As a cave diver, I spend the majority of my time underwater in technical
scuba gear. I have become so comfortable with this gear that when I switch back to open water equipment to teach a recreational
certification course, I need a few minutes to become accustomed to standard open water gear configuration. One of the differences between my technical and my recreational gear is that I use a special "long hose" regulator with my technical gear and a standard regulator setup with my recreational gear. Now, I am beginning to wonder if I should just use the long hose configuration all the time.
The Difference Between a Long Hose and a Short Hose Regulator Configuration:
• Short Hose Configuration:
Almost every recreational diver uses a short, 2-3 foot hose on the regulator he breathes from. He places his alternate air source (the extra regulator used to donate air to an out-of-air diver) on a longer, approximately 4 foot hose, and attaches it to his buoyancy compensator (BCD). A diver who needs air can simply grab the alternate air source and breathe from it as needed.
• Long Hose Configuration:
A technical diver usually carries the regulator he breathes from on a 5-7 foot "long hose." His extra regulator is attached to a very short hose and placed directly below the diver's chin on a bungee "necklace". To donate air in an emergency, this diver must take the long hose regulator he is breathing from out of his mouth, hand it to the out-of-air diver, and then switch to his extra regulator.
Is a Long Hose or a Short Hose Regulator Configuration Better?:
Recently, I have noticed that some organizations, such as UTD (Unified Team Diving) and GUE (Global Underwater Explorers) use the long hose configuration in basic scuba certification training. I recently taught an open water course and practiced sharing air with a "standard" short hose configuration. The donated alternate air source twisted and yanked on my mouth as we ascended, pointlessly increasing the difficulty and stress of the drill. Using a long hose configuration for recreational diving is beginning to make more and more sense to me - it simply makes air sharing easier.
Pros of a Short Hose Configuration - Simplicity and Self Rescue:
The short hose configuration does not require the diver donating air to remove his regulator from his mouth. This reduces the possibility of the diver drowning or experiencing a lung barotrauma by holding his breath while he donates air. In fact, the diver donating air doesn't have to do anything but carry his alternate regulator in the correct position. The out-of-air diver can approach and secure the alternate air source on his own.
Pros of a Long Hose Configuration - Preparedness and Ease of Ascent:
Proponents of the long hose configuration argue that in a panic situation, the average out-of-air diver will reach instinctively for the regulator in his buddy's mouth, not his alternate air source. The donating diver prepares for this panic reaction by planning to donate the regulator already in his mouth. A diver in this situation will not be caught off guard if the panicked diver steals the regulator from his mouth. Furthermore, an ascent or exit when sharing air using a seven-foot long hose is much easier because it allows the divers to swim to the surface in almost any position relative to each other. This becomes a necessity in a shipwreck or in a cave, but could also be useful in open water.
So which is better? Should we train new divers to use a long-hose configuration from the very beginning, so that the multi-step process of air sharing with a long hose becomes second nature? Or, should instructors teach open water courses with a standard regulator configuration, and only "upgrade" divers to the long hose configuration as needed for advanced diving situations? Each diver should consider his comfort level with air sharing, and weigh the pros and cons of each configuration before making his decision. Recreational divers who are considering continuing on to technical training would be well advised to begin practicing with a long hose configuration as soon as possible.