Thankfully, scuba diving equipment has come a long way over the years, more affordable, more lightweight and with more safety features. If you are intending to Go Pro, then you will certainly need your own equipment, but for recreational divers, with so much dive gear available to rent, why invest in your own personal scuba equipment? Well, for starters, having gear that is comfortable, suits the type of diving you do and is always available are just a few advantages. There might also be something to be said regarding safety, your buddy checks should be the final time you check over the equipment before the dive, not the first. Knowing where your dump valves and all of the other safety features can be found quickly is a must. Having your own gear means you will know your way around it blindfolded (Disclaimer: Scuba Futures does not recommend diving blindfolded!). Having your own gear also means you know exactly when it was last serviced and that it is in tip-top condition.
Buying dive gear is not cheap, eventually though, it can pay for itself, as many dive centres offer a discount if you bring your own equipment. Since it’s a large investment, most people acquire their gear over time rather than in one wallet-torturing transaction. So what is the most important thing to buy first? There is no right or wrong answer, but below I have listed my recommended sequence in order to gain maximum benefit as quickly as possible:
- Mask, snorkel & fins
Finding a mask that fits like a glove is probably one of the biggest changes to comfort you will achieve. No more squashed nose, far less leakage and a profile that suits your face makes a world of difference. Fins too can have a big impact. Squashing your feet into ill-fitting hired fins all too often ends in blisters and cramps that make your dive a whole lot less fun. If you stumble across makes and models that work well for you while hiring equipment, take note and hunt them down. Getting these items first also means you have a top-notch kit for snorkelling at hand.
- Dive Computer
There was a time I would have placed this further down the list, but dive computers have come a long way in terms of size, capability and price. PADI have even brought out a new version of the Open Water Course in which more emphasis is put on using computers while diving. They have fewer limitations in terms of bottom time calculation vs the dive table and more people use them than ever. Since they are small and light they are also a good choice for the traveling diver in terms of prioritisation. While most dive centres do have some computers for hire, they may not have huge stocks and they can also be an additional cost on top of the standard gear rental charges.
- Thermal Protection
This really depends on you and the conditions in which you dive, but even in warm waters, a diver can get cold quickly and having a wetsuit can help you stay safe and comfortable in the water for longer. A wetsuit that fits well is so much more effective than one that allows a shocking flush of cold water in without warning. There is another obvious advantage, although I am sure you would never pee in a suit, you can’t be so sure about the last wearer!
- BCD’s & Regulators
I have placed this last mainly due to the expense and the fact that this is where you should invest a fair chunk of your budget. My advice would be not to scrimp on your regulators. Go for the top end of your chosen brand and they will perform better and last longer. If you travel and dive infrequently, you can get very good quality travel regs which are lightweight. If you dive regularly or are planning to become a Divemaster or Scuba Diving Instructor, you should go for a more sturdy, heavyweight set that can withstand the usage. You are going to need regulators that can cope with being in a much-manhandled dive bag.
BCDs come in so many forms these days, jacket style, wings, female-fit and side inflate. While shopping for a BCD, make sure that comfort is a priority and also check that it has enough pocket space, D-rings, clips and lift for the type of diving you will be doing.
If you have found this guide useful, check back with us as we will be adding more detailed articles on selecting specific items in the coming months.