For centuries, man has found countless ways to send ships to the bottom of the sea. Since the advent of scuba technology, we’ve found ways to explore them. Whether it’s to search for booty, take eerie photos, or just to pay respects, wreck diving is a not a sport for the timid. Often found in deep, cold water with strong currents and dangerous reefs, wrecks demand expertise, experience, humility and marine-grade bronze balls — not to mention a lot of specialized gear. This isn’t tropical holiday diving, so be prepared to shell out for equipment that can stand up to the conditions the Gunilda, the Thistlegorm or the Doria present.
APEKS XTX200 Regulator
While entry-level regulators are fine for reef combing, they’re just not up to the rigors of deep, cold water. If you’re diving wrecks in the Great Lakes or Graveyard of the Atlantic, choose a reg that’s up to the task. The XTX200 has a dry sealed first stage that won’t freeze up and is overbalanced to increase air volume as you descend, counteracting the effects of greater depths. The second stage is pneumatically balanced to reduce the effort it takes to draw a breath. All of this amounts to a regulator that, despite its cost, will have you breathing easy deep down.
Zeagle Ranger BC
Most serious tech and wreck divers opt for a backplate and wing setup, which is streamlined and minimalist but not terribly versatile. The heavy backplate doesn’t travel well, and if you want accessory pockets, you have to buy them a la carte. Zeagle’s Ranger has long been a favorite of wreck and rec divers alike thanks to its modular construction that can be configured for single- or double-tank diving, integrated weight pockets and a back inflation bladder that keeps you horizontal in the water. The ballistic 1050-denier nylon is tear-resistant to repel those inevitable snags as you’re squeezing into the engine room.
Poseidon Trident Fin
Wreck diving is less about swimming than it is about maneuvering. For that, you want short fins stiff enough to let you turn on a dime. The Trident is the choice of many commercial divers thanks to its rigid edge that allows for frog kicks turns, backwards swimming and bursts of power. The short length is ideal for tight spaces and the rubber-coated steel spring strap is quick to pull on over clumsy drysuit boots. Get them in yellow so your buddy can find you in the silt.
Scubapro Nova Scotia 6.5mm Semi-Dry Suit
Drysuits can’t be beat for their warmth and buoyancy characteristics, but they do require an extra hose, added skills and deeper pockets. For all but the coldest water, a semi-dry suit will work fine, and the Scubapro Nova Scotia is one of the best. 6.5 millimeters of Everflex neoprene is stretchy enough to don and doff, but the rear zip and snug neck and cuff seals keep cold water out. Abrasion-resistant patches on the knees and seat lengthen the life of the suit; the right thigh pocket with its integrated D-ring is the perfect place to stow a backup light or slate. Pair it with Scubapro’s Everflex hood and gloves to ward off that ice cream headache and blue digits.
Aqua Lung T8 rolling duffel
There are a lot of fancy dive bags out there, most designed for tropical divers. But for the added gear required for wreck diving, a good duffel is the way to go. Aqua Lung’s version keeps things simple with a 90-liter interior that swallows up all the other stuff in this buying guide (besides the boat) with room to spare. Compression straps keep the load in place, and an aluminum handle and ball bearing wheels make transport less backbreaking. Backpack straps allow for easier carrying should you need to hike off-road to a dive site.
Hollis LED15 Canister Light
Groping your way through a silted-up dark companionway is no place for a little hand torch. Hollis makes a full line of lights for cave and wreck divers that provides searchlight-bright beams and long burn times. The LED15 canister system has over 1,000 lumens of white LED light and a whopping six-hour burn time from its rechargeable lithium-polymer battery pack. Mount the canister to your tank band, strap the light on your hand and go into the darkness with confidence.
Atomic Ti6 Dive Knife
Dive knives have gotten smaller over the years, a trend we lament. A good-sized blade strapped to your leg will not only give you some Thunderball panache, it can get you out of some sticky situations where a smaller knife falls short. Entanglements on wrecks are common — draped fishing line or derelict cabling can be insidious, clutching your tank valve and hoses until you’re trussed up like a chicken. A long blade with serrations can make quick work of these hazards. Atomic’s Ti6 has old-school Sea Hunt looks, but its blade is honed from titanium, resisting corrosion from seawater and staying sharp. The blunt butt end can be used as a hammer for breaking things open or getting someone’s attention, and it can be disassembled for rinsing after you’re back home. It’s available with a blunt or a pointed tip, just in case you encounter bad guys. [Tip: strap the knife to the inside of your lower leg to stay streamlined and minimize risk of getting it caught as you swim in tight quarters.]
Suunto D9TX Computer
The D9TX is yet another example of Suunto’s dive computer prowess. It is the first watch-sized dive computer with trimix capabilities for blended gas diving (it works with air and nitrox as well); its electronic compass compensates for tilt and eliminates the need for a separate instrument; a tank transmitter allows for wireless pressure checks; and Suunto’s Movescount software allows you to download your dive stats back on the boat and plan dive profiles before you even get wet. All this packaged in a light and strong titanium-cased watch that wouldn’t look out of place back at the office.
DOXA SUB 1500T Professional
Sure, the no-decompression bezel and mechanical movement may be obsolete in this age of dive computers, but nothing says “diver” like a DOXA. The watch was designed with input from Jacques Cousteau, and its purpose-built design shows it — an oversized minute hand, sawtooth bezel with no-deco time markings and nuclear-intensity lumed markings are little changed since its introduction in 1967. The SUB 1500T updates the original with sapphire glass, a deeper depth rating and a solid steel linked bracelet that features a ratcheting clasp that expands to fit over a wetsuit sleeve. This is a diver’s watch, and whether your excuse is that it’s a backup instrument or you just have a thing for orange, the SUB 1500T demands that you have stories to tell when you get back on shore, so be ready.
Newton 26-foot Special Dive Boat
Before you can dive a wreck, you’ve got to get to it. Sure, you can tag along on a dive charter — but do enough of those and before you know it you could have afforded your own boat. Like this one. Newton builds custom boats for divers with features unique to the sport, like tank racks and a folding rear ladder that’s easy to climb wearing dive fins. The 26-foot Dive Special holds six divers and their gear and can still be easily trailered. The stock 355-horsepower Cummins motor should get you anywhere, but Newton will put whatever engine you want on it, so go crazy.