Choosing the right scuba diving equipment can make a huge difference to your enjoyment of the sport. This is particularly true when you are starting out and learning the new skills needed. It is often better to borrow gear at the beginning while you get to know your preferences, before committing the large sums needed to buy a full set of equipment.
It is a good idea to buy yourself a comfortable mask and set of fins when you begin learning to dive. These are personal items that are close fitting to your body. The mask in particular must be leak free and a good fit on your face – borrowing a club or school mask will lead to frustration and spoiled dives. When learning in colder water you should get your own pair of warm gloves at least, and if possible your own suit. The rest of your diving gear can be bought a little later.
You can qualify using equipment supplied by your instructors quite easily, getting to know the different options as you go along. Then when you come to buy your buoyancy jacket, regulators and cylinders you will be more experienced in what to expect and you will know what you will be more comfortable with.
For example, most people in a cold water diving club will be recommended to buy a 15 litre diving cylinder for the type of diving they expect to be doing. However, there are many divers who will find this cylinder heavy, and because their breathing is slow and regular might find that they only need a ten litre cylinder which is far more comfortable to carry.
This situation is just as relevant for more experienced divers. For example, take the diver who is commencing technical diving training. He or she will be advised to purchase twin twelve litre cylinders because it seems that ‘that is standard practice’. However, these tanks weigh around thirty five kilos with the harness and this is far too heavy for those with a smaller frame. Another popular choice is two ten litre tanks – but many find this an inconvenient shape to use on a boat as the standard cylinders are too short. Many opt for twin seven litre sets but feel that the amount of gas it is possible to carry is too little for much of the diving they expect to do. Another alternative would be to buy twin sevens rated for three hundred bar pressure – but these are difficult to fill completely at most filling stations.
However, if you do your research, you will find that there is a seldom used twin eight and a half litre configuration on the market. These are as long as twelve’s and as light as a single fifteen. This setup will allow the adventurous diver to extend their range considerably while still having the added benefit of twin tank redundancy – and their weight will be easier on your back!
It is sensible to give expensive gear a try out before committing to buying. If you can borrow or rent items before committing to the purchase you can save costly mistakes, or find that your enjoyment of the sport is considerably enhanced.
Mark Jenner is a British Sub Aqua Club dive leader and keen scuba diving instructor. He has dived abroad a number of times and enjoys writing about his scuba diving training .