Working at a dive shop, I’ve often heard divers say that there was “something wrong” with their BCD because the tank kept slipping out of the strap.
Guess what? 99% of the time, there is nothing wrong with your BCD’s tank strap; rather, this is an instance of user error. Not much can go wrong with that strap, so it’s more likely that when you were learning to dive, some of the details surrounding this particular gear set-up skill just got lost in the mix.
You might remember reading in your Open Water Diver manual that you should wet your tank strap before putting it over your tank. This is indeed a helpful tip, but is most useful for brand new BCDs that don’t have the strap broken in yet or for BCDs with straps that have become stiff from infrequent use (you should certainly prevent the latter by diving waaaay more frequently). If you are lucky enough to get to dive regularly, it probably won’t be necessary to wet it first.
There are a couple of tips that can help you get it right every time, and to really get it, just check out our video clip.
Tip 1: Use your knees to sort of trap the BCD in place on the tank to keep it from twisting or sliding as you work with the strap. Also, if you are using a weight-integrated BCD, don’t put your weights in until the BCD is on your tank.
Tip 2: The hand that is pulling the strap should have something to use for leverage. In the video clip, Jay uses his thigh, but you can also rest the side of your hand against the tank and use that too.
Tip 3: When you’ve got the strap pulled tight, keep the buckle rocked to the side so that the strap can’t loosen; doing this holds it in place while you thread the strap through the last slot.
Tip 4: If your buckle makes a loud snapping sound (listen for it in the video), chances are good that you’ve got it on there nice and tight.
Finally, you can double check your work by grabbing the top of your BCD and the buckle on the strap and giving the whole shebang a good jerk. If anything moves, your strap might not be secure and you should start over. Also, when you look at the strap on your tank, it should be at a right angle or perfectly horizontal across the tank, not at any other angle. A strap that looks like it’s at any other angle is already slipping and that’s something that you should catch during your buddy check.
What if your tank does slip? Usually it’s more embarrassing than dangerous, but it is something you want to fix right away. Your dive buddy should be able to assist you with that, or if you’re underwater when it happens, you might even be able to remove your BCD, fix the strap yourself, and then put your BCD back on…but that’s for another blog.
Has this ever happened to you? If so, tell us about it in the comments section below!