Tips when buying your 1st scuba diving gear

The right gear should feel comfortableWhen a diver falls in love with the underwater world, it doesn’t take long for him/her to consider investing in one’s own scuba diving gear.  It’s alright to rent dive equipment when you’re just starting out but when you become a certified diver and diving turns into a regular activity, it’s good to have a reliable gear that you can count on.

Scuba diving equipment can be quite expensive so it’s advisable to plan your purchase carefully and weigh your options before making that big investment. Keep in mind that you’re not obligated to buy everything at once. You can gradually build your dive kit starting with the more important things. For the meantime, you can look for a diving shop that rents out well-maintained equipment at a reasonable price until you’ve completed your diving set.

Here are some useful tips and suggestions that might help you in making your purchase:

Determine the need – Before anything else, ask yourself, do you really need your own diving gear?  Weigh the pros and cons of buying vs. renting scuba diving equipment including factors like price, the frequency of use, etc.

Diving equipment can be quite pricey so if you’re only diving once or twice a year, it might not be a good idea to invest in one just yet.  For someone who doesn’t dive often, renting gear might be a more cost-effective choice.

Test different brand equipment – It’s highly advisable to try out different kinds of diving gear especially the expensive equipment like the regulator, dive computer, and BCD before purchasing your own. Not all scuba equipment come in standard sizes or work in all types of conditions; so what works for some divers may not be ideal for you.  

It’s good to read reviews about scuba gear but you cannot solely depend on them.  Make your own performance test by trying the brand and model that you’ve read about.  

You can rent, borrow from a friend, or test demo kits in diving showrooms. Compare the strengths and weaknesses of the equipment to narrow down your options and you can also ask suggestions from people working in top-rated dive centers. It’s easier to come up with a final decision when you have eliminated the ones that did not meet your standard.

Starting with the basics – You don’t have to buy a complete dive kit immediately especially if you’re short on budget. If you’re building your own kit, it’s best to begin with basic dive gear.

  • Mask – First thing to do when buying a mask is to choose a style. Common choices include the Classic Mask (one big lens that keeps your nose inside), Single-Lens Mask (one glass pane in front of your eyes), Twin-Lens Mask (separate lens in front of each eye), Side-Pane Mask (an additional viewing pane to either side solves the “blinder” effect of conventional mask), and Full Face Mask (covers the whole face with a mouthpiece built into it).

Regardless of style preference, it is recommended that you invest in a good quality diving mask with strong tempered glass so it could withstand the pressures of the deep.  

The fit and comfort of the mask are also important considerations when choosing one. The skirt of the mask should feel secure around the eye without any gaps.  Make sure that your upper lip, nose, and temples feel comfortable.

You may ask the guidance of a dive center specialist or dive shop sales representative to help you choose the best style and fit appropriate for you.

  • Fins – Select the ideal fins for you based on your purpose and preferences. For instance, the full foot fins are best for snorkelers because they are easy to slip on and off while the open-heeled fins help the diver walk over difficult terrain. Open-heeled fins often require the use of boots which are purchased separately. Another option is the long freediving fins that provide a higher level of power from fewer kick cycles.  Technical fins, on the other hand, are bulky and short for easy maneuvering, especially when diving in confined spaces. Recreational divers usually go for fins that have average length because they are easier and more convenient to use. Determining the right straps can also make a difference when selecting fins; common choices of which are spring straps and standard rubber straps.  
  • Wetsuit – Not all dive gears are created equal especially when it comes to wetsuits which come in different sizes to fit various body types.  For frequent divers, purchasing your own wetsuit best-suited for your body size will ensure that you’ll be comfortable when you dive in the water and your body will be able to maintain or increase its heat accordingly. Having one for personal use can help eliminate the time wasted trying on different wetsuits and the occasional frustration that comes with it.
  • Regulator and mouthpiece – Buying your first regulator may seem like an overwhelming task because of its multiple components.  A standard regulator is made up of five elements namely (1) First stage (attaches to the scuba tank valve) , (2) Second stage (mouthpiece for breathing), (3) Alternate air source (spare mouthpiece), (4)  Low pressure BCD inflator (connected to the first stage by low-pressure hose), and (5) SPG or submersible pressure gauge (connected to a high pressure port on your first stage to check level of air pressure).  You can ask the opinion of a diving center expert or dive shop staff to better understand the different components and help you select the right regulator.

Feel at home in the waterWhen it comes to the mouthpiece, pick one made of good quality material and also feels comfortable to give you better air consumption. There are several types of mouthpiece namely: (1) Standard mouthpiece (made up of two small, untextured tabs which the diver bites down on to keep the regulator in place), (2) Long Bite mouthpiece (has long bite tabs that extends far into a diver’s mouth/not ideal for divers with narrow mouths), (3) Cushioned (composed of soft grips on the bite to avoid divers from biting through it), (4) Bridged, Winged and Tooth-Covering (these types help to lock the mouthpiece in place), (5) No Bite (also designed to prevent divers from biting through it), and (6) Custom Fit (involves cutting the piece at your preferred length). Before making a final purchase, make sure that the mouthpiece fits your regulator’s second stage. It’s advisable to get a spare one when you find the mouthpiece style best-suited for you.

  • Dive computer, BCD, etc. – You don’t have to feel pressured to buy the more expensive equipment at once. Renting out different dive equipment will give you a good comparison and may help you choose the one ideal for you later on when you’re ready to make the purchase.

Happy diving – As you may have realized, buying your own scuba diving gear involves a lot of considerations.  Remember to take your time reading published reviews, getting feedback from family and friends, asking for advice from dive experts, and testing different equipment before making a purchase.  Once you’ve assembled the perfect gear, you’ll certainly have more reasons to enjoy exploring the underwater world.

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