Most of the people who I have met recently know all about my fair weather hobby – hiking and hammock camping. As much as I enjoy it I have to admit – I’m a little bit of a wimp. The coldest I plan on sleeping out in the woods is the 20’s – if it will be above freezing the next day while I’m hiking. I don’t plan on doing any deep winter camping if I can help it. Although I was forced to do a type of camping when I wore the uniform, I just don’t enjoy staying cold for days. In the same respect, when it warms up, I’m ready to stay out of the woods. Here in Alabama it is too humid, too many bugs, snakes, and generally is just plain HOT past May for me to be in the woods. I like to enjoy my time in nature, and I don’t enjoy it when it is either too cold or too hot for my comfort zone.
So, now that it is nearing the time of year when camping is out of my comfort zone, what is a man to do during the summer? I chose to go SCUBA Diving. I’ve actually been certified since 2009. While my wife doesn’t enjoy camping, she has been certified since she was 12 years old, so this is an activity we can do together and we really enjoy it.
Here is my problem…. I generally want everything NOW! I want the PERFECT set up both with hammocks, hiking, AND SCUBA gear. Now this wouldn’t be difficult if I was extremely wealthy, but I’m not. If you think hammock related gear is expensive, go price some SCUBA gear! Although expensive, good quality gear will last a lifetime even if it not the latest style. I have gotten lucky in this area. My Father in Law (the great guy that he is) has been diving longer than I have been alive. Since I am married to his daughter (just to clear that up for you) he has graciously “loaned” or given me some of his older items. My SCUBA collection has also grown as the result of several Christmas and Birthday presents.
As a result, I have a complete set up – even if it is dated. I have used it several times at the local dive spot – the quarry in Madison. Through saving money and/or presents, I have acquired my ideal fins, booties, mask, and regulator set (the thing you use to breathe underwater). For my ideal set up I would get another wetsuit (current one is older hand me down), larger tanks (more air capacity), a dive computer (instead of using dive tables), and up until this past weekend – a new BCD.
For the non SCUBA people, the BCD or Buoyancy Compensator Device serves one MAIN purpose. As you descend underwater, the pressure of the water actually compresses your wetsuit (and anything else, for that matter). Without going into the physics, the water is more dense and the pressure increases the deeper you descend because the weight of the water above you. So the BCD has an air bladder where you can add small amounts of air in order to retain neutral buoyancy in the water. That way you neither sink or ascend unless you make an action to do so (think of how a fish remains stationary with very little movement). Now there are many secondary purposes for your BCD – the tank straps to the back to hold it in place, there are different attachment points for items such as gauges, your secondary regulator (back up breathing device for you or your dive buddy), a knife, weights, etc.
As you can imagine, these are not cheap and the possibilities are endless. It makes picking out your hammock easy in comparison. I have been very fortunate by having an older model loaned to me by my Father in Law – have I mentioned what a great guy that he is? Although I am very thankful and humbled by his generosity, I wanted a newer BCD for several reasons. The one I have works and there is nothing wrong with it – it’s just not my “style” and the type I wanted. It worked, but did not have my “dream features.” Of course, I have shopped, compared, shopped, compared, and shopped some more trying to find exactly what I wanted.
To make a long story short, someone I know has one a few years old but it has been used less than 5 times and it had the EXACT features that I desired and was interested in selling for a great price. To make a long story short, I was able to take it out for a “test dive” in a pool and check it out before purchasing. This is not the norm. As in most things, you can’t try it out before you buy it. Once a BCD gets wet, it is considered “used.” Since this one had been wet a few times before it wasn’t a big deal. It is like taking a hammock and tarp for a weekend before you buy it. The BCD fit like a glove, everything was in perfect condition – I searched and searched and could not find anything wrong with it. It even had the owners manual with it. An hour later, it was dripping in the back of my vehicle as I drove home the proud new owner of my very own BCD.
I will probably mix in some of my SCUBA gear reviews along with hammock gear as this is the time of year when both hobbies overlap. It’s almost too warm to be in the woods, but the water is still a bit chilly to be out blowing bubbles. I guess I’ll have to go somewhere tropical and go diving – I hear Mexico is nice this time of year….