Ready to dive into the exciting world of scuba diving?
It’s a great way to explore the underwater world and see some amazing stuff! But before you can hit the water, you’ll need some essential scuba gear.
We know, beginner divers often are intimidated by the amount of scuba gear required to hit the water, but slowly, your gear will just become an extension of yourself.
No one’s expecting beginner divers to immediately shell out thousands of dollars to buy the best scuba gear right after their open water course, but slowly, over time, you can get yourself a full set of diving gear that is exactly what you want.
In this post, we’ll take a look at what you need to get started. So read on for everything you need to know about buying scuba gear!
🤿 Why Should I Consider Buying Scuba Gear?
Having your own scuba equipment is way more comfortable. Nothing is worse than constantly clearing a leaky mask during your dive!
In addition, wetsuits are an extremely personal preference and poorly-fitting wetsuits do not offer the same thermal protection as one that fits snugly.
Diving booties used on open heel fins also need to fit snugly and sizing differs among different types.
Having your own set of scuba diving gear will also make you a better diver in the long run. Familiarity with your setup means you are more comfortable underwater, reducing your air consumption and improving your buoyancy.
To get you started, here is a comprehensive list of dive equipment you’ll need.
📝 What Do You Need To Go Scuba Diving
Step 1 – The Basics
Scuba masks create a space between your eyes and the water, allowing you to see. The nose pocket allows you to equalize while the adjustable strap holds the mask in place.
The scuba mask is one of the first pieces of dive equipment you will buy. It is extremely personal, and the fit of the mask is essential for the enjoyment of your underwater adventure.
Leaky masks will have you struggling to clear it throughout the dive and ruin your experience.
How To Pick Dive Masks
First, choose a mask that you like. Remember that high volume masks give a better field of vision but are harder to clear. Also, clear silicone lets more light in but can turn yellow, especially if exposed to direct sunlight.
Then, check the fit. Place the mask against your face and look up. Does the skirting sit nicely with no gaps?
Now inhale gently and look forward. Did the mask fall off?
If the mask still has a good fit, put the strap on, and stick a regulator or snorkel in your mouth. Does it still feel comfortable?
Last step! Check if you can equalize.
Cost : $40 to $150. Don’t skimp on this! The mask is an extremely important piece of dive equipment.
Dive fins transfer power from your body and put it into movement by providing propulsion through the water when diving.
There are two main types of fins – open heel fins and full foot fins.
How To Pick Dive Fins
- Open heel fins tend to be heavier and stiffer and will suit divers with strong legs and powerful finning. You need a pair of dive boots with these fins.
- Full foot fins are typically slimmer, lighter, and more flexible. They take less power to fin but will provide less propulsion.
Once you’re done deciding which type you want, then you can go about trying different types out to see which you are more suited to.
Look for a combination of comfort, durability, and finning efficiency. Take into consideration where you will be diving. Strong currents need stiff fins while more flexible fins can be used in calm waters with minimal effort.
Cost: $50 to $200.
You can save your air when finning on the surface with a snorkel, or go snorkeling during your surface interval.
You’ll want a snorkel with a splash guard to keep the water from coming in through the top. You also want a comfortable mouthpiece that breathes easy.
Make sure the snorkel is comfortable to purge water from, and is easily attached and removed from your mask.
Cost: $20 to $100. If you aren’t intending to do much snorkeling, you can just get an affordable, basic snorkel.
Also called exposure suits, whether you need just one or several, depends on where you are intending to dive. Tropical diving requires a lycra skin suit or a 3mm short suit, while cold water diving needs a dry suit. And everything in between depends on your personal preference as to how thick an exposure suit you need.
Wetsuits are made of neoprene that traps water, keeping the water close to your body and preventing it from leaving with your body heat. That’s why a properly fitting wetsuit is paramount for optimal protection.
If you are diving in warm waters, a lycra skin suit or short suit can be worn. Lycra skin suits offers no protection against heat loss, but will protect against cuts, scraps, and stinging sea creatures.
Fit, fit, and fit! The less air space you have, and the more snugly the suit fits, the more thermal protection you’ll have.
Then, see how your range of movement is hindered. Do a few squats to see if everything is moving as it should.
Cost: $50 to $250 for 3mm, and the thicker you go, the pricier it becomes. Cold water diving needs drysuits which can cost in the thousands. Brrr!
Step 2 – The Essential
Now that the basics are covered, we look at the more serious scuba diving equipment.
Of course, you’ll need your trusty scuba tank. While 99.9999% of dive centers in the world have scuba tanks for rent, there might come a time when you need one of your own.
Tanks are simple. Just decide between aluminum and steel tanks and get one that has been hydrostatically tested.
Buoyancy Control Device BCD
Ahh, the buoyancy control device, otherwise known as the BCD. It is the main piece of dive gear that holds all your gear in place.
It is what your scuba tank is strapped to, helps you maintain neutral buoyancy, and keeps you afloat at the water’s surface.
Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of BCDs – Back-inflate and jacket.
Back-inflate BCDs have an air bladder at the back of the diver. Back-inflated BCDs are also known to provide more buoyancy control and better trim.
During a dive, buoyancy refers to whether you float up and down, while trim refers to how you position your body and how much drag you’re generating.
In other words, if you swim horizontally, you will spend less energy when you swim.
Jacket style BCDs is just as it sounds, just like a jacket. With adjustable shoulder straps, a waist strap and a chest strap to hold it in place, the jacket BCD is by far the most popular type of buoyancy control device whether for beginners or experienced divers.
How To Pick A BCD
Try on your selected model and look for one that fits snugly but doesn’t overly squish you when fully inflated.
When trying the BCD, make sure to try it with your wetsuit on. Fully inflate the BCD until the overflow valve vents. You should still be having an easy time breathing.
Pick a BCD with enough pockets and accessories for all that you need.
BCDs have different life capabilities. Pick one based on how big you are and how many weights you use. Too small and you’ll have problems staying afloat at the surface, while too big and you’re swimming with more drag than necessary.
Cost: $300 to over $1,000. Look for the right balance of quality and affordability for this but don’t skimp, your BCD is the centerpiece of your set of gear!
First Stage and Regulator
The first stage attaches onto the cylinder valve and converts the high pressure air in your scuba tank into ambient pressure that you can now breathe through your scuba regulator. In addition, the first stage is responsible for providing air that goes into your BCD, your alternate, and your pressure gauge.
Look for a set of first stage and regulator that comes together. They will be more affordable than buying separately and are often very compatible with each other.
How To Pick A First Stage and Regulator
The good news is that regulators, regardless of price, are all reliable and will not compromise safety just because it is cheap. Even budget regulators can offer superior performance.
Look for one with easy breathing, a comfortable mouthpiece, and durability. Some regulators get difficult to breathe underwater at depth or when the tank pressure gets low, so check with professionals and read up on getting a good set.
Cost: $300 to over $1,500
Alternate Second Stage, aka Octopus
The second stage is what you or your buddy will use, should your main regulator malfunction or your buddy run out of air.
Look for one that is affordable, reliable, and easily sent for servicing. You will not be using the octopus much but you will need it in times of emergency, so you’ll have to keep it in tip-top condition.
Cost: $150 to $300. You can skimp on this one but still get something reliable.
SPG – Submersible Pressure Gauge
This console typically comes with depth and pressure gauges, one to show your depth, and one to show you your tank pressure.
Choose one that has an easy to read display, is easily serviced, and ideally available in both PSI and bar if you are intending to dive on different continents.
Step 3 – The Nice-To-Have
While not strictly mandatory, these pieces of scuba diving equipment will make your diving more enjoyable
Forget the RDP (Recreational Dive Planner) tables or constantly whipping out depth gauges while scuba diving.
Slap a dive computer on and keep your depth gauge, maximum bottom time, and other crucial information right in front of you as you dive.
Personal dive computers provide vital information like:
- bottom time (time spent underwater)
- no-decompression limits (time you have left at a certain depth)
- dive time (how long your dive has been)
- water temperature
- ascent speed
- time in and out
- some models show how much air you have left
How To Pick A Dive Computer
First, choose between a watch-style or console dive computer. Console computers tend to be more affordable and have bigger displays for easier use, but are also bulkier.
Watch-style computers look just like a watch and fit nicely onto your wrist. Many divers continue wearing them as a watch even on the surface.
Compare your shortlisted computers on usability, ease of use, functions, battery life, and price of course. Make sure you buy a dive computer that has nitrox mode, for when you want to further or education and take a nitrox course in the future.
Some models also have air integration, that tells you how much air remains in your scuba tank. While this is a nifty little feature to have, it also means it will cost more.
Cost: $300 to over $1,500
This is purely a luxury item of course, but diving is an amazing experience, with tons of underwater wonders to behold. Wouldn’t it be great if you could show your friends and family your best pictures or a top-notch video of your dive?
Underwater, nature abounds, and while diving is not about looking through a lens, you’ll regret not taking an underwater camera down when a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presents itself!
Looking back at old images and videos can be a lot of fun. Relive that dive all over again!
Cost: $300 and up
Check out the best GoPro for scuba diving here!
Scuba Diving Compass
A dive compass will tell you where you are, where you need to be, and will be helpful to underwater navigate as opposed to blindly following your guide around when you scuba dive.
You can take a heading when you descend and now you can find your way back to the boat.
Although not an essential piece of dive gear, a compass is always a good idea especially on low visibility dives or going without a dive guide.
Alternatively, there are little clip-on diving compasses that can attach to the straps of dive computers. They may not be as accurate but they will work correctly and give you a rough idea of where you are.
If you don’t know how to use a compass, you can opt for the Underwater Navigation module in your advanced open water course.
Cost: $40 to $100
Step 4 – Accessories
Surface Marker Buoy (aka safety sausage) and a dive reel or spool
This strange-looking inflatable tubes at the surface warn boats of your presence and increase your visibility, especially when you are diving in shallower waters like when doing your safety stops.
This is almost a must for recreational diving and a crucial piece of scuba equipment for divers of all levels.
Pair your SMB with a dive reel or spool for easy deployment and to keep the strings nice and neat.
Cost: $20 to $40 for the SMB, another $15 or so for a reel or spool.
Peering into nooks and crannies is always fun, you never know what you are going to get!
Get a little underwater dive light that can be strapped to your BCD shoulder strap or stowed in your buoyancy compensation device pockets.
Choose a dive light with long battery life, a decent number of lumens, and is rated to the depth that you will be diving to.
Cost: $30 and up
Always handy to have, a dive knife can be strapped to your leg, your BCD shoulder strap, or popped into your pocket.
It can get you out of trouble in an event of an emergency, or allow you to be a good Samaritan and cut free stuck fishing lines that might be cutting into coral.
When it comes to picking a dive knife, there are a few things you need to consider. First, think about the type of diving you will be doing and what you are likely to cut.
Another thing to consider is the size and weight of the knife. You want something that is comfortable to carry and won’t weigh you down while you’re diving. And finally, think about the price. Dive knives can range from very affordable to quite expensive, so pick one that fits your budget.
Cost: $25 and up to the hundreds
In addition to your SMB, a whistle will get the attention of passing boats or your own boat captain for easy signaling.
For under $10, these whistles can be popped into your BCD pocket and whipped out in an event of an emergency.
A dry bag is a great investment for any scuba diver. It can keep your belongings safe and dry, even in the wettest conditions like on a tiny dive boat in rough seas.
Plus, it’s a great way to keep your gear organized and easy to find when you need it. This type of bag is usually made out of nylon, PVC or neoprene.
The main compartment is airtight and watertight. They come in many different sizes and colors, making it easy to organize your scuba gear.
Cost: $10 and up
You just bought your first set of scuba gear and now you need to find a way to store it.
Diving mesh bags are the perfect storage solution for your gear. They’re lightweight, durable, and can be easily transported from place to place.
It will keep your gear organized and easy to access when you need it. Bonus point for being breathable and allowing wet scuba gear to air dry!
Cost: $50 and up
This is where your precious first stage and regulators will live. Regulators are sensitive creatures, and banging them around or checking them into an airplane might not have them working optimally, especially when you need them the most.
A padded regulator bag will protect it from knocks and dings and keep everything organized.
Cost: $30 and up
This does exactly what it sounds like – bangs on the tank!
The banger fits around the base of your tank and makes a big noise when you smack it into the tank to get your buddy’s or dive guide’s attention.
Use sparingly though, you don’t want to be pissing other divers off with constant banging. Only use it when you see something of true importance like a whale shark or hammerhead, or when you need attention in an event or some importance or urgency.
Cost: $5 to $10
Nothing is worse than someone’s alternate dragging through coral. Not only is it being real mean to the poor octopus, but it is also damaging the marine life.
A cheap octopus holder keeps your alternate in place. Brightly colored and easy to see in an event of an emergency, these nifty things keep things streamlined and neat when you scuba dive.
Cost: $5 to $10
Your weight belt holds your dive weights, unless your BCD has integrated weights.
While most dive centers have these, it is always nice to have your own and have it cut to exactly your size.
🎽 Why Buy My Own Dive Gear When I Can Use Rental Gear?
You might think, “if I only dive once or twice a year, why should I still buy scuba gear? Wouldn’t it be cheaper and easier to use rental gear, especially if I don’t dive frequently?”
Maybe. But let’s see what the pros and cons of rental gear are.
Rental Scuba Diving Gear
Besides being able to pack lighter for your dive travel, renting scuba gear also allows you to have everything you need and not have to lug around about 20 kg of dive equipment.
You also won’t have to worry about forgetting vital pieces of dive gear halfway around the world.
However, while dive centers typically regularly service their equipment, sometimes, a few things fall through the cracks. Inflator hoses might leak, regulators might free flow frequently, or other breakages associated with high-use scuba diving gear.
Plus, nothing beats using your own gear, your own regulators, and other pieces of scuba gear that you are grown accustomed to over the years.
Plus, here it is common knowledge and quite a joke around dive professionals that divers often pee in their wetsuits! Eew.
Your Set Of Gear
While there’s nothing glaringly wrong with using rental equipment, nothing beats the comfort and familiarity of using your own scuba diving gear.
When you’re scuba diving, you want to make sure you have the best diving experience possible. That means having the right gear for the job.
Owning your own scuba gear means that you can be sure that everything will fit you perfectly and be exactly the way you want it. It also means that you’ll be able to dive whenever you want, without having to worry about spending on renting equipment.
You can always rent scuba gear for your first few dives, giving you a chance to see if diving is right for you before investing in a full set of gear.
Your familiarity with your own scuba diving equipment will also make you more relaxed, improving your air consumption and making you a better diver.
Check out our top picks of the best scuba gear for 2023.
🌊 Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Should I Expect A Full Set Of Scuba Diving Equipment To Cost?
It varies of course, depending on what you choose. You can expect to pay about $300 and up for the basic mask, fins, and snorkel. A good exposure suit will cost about $150 and up. A BCD will cost $500 and up, while a regulator, first stage, alternate air source, and SPG will cost $1,000 and up. Yes, scuba gear is a little pricey but well worth the investment if you are intending to be a diver.
Why Should I Get My Own Scuba Diving Gear?
You know your scuba equipment best and your buoyancy and air consumption might show quick improvement.
When you scuba dive, you want to make sure you have the best diving experience possible. Making sure you have the right gear is essential.
With your own scuba gear, you are able to ensure that everything fits you perfectly and is exactly how you want it. You will also be able to dive whenever you want without worrying about renting equipment.
Used Scuba Gear VS New Scuba Gear
Some things you might be able to buy used. Fins for example, can’t go that wrong. However, when buying regulators, or BCDs, you’ll really want to know the history of the item, when the last servicing was, and how well it has been taken care of.
Where To Find The Best Scuba Gear?
You can head down to a one stop dive shop, or any of the dive shops near you. Divers are a friendly bunch and will be happy to help. If you already know what you want and your sizes, you can also order dive gear online.
See our OWSI’s top picks of the best scuba diving gear for beginners – click here.