Diving is by nature, a very gear intensive sport. With so many pieces of equipment and so many choices, it is no wonder that many divers make ill informed decisions or mistakes when purchasing equipment. SCUBA diving gear is life support equipment and consequently, it is worth investing some time in properly researching the best personal gear for you.
So, why make the investment in personal dive gear in the first place when there are countless opportunities to rent the gear instead? Ask any experienced diver and they will, without doubt, categorically stress the importance of owning and using their own gear. With personal gear, not only can fit and comfort can be guaranteed, but you also know the condition of the gear and how often and by whom it has been serviced. Rental gear is heavily used and whilst most dive centres service their equipment regularly, this can never be guaranteed. Remember that dive equipment is essentially life support equipment. With this in mind, I would always choose have my own gear and take it with me wherever I go. Another benefit of having your own gear is that it pays for itself very quickly as most dive operators will give a discount for diving with your own gear rather than using the rental equipment. When I first invested in my gear, I also found that it forced me to dive more (not an issue!), as I had good spent money on all this gear and did not want it to sit unused in the shed!
Purchasing a complete set of gear is a major investment for any diver, especially those that are new to the sport. With this in mind, many divers acquire a complete set of gear over time, in multiple transactions. For those planning on acquiring gear over time, I recommend the following sequence for your purchases:
1. Snorkel Equipment – Mask, snorkel, mask tamer and fins. Great fitting and suitably chosen “software packages” will, without doubt make the biggest difference to divers over standard rental equipment. Furthermore, following acquisition of appropriate snorkel equipment, there are countless opportunities partake in free snorkelling whether on your surface intervals or in-between dive trips. Useful hints and tips on selecting snorkel equipment can be found in later articles.
2. Computer and Thermal Protection – Whilst many diver centres in Australia will provide a dive computer as part of standard rental equipment, many dive locations further afield will not provide computers. Given the restrictions of the Recreational Dive Planner in terms of assuming the maximum depth used for the whole duration of the dive and rounding up of depths and times, a dive computer is one of the first purchases that divers should consider. Computers are also lightweight and therefore easy to travel with.
In terms of thermal protection, a great fitting, flexible and well designed personal wetsuit will, without doubt provide superior thermal protection to the standard, often ill fitting wetsuits. In addition, surely I do not even need to mention the hygiene benefits of a personal suit. I KNOW I have never peed in my wetsuit but I can guarantee that countless individuals have “christened” the rental suits on offer!
3. Hardware packages – BCD’s, regulators and the rest. I would recommend selecting the best regulators than you can afford. In my experience, regs from the top ends of a manufacturers range will offer far superior performance than entry level regs, so spend some time comparing options and splurge a little here. There is a huge range of BCD’s on the market, from lightweight travel versions to wings, jacket style, female only, side inflate options and so on. Select a BCD that has enough pocket space, clips/D-rings and lift capacity for the diving that you plan on doing and ensure fit and comfort are top of your list regarding selection.
Over the coming months, we’ll be adding more detailed articles on how to choose your dive gear. Here’s a few to get you started: