Dive lights

Scuba gear: to buy, or not to buy?

Imagine this scenario

You are in the middle of your Open Water course. There is possibly some pressure from your instructor/dive centre to make a scuba gear purchase. It is time to stop and think.

This will not make me very popular in the dive industry…  But I do not recommend you buy your first set of dive gear without a fair amount of research. Sure, this can easily be done on the web or in one day by visiting a few dive centers, but the reality of the matter is you are new to the sport, you have yet to build a vast data bank in your head of the multitude of options available, you are impressed by your instructor’s opinion, and are swayed into buying the gear. A month later you decide diving is not for you, sky diving is the next option and you try and offload the gear with a ”hardly used dive gear” advert… You are going to lose money.

Wetsuit only worn once
Don't let this be you!

But let’s be positive and say that you have decided that diving is the best thing you can do clothed. Some time has passed. You are done with the Adventures in Diving, have at least 10 dives in your dive log and want to dive the world.

You have booked your flights to the Red Sea and are starting to pack, thrilled with the idea of arriving at the dive centre with all of your own gear looking like a hard core diver. You even have your own heavy duty dive bag with wheels,  handles and pockets galore.

You are now faced with a dilemma…

That fancy dive bag, the wheeled one with pockets, weighs 6 kgs empty. That won’t work, so you haul out the old lightweight bag you used on your previous travels.

The water temperature where you are going is 30 degrees, ouch, that 7mm two piece wetsuit won’t work there, so you decide to leave it at home and rent one.  You discover your fins weigh a ton and are so long they wont fit in the old travel bag you are now using for weight saving, your very expensive BCD with 6 pockets, a back plate and 8 D-rings is also far too heavy… and to top it all your top of the range regulator is way too expensive for check in luggage and way too heavy for hand luggage. You decide to leave the whole lot at home and rent the hard and soft gear at your destination.

Ah, that ”brightest dive light in the world” that you bought, weighing in at 3kgs, is a bit too heavy so you decide to leave it at home too, and rent a light.

Dive lights
You can get dive lights in a wide variety of strengths, shapes, weights and profiles. Do your research!

So you arrive at your destination, rent everything you need and have a wonderful trip. You cram as many dives possible into every day and head home feeling wonderful. On the way home you reminisce on the dives, replaying them in your mind over and over again (this always happens when you are a dive junkie, trust me).

  • ”That lightweight BCD I used with rear inflation is much more comfortable than my side inflation one… Hmm…”
  • ”The rental dive torch was small, light and compact, and fitted easily into the one tiny pocket on the BCD, I wonder why I thought I need a BCD with 6 pockets? Hmm…”
  • ”It was real easy getting into the rental wetsuit with a zip in front, why does my wetsuit not have that? Hmm…”
  • “Those short fins were so light and never made my legs tired – why do my fins feel so heavy?… Hmm!”
  • ”That tiny mask they gave me was a breeze to clear, but mine is so big it takes several breaths to empty. Hmm…”

When you arrive home you re-evaluate you dive gear. It’s not junk, by no means, but not quite what you have found to be the best option. So you embark on a long, slow, deliberate road to replace these items with items in the style you have found to be ”your comfort zone”.

What to do?

This point – of having well-formed preferences for different types of gear – is only reached once you have dived for a while, once you have done 10-20 dives. There is no way you are able to reach this point half way into your Open Water course.

Many people will advocate that in the interest of health and hygiene you purchase your own soft gear, wetsuit, booties, fins, mask and snorkel, and some dive centres will only conduct your training if you make this purchase.

In all fairness to the dive centre, sales person, or your instructor, they will give you sound advice, and no manufacturer makes ”junk” in this industry. But the advice will be based on their own style, based on what they have available in their store and they will seldom recommend you shop around. It would be foolish to do so, but before you rush out and buy, try different configurations, rent different gear and decide what works for you.

For some general advice about buying gear, you can visit my follow-up posts on hard (BCD, regulator, cylinder) and soft (wetsuit, mask, fins, booties) gear.

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Tony

Scuba diver, teacher, gadget man, racing driver, boat skipper, photographer, and collector of stray animals

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