If you’ve ever picked up a new hobby, you’ve experienced the temptation of wanting to buy everything related to it. Diving is no different. There is so much cool gear that the temptation to drop a few thousand on the latest and greatest can be strong. But, for many reasons, this is a temptation that must be resisted. Let’s take a look at what you should and shouldn’t buy when you first get into diving.
Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Full Dive Set-Up
There is a lot of equipment you will find yourself using when you first start diving. But, you shouldn’t be in a rush to just go out and buy it all. For one, you have no idea how much you are actually going to be diving.
One of the great things about getting an Open Water Diving Certification is that it is good for life. But, many people do not do much diving past their initial open water certification. Diving is a luxury activity. For most people, there is not a lot of places around them where they can just rent some equipment and go diving. Instead, they need to book plane tickets and hotels and dive packages. These barriers prevent many people from doing a lot of diving.
For hardcore diving enthusiasts, these obstacles pose little challenge. But, diving may not be your number one priority when you go on vacation. So, rushing out to buy a lot of equipment can leave you out thousands of dollars you could have saved by just renting.
Another reason you don’t want to buy everything upfront is that you don’t know what you will need. There are many different paths you can take as a diver. You can get into technical diving, wreck diving, or remain a recreational diver. You may find the equipment you bought is unsuitable for future diving activities.
Finally, one of the primary reasons to hold off on purchasing equipment is that it can be expensive. For a complete setup, you will be shelling out at least a thousand dollars. If you choose to purchase top-quality equipment, multiple thousands of dollars. This is money that you can save and use for diving trips and advanced diving courses. Instead, in the beginning, it can be better to rent most of your equipment. Later on, when you have a better idea of the equipment you need, you can purchase the rest of your diving setup.
What Dive Gear You Must Have
You may not want to buy a complete diving setup when you first start out. But, there are a few things which all new divers should go ahead and buy. The main pieces of equipment you will want as a new diver are:
- Mask and Snorkel
- Dive Booties (boots)
- Dive Computer
Mask and Snorkel
You can use your mask and snorkel for more than just diving. Chances are, when not underwater, you will want to enjoy other activities people like to do at the beach. This means you are going to be doing some snorkeling.
Having a quality mask and snorkel can make this activity much more fun. Rather than renting a cheap mask and snorkel from the hotel that leaks, you can use your own. It’s also nice to have a mask that fits your face perfectly.
Remember that when diving your body will be under a lot of pressure. This means all of the equipment you are wearing is going to be pushed into your body. If you’re wearing a rental dive shop mask, it may not be the best fit for your face. It might be uncomfortable and can create mask squeeze.
This is another piece of equipment you are going to want to be comfortable in. Everybody’s body is different. Some people are tall and others short and some people are wide in the arms and others wide in the stomach. Dive shops do their best to stock wetsuits to fit most people. But, the reality is, they may not have the size that fits you perfectly.
An improperly sized wetsuit is not only going to be uncomfortable, but it may also not do its job of keeping you warm. Instead of relying on the dive shop, it can be a good idea to buy a few different suits you know are going to fit.
There are many different thicknesses of wetsuit for the different water temperatures. Your best bet is to think about the areas you will be diving in most often. If you will be diving a lot of colder waters, then going for a 5mm wetsuit can be a good idea. But, if you are like most people who dive tropical waters, a rash guard may be a better idea. We prefer a 3mm wetsuit as it is right in between warm and cold. It provides a good amount of warmth without causing you to overheat in warmer waters.
These are neoprene boots that divers use for warmth and protection. You can opt for full boots in colder waters or reef shoes for warmer waters. They come in both hard or softer bottoms.
We like having a pair of hard bottom dive booties as they can be worn in the place of sandals on land. They make for excellent foot protection. So, you can wear them throughout the day when you are going around the beach and snorkeling.
You will also find that most dive shops use barefoot diving fins. These are diving fins that fit over your feet. We instead prefer fins that fit over your dive booties. So, you will obviously need a pair of your own dive booties sized to your feet in order to use these fins.
As we mentioned above, we prefer to use spring-loaded fins that fit over dive booties. There are a few different reasons for this. But, the primary one is that they are more comfortable than barefoot fins.
Most dive shops use barefoot fins. These go over your bare feet and are oftentimes uncomfortable. Depending on the fin, they can cause you to tire out much faster. Also, they can rub the skin on your feet, leaving cuts and blisters.
The alternative to this is fins that fit over your dive booties. The dive booties protect your feet and you can get a fin with stiffness appropriate to your skill level. If you have strong legs you can opt for a stiffer fin that will give you more thrust. But, if you don’t have strong legs, a less stiff fin can be purchased so you don’t cramp up so easily.
It is also nice to be able to get on and off the boat and easily remove your fins. The spring-loaded fins have two springs that hold a strap over the back of the dive booties. You can easily take this on and off and use your dive booties as shoes for moving around. This way you aren’t having to switch between shoes and fins when getting on and off the dive boat.
This is one of the most expensive pieces of dive equipment you will buy. So, we do not recommend purchasing a dive computer until you are sure that you will be in it for the long haul. But, out of all of the expensive equipment you can buy, this should be the first.
Most dive computers allow you to customize them based on your specific needs when diving. They will also allow you to save the information from each dive so that you can review it later. This can help you to become a better diver. You can see where your weaknesses are and how you can improve your breathing to extend bottom time.
But, as we mentioned, this is the most expensive piece of equipment you will buy. Dive computers can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. We also recommend that you opt for a dive computer with air integration capabilities. This is a sensor that can be added to your tank to monitor air pressure and consumption. This means you will be buying one of the computers that run in the thousands.
What You Should Wait to Buy
There is a lot of equipment that you absolutely should not buy as a beginner diver. The primary reason for this is that you can rent it and you may not get the right equipment. If you are just getting into diving, you should hold off before buying:
- Regulator Set
This is your flotation device. It is one of the most important pieces of equipment you use when diving and is a part of your life support system. You don’t want to buy one when you first get started as you may decide you need something different later on.
There are two main types of BCDs, jacket style and wing style. The jacket style BCD fits just like a jacket. It is similar to a life vest that you put on and clip in the front. This is the most popular type of BCD for recreational divers and is likely what you will use when you get started.
If you later decide you want to get into wreck diving or cave diving, though, you will want a wing style BCD. This type of BCD is a harness that you can fit with a backplate and different types of bladders. You can set it up for a twin set, which is two tanks on your back, or a side mount, which is tanks on your side. Each set up has advantages and disadvantages when diving in confined environments.
So, if you purchase a jacket style BCD, you may find yourself needing to spend a few hundred more for a wing-style BCD. Also, BCDs are bulky and heavy. Traveling with a BCD often means you will be needing to purchase extra allowance at the airport. Better to just use a rental when you first get started and wait till later to buy your own.
This is the most important piece of equipment you will use as a diver. It is your primary life support system and delivers air to you during your dive. Regulator sets are both expensive and require regular maintenance. For this reason, we do not encourage new divers to purchase one.
Owning a regulator set requires you to have it maintained by a certified technician. All regulators are not created equal. You may find your specific regulator is not serviced in your area. This means you will need to mail it to the factory to be serviced which can take weeks.
You will also need to take the time to maintain it after each dive. If you do not do this properly you will find yourself needing a new regulator sooner rather than later. It is better to just rent a regulator set from the dive center you are diving with. If you are diving with a reputable center they will have well-maintained regulators.
Yes, you will need to buy some equipment to get started as a new diver. But, you don’t need to shell out tons of money to get what you really need. Don’t make the mistake of splurging on thousands of dollars of unnecessary equipment. There are much better areas to spend your money. Including, taking courses and actually doing what you enjoy, taking trips and diving.