The Essential Gear for Scuba Diving

What Dive Gear Should You Buy and What Gear Should You Rent?

Should I Buy Gear Immediately?

Diver on the Beach
Getty Images

 What equipment do you need to buy to start scuba diving? The answer is... none!

Many scuba divers use rental equipment on their first few dives before purchasing their own set of dive gear. That said, there is an advantage to training in the scuba equipment that you will use once you are certified. The following list of gear is arranged in my suggested order of purchase.

Mask

Snorkeling
Vladamir Piskunov/Vetta/Getty Images

If you can only afford one piece of dive gear, buy a mask. A high-quality, comfortable scuba diving mask that fits your face well can make the difference between enjoyable dives and a miserable time underwater. Take your time selecting a mask and don't forget to bring it with you on your dive trips; rental masks will get the job done, but having your own mask will make a significant difference in your comfort level underwater.​

Learn About Scuba Masks:

Fins

scuba diving fins (equipment)
Fins for scuba diving. Cressi, Aqualung

Most divers find that owning their own set of fins (and dive booties, if appropriate) makes them more confident underwater. Rental fins come in such a variety of lengths, styles, and stiffnesses that it is hard to predict exactly what you will get when renting diving fins. This is especially true for divers with unusual fin sizes; I have exceptionally small feet and have been stuck with weak, floppy children's fins in rental gear situations.

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Dive Computer

scuba diving computers (equipment)
A divers checks his computer. istockphoto.com

Do you remember how to calculate your no-decompression limits on the dive tables? If not, I recommend that you purchase a dive computer early in your diving career.

Dive computers help to reduce the risk of decompression sickness by writing a custom dive profile for the dive as you move through the water. Remember, following a buddy's or dive guide's dive computer is never acceptable, as the computers are extremely sensitive and small differences between divers' underwater profiles can change their no-decompression limits. You need you own dive computer.

Wetsuit/Drysuit

Scuba diving wetsuit (equipment)
Owning your own wetsuit will make you more comfortable underwater. istockphoto.com

To keep a diver warm, a wetsuit or a drysuit must fit properly. If you are an average size, most dive shops will have a suit that will fit you well, but nothing beats the comfort of having your own wetsuit or drysuit.

When renting wetsuits, most divers find that diving makes them need to pee, which raises some considerations. First, you might not want to dive in a wetsuit that other people have urinated in. Second, you may want to be able to pee underwater, and doing so in a rental suit is not the most polite behavior in the world.​

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Regulators

scuba diving regulators (equipment)
A set of Zeagle scuba diving regs. Natalie L Gibb

Regulators are an expensive purchase. Since they are a non-fit item, many divers choose to rent regulators instead of purchasing their own. Modern regulators are very reliable, and most dive centers will have a stock of well-maintained rental regulators for their divers to use.

When purchasing your own regulators, take your time and do your research. With proper maintenance, a good set of regulators will last your entire diving career.

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Buoyancy Compensator (BC)

scuba diving buoyancy compensator (equipment)
the Cressi Aero Pro Buoyancy Compensator (BC). Cressi

Buoyancy Compensators (BCs) are expensive and bulky. For this reason, many divers travel with most of their own dive gear but opt to rent BCs to avoid the extra bulk and weight in their baggage.

Renting and diving with a variety of BCs before purchasing one will allow you to test out different styles and features, which will help you to determine which is best when it comes time to you his own. Of course, your dives will be more comfortable with your own BC.

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Accessories

surface marker buoy (diving equipment)
A scuba diver holds up a surface merker buoy. istockphoto.com

Once you have purchased a BC, you will have a way to carry dive accessories and safety equipment with you on your dives. Popular accessories include dive knives, underwater lights, whistles and surface marker buoys for surface communication, underwater signaling devices such as tank bangers, and writing slates.

Of course, if any of these accessories are necessary for your dive environment, you may want to purchase them earlier in your diving career.

Weights

scuba diving weights (equipment)
Scuba diving weights on a green belt. istockphoto.com

Unless you plan to travel independently to dive sites, you will not need to purchase your own weights. Most divers simply use weights from the shops or boats they dive with.

Weights are usually included in the price of dives. However, if you dive at local dive sites, such as quarries, lakes, or beaches, without a dive guide, you may need to purchase your own set of weights.

Tanks

scuba diving tanks (equipment)
Scuba diving tanks. istockphoto.com

Like weights, tanks rentals are usually included in the price of diving with a dive shop or dive boat. Again, if you plan to dive independently, you will need to purchase your own scuba tanks or rent them from a dive shop. Keep in mind that scuba tanks require yearly visual inspections and a hydrostatic test once every five years (dependent upon where you live).

Learn More about Scuba Tanks:

Conclusion

scuba diving gear
A full set of scuba diving equipment. istockphoto.com

Diving is an equipment-dependent sport, but new divers needn't purchase a full set of dive gear immediately. Most dive shops provide rental gear for students to use during courses if they are not yet ready to purchase a full set of gear.

However, completing your course in at least some of your own gear will allow you to familiarize yourself with its function and use, and make you more comfortable once you are certified. Remember, it's dangerous to simply purchase dive gear and try diving on your own. Seek scuba lessons from a certified instructor when you are ready to start diving.​