Prioritizing equipment purchases
Owning as much of your own equipment as possible should be a goal of every diver. This is for several reasons.
- If you have your own gear, you save money on equipment rental. This can add up considerably over time.
- You won’t have to spend time and gas driving to and from the dive center to pick up or drop off rental gear.
- You’ll dive more often, knowing you are free from the added time and expense of using rental equipment.
- You won’t have to worry whether or not the dive center still has rental equipment in your size or whether someone else got their first.
- When you have your own equipment, you are assured of both fit and familiarity. You won’t have to worry about adapting to something like a BC that doesn’t work the way you are used to.
- You’ll know that you are the only person who has used the gear you are diving before you. After all, you wouldn’t share a toothbrush with strangers. Why share a regulator or snorkel?
Ideally, you’d be able to buy all the equipment you need at one time. For many people, though, that is not possible.
Quality equipment isn’t cheap. Nevertheless, it’s still a good investment. With proper care, most equipment items will last ten years or more. Odds are, you won’t hold on to your car that long.
If you can’t purchase all of your own gear at once, there is an order in which you should be making gear purchases. Here it is:
Mask, snorkel, fins and boots
Comfort and fit are essential with most equipment, especially with items like masks and fins. These should be the very first equipment purchases you make.
A mask that leaks or fins that are not powerful enough or are hard to kick can ruin a dive. You don’t have to worry about this when you own your own.
While good-quality full-foot fins can work in many diving situations, they won’t work in every situation. This is especially true if diving in colder water or walking across rough gravel or a hot boat deck to get to the water.
You’ll have greater flexibility if you invest in a pair of wetsuit boots and open-heel scuba fins. Open-heel fins also tend to be larger and more powerful. This is important when dealing with waves and currents.
These days, no serious diver relies on dive tables. Among other things, dive tables severely limit your bottom time. If you insist on using them, you will have trouble finding others to dive with you.
Additionally, knowing your computer’s owner’s manual inside and out is critical. This is an opportunity you will not have with a rental computer.
A simple, wrist-mounted dive computer costs little more than a depth gauge and bottom timer. This makes purchasing one a no-brainer.
Down the road, you may want to invest in a fancier hoseless or console-mounted computer. If you do, you will still have that first computer as a backup. And having a backup computer can save an entire dive vacation.
BC and regulator
This may be your first major equipment purchase. You don’t necessarily need the most expensive BC and regulator but don’t cut corners. If you get the right system to start, you won’t have to replace it later.
If your finances are limited, purchase the BC first. Just make sure it has a conventional power inflator so that it will work with any rental regulator.
Some sort of wetsuit is essential whenever the water dips below 80° F. Many divers will wear a lightweight wetsuit no matter how warm the water is. Purchasing a wetsuit may have an even higher priority if stock rental wetsuits don’t fit you.
Items with varying priorities
There are other equipment items you will want whose priority may vary depending on your needs. For example:
- Tanks: For most divers, tanks are the last thing they should purchase. Renting a tank generally costs little more than an air or Nitrox fill. And, because both may require a trip to the dive store, renting is often the most cost-effective.
- Weights: While some dive boats supply weights, many do not. If you have your own, you needn’t worry about this.
- Gear bag: Carrying items such as masks and fins without some sort of gear bag is an excellent way to lose them. Purchase a lightweight mesh bag at the same time you buy your mask and fins. Get one large enough to hold a BC, regulator and wetsuit. This is the best way to carry gear aboard a dive boat, as it takes up little space when empty.
- Accessory items: These are items such as mask defog, a dive knife or cutting tool, and various cleansers and conditioners. Although none of these are major purchases, they are nevertheless important.
Don’t guess. Ask.
With limited experience to go on, it’s easy to be swayed by manufacturer advertising or the advice of well-meaning friends who don’t know as much as they think they do. This can be a costly mistake.
Remember that, at Aquatic Ventures, we have decades of experience to draw on. We know what works and what doesn’t. We also want to have a long-term relationship with our customers. Getting them into quality equipment that lasts and best meets their needs is one way we do this.