To get started, every diver – regardless of the type of diving – needs a scuba mask, snorkel, and dive fins. All forms of Scuba diving require a buoyancy compensation device (BCD), dive computer, scuba regulator and octopus setup, compass, pressure and depth gauges, and dive weights. Depending on the conditions you’ll be diving in, you might want to add a rash guard, dive skin, or wetsuit (or a combination). A hood and gloves might also be a consideration. For safety, you’ll want to look into a reel, safety sausage and/or signaling devices, and at least one clip. Finally, if you plan to dive a lot, you might consider investing in your own tanks as well. What’s all this mean? Let’s dive into it:
Scuba Masks: Do I really need one? A mask provides protection for your eyes from the water and particles in the water. It also provides an air space which allows your eyes to focus better when you’re in the water. So yes, you do need one. Everything else is based on personal preference. For a breakdown of the different categories and types of masks, check out our Scuba Masks page.
Scuba Snorkels: Necessary device used on the surface to breathe when your face is in the water. You’d think a snorkel is just a snorkel, but there are options and features.
Dive Fins: Necessary because they make moving through the water much easier. You don’t realize how much they help until you take them off. There are so many options – where do you start? For more on the differences in the fins and guidance on selecting the right fins for you and your dives, check out our page dedicated to Scuba Fins.
Scuba BCDs (Buoyancy Compensation Device): What you need to know is that this is basically a vest that you wear like a backpack. Your tank attaches to the back of the BCD, it usually has pockets to hold your weights, and there’s an inflation valve and several dump (deflation) valves that allow you to establish neutral buoyancy underwater and positive buoyancy on the surface. Here’s your roadmap for navigating through the many considerations and options for your Scuba BCD.
Dive Computers: wrist, console, transmitter…It’s so confusing. We got you. The basics here boil down to personal preference again and how technical you want to get with it. You need a dive computer so you can keep track of the vital information on your dive: how long you’ve been down, how long you have before you need to surface, dive planning, dive logs, and to monitor things like depth, ascent rate, safety stop, etc. Each computer is different and we get more into the specifics and considerations on our Dive Computers page.
Scuba Regulator & Octopus setup: This is the dive equipment that allows you to breathe the air from your Scuba tank. You breathe off the scuba regulator and, when necessary, your dive buddy would breathe off the Scuba Octopus (aka Scuba Octo). There are lots of designs and options – you just want to make certain to choose a set that will perform in the conditions you intend to dive in.
Compass: Every diver needs one at all times. You’ll use it to take a heading when you enter the water and to find your way back to the boat. If you don’t know how to use a compass, you’ll learn in your Scuba certification course. A compass is as fancy or basic as you want to get, just make certain it’s made for use underwater and is rated for the depth(s) you’re looking to dive.
Pressure Gauge: This tells you the pressure in your tank at all times, which translates into how much air remains. This is not something you want to take any risks with. Being something you will likely check more than anything on your dives, make sure you can read your pressure gauge easily and in any conditions. If your computer monitors tank pressure, you may not need a seperate pressure gauge.
Depth Gauge: Tells you how deep you are. Yep. It’s that simple. If you have a dive computer that includes this information, this is optional.
Dive Weights: Used to compensate for your natural buoyancy combined with wetsuits and gear. How much weight you need depends on your weight, the weight of your gear and how buoyant your wetsuit is. There are hard and soft dive weights – again, largely based on personal preference.
Rash Guards, Skins, and Wetsuits: A rash guard is a tight fitting (some are looser) long sleeve shirt that will protect your arms and torso from the elements, including the sun. These are usually made from a lightweight material that will shift and move easily with your body. A dive skin is a lightweight piece typically made from lycra that’s best described as a full body bathing suit. It covers your arms, legs, and torso, providing a minimal layer of protection from the elements. Wetsuits are heavier, typically made from neoprene and generally provide more thermal protection. They vary in thickness (usually 2.5mm to 7mm) and come in shorty (covers your torso, has short sleeves and short legs), full (covers your torso, long sleeves and long legs), or 2-piece (usually an overalls style bottom with a long sleeve style jacket/top). Yes, we have more info on how to select the right rash guard, skin, or wetsuit.
Hoods: These are typically made from lycra or neoprene, slip over your head and cover your head and neck. Some have a ‘skirt’ which is just extra material at the bottom of the hood so you can tuck it into your wetsuit for more protection. Generally used for added warmth and protection from stinging sea creatures, these are not necessary but sometimes a good idea. Check out our page on why you might want to pick up a Dive Hood.
Gloves: Another personal preference item and these vary in thickness, features, and intended functions. Some dive gloves are intended specifically for warmth, some are for protection from the environment/elements/stinging organisms.
Scuba Tanks: You need tanks, whether you buy or rent them, because they hold the air you breathe while underwater. We discuss the differences between aluminum and steel tanks as well as sizes over on our Scuba Tanks page.
Additional Safety items: There are additional safety items you’ll want to consider like dive reels, a safety sausage and signaling devices. Not required as you start diving and get certified, but items you’ll want to pick up as you begin to dive outside your courses. You’ll want to check out our Scuba Diving Safety Gear page for more details.
In addition to all of the above, night dives and low visibility dives add the need for dive lights. Underwater photography presents the opportunity for all kinds of camera equipment, including trays, housings, lights, etc. We won’t get into those specifics here, but know that these and many more options are out there – and we’re here to help you with those choices too.