Updated: Oct 31
“WHAT EQUIPMENT SHOULD I BUY FIRST?”
As a scuba diving instructor, I get asked this question a lot – and I’ve been there – the amount of scuba diving equipment is overwhelming! Stepping in a dive shop, there are various types of BCDs, regulators, fins, masks, dive computers, and all the accessories. Where do you begin? Be prepared as scuba diving doesn’t come cheap and it’s worth forking out for quality equipment, in the long run, you’ll avoid having to repair or replace them.
Choosing scuba diving gear is personal, whether you’re more comfortable finding the right brand, colour, hygiene or technical ability. If you have (good!) scuba diver friends, it’s worth asking for recommendations and trying their equipment before the purchase.
In this part one series, I’ve listed the equipment that I think is important, for newly certified divers or those about to embark on their PADI Discover Scuba Dive or PADI Open Water Course.
If you’ve signed up to the PADI Open Water Course, invest in your own mask. Rented masks don’t always fit properly and you may not get the same mask each session. During the course, there are many mask exercises to complete and for comfort it’s worth getting one.
Additionally, with COVID-19 hanging around, there’s peace of mind knowing that only you have used your mask.
Don’t make a quick buy, make sure the mask fits your face and is comfortable
HOW TO CHECK: Place the mask over face (without the straps) and suck in through your nose. If the mask stays on without a problem, the mask fits!
Try on 10, 20 or 30 masks for comfort and fitting. People tend to go with colour or brand, but once you’re underwater, you’ll find it frustrating if there’s leakage.
Is the mask fit for scuba diving? Don’t get caught, make sure the glass is tempered and it’s suitable for Scuba Diving (There are specific masks for snorkelling and freediving)
Do you wear prescription glasses? If you prefer not using contact lenses whilst scuba diving, you can ask your dive store for prescription masks.
Remove the chemical layer on new masks to avoid fog build up. To defog your new mask, you can use a lighter or apply toothpaste overnight.
Top-rated masks on the market:
Scubapro Synergy Twin Trufit Mask
Aqua Lung Linea Mask
Cressi Frameless F1
Hollis M1 Frameless Mask
The advantage of having a snorkel is to conserve air at the surface pre and post dive. During surface intervals, you can also enjoy snorkelling if you are by coral reefs. During the PADI Open Water Course, snorkel skills will be conducted and purchasing a snorkel won’t break the bank.
Ask dive shop for snorkel and mask sets as there might be cheaper deals
Check mouthpiece fits comfortably and if buying for children make sure mouthpiece is small enough.
Check attachment is durable and can easily be placed onto the mask
Cressi Omega Ultra Dry Snorkel
Genesis Stealth Snorkel
Cressi Alpha Ultra
Aqua Lung Nautilus Foldable Travel Snorkel
Mares Ergo Flex Snorkel
FINS (AND BOOTIES!)
To decide the type of fins, ask yourself how often you will be diving and whether they will be shore dives, liveaboards or boat dives. If you are sticking to liveaboards you might not need to buy open fins with booties, as the chances you will be walking on sharp stones are slim. Booties are useful for swimming in cold waters, shore dives or walking from shore to boat.
Like all your gear, fins are a personal choice and if you’re not a frequent diver, it might be easier to rent them at the dive centre.
For durability, look at the thickness and quality of the fin. For purchasing booties, look at the soles of the boots – if they are thin and bendy, they will not last long.
Divers tend to prefer bungee straps compared to a clip as it is harder to adjust (and importantly for those that like manicured nails!).
Will you be travelling with your fins? Shorter fins might not propel you fast in the water, but they might be perfect to fit in your suitcase.
Longer fins will propel you faster underwater, which good if bottom time is minimal and you’re looking to explore a dive site fast.
Mares Avanti Quattro Fins
Scuba Pro Seawing Novas
The seawater in the UAE varies massively throughout the year from a warm sea bath of 35 degrees to a cold 24 degrees in winter. In summer months (May-September), skip the wetsuit and opt for rash guards/leggings or shorty wetsuits until winter arrives. It’s always advisable to have some protection in case you cut yourself or get stung by jellyfish.
During the winter season (October-April), get a wetsuit for your own comfort and hygiene! Some people are more sensitive to the cold compared to others, so before investing, try renting different wetsuits and see what exposure best suits you.
Check to see the wetsuit it specifically for scuba diving. Compared to surfing wetsuits, scuba diving wetsuits are thicker and keep the body temperature.
Get a feel for the material and make sure it’s durable
There are male and female wetsuits – so check you’re looking at the right ones…
Where will you be most frequently diving? To determine thickness, decide if you’ll be in tropical waters or in the cold.
Aqua Lung Hydroflex
Scuba Pro Everflex
Cressi Playa (Shorty)
I would just like to clarify there is no right or wrong order to buy scuba diving gear, it is a personal choice. If you are on a tight budget and you simply can’t afford any of this now, you can rent this equipment during the PADI Discover Scuba Diving or PADI Open Water Course.
I’ll soon be releasing (part two) of the series, which will cover purchases including BCDs, Regulators and Dive Computers. Just to note, some divers would say that a dive computer should have made it onto the part one list – I’ve removed the dive computer as it’s a big purchase and for those that have chosen scuba diving has a regular hobby.
Have you recently just started scuba diving? Comment below on what your first purchases were.