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The Complete Guide to Scuba Diving Gear

Table of Contents

So you have done your first course and I am sure you have loved it.  Now you want to move on to get more certificates and travel to different dive places. There is a lot of gear associated with SCUBA diving but which is necessary and when should you buy it? 

The first pieces of gear that you should own are a mask, a dive computer, and a set of fins. These are the three easiest pieces to buy and travel with. They are also vital for your diving enjoyment and safety. They are the easiest to travel with as well and will make your diving a more comfortable experience no matter your location. 

someone decked out wiht dive gear ready for a dive! maybe on the dive boat

Now that you know what three pieces of gear I recommend what else do you need, where can you get it, and in what order should you get each piece?  Honestly, there is a ton of necessary gear for newcomers and experienced divers. I have been in your shoes (or should I say fins) myself. My gear is always getting updates and being maintained.  I have outlined all the details below to make it easier for you to get started in your diving career and what you will need to get later on. 

Do I Really Need to Buy My Own Scuba Gear?

While owning your own gear is not something everyone does, it will make life a lot easier and more comfortable. But if you are going to dive more than once or twice a year and really get into scuba diving more I would highly recommend that you get your own gear piece by piece. You will want to try out lots of different gear and see what works for you. 

underwater photo of a diver

If you want to become a dive master/ SCUBA instructor you will definitely need your own gear. Most places will always have the option to rent gear (even liveaboards), but not only will it be expensive but this is not the time to be trusting and trying out new gear that is unfamiliar to you. You want to enjoy your dives and get the most out of them. 

Spending the first dive in the Komodos working on your buoyancy is not ideal.  Like I said before those three pieces of gear are key. The dive computer will keep you safe, the mask maximums visibly/ not leaking and the fins for mobility. They are also quite small and easier to pack away. 

If you do not buy your own gear and go on a trip see if the shop has the option to test the equipment in a pool or a quick try dive offshore. This is not always possible, but does not hurt to ask and could save you time switching gear after each dive to find the correct fitting gear. 

One last thing,  if you live near the coast owning your own gear means that you can cut out dive centers (and their fees) and dive whenever you please. Well, you do need to rent tanks but that would be it. Always try to dive alone but if not make sure you have taken a course or are educated enough beforehand. 

What Pieces of Scuba Diving Equipment Should I buy First?

photo of a gear room at a dive shop - like all the wet suits lines up or something

There are so many different things that you can buy and everyone will differ on what they need according to their situation. Diving gear can get pricey and you will need to shop around. This also comes to finding what gear fits you best. For instance, I found my low-volume mask for $20 in a random shop in Dahab, Egypt. I have never seen it anywhere else and it fits me perfectly. I had tried over 50 before that never fit right, but I will get into that later in the article.

Below is a list of things I think divers should get in order. Obviously, some financial constraints will not allow you to do all of this and that is ok. It took me 5 years to get all of my gear and I am still adding and changing things in and out. 

All-Inclusive Gear List

I have seen Open Water divers with nicer and more gear than I and that is fine. Just remember that you don’t need to rush to get everything, ask around, get advice, or try out different things and if you go cheap it may not last that long. Start small and get just what you need at first below is what I would start with and I will give a brief explanation of why. 

photo of mask and fins and dive computer together - dive gear 101

Scuba Mask

A well-fitting mask makes all the difference in the world, most divers even carry a backup in case. This was my second piece of gear that I bought and was a worthy investment. If not taken care though these masks can warp so make sure you maintain them.

Dive Computer

Dive computers will keep you safe. It was actually my first purchase and I have upgraded twice. Even if you get a cheaper one that is quality, it will keep you safe. You are responsible for your own safety first and foremost. This piece is essential for all levels of diver.

Scuba Fins

Man on a boat holding Cressi dive fins

There are a plethora of different types of fins to wear. This list is inclusive, but the main idea is that you need to find one that fits you the best and also works in the areas you will be diving.

Diving Insurance

 I get DAN it is around $100 US a year and will save you a lot of hassle in the unlikely event of an emergency.  Here are a few that we have compared already for you. 

Snorkel

 It is technically required to have a snorkel for diving courses. Whether you want to have one after is up to you. It is a great way to save a bit of air from your tanks when on the surface in choppy waters. I would recommend getting one they are small and easy to carry. 

DSMB/ SMB

This was my third piece of gear, diving in some areas it can get a bit harry. You always want to have an SMB to be visible during your safety stop and surfacing. It could save your life and is cheap compared to what your life is work also it is easy to carry.

Wetsuit & Drysuit

If you are diving in cold weather a drysuit that you know and trust is imperative due to the technicality of the buoyancy and other factors. A regular wetsuit you want to own again for the same reason but also the rental everyone pees in it. They also fit weirdly usually and it is hard to find a proper fit. I have a custom-fitted one for about $350 USD and was an amazing investment. These also need to be taken care of regularly as improper maintenance can lead to them deteriorating quickly.

a diver in their wetsuit

Buoyancy Control Device

This is where the price will start to get higher and also the size of your luggage will increase. I choose to get a BCD first because I  travel a lot and one that folds up and is light. If you are tech diving and weight is no issue then you have a lot more options. But having a reliable BCD will save you a lot of air and having to wear a lot of lead. Also, it is super comfortable and I prefer integrated weights.

Regulator

Regulators will vary widely on price and where you will be diving there are people I know people using the Scuba Pro MK2 (super old regulator) and still works great. Now, this is maintained regularly and taken care of. You need to find one that works for your situation and budget, but maintenance is also key to these as a good regulator can last for many years.  You’ll also want to consider whether to get a DIN or a Yoke Regulator.

Second Stage

When buying a regulator, the second stage may come in a package or not. But make sure to test the second stage and maintain it as well. This could save your or your dive buddy’s life.

Booties/ Neoprene socks

dive booties photo

I rarely use these as I dive in warm water and use full-pocket short freediving fins. When I do I use neoprene socks as opposed to booties.

Diving in cold weather and/ or you get could quick you will need booties these. Some areas are a bit of a walk to the site and these are very helpful as well to protect your feet as well as to fit in your scuba fins.

Dive Flashlight/Torch

These lights are not just for wreck and cave divers. I always carry one to see in holes and also double as a tapper or device to get other divers attention in low visibility.

Dive Compass

You will need a dive compass for your advanced course but besides that, it is always good to know where the shore is and/ or where you came from.  This also helps when finding sites, if your dive computer does not have a built-in one.

Dive Slate

If you are teaching these are wonderful as sometimes people just don’t get it. Tech divers need them for different situations and are also just good for a game at your 3 min safety stop. Great for communicating if you’re carrying out complex tasks underwater as well.

Dive Knive/Cutter

dive knife gear photo, maybe with a few other pieces of gear, or where/how a diver wears a dive knife

Again safety here, there are a lot of nets and fishing lines around that you could get entangled in. Also, I use a dive knife to cut the nets of coral and bring them back to dispose of properly.

Mesh Bag

Seem simple enough but there is so much trash in the ocean that it helps to put it somewhere. Also to pick up finds, I have found masks, weights, belts, and snorkelers. Who doesn’t love free gear? 

Extra Mask Straps

They break and is always good to have a backup.

Buff

For long hair is great for keeping your hair back. But for the follicle-inclined like me it stops me from getting sunburned.

diver wearing a dive buff in or out of the water

Tank Banger/ Tapper/ Etc.

I don’t really see the need for these a lot. If you have a torch, knife, clip, or even a ring on your finger that will work. The only advantage of the tapper is that you can use it to stabilize or point to things.

Gloves

Could be much higher up on the list if you are diving in cold water, and if you are diving in cold water then get them. I put them down here as people get them to touch things and play with wildlife which is not good for the ecosystem but frowned upon in the dive community.

Dry Robe/ Pullover

When you get back on the boat or back to shore it is nice to be able to change out of your wetsuit in privacy. Even on a lot of dive boats, it is not the most brilliant bathroom to change into.

Boat Shoes/ Crocs

I love my crocs and when you get out of the water and are on a slippery boat they are a lifesaver. Often boats drop you off near the shore in the water and you have to walk back and these are lifesavers.

someone walking back after a dive in their boat shoes

How Expensive Is Scuba Gear?

This will vary widely on whether you buy new or used gear and where you buy it from. I will talk about where to get it from and the advantages and disadvantages below, but here is a quick guide on the essential gear.

This is not the cheapest of hobbies but if you buy good equipment and take care of it, it will last a long time. But having your own gear will save you money in the long run because most dive centers offer discounts to people who bring or partially have their own equipment for a dive.

  • Scuba Mask-$50- $200
  • Fins-$50-$300
  • BCD-$300-$1,000
  • Regulator-$300-$2000
  • Dive Computer-$200-$2,000
  • Scuba Torch-$50-$100
  • Dive Knife-$30–$100

If you do shop around you can get a full set of scuba gear for about $1,200 if you are thrifty and check all the web. This is cheap and I would recommend you take your time to build up your gear unless you are in a rush.

Rember Try Before Your Buy

With online shopping or even in a store if you have the option to try out the gear you will really want.  This is not as common now, but if you shop around or even do a test drive, youtube, you will be able to sort some things out. A nice thing to do if you are a local is to rent different pieces of gear and try them when you dive and go from there. 

Where Should I buy Gear?

photo of a wall at a dive shop selling all kinds of gear

There are a lot of places to buy gear and everyone has a different opinion. Below are your best options and the pros and cons of each.

Buying Gear Online

Pros are that it is usually the cheapest way to get gear. You can also read reviews and watch videos of the product in action. Cons are that you can’t try it on and make sure that it fits properly. Depending on the company they may also have special return policies that stipulate using it voids the warranty. So pay attention to the fine print. 

Local Stores (not dive shops)

Pros are usually pretty cheap and have good warranty policies. Cons are that they have limited supply and the gear tends to be mass-produced and not of the highest quality.

Dive Centers

Pros you get to try it out on your dive trip, the instructor or guide can show you how it exactly works. You get to try on different products. Cons it is usually a bit more expensive as instructors get a commission and if you are diving somewhere remote it can cost a lot to get it there. Also, you probably have no because if it is a bigger ticket it is bought in a foreign country if it breaks and needs to be replaced or serviced.  

In Dive Shops

Pros you get to speak to someone that is knowledgeable and able to give you in-depth information. You can also try on the gear and often these stores not only run trips but have a loyalty program to get discounts. Cons are they may be overpriced as they could be the only option in the area. The selections may be limited as well but many offer to order things for you.

Diving Community/ Friends

two dive friends together

Pros you know why they are selling it and could get a good price on it. I have sold and bought a lot of gear from friends for one reason or another. Cons could be that the product does not have a warranty and if it breaks you could be on bad terms. 

Preowned Dive Gear

Pros it can be much cheaper and you are able to find any type of gear out there that may have been discontinued. Cons are that if you don’t know the person you are buying it from you truly have no idea how many dives it has logged or how often it has been maintained or serviced.

Scuba Diving Shows

photo of a popular scuba diving show
Pro you get to hear from the creators and marketers directly on how they have created and the benefits of the product. You can also try it on, the price may vary as well. Cons are they are salesmen and trying to sell you a product so shop around. But you may find something new that is cheap and innovative.

What to Think About When Buying Equipment

Does it Fit Correctly?

This is a common sense statement but I know some people really want the newest wetsuit or the correct size is coming in next week and your trip is in a few days.

Do you change weight often, if you do just get a size up, not need to buy another wetsuit.

If possible make sure to try it on and if possible dive with it it. I have had some fins that fit perfectly on land but really rubbed and I hated them when diving.

Is it comfortable?

It may be good when you try it on but remember you may be wearing this on the boat to the dive site, then in the water then back to the shop, this could be a long time. Also if you are doing multiple dives a day for a few days in a row this is imperative. For example, I like a two-piece wetsuit with a hood that I can get on and off easily others like shorties or a full wetsuit and no hood. Find what works for you.

Where are You Diving?

I for one do not like cold water and anything below 80F(27C) is cold to me. So all my gear is made for down to 77F (25C). I travel a lot so I only have gear made for this. If you are diving in cold weather you may need a special regulator and dry suit that function in these temperatures. If you are a night diver you will probably need two flashlights (torches).

phtoo of any dive destination, maybe a night dive photo, or a cold water destination

Is it Worth the Price?

Just because something is expensive does not mean it is the best or you need it. If you are only diving a few times a year a mid-range set of gear that is well maintained is fine. If you go once a year just get the mask, fins, and dive computer. You can resell dive gear but the market value goes down quite a bit when you do. On the other hand, a quality set of dive gear can last you a year when properly maintained. Talk to a professional and figure out what your needs are

How to take care of your gear?

Freshwater Rinse

After every dive make sure all of your gear gets a good rinse with freshwater. If it is a rinse tank and there are a lot of other people I use a cap full of Dettol (or the local equivalent) to kill all the germs as sometimes the water you use may not be the best.

Rinsing Your BCD

Again freshwater and fully submerged, I keep it inflated then deflate it in the water. This lets fresh water into it. I then move it around getting all the parts. open the dump valves and empty it, after manually inflating to store to make sure the water is out and it stays dry.

Rinse Your Regulator

I make sure the first stage is closed and dry, always check this. I then do a quick dip of both stages then let the second stage soak for a minute or two while the first stage is out of the water.
someone cleanign their equipment

Maintenance and Servicing

You should always be checking your gear before and after every dive and regular maintenance is key. A yearly servicing on the BCD is always a good idea to make sure everything is in working order. Having spare o-rings, mask/fin straps, lubricant, some duct tape, and clips in the case are always handy.

Deep Clean

When you do get home from your trip or it will be a while before you dive clean and dry all gear thoroughly. This may take a while especially when you live in a humid area and are limited in space, but get it done. 

  • Welcome

    My name’s Austin Tuwiner, a PADI Divemaster based in South Florida. With nearly 10 years of diving under my belt, I’ve accumulated the knowledge to help readers become better divers, buy their next piece of gear, and plan their dream dive vacation!

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