Starters guide for buying scuba equipment

Introduction

There are just so many different bits of scuba gear and just as much choice of style and brands. That it can make choosing your first set of scuba diving equipment. A very confusing and daunting task. Besides, we all know that diving is full of acronyms and shortened terms! Every diver has their own opinion on equipment based on their own diving. There is endless conflicting advice on the internet. Whether you’re looking to purchase your first set of gear. Want to learn more about your equipment or if you don’t want to mispronounce anything. Here is a basic guide of scuba diving equipment for beginners.

At activescuuba.com  this is how we look to approach it with divers. That are looking to purchase their beginner scuba gear. We find it easier to break it all down into stages:

Stage 1 – The essentials that you’ll need in a pool for training

Stage 2 – Basic life support equipment

Stage 3 – Everything else (depending on the diving you choose to do)

Essential Scuba Diving Equipment

For the vast majority of new divers you’ll start off with learning skills in a pool with your instructor. Most dive centers will have kit you can borrow as part of the course. But it is a good idea to get some basic bits of kit now. Like a mask, snorkel and a pair of fins to ensure they are comfortable to use & fit well.

Phase One: The Basics

Scuba Mask

The one-pane oval mask of Sea Hunt and those old Bond films is practically a relic. In its place is a variety of styles for a world of faces. Your job: Choose the one right for yours.

What It Does – The scuba mask creates an air space in front of your eyes that allows them to focus under water. The nose pocket allows you to equalize the air pressure in your mask as you go deeper.

What to Look For – A good watertight fit. Check out our mask fitting guide:

  1. Look up at the ceiling and place the mask on your face without using the strap. It should rest evenly with no gaps.
  2. Look forward. Place the mask on your face without using the strap and gently inhale through your nose. The mask should seal easily on your face. Caution: A strong inhale will close minor leak areas and invalidate this test.
  3. Place a regulator or snorkel mouthpiece in your mouth. Does the mask still feel comfortable? Any gaps yet?
  4. Repeat the sniff test with a mouthpiece in place.
  5. If the mask is still in the running, adjust the strap and put it on your face. Make sure the nose pocket doesn’t touch your nose and that the skirt feels comfortable on your upper lip.
  6. Put the regulator mouthpiece in one more time to make sure you can easily reach the nose pocket to equalize your ears.

If the above works on any mask, then this should be the mask for you. You’ll find a whole range of options on diving masks, including side, top and bottom panes for a wider field of vision. Some also have purge valves for venting any water that leaks in. Others have quick strap adjustments. Just make sure the mask you choose fits right.

Snorkel

It seems simple enough. A curved tube that lets you breathe while floating face-down on the surface. Yet, as you look at the giant wall of snorkels at your local dive store. You’ll see an array of options and features to choose from. Don’t worry. Stay focused on the basics.

As a diver, you primarily use a snorkel to conserve air in your tank when on the water’s surface.

You need to focus on comfort. You want a mouthpiece that feels good in your mouth and breathes dry and easy. The problem is. Most attempts to keep snorkels dry also make them bulkier and harder to breathe through. The snorkel for you is one with a good compromise between ease of breathing and dry comfort. Remember, the bigger a snorkel is, the more drag it creates in the water. Also important: how the snorkel attaches to your mask. Look for a durable, yet simple and easy-to-operate attachment.

Scuba Fins

Fish don’t have legs for the simple reason that fins are the best way to move through water. So if you’re going to play in the fish’s territory, you need a good set of fins too.

How they work? Fins translate power from the large leg muscles into efficient movement through water. Which is 800 times denser than air.

What to Look For – Comfort and efficiency. When trying on fins, look for a snug fit that doesn’t pinch your toes or bind the arches of your feet. If you can’t wiggle your toes, the fins are too small.

The efficiency of fins is largely determined by their size, stiffness, and design. Divers with strong leg and hip muscles can efficiently use a bigger, stiffer fin. Smaller divers or less conditioned divers will be more comfortable with smaller, more flexible fins. Finally, make sure buckles and straps are easy to use.

Wetsuit

Form-fitting exposure suits are usually made of foam neoprene rubber. Or spandex-like materials (skins), sometimes with a fleece lining.

close up of wetsuit

What They Do – Exposure suits insulate you against the cooling effect of water. Which can rob your body of heat 25 times faster than air. The thickness and type of exposure protection you need depends on dive conditions. Simple Lycra suits provide little thermal insulation. But do help protect against scrapes and stings.

A wetsuit keeps you warm in two ways:

Keeping Water Out. Any water that gets inside the suit is going to leak out again. When the water is inside, it absorbs some of your body heat. When it leaves, it takes that heat with it. So the first thing a wetsuit has to do is keep the cold ocean from flushing through it. A good fit, one that feels equally snug everywhere, is critical. So the space the ocean wants to use to flow along your skin is as small as possible.

Providing Insulation Against Heat Loss. A little science here: Solids and liquids conduct heat well; gases do not. Air, for example, is about 20 times less conductive than water. As a practical matter, good insulation — above or below water — is all about trapping air. That’s why neoprene foam works so well. Gas bubbles are permanently trapped inside the “closed cells” of the wetsuit material.

Some features can help the suit do its job. They include: wrist, collar and ankle seals. Sealing flaps behind zippers, pre-bent arms and legs. Along with a smooth inner coatings to minimize water flow inside the suit.

What to Look For – Fit and comfort. Exposure suits should fit snugly without restricting movement or breathing. Reject any suit that’s too loose, however. Gaps at the arm, leg, crotch and neck allow water to circulate and defeat the suit’s ability to prevent heat loss.

Here’s a guide to choosing the right weight for the conditions you dive in.

Exposure Suit Comfort Zones

Water Temp

75-85F – 1/16″ (1.6mm) neoprene, Lycra, Polartec

70-85F – 1/8″ (3mm) neoprene

65-75F – 3/16″ (5mm) neoprene

50-70F – 1/4″ (6.5mm) neoprene

35-65F – 3/8″ (9.5mm) neoprene, dry suit

Having your own gear is essential to enjoy this sport fully and to maximize your comfort and safety. Remember that your experience with equipment is limited. You’ve got to study the field and understand what you want and need out of each piece of gear.

Phase Two: Life-Support Equipment

Scuba BCDs

The BCD also called a BC or buoyancy compensator. Is the most complex piece of dive equipment you’ll own and one of the most important. So choose based on the style of diving you’ll be doing most.

How it works? It holds your gear in place, lets you carry a tank with minimal effort. Also floats you at the surface and allows you to achieve neutral buoyancy at any depth.

What to Look For – Correct size and fit. Before you try on BCDs, slip into the exposure suit you’ll wear most often. Look for a BCD that fits but doesn’t squeeze you when inflated. The acid test: inflate the BCD until the overflow valve vents. The BCD should not restrict your breathing. While you’ve got the BCD on, test all valves for accessibility and ease of use. Then make sure the adjustments, straps and pockets are easy to reach and use.

Pay particular attention to the inflator hose. Is it easy to reach and extend over your head? Make sure there’s a clear distinction between the inflate and deflate buttons. Ensure that you can operate them easily with one hand

How Much BCD Lift Do you Need?

Tropical Diving (with little or no wetsuit protection) – 12 to 24 pounds

Recreational Diving (with a full wetsuit or dry suit) – 20 to 40 pounds

Technical Diving (or diving under other demanding conditions) – 40 to 80 pounds

Scuba Regulators

The good news with regulators is that there are no rubbish ones. Regulators have been perfected to the point. That even budget regulators can offer high performance. However, you must do your homework before buying this vital piece of gear.

How it works? – Converts the high-pressure air in your tank to ambient pressure so you can breathe it. A regulator must also deliver air to other places. Such as your BC inflator and alternate second stage.

What to Look For – High performance. The best regulators can deliver a high volume of air at depth. Under heavy exertion even at low tank pressures. Some regulators also have diver-controlled knobs and switches to aid this process. So it’s important to understand the controls and how they work.

Comfort. Look for a comfortable mouthpiece. Have your local dive store select hoses of the right length for you.

Try as many regulators as you can in real-world diving situations. Breathing on a regulator in a dive store tells you nothing about how it will perform under water.

Dive Computers

Nobody enjoys working the dive tables, but they’re an invaluable tool for safe diving. Dive computers are an even better tool for the same reason a laptop is better than a slide rule.

What They Do – By constantly monitoring depth and bottom time. Dive computers automatically recalculate your no-decompression status, giving you longer dive times. While still keeping you within a safe envelope of no-decompression time. Computers can also monitor your ascent rate and tank pressure. They tell you when it’s safe to fly, log your dives and much more. That’s why dive computers are almost as common as depth gauges these days.

What to Look For – User-friendliness. The most feature-packed dive computer does you no good if you can’t easily access the basic information you need during a dive. depth, time, decompression status and tank pressure. Some models have both numeric and graphic displays for at-a-glance information.

Mounting options are an important feature to consider. They let you position computers on your wrist, gauge console, hoses or attach them to BCs.

Some computers are conservative in their calculations, automatically building in safety margins.  Others take you to the edge of decompression and trust you to build in your own safety margins. Only RSD publishes a chart ranking the relative conservatism of dive computers on the market today.

Before you buy, ask to see the owner’s manual and check it out. Complete and easy-to-understand instructions are important.

Scuba Diving Weights

Even if you’re the heaviest, leanest diver out there. You’ll probably need to use weights at some point when scuba diving.

Traditionally weights are worn on a weight belt. But can also be placed in quick-release pockets integrated into your BCD. Or additional trim pockets to give you more flexibility.

Scuba Diving Tank

The tank, or cylinder, is what contains the air you breathe when scuba diving. Made from either aluminum or steel. A scuba tank is specifically designed to hold large volumes of air at high pressure.

Scuba Diving Gear: The Key Accessories

Here we’ve included the most important dive accessories. But there are also underwater cameras, waterproof bags, tank bangers, pointers, and much more.

Dive knife (Cutting tool)

Just so you know, a dive knife is not a weapon, it’s an emergency tool. A scuba diving knife or shear is designed to cut through anything you might become entangled in underwater.

Normally secured in a sheath, a dive knife can be attached to your BCD or strapped around your arm or leg. There’s a wide range of cutting tools designed specifically for scuba divers.

A dive light is a flashlight or torch designed for underwater use. It’s essential for night dives but we think it’s always useful to have a flashlight with you. As you never know what fascinating creatures you’ll find hiding in those small crevices!

As with most dive gear, underwater flashlights come in all different shapes and sizes.

Dive Compass

A dive compass is a compass designed specifically for navigating underwater. In addition to the usual free rotating magnetic north needle. That all compasses feature. A dive compass also has a lubber line to indicate your direction. Along with a rotating bezel which allows you to set a bearing. A dive compass can be worn on the wrist or mounted onto a hose alongside your pressure gauge.

Surface marker buoy

A surface marker buoy is an inflatable signaling device that is used to mark a divers location. Either underwater or after surfacing. SMBs are mandatory when drift or boat diving to ensure you’re visible.

Always brightly colored to ensure visibility. SMBs can be a long tube or around, more typical buoy shape.

Conclusion

We hope you’re feeling more confident. When it comes to the different pieces of scuba diving equipment. Remember it’s important that you feel comfortable with the dive gear that you’re using. Along with having all the essential equipment needed for each dive.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Jellyfish Species

Introduction Jellyfish are anatomically relatively simple animals; they lack not just brains, but also blood and bones, and possess only rudimentary sense organs. Despite their

Read More »

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *