A common question from new divers is "What gear do I need to buy and how much will it cost me?"
The easy answer is: "For basic gear, you need to buy everything!" However, the order and necessity with which you need to buy your gear is the issue at hand.
When you are preparing to learn to scuba dive, virtually every course will require that you supply your own basic gear. Mask, snorkel and fins. Most will also require that you supply your own weight belt and 6 to 8 lbs of lead for the pool. Here at the Canadian Sub-Aqua Club we require that you supply all of your own of the aforementioned items.
There are two primary concerns when you are choosing a mask for the purpose of scuba diving. Does it fit correctly and is it safe?
A mask should be comfortable and should not leak. To fit your mask correctly, place the mask in position and without using the back strap, enhale through your nose. This should suction the mask to your face and it should stay on your face without using your hands. If you cannot get a suction, or you feel wisps of air coming in around an edge, then this mask is not for you. If air comes in, so will water and nothing spoils a dive like having to constantly clear your mask.
Your mask may have anywhere from one single front lense, to two side by side front lenses and they may even have side lenses that offer a different peripheral view. The number of lenses is not overly important but any lense on a scuba mask MUST be 'TEMPERED GLASS'. Plastic lenses that can be found in some cheap masks wil crack under the pressure of scuba diving and may penetrate your eye.
The skirt of the mask may come in rubber, but most are made from silicone these days. You want to avoid masks that have plastic or vinyl skirts, they will not fit correctly and will constantly leak. Masks may also come is a variety of colours. The colour of your mask is strictly personal preference and has little bearing on performance.
A good mask can cost anywhere from $40 - $100.
A snorkel is the least used piece of equipment when you are diving, however it is often used on the surface swim to and from the morring line or descent line. A snorkel that is 'dry' or 'semi-dry' is nice when there are waves that you need to swim through, but a good old J style snorkel can work fine aswell.
A snorkel can cost you from $25 - $50.
Scuba fins come in two basic types - full foot and open foot.
Full foot fins are designed for use in the pool or for snorkel in warmer tropical waters. The are fit to your foot size and offer NO thermal protection.
Open foot fins are designed to be worn with a dive boot and can be uncomfortable when worn without a dive boot. They offer an open foot pocket and an adjustable strap at the back. Diving anywhere in Canada you will require an Open Foot pocket style fin. Before purchasing your fins, you may want to purchase your dive boots and bring them with you to try on your fins and ensure a good fit.
Fins come in a wide variety of colours, styles, and functions. A good fin should be rigid and may or may not be 'split'. Spring straps are always a nice addition to a new pair of fins.
Fins that are improperly fit can cause cramping, blistering and may even come off in the water. Always ensure that your gear is properly fit for you!
Fins will cost your anywhere from $75 - $200.
There are two types of weightbelt. A nylon belt designed for solid lead weights and a pocketed belt designed for soft lead weights. Both are acceptible for scuba diving. A weightbelt with pockets is often more comfortable and easier to change the weights out. Hard weights tend to be slightly less expensive.
A nylon weightbelt with a buckle will cost around $20 while a pocket belt will cost around $35. Lead sells for about $4.00 per pound.
This article is continued in Part Two - Scuba Gear and discusses environmental protection, life-support, and other goodies.
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