Despite its peaceful and serene appearance, scuba diving is a sport that’s not for the faint hearted. It involves technical skill, endurance and courage. Find yourself sucked down in a current falling off a shelf and you’ll quickly see what we mean. Because diving is full of risk, it is essential that from the start you have all the necessary scuba diving gear to do it safely.
If you’ve decided that scuba diving is definitely the sport for you (and don’t let the risks put you off as the rewards are incredible), then the first thing you’ll need to do is get some lessons. To begin with you can normally use kit from the centre where you’re learning but before long you will want to buy your own. This way you can get the size, style and fit that suits you best.
There are some essentials that you simply have to have in order to scuba dive. The most important part of kit is the mask. It’s crucial to be able to see what you’re doing under the water. In your beginners course, fitting the mask properly is one of the first things you will learn. If you wear prescription glasses, then it’s a good idea to have a prescription mask made too.
Make sure your mask has an enclosed nose to allow you to adjust for pressure changes. A low volume mask will be smaller and more streamlined, making it easier to move. A canted-in bottom will also increase visibility, although a good mask is one you feel comfortable wearing.
Often sold with the mask is the snorkel. Snorkels allow you to you breathe comfortably when just your head is below the water, without wasting any air from your tank. With a snorkel and mask you can go snorkelling from any beach and it is a gateway to scuba diving.
The scuba unit is the main part of your equipment. This will allow you to breathe underwater, rise, descend and float as you desire in the water. The unit will consist of a tank, a buoyancy control device and a dive regulator that supplies you with the air. An integrated weight system is also a good idea for added convenience.
A pair of fins is also necessary so that you can move around efficiently under the water, using only your legs and freeing your hands. It’s important that these fit you properly – fins that are too or too small can make swimming under water much more difficult. Open heel adjustable fins are designed to wear with booties or you might prefer a full foot fin.
A good weight system will also help to offset your tendency to float and will allow you to descend gently when the time is right. There are two main types of system, the old-fashioned weight belt or the more modern integrated system built into your BCD. Regardless of the type you choose, a quick release is essential for use in emergency situations.
A dive watch will allow you to measure dive times so that you can stay down for safe periods. As the body absorbs nitrogen during a dive, you need to be constantly checking your depth and dive time to ensure this is kept to within safe limits.
Dive watches come in either the modern digital varieties or the classic mechanical or quartz analogue models. The former are small and inexpensive, the latter tend to be more expensive but also double up as a stylish regular watch.
A dive computer monitors depth, dive duration etc and helps to keep you within safe limits. Modern dive computers are small so can fit on your wrist replacing a dive watch.
It can get dark under the water, especially if there are crevices and cracks, so a dive light is also a useful part of scuba diving gear. Lights are also great for exploring wrecks, caves and nooks and cranies. The two main types of lights are the standard flashlight and canister lights. Traditionally flashlights are lighter and canisters more powerful although improved technology is narrowing these gaps.
A dive knife is also a handy tool and essential piece of safety kit under the water. The knife needs to come in a safety sheath to prevent accident or injury. A knife that has both smooth and serrated edges will allow you to both saw and cut should the need arise. Choose a titanium knife that won’t rust and will last forever.
Its time for this beginners guide to scuba diving gear to talk about your dive suit, whether that be bodysuit wetsuit, drysuit.
In a pool it’s unlikely that you’ll need a dive suit to protect against the cold, cuts and bruises. But when you start heading out into the colder and more dangerous waters of exterior diving, it quickly becomes an essential piece of kit. Choose a good quality suit that fits you and it will help to insulate body heat and allow you to enjoy your diving experiences.
Suits come in a number of different styles and cuts, with body suits more suited to tropical water, wet suits best for temperate water and dry suits best when it’s cold. You can get body suits and wet suits in long and short styles, depending on your preference.
Of course, you also need to be aware of what’s going on above your head, so signalling devices will help you to stay in touch with the dive boat. A dive flag or float will also let other boats on the surface know that you are down there.
A digital underwater camera system allows you to take some stunning underwater pictures. This is something that many divers get into after several dives.
Other scuba diving gear accessories like underwater slates and lanyards can also all add to the diving experience, although most are non-essential for beginners.