIR-style” equipment. The setup is actually known as the “Hogarthian setup”, after renowned cave diver William Hogarth Main.
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He evangelizes a simple, streamlined setup, where anything that was not directly needed on the upcoming dive was left out of the kit. Also, he urged that all divers use the same setup, as this would make emergencies, such as out-of-air situations, easier to handle.
A backplate and wing is to be used, with a simple, single piece of webbing to keep the backplate attached to the diver’s back. No quick releases or oversized padding is to be used (“deluxe” style harnesses).
The harness is to have a total of 5 D-rings: one on each shoulder strap, one on the left side of the waist belt for attaching the manometer, one of the front of the crotch strap, for securing oneself to a scooter if a scooter is used, and one on the back of the crotch strap, near the back plate.
In case of an out-of-air situation, the diver donates his or her own regulator, which has a long hose, and switches to his/her own backup regulator, which is kept in a bungee around the neck.
The argument for this is that in an out-of-air situation, most panic stricken divers would automatically grab for their buddy’s regulator, rather than spend time trying to locate the backup.
Mask, fins, snorkel
Mask is to be a low-volume mask for easier clearance if flooded, and to reduce drag and risk of snagging.
Short, wide rubber fins with spring straps are used, and these are not to be split fins.
Snorkels are considered an entanglement hazard and are not to be used for diving.
Lights are recommended on all dives, and mandatory on night dives and in overhead environments. Primary lights are of the canister type, where the light head is held by a Goodman handle, allowing the diver to use both hands while still holding the light.
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A backup light is clipped to one of the shoulder strap D-rings and secured to the harness with a piece neoprene tubing, so it doesn’t dangle. On dives in overhead environments, two backup lights are required.
Knives or shears are recommended, and these are to be worn on the left-hand side of the waist belt, where they can be reached with both left and right hand.
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A wrist mounted compass is worn on the left hand, next to the dive watch or backup dive timer.
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Computers are generally frowned upon, though many DIR divers tend to use simple, entry level dive computers, set to gauge mode, as a combined depth gauge and timer. An analog depth gauge and a dive watch can also be used.
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Generally, DIR is anti-computer diving, meaning diving where planning and logging is omitted in favor of diving according to a dive computer’s recommendations in terms of depth, time, and surface intervals.
So why don’t we all DIR?
With all of the system’s own arguments for its qualities, why don’t we all follow these principles, then? Well, first of all, the system is very rigid and not very beginner friendly, and millions of dives are done safely by novice divers every year, using non-DIR approaches. It is probably safe to say that diving wouldn’t be as popular a sport if all instructors used a strict DIR approach, as many would-be divers would probably be discouraged by the high demands and the relatively expensive equipment. Also, many divers, even highly experienced technical divers, find it too dogmatic, with not enough room for individualization.
In addition to this, PR has been somewhat of a problem for DIR. The name itself is somewhat antagonistic. If DIR is “doing it right”, does that mean everyone else are “doing it wrong”?
Some DIR divers have certainly stated so in various online dive forums, referring to all non-DIR divers as “strokes” and branding them “dangerous” to dive with. This has caused something of an entrenched situation, almost like a Harry Potter-esk situation, with “wizards” and “mugglers”.
The system itself contains some contradictions, too. Computers are banned, as they make unsafe divers, it is stated. But a thorough and conscientious diver, using a dive computer for additional safety is safer, all other things being equal, than the same diver not using a computer. Also, DIR often eschews solo diving, naming it unsafe, even though the statistics point to solo diving being safer than cave diving, the birthplace of DIR.
There is no doubt that the DIR principles create good divers, and the accomplishments of the organizations using DIR cannot be ignored. Also, the simplistic, utilitarian approach to gear has proven its worth. But the rigid, dogmatic approach doesn’t suit all divers. Ultimately, many divers can learn a lot from DIR, learnings that would make them safer and better divers, but that doesn’t mean they have to go all the way, and go “all-DIR”.