The first dive torches were little more than flashlights wrapped in plastic bags (in fact, some divers used exactly that). But today, good dive torches can be found in any dive shop and at very reasonable prices, too. But there will always be divers who want something more.
From the military to diving
WiseLED, the Danish producer of LED-based flashlight, is the company behind a recent addition to the high-end selection of dive torches called WiseDive. Originally made for military and security personnel, WiseLED’s tactical flashlights have been used by divers for some years now thanks to their sturdy build and extremely high output (the first torches had a whopping 1500 lumen output, and that has only increased since). A few divers have, however, reported various problems with the torches, which can probably be explained by the fact that the torches weren’t actually intended for diving. They just happened to be so sturdy that you could bring them underwater with (almost) no problems.
From WiseLED to WiseDive
As a response to the reports from divers, WiseLED recently launched a new subseries of torches called the WiseDive. Designed specifically for diving, this series of six torches includes hand-held, flashlight-style torches, three canister-style torches and a backup torch. And, true to form, the output for each is stunning (almost literally):
- WiseDive Handheld: 3300 lumens
- WiseDive Handheld Tech: 2800 lumens
- WiseDive Canister 3300: 3300 lumens
- WiseDive Canister 5000: 5000 lumens
- WiseDive Canister Tech: 2800 lumens
- WiseDive Compact: 1600 lumens
Very similar in design, the torches are all made from shock-resistant plastic and aluminum and coated with a non-slip surface. All the torches are black with a few colorful touches in the details. And the torches are all rechargeable (note that burn time per charge varies with the model due to the difference in output).
A first hand experience with the WiseDive Handheld 3300 Lumens
On a recent dive, I had the chance to try out the Handheld 3300. While I used to have a WiseLED Tactical torch, I’ve been diving with dive-style torches for a while now, so when I got the chance to do a night dive with one of the new WiseDives, I jumped at it.
My first impression was how surprisingly light it is, considering the materials. On land, the torch feels like a good, sturdy, high-quality flashlight, similar to a MagLite. And it works on land as well as in the water thanks to an innovative cooling system that prevents the torch from overheating, (a common problem when dive torches are used above the surface).
This torch’s output is nothing short of astounding. Less powerful torches seem to simply drown out when you turn on the WiseDive, and one of the boat crew joked that I had “brought the daylight.” Luckily, the output on these torches can be dimmed. And you can connect the torch to a computer to program the intervals however you like. Defaults are 100, 80, 60, 40 and 20 percent intervals. Other features of the torch include strobe light (not to be used around epileptics) and an automatic function that beams S-O-S in Morse code.
The torch is a breeze to use underwater, with all the light you could possibly want – even at 60 percent. A colored light indicator at the base of the torch indicates battery life (two blue flashes = 80 to 100 percent of capacity, four blue flashes = 60 to 80 percent, two orange flashes = 40 to 60 percent, etc.), meaning you shouldn’t ever just run out of power. And while the strobe function is a good way to attract attention, I found it to be a bit of an annoyance – and even more so when you’re on the receiving end of the flashing light. I recommend using this feature for emergencies only, and not as a way of simply letting your fellow divers know you’ve seen something interesting.
Of course, since this torch is hand-held it means that the advantages of a canister torch are gone – since you’re forced to hold the torch in one hand, you’ll only have a single hand free. A canister torch with a Goodmand handle, on the other hand, leaves you with both hands free, for the most part. And of course you can solve the problem altogether by opting for one of WiseDive’s canister models instead of the handheld version that I tested.
So what’s the catch? Well, the price for one. These puppies aren’t cheap. The cheapest full-sized handheld (not counting the Compact) is the one I used, the Handheld 3300, which will set you back about $980. And the top-of-the-line canister, the Canister Tech, will set you back about $1,700! But for the money you get potentially one of the brightest dive torches on the market and, provided they’ve solved the problems of their previous models, also one of the sturdiest.
Granted, the kind of power these torches have is probably more than what most divers will ever need. But not all dive gear is based on what we know we need but rather on what we think we might need. And if you, like me, think you might one day need to bring the daylight to a night dive, this is the torch for you.
(As an illustration, mostly of the latter point, it could be fun to use this strip from the comic XKCD: https://xkcd.com/909/. It is licensed under Creative Commons).