My first primary light for cave diving was so heavy I had to mount it on two large D-rings and hang it from the bottom of my tanks. The bulky rectangular housing concealed two large sealed lead acid batteries. A hefty cord lead to a metal light head that could double as a sledgehammer. One day it switched on in the van and burned a hole in the carpet before I could get it shut off. I used to wait to the very last moment possible before turning the light on, well into the cavern zone, trying to save every last minute of burn time for the dive at hand.
In the last two decades of technical diving, lights have changed more than anything else. They’ve shrunk. The battery technology has improved and burn times are extended. Even my backup lights are now far brighter and reliable than my earliest primary light. We’ve switched from incandescent bulbs to HID, HMI, and LED. We moved through lead acid to nickel metal hydride and now lithium batteries. Yet, for some reason, divers still have a hard time letting go of that antiquated canister and cord.
I’m not one to point fingers, because it took until early this year when I finally dropped the canister in favor of a powerful handheld – the Light & Motion Sola Tech600. I had tried other handhelds, but they were still large, negatively buoyant lights equipped with clunky high profile handles. They lacked the elegance, comfort and streamlining necessary to convince me. After researching lighting technology for an article I wrote for DIVER magazine, I stepped into some Light & Motion gear and wondered why I had waited so long. Free from a canister and cord, my rig is more streamlined, my hands more nimble and luggage weight is cut substantially. The beam (check out their beam comparisons) offers the perfect balance between a great signaling light and excellent coverage. The Tech600 fulfills a solid day of diving and yet I can easily recharge it in 75 minutes over lunch if I want to. With three power settings that are arguably brilliant, I can conserve power when needed. It also gives me peace of mind seeing small LED fuel gauges that confirm I have plenty of power left to finish the day of diving.
When it comes to travel, it is a no brainer. I can’t break it and neither can the airlines (I don’t know which of us is worse). The light can be switched into an airline safe lockout. The package with the charger is minuscule and light. More importantly, it is not intimidating to the Transportation Safety Authority (TSA) guards who squirm at the x-ray machine and set off lights and buzzers when viewing canister lights in your bags.
I’m a convert. After watching others use these elegant lights, I reached out to Light & Motion and now I own most of the products they make.
So if you are still tethered to a canister, it is time to break the umbilical and move into the next generation. Try a Sola Tech600 and I guarantee you’ll never go back.
Jill Heinerth, Explorer
PS – Ladies and small hands: Light & Motion makes two sizes of hand mount and also offers myriad mounting options from D-ring to T-handle to a new Goodman style handle.