A recreational diver’s guide to investing in your new underwater passion
So you have acquired your scuba diving certification, you loved the experience, a new world has been opened up to you and you’re looking to get serious… time to invest in some gear! Woo! But what should you buy first? How do you prioritize? Omg, should you get that BCD because it’s on a discount now?! Oh, there is also a host of opinions and recommendations online to further complicate matters.
To differ slightly from the opinions of other respected professionals, our take on how to invest your hard earned money on dive equipment basically boils down to understanding yourself and dive safety.
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom
First off – Try to imagine your diving aspirations and what type of diver do you want to be. There really isn’t a point in getting kitted up if you’re the once-a-year holiday kinda diver. Rental gears at reputable dive centres or resorts should be reliable and serviced regularly, so you need not worry there.
If you really want to get your own gear at this stage, invest in a quality MASK, SNORKEL and FINS. These are relatively cheaper, easy on the baggage, hassle-free maintenance, versatile (its uses extend beyond scuba diving, for instance… snorkeling), and more importantly clean! Who else feels disgusted with spit-cleaned rental masks, and oh gosh, where has that snorkel been? These are one of the more “personal” pieces of equipment you own, and getting properly fitted mask, snorkel and fins increases the comfort of your dives which is a huge plus.
Now if you’re going to be diving more regularly and realizing rental fees do pile up over time, you are probably thinking of getting a wetsuit, or that cool BCD you saw on sale. However, we suggest you focus your attention to SAFETY.
Be alert, accidents hurt!
When it comes to diving, safety is of utmost importance. Therefore, we would strongly recommend getting a dive computer, and a surface marker buoy (SMB).
DIVE COMPUTER: Fantastic piece of kit to keep an eye on your dive profile to planning your dives more effectively (RDP rings a bell? Anyone?), keep track of your NDL given your dive profile, alerting you if you are on a quick ascent rate, and more accurately calculates your surface intervals and no-fly times (especially useful for multi-day/dive holidays). Dive computers are increasingly becoming a norm, and it’s a life-saving equipment that is not to be missed.
SURFACE MARKER BOUY (SMB): The humble “sausage”, a visual signaling device that is often overlooked. If you have experienced buddy separation and ascending in areas with boat traffic, you would appreciate that a SMB is another piece of inexpensive equipment that could save your life. The act of deploying a SMB is highly recommended to be second nature just as how you clear a flooded mask. Make it a habit to deploying it after every dive even if your dive guide or buddy is deploying one.
Next up… more protection! Keeping your core body temperatures all snuggly
EXPOSURE SUITS: The level of priority depends on where you normally dive. If you are primarily a cold water diver, it is not a good idea to rent drysuits given the safety hazards of incorrect sizes and (gasp!) leakages. However, if you are like the majority who dives in tropical waters, a wetsuit would be your next piece of equipment for the simple fact that… everyone pees in them. Usually reputable dive centres do clean the rental wetsuits, and quite honestly the pee wouldn’t be a problem then, but with your own properly fitted wetsuit, it’s always comforting to know that the only person who peed in it is you. Neoprene wetsuits too bulky? Up your budget and consider getting thermals instead.
So, you’ve got extra dosh and getting into serious territory… What’s next?
REGULATOR: These typically go hand-in-hand with BCDs, but there’s a reason we prioritize regulators over BCDs… it’s literally your lifeline underwater. This is where things could get pricey, and it definitely not a place where you’d wanna skimp on. Invest in the best regulators that you can afford. A solid regulator would last for years!
Lastly, to complete the basic kit… the BUOYANCY CONTROL DEVICE (BCD): Again, it helps to know what kind of diver you aspire to become. Do you plan to travel overseas often for diving? Probably a lightweight BCD may work as the extra baggage fees do add up over time. Fancy being a technical diver? You may want to invest in a backplate instead of a jacket style BCD. Looking to be an instructor? Well, a backplate wouldn’t be appropriate for demonstration to your students. Whatever it is, you don’t need a flashy BCD (unless it’s your thing). Just make sure it serves the right purpose, fits properly, has enough lift, and you can get out with your wallet intact.
Buy to your means both financially and in terms of practicality and don’t be oversold by all the fancy schmancy features. State-of-the-art gears will not make you a better diver, mastery over your equipment is key, and always remember to dive safe. =)
What are your thoughts? Would you recommend buying gear in different order? Do comment below.