Understanding Scuba Diving Equipment Basics

As with any sport, outfitting yourself with the right gear is important for both safety and getting the most enjoyment out of what you are doing. It is the same when starting to scuba dive. When you are a beginner the choices you are presented with may be somewhat overwhelming, but the basic equipment such as a face mask, snorkel, fins and a weight belt are all you really need. You can acquire more advanced gear once you have mastered the basics.

Basic Equipment

A well-fitting diving mask will enable you to see clearly underwater through the large clear plate on the front. It is important that you choose a mask that forms a firm seal against your face to prevent water from getting in. A good choice will be one that is designed to let you breathe out into it so you can avoid the “squeeze” that the pressure causes as you descend.

There are various types of diving masks available. For those wanting to communicate verbally while underwater a full face one may be the best choice. Diving helmets are also available if you intend to scuba dive using a surface supply. For those who require prescription lenses there are diving masks that can accommodate your particular need.

Just as the diving mask must fit your face so must the fins you choose fit your feet properly. It is important that they not be too tight or too loose as this can make it more difficult to swim underwater. Not only will they be uncomfortable if they don’t fit properly but they could also become a hazard.

The snorkel is designed to allow you to breathe while having your head beneath the surface of the water so you don’t have to raise your head out of the water to get air. It should be at least 30cm / 12” long.

Maintaining buoyancy when first beginning to scuba dive can be difficult. A weight belt is recommended to help with this.

Wet suits / dry suits are diving suits designed to keep your body warm while under water. As the body loses heat 25 times faster in water than in air it is important to consider how cold the water is where you will be diving. Choose a diving suit that will provide you with enough thermal insulation to prevent hypothermia from occurring.

SCUBA Sets - Open Circuit or Closed Circuit

The open circuit (Aqualung) scuba set is the simpler design of the two and therefore is usually less expensive and the more popular. Most divers use the more cost effective standard air mix of 79% Nitrogen / 21% Oxygen as opposed to the more expensive Trimix and Heliomix options. Open circuit systems consist of a gas cylinder worn on the back, and allow the user to breathe in from the set and exhale to waste. These sets can be purchased with backpacks designed to hold 2 or 3 cylinders in addition to the one cylinder set.

The more expensive closed circuit scuba set is a more complicated system that consists of a rebreather. The user exhales and the air is then processed through the rebreather to make it suitable to be inhaled again. The closed circuit system is the better choice for someone wanting to dive for longer times. There are 3 different types of rebreathers available: the oxygen rebreather, the semi-closed rebreather and the fully-closed rebreather.

Accessories Worthy of Consideration

A regulator equipped with gauge and additional mouthpiece. The regulator is designed to carry air from the cylinder to your mouthpiece.

A buoyancy compensator is an essential item for helping you to control depth and maintain neutral buoyancy. These are available as a stabilizer jacket or as a ‘wing’ that is worn mounted on the back.

A dive watch or dive computer can be particularly helpful for measuring your depth and for gauging how long you have been under water. The dive computer is more expensive but does provide a higher degree of accuracy.

Once you have mastered the basics and discovered that you want to take scuba diving to the next level there are a number of handy accessories you can add to your equipment. A surface-marker buoy lets boaters know you are underwater in that area. A light will make seeing under water easier. A knife is always a handy item to have in an emergency, as is a compass.

There are a number of resources you can refer to when looking for the right scuba diving gear for you. Ask an experienced diver for their recommendation. Scuba Dive centers are staffed by knowledgeable people who are willing and able to assist you. You can also refer to scuba diving websites and dive magazines for more information.

Some people aren’t looking for SCUBA at all.  Instead they prefer a more leisurely way of exploring the underwater world.  For that, you may only need a good pair of snorkel gear.