If you're starting to get more serious about your scuba diving and are contemplating getting your own equipment, you've probably discovered that there's an array of shapes, styles and choices to wade through for many items. When buying your first pieces of dive equipment, knowing how to select the right dive gear for you and your future dive plans can make life a little easier. Some dive equipment needs to fit snugly, some can fit a little looser, and some items are better suited to certain dive conditions than others. When it comes to how to select the right dive gear, there are many factors to consider. Read on for a few of the key considerations you should weigh up before decking yourself out in shiny new dive equipment for your next dream holiday...
Where do you dive most?
Where you do, or plan to do, most of your diving will have a bearing on which equipment you should consider. If you dive extensively in cooler conditions, and only once each year in warmer waters, you'll be better off buying equipment for the cold. Conversely, if you prefer holidays spent diving in the tropics, ignore the dry suits and check out the 3mm shorty wetsuits instead.
Not all items of dive equipment are environment specific, however, and there are a few items that you'll wear on every dive, no matter the location. Masks and dive computers, often among the first items people buy, are not specific to certain water temperatures or conditions and you'll be able to get plenty of use on every dive you make after buying them.
Wetsuits, on the other hand, are typically the most environment-specific item of dive equipment. Being cold underwater is no fun! In addition to selecting the correct thickness for the type of diving you intend to do, it's also very important to get the fit right. Too small simply won't work, and if it's too big it won't keep you warm.
The other piece of equipment where water temperature comes into play is the fins. Or at least, which style of fin you should look at. There are two main choices of fin style: full-foot and open-heel. Open-heel fins are worn with dive booties and are best for cooler waters or shore diving with rocky or slippery entries, while full-foot fins are more lightweight and more suitable for warmer, tropical climes and sandier shore dives.
What to buy first
Buying a full set of dive equipment at once may not suit your budget and may not be necessary. If you're just planning one or two times per year on holiday, you won't need a full set. One or two of the smaller items that will make you more comfortable underwater will suffice.
Mask, snorkel, fins and a dive computer tend to be the first items on most new divers' shopping lists, and they're also some of the easiest items to travel with. The mask is the item that most effects your comfort levels underwater, and should be your first priority. As a bonus, they're also small and lightweight for travel and shouldn't break the bank. But, with a mask, getting the correct fit is important, otherwise it may leak and detract from your underwater enjoyment. If you're not sure how to check if a mask fits well, pop down to your local dive centre for some advice rather than buying one online and crossing your fingers.
A dive computer is also a great early purchase as it can keep you safe on dives and, if you choose one that also functions as a watch, it takes up no space when packing for a holiday - you can simply wear it. When selecting a dive computer, make sure you choose one that has Nitrox capabilities. Even if you're not yet Nitrox certified, there's a good chance you will be soon, especially if you enjoy deep dives or wrecks, or are planning a future liveaboard trip.
Fins can be awkward to travel with, especially on shorter trips when you take less luggage, but having your own pair can also be useful on non-dive days on your next holiday. If you've already got your own mask and snorkel, grabbing a pair of fins too ensures you can go snorkelling whenever you choose, which is especially handy if your resort has a vibrant house reef.
The bulkier items
When it comes to travelling with scuba equipment, BCDs, regulators and exposure suits can pose a few problems. Baggage allowances and restrictions can make travelling with these larger pieces of dive gear tricky, especially on shorter flights with tighter restrictions. But if you'd prefer to dive with your own personal set of equipment when on holiday, you can look into the travel-friendly options.
Many dive equipment manufacturers now produce gear with the travelling diver in mind, and lightweight versions are much more accessible than a few years ago. If you're going to be doing most of your diving on holiday, choose a travel BCD and travel regs - it will make your packing much easier and will also mean you are less likely to get a shock at the airport from excess baggage fees.
Perhaps the trickiest part of how to select the right dive gear is getting the exposure suit choice correct. With such a wide range of global sea temperatures, you'll never find one wetsuit for all dives, but you should base your choice on where you intend to dive most. For tropical dives, a 3-mm shorty wetsuit is the most popular choice, and its thickness and lack of arms and legs make it relatively easy to travel with. But if you plan to do the bulk of your diving at home, with one or two warmer water trips each year, you may want to choose a thicker suit for home diving and consider renting for your trips to different places with different water temperatures.