Scuba Diving Equipment 101: What You Need To Know

Scuba diving has really taken off in recent years and owning your own equipment can make a huge difference when you dive. “A good dive is a comfortable dive; when your gear is your own, you have a lot less to worry about, a lot less to learn, and a lot less tugging and adjusting to do,” says Julie Andersen, Global Director of Brand for PADI Worldwide. You’ll improve your experience, your air consumption (which means longer dives!), and your confidence when the gear is your own.

There’s plenty of gear out there and each diver has their own preference. “Ask any PADI diver what their favorite regulator, suit, or computer is, and likely you’ll get a different answer,” says Andersen. The first purchase should be your own mask, fins and snorkel. You want to make sure you try on a number of items and consult with a dive center expert who can answer any of your questions.

Here are some other must-have scuba diving gear.

Scuba Diving Regulators

Owning your own regulator allows you to have peace of mind that you are the only one who has breathed from it. Plus, you also don’t have to worry about adjusting the settings every time you dive.

“A regulator is a great investment that–with the proper maintenance–will be your literal life support system for decades,” says Andersen. “I always recommend investing in this piece of gear thinking about the future of your diving as well, considering how you’ll dive, where, and how frequently.”

She recommends lighter regulators: “You certainly can’t beat titanium regulators for travel and the heftier price tags are certainly worth it. But technology has come a long way and even the less expensive regulators allow you to breathe as if you are on land – even when deep underwater.”

Each dive manufacturer tends to have a range of regulators (which include both the first stage and second stage) from daily “workhorses” to very high-end specialized regulators.

Scuba Diving Computers

Hands down, if you invest in one piece of dive equipment, choose a dive computer. Not only is it the most important piece of safety gear that a diver should have on them at all times, but the addition of features to dive computers literally also makes them smart devices underwater.

From surface GPS and mapping to heart rate monitoring, dive log collections, and fitness tracking, this is the equipment to splurge on. And while you may think you don’t need all the fancy features because you won’t use them, chances are you will. “I love the smart features my dive computer offers and I put them all to good use whether I am above or beneath the surface,” says Andersen. “One of my favorite features of a dive computer is the fact that it does all the hard calculations for you. They are designed to determine your bottom time, your surface intervals and even factor in your nitrox levels. Not only will these calculations enhance your safety while diving, your overall wellbeing in general, as it can adjust your diving algorithm based on skin temperature, breathing rate and heart rate.”

Plus, for those that love to log their dives, you can sync this information to your dive computer’s app to store all the information and log your dives all in one place.

Every manufacturer has different usability, from the number of buttons on the computer (two, three, or four) to how the dive computer transfers data – so you’ll want to spend some time with your manual to get the most out of your computer.

Buoyancy Compensating Device (BCD)

This critical piece of equipment not only holds and connects all your life-support gear and lets you establish the right amount of buoyancy you need, but it is the primary piece of gear that lets you be a responsible and skilled diver.

Achieve perfect buoyancy on every dive by choosing a BCD that fits, has the proper amount of lift, and ideally, has weights integrated. Definitely try a jacket style BCD that has front inflation and a back inflated BCD to determine which you prefer. To further enhance your skills with your BCD, you could take the Peak Performance Buoyancy Course, which teaches you how to achieve neutral buoyancy.

Having your own BCD also enables you to add lights, whistles, clips and other safety devices and keeps them arranged in the way that you prefer and are familiar with. You can also upgrade many BCDs so that the inflator hose serves as an alternative air source as well – eliminating the need for additional hoses and a secondary “octopus”. It’s streamlining at its finest.

Scuba Diving Wetsuit

“Personally, I’d put buying a wetsuit a close second to a computer, as being comfortable and keeping your body temperature regulated is the number one factor in my dive’s enjoyment factor,” says Andersen. “I love to stay below the surface as long as possible, so having a wetsuit that fits well and keeps me cozy is absolutely key.”

If your suit is too tight, you’ll be incredibly uncomfortable, and if it’s too loose, you can get cold quickly. And honestly, I also prefer to know that I’m the only person that’s been in my suit. Simply slipping into a suit that is your own will help you get in the water faster, know the correct amount of weights that you need and be better able to enjoy your dive.

There is no universal size chart when it comes to wetsuits, so it’s good to try on different styles—there are a lot of them—and also different manufacturers, to determine which you prefer for your body type and style of diving. You’ll have many options from zippered wrists and ankles to wetsuit thickness and from integrated hoods to plush linings inside to keep you warm.

“My personal go-to is a 3 mil back zip suit with a 2 mil hooded vest underneath if it gets cold – and I’ve chosen wetsuits made from higher-end materials that are also eco-friendly,” says Andersen. “There is a huge difference in thermal protection based on materials and all wetsuits are not made alike.”

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