Scuba Equipment Basics

You’re considering learning to scuba dive, or maybe you are about to begin certification and want to be prepared to start your course. Learning about and choosing your scuba equipment is one of the most important steps on your journey as a diver. After all, without our dive gear, we wouldn’t be able to go down at all!

At first, the array of types as well as brands of scuba diving equipment can be daunting, so we will simplify the process and let you know exactly what you need and need to look for in your equipment search. Let’s start by breaking it down to the basics:

Dive Gear Essentials for any Open Water Dive:

  • Mask/snorkel
  • Fins/Booties
  • Regulator (first stage, second stage, octopus, gauges)
  • BCD
  • Weights
  • Tanks

Generally, most student divers or new divers will find that a combination of renting and buying this complete set of equipment is the best solution initially. For instance, most recreational divers (unless they live within a short distance from a dive site and will be diving very frequently) do not own their own tanks. However, most find it essential, or even required, to own their own mask and snorkel.

Just how much equipment you wish to purchase is up to you. Here are a few quick questions to ask yourself in helping to determine what to buy:

  • Is there any equipment that I am required to buy by my certifying instructor or dive shop? (many do require that you own your own mask, snorkel, fins and booties.)
  • What is my budget? A very basic mask/fins/snorkel combo can start, at the low end, at about $100—a complete top-of-the-line set of scuba gear can run into the several thousands, and of course, you can spend anything in between. Many divers start with a few pieces of equipment, then add as they go.
  • How often will I be diving? If you live in close proximity to dive sites and forsee diving frequently, it may make sense to own more of your own equipment than if you will be a “vacation diver” who will dive once or twice a year.
  • In what type of climates will I typically be diving? For instance, if you will be diving in colder areas, you will also want to consider what type of thermal gear (wetsuits/drysuits) you might need.
  • Will I be driving or flying to my dive sites? If you live in a coastal area or near fresh water venues where you will be diving more often, you may consider owning your own weight belt and weights. If you will be flying to get to your dive locations, this is an item you will probably want to rent once you get there. Or, you may choose to buy a weight belt, but rent the weights themselves.

Once again, you will have to decide what is right for you, based on these factors and your personal situation and preference, in regards to how much equipment you should buy. That said, here is a general recommendation for most new divers:

Step 1: Start with the purchase of a good mask, snorkel, fins and booties. These are some of the most personal and most used of your entire set of equipment. For instance, in some cases or diving situations, you might find that exploring a shallow reef is easier and even more effective without a tank, so will choose to go down with just mask, snorkel, and fins. Regardless, you will use these items on every dive and in every situation, so take time and care in choosing what it just right for you. For more information, please see our section on Choosing Your Mask, Snorkel, and Fins.

Step 2: Once you have your mask, snorkel and fins, you will want to consider whether you want to purchase the next two essential items: your Buoyancy Compensation Device, or BCD, and regulator. These items are available for rent with most any dive shop or dive operation, so if you choose not to purchase them initially, you will be able to rent them easily once you are at your dive location. Many divers “get their feet wet” with several or many dives under their belt before deciding to purchase their BCD and reg. That said, others want to have the personalized fit and comfort of owning these items right away. For more information, please see our section on Choosing Your BCD and Regulator.

Step 3: After completing Step 1 and Step 2, you will be outfitted for any basic open water dive, with the exception of weights and tanks. Again, these are typically rented on site (unless you choose to purchase a weight belt separately.) Of course, there is a large variety of specialty equipment available as well, including diving suits which may or may not be optional depending on the climate of your dive location.

Please find more info at Choosing A Diving Suit and Specialty and Optional Equipment.