Aqautic Ventures

Dive light

Tips on dive light use and etiquette • Part One

Tips on dive light use and etiquette • Part One

This is the first of two articles designed to help you get the most from your dive light. In this first part, we will look at the mechanics of dive lights and how to configure them for use.

LED lights are the only realistic option

These days it’s unlikely to find any new dive light that does not utilize LEDs. Why?

  • LEDs use less energy and are more economical to operate.
  • They are brighter on average than old-fashioned lights that use incandescent bulbs.
  • LEDs are more resistant to damage.

Attachment options

You can easily spend $100 or more on a quality dive light. You don’t want to risk losing it. The right attachment hardware can help prevent this.

Wrist lanyards

Except for lights designed primarily for cave and tech diving, most new dive lights come with wrist lanyards. These date from when BCs and tank harnesses did not have D-rings. So, even if you were to attach a snap to your light, there would be no place to clip it off when not in use.

Wrist lanyards are reliable; we’ve seldom seen one break. However, many divers don’t like them. They can tug annoyingly at your wrist whenever the light is not in your hand. This brings us to a more current alternative.

Stainless bolt snaps

A stainless bolt snap is the attachment hardware of choice among more experienced divers. Provided the snap and the spring are made from high-quality stainless, these are exceptionally reliable.

The question becomes, how do you attach a snap to your light?

  • One possibility is to use one or two cable ties. However, these can easily break.
  • Another possibility is to use a stainless quick link or split ring. These can be nearly bulletproof. Unfortunately, the mounting holes on many lights are not large enough to accommodate them.
  • A method preferred by cave and technical divers is to attach snaps to their lights using a piece of #24, braided nylon line. Although this may not sound reliable, it can be nearly as bulletproof as a stainless quick link or split ring if done correctly.

The technique for doing so is:

  • Connect the light and snap using three or more line wraps as shown.
  • Tie the ends of the line together tightly using a square knot.
  • Trim the line so that only one-quarter of an inch protrudes from the knot.
  • Use a lighter to burn the ends of the line. As the line begins to melt, smash the melting nylon against the knot so that it forms a mushroom. This locks the knot in place.

While your primary dive light will likely be in your hand most of the time, your backup light will not. You will want to stow it in a way that does not allow it to dangle, where it could become entangled in lines or other objects.

Many divers put a loop of bungee cord or bicycle inner tube on one of their shoulder straps, as shown. This will help prevent the light from dangling.

Added security

Some divers worry that if their light is not attached to their wrists, they may drop and lose it. You can prevent this by using an extendable lanyard that attaches the light to a D-ring on your BC or harness. The most popular versions of these come in one of two flavors:

  • One utilizes what appears to be an old-fashioned telephone cord. The coils retract when not in use.
  • The other uses a stainless-steel cable on a spring-loaded retractor.

The chief drawback of this type of lanyard is that when the light is not in your hand, it can dangle well below you. There it can damage coral or become entangled in other objects.

If you use this type of lanyard, you will need an additional means to secure the light, such as the bungee or inner tube loop we showed earlier.

Mounting options

Most divers will have their lights either clipped off or in their hands. However, some divers, such as DPV users, must be able to use their lights while keeping both hands free. Fortunately, there are two options that will allow them to do so.

Helmet or headband mounts

It is possible to mount dive lights on the sides of helmets. There are also dive lights that come already mounted on adjustable headbands.

The chief benefit of this approach is convenience. Not only does it keep your hands free, but you can illuminate objects just by looking at them. However, this approach has some potentially serious drawbacks.

  • It is difficult to use your light as a signaling device.
  • With a head-mounted light, you can easily blind your buddies or boat crew simply by looking at them.

For this reason, the best approach may be to use a helmet with a quick-release mount for your light. This way, you can keep the light in your hand unless it is necessary to keep both hands free.


By far, the most popular approach to hands-free light use is to attach the light to the back of your hand. There are two ways to do this:

  • Goodman-style handmounts are crafted from machined aluminum. Your light attaches to the flat part of the mount, either with a fixed or quick-release mechanism. The balance of the mount is adjustable to accommodate hands of varying sizes.
  • Flexible hand mounts work the same as Goodman-style mounts. The difference is they are usually made from neoprene foam wetsuit material, nylon strapping or some combination of the two.

Whichever route you go, you will want to attach a stainless snap to the handmount. If need be, this will allow you to clip it to a D-ring when not in use.

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