The cost of scuba gear is going up and up, partially due to on-going supply chain issues and partially due to inflation. However, it is not only the cost of equipment that is increasing, it is also the cost of scuba diving as an activity. The most significant hike up in prices is in technical diving. In some places the cost and availability of gases used in technical diving has become unaffordable.
So, the question rises again. Is it more economical to use OC or CCR for technical diving?
Most technical dives involve using helium. It doesn't matter where you dive today in the world, helium is expensive. The price of helium at the time of writing of this blog was ranging from about $2 to $5 (and much more) per cubic foot, depending on worldwide geographical region. Assuming a price of $2.50 per cubic foot, filling double 95s (190 total cubic feet or 5.4 cubic metres) with a mix containing 45% helium, the helium alone is $213.75 (based on that $2.5 per cubic foot). The typical size for rebreather cylinders is 3 litres, accommodating roughly 26 cubic feet (0.74 cubic metres) of breathing gas. Filling the rebreather cylinder with a mix containing 45% helium would cost $29.25.
At first glance this represents quite a significant saving. However, the initial investment into a rebreather, rebreather training and indeed maintenance is also significant. If you don’t dive often on trimix, you may never recoup the investment.
But it is not only about the cost of gases.
How do you quantify the cost of convenience and logistics associated with diving in remote locations, or advantages of reduced size and weight, as a CCR-based system will generally weigh less and occupy less space than the open-circuit regulators and tanks needed to provide comparable bottom time and range? What about reduced deco stops, breathing moist warm air and diving in silence enabling closer encounters with underwater animals? What cost do you put on those issues?
So, the answer regarding economics of CCR versus OC is not so simple. Whether you should jump into the sphere of CCR diving depends on how much time and budget you can dedicate to technical diving. However, when you try CCR once, you will be hooked forever. At least, that’s from my perspective.