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How to choose the correct scuba gear: A buyer’s guide

There are so many choices of brand and styles, when you first get into scuba diving it can be overwhelming. Let’s start with brands. Is there a best brand? The answer is no, but some offer better warranties and/or service is available worldwide. If that matters to you, it’s something to keep in mind as you shop for gear.

Choosing the Right Dive Mask

Let’s start with scuba masks. The best mask for you is one that fits your face, fits your budget, and looks good to you. There are (generally) two types of skirts – clear and black (or not clear). Some divers prefer clear masks because it allows more ambient light to fill the mask. The downside to a clear skirt is in very bright conditions, so much light is allowed in, your face can be reflected in the mask lens, which can be distracting. Also, many clear skirts yellow over time. Black skirts do not have those issues, but they can feel more claustrophobic to some divers. Another choice is one lens window or two. If you are going to have prescription lens’ for your mask, choose a two-lens mask as it will look better. Regardless of which style you choose, try the mask of for size and fit. Obviously, this is something you can only do at your local dive store.

How to Find the right fitting mask

  1. Hold the mask up to your face without putting on the strap. Let the strap dangle below the mask.
  2. Gently breathe in through your nose to form a suction seal.
  3. Now take note of how it feels. Does your nose fit? Does the mask skirt create a good seal or does it feel too big or too small? In general, does it feel comfortable enough to wear for an hour or so?
  4. Narrow your search down to a few masks, then try them on with your eyes closed and see how they feels. That’s how you pick a mask.
  5. Researching Diving equipment

How to pick a snorkel

There are generally three types of snorkels, dry, semi-dry, and traditional. The difference matters to some when snorkeling, but less so if you are mostly going to scuba dive. Dry snorkels have a float that seals the top of the snorkel and keeps water out, but only when the snorkel is in your mouth. Semi-dry snorkels have a mechanism at the top of the snorkel to block water that might otherwise splash into the top of a traditional snorkel tube and enter the mouthpiece. If all you are interested is using a snorkel for scuba, any one of these will work. In fact, you might prefer a roll up snorkel that can stay in a pocket while scuba diving if you don’t want to do a lot of snorkeling.

Finding the Perfect Buoyancy Compensator Device (BCD)

BCD’s come in two basic styles – back inflate or traditional wrap around inflation. Most new scuba divers learn to dive in a traditional full inflation BCD. This is one where the air goes all around the diver’s body. It’s easier to stay afloat on the surface with a traditional BCD, but under water a back-inflation BCD performs better. Back-inflation, when you are diving, places the air right where you need it, around the tank. On the surface, you need to add less air and lean back on the BCD a bit and it is just as comfortable as a traditional BCD.

Another thing to consider is an alternate air source combined with inflator. This allows you to drop the octo from your regulator set-up. With this design, you give the out-of-air diver the regulator you are breathing from and use the inflator/regulator attached the BCD. One less hose means you are more streamlined.

Backplate and Wing systems

You might want a backplate and wing system instead of a BCD. This has the advantage of be very streamlined and versatile, but the one thing you won’t usually find are weight pockets or regular pockets on a backplate system. This means you will need to use a weight belt. It you want pockets for stuff other than weights, you will need to purchase shorts that have cargo pockets, which go over your wetsuit. While there are many harness options, if you choose the simplest one-piece of webbing version you can customize the fit for any diver. This is also a great option for young folks who are still growing. Just change the webbing and you have a new size! If you decide to dive double cylinders in the future, you can change the wing and you are good to go. Travelling? Change your steel backplate to an aluminum or soft one. It’s absolutely the most versatile

How to choose a dive computer.

Much like a personal computer, dive computers keep changing and getting better over time. You should expect to get anywhere from five to ten years of life from a dive computer. Even the cheapest dive computer these days can handle Nitrox or Enriched Air diving. More technical dive computers can also handle helium and closed-circuit rebreather (CCR) settings. There are three main styles of computers – watch, console, wrist computer.

If you want to put on your computer at the beginning of your vacation and never take it off, a watch style will be your choice. If you like the idea of having your computer attached to your regulator, choose a console. And if you like the idea of having a bigger screen than you get with a watch, and don’t want your computer attached to your regulator, a wrist style will be your choice. As for features and options, air integration is great and allows you to remove one more hose. Trimix is a must for technical divers, but meaningless to recreational divers. Whichever computer you chose, read the manual and get familiar with it before you go on vacation.

Finding the Right Regulator

Years ago, balanced versus unbalanced and diaphragm versus piston mattered. These days, not so much. For recreational diving, pick a regulator that you like, the feels right, and that you can get serviced in the areas where you will be diving. Also consider the warranty and what is covered and for how long. A properly tuned modern regulator is going to breath pretty much the same as any other regulator. The better regulators say in tune longer and need less servicing. It’s like many things in life, you get what you pay for.

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