Explaining the Hogarthian Set-up

William (Bill) Hogarth Maine is a cave diver and in the late 1980s he developed a system and a philosophy that still carries his name today. By looking at diving legends such as Scheck Exley, and combing their approaches with what the North Florida cave divers were doing at the time, he developed his ‘safer and more efficient’ philosophy.


So why should you care... after all, this is cave diving right? No, it’s not as simple as that. Let’s have a look at this philosophy, and the gear configuration, because after all, you don’t have to be an astronaut to benefit from space travel – Teflon, Velcro... ever heard of these? If it wasn’t for NASA we’d never have them.


Hogarthian is simply simplifying things. KISS (keep it simple, stupid) explains this best – note the comma after simple – stupid means you! The concept is that if you don’t need it, don’t take it.


Let’s have a quick look at what a typical Hogarthian set-up looks like, as you have most probably seen divers wearing this, and although it looks very complicated, it is actually simpler than your standard dive gear…


Long hose and bungeed octo
This of course is the most obvious thing – a diver kitting up with a 2m hose next to you is sure to grab your attention. The long hose is mostly used by cave divers as it can easily be deployed when the diver has an out of air emergency. The hose is looped from the regulator down the right hand side, behind the light canister then across the chest, around the neck to the mouth. The out of air diver will simply grab the regulator out of the donating (?!) diver’s mouth. By simply dipping your head forward you release (as the other diver pulls) 2m of hose instantly. The divers are far enough apart so that they can swim through a restriction one behind the other, a necessary skill in a narrow tunnel. The donating diver will simply put his own octo in his mouth – this is conveniently stored on a bungee cord around his neck.


Whilst this might not sound like your cup of tea, consider when last you practised an out of air emergency? Can you remember how uncomfortable it feels having another diver in your face? Did you remember to turn the octo the right way around or were your first breaths very wet? Did you find the octo or was it stuck in your buddy’s pocket? Or dangling  somewhere behind him? Emergencies tend not to go as planned – with the Hogarthian set-up you are always ready, no matter what.


Harness and continuous webbing
Hogarthian/tech divers use a simple steel/aluminium/carbon fibre back plate with webbing threaded through. The webbing is continuous in that there are no clips to undo. (You don’t need clips...) The BC or wing simply bolts on to the back, no inflation around your middle, no material around your middle, no pockets, no pull tabs to tighten the BCD, no clutter… The inflation is where it works, on your back. The webbing has attachment points for cylinders, back-up torches and reels. No more – only enough clips to do the job. Recreational manufacturers have been trying to copy this ‘feel’ with ‘back inflation’ and ‘trim assist’, yet the basic plate and wing, the simple system, still beats them all. KISS… It might not look fashionable or funky but it works.


Lights and back-up lights
The light canister (battery pack) – yes, you need a big light (a primary) – goes on the right hand side, fits on the harness around your middle and the loop of the long hose is fitted behind it. With a Goodman handle the light rests on top of your hand, not held in it – this frees up your hands completely, yet you can still direct light where you need it.


Two back-ups are carried, not more. If you feel you need more back-up or lights due to previous multiple light failure, change your torch supplier or diving technique… more lights will just mean more failure points, less attention to service and more possible snags.
There is a lot more to Hogarthian gear configuration than discussed above and the mentioned items are just the more obvious ones. Manifolds, isolation valves, type of knobs, tanks, gauges, timing devices, computers and many more, are all things that the Hogarthian mind-set looks at, analyses and then either incorporate in a streamlined fashion or discards as unnecessary. I would rather discuss the advantages to the recreational diver of the Hogarthian philosophy than go through endless technical rhetoric.


The philosophy   
Remember that the philosophy is to eliminate the unnecessary while configuring the necessary in the most streamlined way possible. Simplicity and efficiency is the key. In other words, if you don’t need it, it could be a potential liability.
Have a look at your current gear set-up. Do you buy cool stuff and keep clipping it on to your BCD? Are your pockets filled with slates, pieces of rope, cyalumes, o-rings and your waterproof cigarette case? What do you really need to complete the dive?
For example, carrying a surface marker is a necessary and safe choice, yet having a ‘finger reel’ to ‘deploy’ it is stupid. After all, it’s a surface marker – you blow the thing up when you are on the surface, not underwater! I have personally seen many a macramé exit the water – a much more dangerous event caused by adding gear that looks cool.


Having lines and clips and fasteners to clip your camera onto your BC is silly – your sole reason is to take pictures, so hold the camera in your hand. Dropping it to let it dangle just because it is convenient becomes a possible hazard as the line can get entangled or trap you – in which case you will have to cut it in any case… just don’t take the line! The same goes for torches – if you are diving at night, the torch is in your hand and a lanyard around your wrist should suffice (pure Hogarthians would shudder at this – you don’t need the lanyard), clipping it on the BC is just looking for trouble.


Reduce what you take with you, reduce the stuff you don’t need, reduce your dependency on other divers, reduce, reduce, and reduce. Too many divers today seem under the impression that more is always better. I don’t advocate taking this philosophy to the extremes that cave divers do, but surely one can learn from it? Cluttering yourself with equipment simply to impress others is stupid and dangerous – and also expensive!
Reduce your dependency on others by checking your own gear when kitting up, opening your own tank, checking your own air and checking your own dive tables or computer. Use your own brain. I have heard many briefings that gave inaccurate and dangerous information, yet everyone nods knowingly and blindly follows the DM into the depths. Don’t stop at the happy smiley open water stage – do your advanced and rescue diver courses as they reduce your own risk and that of those who dive with you. Practice your skills as practiced skills are more readily retained and retained skills are the ones most likely to be automatically recalled in an emergency.


Equipment failure is not the cause of most diving accidents – divers not being adequately prepared is. Not properly cleaning and servicing equipment, too much equipment, confusing configuration (octo in pocket…), or failing to practice basic skills are all examples of inadequate preparation. Hogarthian philosophy is not just about equipment configuration but also about the attitude that goes with it.
Your equipment should be a complete unit that enhances and facilitates your dives and not an arbitrary collection of what was on special last week. Buying fancy computers that beep when you are too deep, beep when you are too shallow, beep when you are low on air or just simply beeps, makes you dependant on a R35 battery.


New equipment is constantly being developed and pushed on to the market. Diving is big business and is set to become bigger as people look for means of escaping everyday stress. You need to evaluate gear before you buy it, asking yourself, is it really necessary? If not, try and minimise. Dive with what you need, not what the salesman says you need…