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What is a SCUBA Bailout Bottle?

   February 8th, 2023   Posted In: Articles   Tags:

What is a SCUBA Bailout Bottle?

Imagine you are out on an amazing SCUBA dive, chasing turtles, fighting some current, and you look down and you are out of air! Oops! In training, you are taught to watch your air often, but you also performed some skills to help in such a situation. However, what if you had an emergency SCUBA tank to use? These tanks are what are known as a SCUBA bailout bottle.

How Long Does a SCUBA Tank Last?

Asking how long a SCUBA tank lasts is like asking how long it takes someone to eat dinner. For SCUBA, It depends on the person, the depth, and the dive conditions, such as current. Air lasts a lot longer at shallower depths and for experienced, comfortable divers that have good buoyancy. This is why emergency SCUBA tanks are usually considered for deeper depths.

SCUBA Regulators

Standard SCUBA diving equipment comes with two regulators to breathe from, although the configuration may differ between setups. One regulator is your primary regulator to breathe from and one is an alternate air source from which your buddy can breathe off of in an emergency. However, what if you have lost your buddy, you are out of air, and you are kind of deep? This is where the SCUBA bailout bottle comes in handy.

What is a Bailout Bottle?

SCUBA bailout bottles are also known as spare air. They are very simple and small compared to a regular SCUBA tank. Bailout bottles attach in a holster that can be easily clipped to your BCD. They are only meant to give you a few breaths, just enough to get to the surface in an emergency. Although, studies suggest that such a small bailout bottle does not hold enough air if the out if air situation happened at deeper depths such as 100 feet.

Pony Bottle

A pony bottle is technically not a SCUBA bailout bottle. Pony bottles are larger and have a more normal regulator system attached. They are meant to last longer. However, they are normally used in low on air or out of air situations as well. 

How Does a SCUBA Bailout Bottle Work? 

SCUBA bailout bottles are considered a fully redundant system, meaning they will work if your primary pieces of SCUBA gear fail. The standard SCUBA bailout bottle has a regulator that is fixed in place by screwing into the bottle itself. The SCUBA bailout bottle is always “on”. This means that in an emergency out of air situation, all you have to do is grab the bottle with one hand and breathe off it. There is a pressure gauge located on the bottle. It also has clips and a safety lanyard to attach to your BCD. Most SCUBA bailout bottles are lightweight, weighing just about two pounds.

Who Needs a SCUBA Bailout Bottle?

The average, everyday recreational diver should not need a SCUBA bailout bottle. Professional SCUBA divers, other than instructors, are required to have one as part of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. In some cases, professional divers have multiple methods of regulator redundancy, including staged bottles on ascent lines and at decompression stops. Solo divers are also required to have a bailout bottle since they have no buddy to rely on for out of air situations. In the end, carrying a SCUBA bailout bottle does no harm, and if an emergency out of air situation should happen, you might just have a few extra breaths to reach the surface.

How to Avoid Out of Air Emergencies 

The easiest way to avoid ever being out of air while SCUBA diving is to watch your air! A prudent diver always knows how much air is in their SCUBA tank because they look at it so often. If you find yourself out of air while diving, it is very important not to panic, which sounds easier said than done. 

Here are three ways to avoid an emergency if you run out of air:

1. Stay next to your buddy. You should always be within two seconds reach of your buddy. If you are out of air, you will use your buddy’s alternate air source. 

2. Always do the deepest part of your dive first then slowly come shallower towards the end of your dive. If you are out of air, your buddy is not near you, but you are shallower than 30 feet, you can ascend with a controlled emergency swimming ascent.

3. Use a SCUBA bailout bottle. If you are nowhere near your buddy and deeper than 30 feet, a SCUBA bailout bottle might give you those couple extra breaths as you fight your way to the surface.

Overall, SCUBA bailout bottles bring a little extra comfort to divers. However, as SCUBA divers, you should watch your air pressure constantly, ascend to shallower depths as the dive continues, and always stay next to your buddy!

Candace is an avid scuba diver and freelance writer with a PhD in Biomedicine. She has been diving since 2002 and is currently a PADI IDC Staff Instructor. When she is not instructing, she enjoys writing about scuba and volunteering at the local aquarium where she dives with the sharks!

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