Hey, it happens to the best of us: For some reason we find ourselves taking a break from diving. Whether it is due to moving, traveling, family, injury, etc, we may knowingly pack up and store our dive gear for an extended period.
I found myself with an opportunity to explore a part of the world I was super interested in visiting, despite being landlocked and not offering a lot of opportunities to dive (certainly not enough to justify the extra baggage charges that would’ve accumulated as I tried to pack a year’s worth of necessities into 2 bags). Taking an extended break from diving was a bit daunting for me as I had barely gone a handful of months at any point in my adult years without getting a dive in, but I also couldn’t wait to explore the green hills of Africa. So, as I packed up my life, I had to make sure that I was also properly packing up my dive gear. Below are some suggestions, with a healthy dose of hindsight in addition to a pretty comprehensive understanding of gear and how to take care of it to start with.
Know this: Just because you aren’t using it, doesn’t mean normal service guidelines don’t apply to your regulator. If the manufacturer recommends an annual service and it has been more than a year, you should have it serviced. Even whilst sitting unused their are seals and seats in your regulator that can dry out and wear down. Just as a car that is sitting for a year may need some TLC, so may your regs.
Obviously, before you store them you want them nice and clean. Make sure all salt and gunk is washed off. Maybe even have them serviced before you pack them away. Keep them in a cool, dry place, out of UV rays. And be careful not to pile anything heavy (including a backplate, weights, etc) on top of them.
BCDs are slightly lower maintenance than regs are, generally. Still, they should be put away clean, washed of salt and debris both inside and out. Putting a breath or two in the bladder isn’t a bad idea. Again, store BCDs in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Doing a basic inspection before using again is a good idea. Just make sure corrosion, etc hasn’t cause your inflator to stick open or closed. Inflate the BCD fully and leave for a few hours to ensure no slow leaks are present. Make sure any dump valves move fluidly, as expected. Make sure all buckles, clips, d-rings, etc are intact and functional (including on tank straps. BCDs that are modular and allow for pieces to be replaced/repaired individually become advantageous as the years go by as any worn pieces can be replaced as needed instead of requiring an entirely new BCD.
3) Computers/Lights/other electronics
Follow manufacturer guidelines. Many may recommend storing without battery inside (lights especially). Others should be charged periodically. Check bulbs, batteries before use. As with all other gear, these items should be stored clean and dry and away from sun.
Ah, drysuits. They can be a bit high maintenance. As with everything else, ensure that they are clean of salt water. You have a few options when storing them. If you need to/prefer to hang your suit make sure you do so on a broad plastic hanger (wood can also work). Metal hangers are no good, especially on the neck seal. If you can remove the neck seal (as with DUI Zip Seals and other similar systems) than this is going to be better for it. Suits with metal zippers should be stored with the zippers open to reduce strain on the teeth. This is not necessary with plastic zippers.
You can also roll your suit to store it. Follow the above recommendations (unless otherwise stated by the manufacturer) for zippers. Roll the suit up loosely, usually with the zipper side out. Ensure nothing is placed on top of it.
Regardless of how you store it, you should keep it in a cool, dark, dry place.
Ultimately, seals begin to degrade over time. The more UV light (among other things) they are exposed to, the faster they break down. Of the options (latex, silicone, neoprene) none are impervious to the trials of time. Neoprene may stand up the best, but ultimately it can grow brittle and tear. If you’re storing you suit for several months or years at a time understand that you may have to replace the seals prior to use. You’ll also want to check the valves to make sure they are intact and functional.
Before packing away your suit it is not a bad idea to clean and wax the zipper and apply seal saver to latex seals.
5) Wetsuits (and accessories)
Wetsuits are slightly easier to store than drysuits but still need a little love. Again, put them away well rinsed and preferably dry in a cool, dark, dry space. Again, you can hang or roll your suit. And again, to reduce stress on a very small amount of the neoprene, it is best to use a wide, plastic hanger. When rolling the suit do so loosely. We roll, rather than fold, neoprene to minimize creases that can become permanent. Beware of velcro flaps on wetsuits and accessories. Try to stick them to their velcro mates. If they happen to stick to the neoprene of the suit (or most outer material) the can pull and cause pilling.
So, have you noticed some central themes? The basic mantra, “store in a cool, dry, dark place” is key to most gear. UV light destroys most dive gear over time. Keep gear away from heavy cleaners, scents, etc. Some household chemicals can cause rubbers such as neoprene to degrade rapidly. So, if you’re storing your kit in the garage, be aware of what you have nearby. The other refrain we’ve offered is, “rinse your gear before storage.” Really, you should rinse the salt off, then wash/soak it and maybe even give it another quick rinse. No one likes gear corroded beyond functionality. And lastly, upon resuming diving after a lot of time away, keep in mind that your gear will likely need some TLC. Give yourself some time to look it over, and have it serviced, if need be. Both you and your gear should have a ‘check out’ dive in calm conditions (perhaps even a pool) before getting into anything too demanding.
Tanks should be stored with some pressure in them (at least 500psi) to keep contaminants out of them. They should be secured, whether they are standing or laying down. Valves may need to be serviced after a long period of storage. O-rings may need to be replaced.
Tanks need to have visual inspections every year and hydrostatic inspections every 5 years, regardless of usage.
These are general storage suggestions. You should always refer to manufacturer’s care & maintenance recommendations. Recommendations may vary.