Scuba Diving Torch FAQ

1. What are dive torches?

Dive torches are powerful illuminating devices that can be used underwater.  They provide a way for divers to see in sub aquatic conditions that have little or no natural light.  This is important to help you see your dive instruments so that you can judge your progress accurately and see when it is time to return to the surface.  Dive torches can be used to illuminate your environment so that you can see more and enjoy a more rewarding diving experience.

2. Why do I need a dive torch?

It can be difficult for natural light to penetrate bodies of water.  This means that down at certain depths and in cloudy conditions visibility can be poor both in fresh and salt water.  A dive torch can be invaluable to help you see where you are going. You will also need a dive torch is you are going to be diving at dusk/night or in cave situations. Dive torches can also be useful tools to signal to other divers.  Dive torches are an essential safety tool for divers and can allow you to explore areas where the sunlight cannot reach such as crevices, caves and natural overhangs.  Also, at depth, the higher wavelengths form the spectrum of visible light are progressively absorbed by the water the deeper you go. As you descend, you first loose the red colours, and then yellows till eventually most things appear as shades of blue or green. A torch provides white light at depth, which allows you to see the true colours of the items you observe on deeper dives.

3. Will I need a torch for wreck diving?

It depends upon what type of wreck diving you intend to do. For dives where the goal is to conduct a penetration into the wreck, then a minimum of 2 torches per diver is considered mandatory. For dives where the goal is to swim around the exterior of the wreck, then a single torch is useful.  Wrecks can have dark openings, nooks and crannies, which can be illuminated if you have a torch.  You will also be able to examine detail more closely with a torch and this is useful for taking notes and discovering exciting new aspects of the wreck.

4.  How many dive torches do I need?

It is important to remember that for safety reasons you should have two torches with you on a dive: a primary and a backup.  Dive torches are designed to be reliable and hardwearing but you never know what could happen.  If you do lose your primary torch or it breaks down then you will need to have a backup so that you can navigate your way out of dark or poor visibility environments.  Your backup dive torch can be a smaller, pen size device that will fit easily onto your dive belt or BCD and not weigh you down.

5. How do I choose a dive torch?

There are many different types of dive torch available and these can offer you different features.   You do need to consider battery life when you are choosing a dive torch.  If you go on long dives then you will need to choose a lithium battery. Although these are more expensive that the traditional alkaline batteries they are much longer lasting and will also need to be replaced less often.  If you are diving primarily to see marine life don’t choose a torch that is too powerful.  Most marine creatures are not accustomed to very light conditions and will flee when they see a bright light coming towards them. Generally, an LED of HID dive torch, though more expensive initially, will prove the best buy. Their minimal battery drain, gives longer battery life combined with the longer life expectancy of the globe (bulb) will ultimately be the most cost effective torch to purchase.

6.  Should I choose a rechargeable battery torch?

Rechargeable battery torches are typically more expensive to start with than other torches.  However in the long run they work out to be very cost effective as replacing batteries all the time can soon add up.  In most cases rechargeable battery torches have higher power outputs but shorter burn times.

7.  How do I care for my dive torch?

You will need to treat your dive torch as any other piece of your essential scuba equipment.  This means checking it after each dive, rinsing it thoroughly in fresh water and drying it out before storage.  When re-assembling you torch, special care must be taken to ensure the O-ring is clean, correctly positioned and greased with silicone grease as per the manufacturers recommendation. Incorrectly positioned, dirty or un-greased O-rings are the primary causes of flooding in dive torches. This can affect the function of the torch on future dives.  If you have rechargeable batteries then power these up again before you put the torch away and make sure it is fully functioning.  You should recharge batteries every few months if you are storing them away for long periods of time.  Batteries that are left to run completely flat for more than three months can fail to hold a charge when you next use them.  This means that even if you do fully charge the battery it will run out very quickly and no longer be reliable on dives.  It is best to completely replace batteries that have been left uncharged for long periods of time.

8.  Are diving torches robust?

Dive torches are fairly robust and most designs have impact resistant casings.  However you should store them carefully and avoid banging them against underwater obstacles or the boat as you are getting in and out of the water as this can cause damage.  This may be invisible to the naked eye and you will not notice there is anything wrong with the torch until it malfunctions.

9. What types of dive torches are available?

Currently dive torches are mainly divided into HID (High Intensity Discharge), LED (Light Emitting Diode) and conventional globe (bulb)designs.  The HID options tend to provide a brighter and more focused light but this high power comes at the expense of battery life.  HID dive torches can also be quite fragile and can malfunction if they are knocked about.  LED dive torches are very popular as they offer a much improved battery life and are more robust than the HID torches.  LED lights are evolving all the time but currently the standard models are not as bright or focused as the equivalent HID torches so are not do suitable for very dark, cloudy waters. Conventional globes torches, which use Xenon or Halogen globes, are generally the cheaper options to purchase on the market, though their high battery usage and frequent, expensive globe replacement make them expensive in the long run.

10.  What are umbilical style torches?

These torches are also known as canister torches.  They have a separate battery pack which is designed to be mounted on to a weight belt or Scuba Cylinder.  The smaller light head is then attached to the battery by an ‘umbilical’ power cord.  These are very lightweight options that offer plenty of flexibility but they can be very expensive in comparison to standard handheld lantern style torches. They provide excellent options for higher candle powers giving greater illumination. Have greater burn times due to the longer battery life, and are the lighting option of choice for hard-core recreational diver and most technical divers.