I'm debating between purchasing a 6 or 13 cu. Catalina Pony versus a 3 cu. Spare Air Tank. There is no price on safety, but I'm wondering which one would fit my needs (Leisure diver, no more then 60 foot dives "for now"). New to diving but want the back up for security. I want to avoid the hassle during travel with TSA. Once aditional items are purchased for the Pony (Reg, PSI Gauge, securing system) is it really worth the headache? With the Spare Air configuration (fill it from your main source and go) seems easy enough. Mixed reviews on the Spare air. Please let me know which delivery system overall may be more practical safety being the most of the priority. Thanks, C.L.
All pony bottles must go as luggage. you cannot carry on as the valve must be removed for travel, also you will have to purchase another first and second stage if using a pony as there is not a breath reg attached . thus having said that for shallow dives go with spare air its cheaper and easy to carry on board in carry on. however if you get a pony . do not op for smaller than 13 as then you can use it for your redundant when becoming wreck cert. or diving to a total feet of 130 both vert and horiz total , they make a bracket that makes ponies attachable to the tank strap making it real secure. I am a instructor and never dive without my ponies when with students. However you will find you can do a cesa from 60 feet if you have to , personally have practiced it , its hard but not as hard as one might think. besides ou should always have a buddy. hope that was not to much info
If you looking for convenience and ease of travel, the Spare Air will definitely win. However, realize that at 60 feet of depth, it will only have about one minute's worth of air. In comparison, the 6 cu ft. cylinder will give you about 2 minutes, and the 13 cu. ft will give you 4+ minutes. However, these cylinders will require you to carry an extra regulator and a yoke-to-yoke filling adapter when you travel.
In the end you may find the extra margin of safety that any of these solutions provide is not really worth the hassle and cost. Most people shelve such systems after only a little bit of use. A buddy provides a much better level of security - plus more fun and enjoyment - than these small systems provide. True solo divers usually carry 30 or 40 cu. ft. systems as the bare minumum necessary to deal with emergencies and unexpected gas loss.
i too do not dive over 60 ... i dive the great lakes ... anything that is deeper than 60 is only colder, more murky, and buried in a silty muck. i went with a 6 cu and a simple regulator. i can tuck it under my bc. i can even just toss it on my boat when just going fishing with no intent of diving ... never know when i may need to quickly dive down to free a stuck anchor or fishing pole.... or favorite lure.
Definately go with the larger pony. It's a bit more expensive but well worth it. To start, 3 cu of air at any kind of depth is only going to give you a couple of breaths. With a 13 cu pony you'll have time for a proper ascent an safety stop. Also, I owned a Spare Air for a while. I had a lot of trouble with it. I returned the first two and then sold the 3rd to buy a pony. Hope this helps.
I am a technical diver, so perhaps my opinion is not valued in this community. Here's my take. Calculate how many breaths a 6 cu ft tank gives you. Most divers have a SAC of about 0.5 cu. ft./min, newer divers or physically unfit more. For argument's sake, let's stick with this number. At 60 ft this means you have about 4 extra min worth of air. Hardly worth it. If you breathe down your tank so low that you need this, you are in trouble and should not dive or consider taking more training. In my opinion, "Spare Air" or pony bottles are a business gimmick. It's much better to monitor your gauges, depth and dive time and enforce a conservative turn-around. If you don't trust your ability to do that, don't dive. If you want to stay down longer, carry an Al-40 and know how to handle it. Determine your SAC, think about the depths that you are diving to (do you and can you (buoyancy?) maintain 60 ft?), think about dive time, diving conditions such as current, cold etc that may affect your physical exertion and thus air consumption, then PLAN your DIVE and DIVE the PLAN - With plenty of air in your tanks when you come up for emergencies! In cave diving, you assume the worst possible scenario and you come up with at least 1/3 your tank volume. This may be overly conservative for open water/recreational diving, but you should never come up with less than 500 psi in a regular 80 cu. ft tank. That corresponds to 16 cu ft of spare gas. Forget the "Spare Air".
I had an out-of-air situation this past weekend and had to use my dive buddy's bail-out bottle. It TRULY made the difference in getting back to the boat...alive. So, yes...in my opinion it IS worth it. The bottle I actually bought (a 30CF Catalina) is for TEC diving deco stops, so I did not have it with me on this weekend's dives, as we were spearfishing, not TEC diving. My dive buddy indicated he bought the 6CF Catalina rescue bottle with pro valve and separate regulator because the SpareAir parts are sometimes difficult to come by.