DIVE.in presents

Scuba Gear 101 ~ for divers & by divers

Scuba Gear & Dive Equipment

Here is DIVE.in’s Equipment 101 where we tell you all about the scuba gear and what you need to know.

We have separated the articles into smaller bits, concentrating on one main theme.

Here you’ll find a quick summary of the equipment, and plenty of in-depth reviews of the equipment.

Here's the dive equipment we'll cover in this guide. Click the links to jump to the gear.

BCD - Regulators - Wetsuits - Drysuits - Dive Masks - Full Face Dive Masks - Snorkels - Scuba Fins - Dive Computers - Dive watches 

 

BCD or Buoyancy Control Device

The BCD, also called BC, stands for Buoyancy Control Device or Buoyancy Compensator. It’s the vest that holds the tank. But, most importantly, it's the one you use to control buoyancy.

The BCD has many different features to control the buoyancy, depending on the brand and type.

There are an inflator and a deflator mechanism and on a typical BCD (this is used to add or release air to and from your BCD). The inflator and deflator are usually located on a hose connected to your left shoulder.

Most BCDs come with a few pockets and D rings for carrying gadgets on the dive; some having weight pockets as well.

BCD’s come in different forms and shapes: jacket-types and wing-types. The jacket is more popular for most divers and gives great comfort underwater and in the surface. The wing-type BCD gives better buoyancy and enables a perfect horizontal possession during the dive.

Here are some great BCD’s you should look at before deciding which to buy.

Cressi Start (M / Unisex)

The Cressi Start was initially intended to be used by dive schools and resorts. It has a basic design but is highly functional making it ideal for beginner divers too.

One nice feature is that the waist strap is independent of the air bladder, so if you tighten it while the jacket is deflated, it’s not going to squeeze your stomach too much when you inflate. If you are looking for a BCD that is reliable and almost bullet-proof, the Cressi Start is a great entry-level option.

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Cressi Start (M / Unisex):
Our recommendations:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Type: Jacket
  • Capacity: 29.2 lbf / 13.25 kgf (XS) to 45 lbf / 20.4 kgf (XL)
  • Integrated Weights? No
  • Number of air bladders/cells: One
  • Number of dump valves: Three
  • Number of D-rings: Two plastic
  • Designed for: Unisex
What we like:
  • The waist strap is separate from the air bladder.
  • Inflator hose is easily disassembled for cleaning.
  • From a dive center perspective, the size is clearly displayed on the shoulder pad.
  • Great value for money.
What we don't like:
  • No metal D-rings.
  • Edges of the shoulder straps are a little rough and can chafe against the neck.
  • The chest strap is quite high.

Sherwood Luna (W)

Definitely, a BCD designed with women divers in mind. It features thick padding on the inside with a plush nylon finish. The jacket and air bladder are specially cut for a snug fit to female curves.

Sherwood uses a unique Halfpac backplate which offers the versatility of soft backplate with the stability of a hard backplate. This means it’s extra comfortable but will also hold your cylinder firmly in place.

One great feature of the Sherwood Luna is the padded neoprene neck. A small hint of color adds a nice feminine touch.

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Sherwood Luna (W):
Our recommendations:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Type: Jacket
  • Capacity: 18 lbf / 8.16 kgf (XS) to 25 lbf / 11.34 kgf (L)
  • Integrated Weights? Yes
  • Number of air bladders/cells: One
  • Number of dump valves: Two
  • Number of D-rings: Three stainless steel
  • Designed for: Women
What we like:
  • Slimmer cut for women.
  • Extra padding at the back of the neck.
  • Stylish design.
What we don't like:
  • If diving in cold water, there may not be enough releasable weight (16 lb / 7.25 kg).
  • No right shoulder exhaust valve.
  • Zippered weight pockets.
  • Would be nice to be able to pick your color!

Scuba Regulator

The regulator set consists of a 1st stage, which is mounted on the tank valve. Then there are two regulators in the 2nd stage: a pressure gauge and a low-pressure inflator hose that is attached to the BCD inflator.

  • The regulators have a primary and an alternate air source. The alternate air source is for you or your buddy in an emergency or a back up is needed.
  • A modern regulator is a demand valve regulator, which means it give you air when you want it. When you breathe in, air flows from the tank through the 1st stage and to the 2nd stage supplying air to you.
  • The pressure gauge shows how much air is in the tank and usually has a caution area that warns you when the air is getting low.

Read more about How to Choose a Scuba Regulator

Apeks XTX40

It wouldn’t be a list of the best regulators without an Apeks or two (or three). The XTX40 is one of the company’s affordable models. Despite the very tempting price point, it’s more often viewed as a high-end product.

Loved by techies for their reliable deco reg performance and by recreational divers alike, the XTX40 offers a lot of bang for your buck.

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Apeks XTX40:
Our recommendations:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Valve: A-clamp
  • First stage: Balanced
  • HP ports: Two
  • LP ports: Four (with the option for a fifth)
  • Cracking/flow adjustment knob
  • Venturi switch
  • Left to right-hand conversion possible.
  • Environmentally sealed? Yes.
  • 40% EANx safe? Yes.
What we like:
  • Good for cold water diving
  • Balanced and environmentally sealed.
  • Braided flexihose comes as standard.
  • Exceptional breathability for the price.
  • Suitable for mixed gas diving and 100% O2 after being O2 cleaned.
What we don't like:
  • There’s really not a lot to criticize here but if we’re really being tough we could point to the o-ring in the swiveling first stage. Because of the design, after a few years, you may see some tiny bubbles escaping from the join point.

Aqua Lung Mikron

This regulator has been specifically designed to be ultra lightweight without compromising on quality or breathability. If you’re the type of diver who’s always boarding a plane, you won’t be weighed down by this bit of kit.

This is an A-clamp reg but it’s also available in DIN here.

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Aqua Lung Mikron:
Our recommendations:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Valve: A-clamp
  • First stage: Balanced
  • Max pressure: 230 bar (300 in DIN)
  • HP ports: Two
  • LP ports: Four
  • Cracking/flow adjustment knob
  • Venturi switch
  • Environmentally sealed? Yes.
  • 40% EANx safe? Yes.
What we like:
  • Uber lightweight.
  • Balanced and environmentally sealed.
  • Chrome finish looks good for years.
  • The mouthpiece is exceptionally comfortable.
What we don't like:
  • Unless you have a very narrow face, expect some bubble interference. The small size means this is unavoidable.

Apeks XTX40

It wouldn’t be a list of the best regulators without an Apeks or two (or three). The XTX40 is one of the company’s affordable models. Despite the very tempting price point, it’s more often viewed as a high-end product.

Loved by techies for their reliable deco reg performance and by recreational divers alike, the XTX40 offers a lot of bang for your buck.

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Apeks XTX40:
Our recommendations:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Valve: A-clamp
  • First stage: Balanced
  • HP ports: Two
  • LP ports: Four (with the option for a fifth)
  • Cracking/flow adjustment knob
  • Venturi switch
  • Left to right-hand conversion possible.
  • Environmentally sealed? Yes.
  • 40% EANx safe? Yes.
What we like:
  • Good for cold water diving
  • Balanced and environmentally sealed.
  • Braided flexihose comes as standard.
  • Exceptional breathability for the price.
  • Suitable for mixed gas diving and 100% O2 after being O2 cleaned.
What we don't like:
  • There’s really not a lot to criticize here but if we’re really being tough we could point to the o-ring in the swiveling first stage. Because of the design, after a few years, you may see some tiny bubbles escaping from the join point.

Dive computer

The dive computer is a must for any serious diver. You might be okay with renting in the beginning. Or even following the computer of your dive guide(which is not advisable), but if like diving you might as well go ahead and get your own.

So, what should you look for in a good dive computer?

Most important, is to find one that suits your needs. So, ask yourself, do I need one that can do tech diving? Will I be diving with Nitrox? Should I go for a Console mounted dive computer or a wrist-mounted one? Large size or watch size?

Once you know this, dig into the once that suites these needs of yours, and find one you like.

Or see our recommendations on a good dive computer here:

Cressi leonardo Dive computer Review

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Cressi Leonardo:

Our recommendations:

I picked up this dive computer to give to students and dive tourists. For my students it is easier to keep track of their dive times, ascent rates, and helps them understand how their time effects how long they can stay underwater with multi-level diving. The ability to reset the computer was the deciding factor to buy this for my classes. The oversized case is a little annoying, but not terrible.

Pro's and Con's of the Cressi Leonardo dive computer:

  • Best for: Entry Level 
  • Gases: Air, Nitrox
  • User Changeable Battery: Yes
  • Features: Oxygen toxicity indicator, user adjustable conservatism levels, easy to program single button interface
  • Pros: High-definition screen, has a battery save mode, the lower price and ability to reset are great for rentals or classes
  • Cons: The Cressi Leonardo is large and has a super long wristband

Suunto D6i watch sized Dive computer Review

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Suunto D6i:

Our recommendations:

There is something to be said about a dive computer that is as beautiful out of the water as it is in the water. Plus, the D6i has all the features I need for my recreational diving. The display is still easy to read and manipulate even though it is watch sized. The Suunto algorithms are more conservative than other computers, but I’m ok with that because it keeps me further away from dcs.

Pro's and Con's of the Suunto D6i dive computer:

  • Best for: Entry level and advanced
  • Gases: Air, Nitrox to 99%/3 Mixes
  • User Changeable Battery: No
  • Features: Steel casing, 3D digital compass, free dive mode, anti-reflective coated glass face
  • Pros: Can be worn as a watch out of the water thus keeping your dive info with you, strong and durable steel case
  • Cons: Dive algorithms are conservative, the strap is not metal like the computer housing, expensive

Cosmiq+ Dive computer Review

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Cosmiq+:

Our recommendations:

 

Overall, I was very pleased with the performance of the Cosmiq+. The screen has its drawbacks, but they are easy to overcome. The computer is light and comfortable. The battery only lasts about 6-7 hours but is rechargeable and easy to hook up with the magnetic charger.

In the end, you won’t find very many dive computers out there with the features and connectivity that the Cosmiq+ includes.

Pro's and Con's of the Cosmiq Plus dive computer:

  • Best for: All-diver
  • Gases: Air, Nitrox
  • User Changeable Battery: Yes, via magnetic charger 
  • Features: Bluetooth connectivity links to DeepBlu app for sharing and digital dive log, Nitrox and air NDL algorithms, Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Pros: Watch is a near-perfect size, Battery charges with included magnetic charger,
    6-hour active diving battery life, Social media and digital dive log Bluetooth connectivity with the app
  • Cons: The screen is difficult to read in bright light

Suits used for diving

Keeping yourself warm under the water isn’t the same as keeping warm above the surface. While diving, your body always needs protection because water contracts heat twenty times faster than air does.

Scuba Wetsuits

Wetsuits are used when diving in warmer water. These are made of neoprene and keep the body warm by sealing the water around the body. It’s then heated by the body depending on the thickness and length of the wetsuits.

Scuba Drysuits

Drysuits are more commonly used when scuba diving in cold water. Theses are airtight suits that keep the body dry during the entire dive. Dry suits act like incubators and keep the warmth inside against your body.

Scuba Diving Mask

A scuba diving mask is the piece of equipment that helps you with your view while diving. Masks are made of tempered plastic and the seal around the face is made of silicone.

Read about the Full Face Mask.

Diving masks come in any size needed from small low volume to large masks with extended vision. There are even masks with valves to empty out excess water.

When selecting a mask the most important thing is the face seal. If the mask has a bad seal, water can seep in. An irritation like this isn’t something you want happening during your dive so make sure it’s good quality. Just because the mask has a big price tag doesn’t always mean it’s the best choice.

Here's The Complete Guide to Buying a Scuba Mask.

Scuba Fins

When diving you want to move through the water easily without wasting a lot of energy. This is why you need fins. There are many different types, varying in from, shape, and brand, used for scuba diving.

Basically there are 2 types of fins: Open-heel and Full-foot:

Full-foot fins completely fit around your foot. The foot pocket is usually made of soft rubber, which makes it the most comfortable. And the tighter fit makes it the best for swimming. However this option is not recommended for cold-water dives.

Open-heel fins are open at the heel with a strap securing them. Boots are used with this type of fin to protect the foot. This fin provides better protection against cuts and cold water. Open-heel fins are the most commonly used for diving, giving great protection while still being able to kick well.

Here's our Full Scuba Fins Guide.

Oceanic Vortex V16 Review

Oceanic Vortex V16

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Oceanic Vortex V16:

Our recommendations:

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Oceanic Vortex V16:

  • Advantages
  • These fins use a patented Nature’s Wing Propeller Fin Technology, for speed and agility.
  • Require little effort to move through the water.
  • Built for speed comfort and manoeuvrability.
  • Disadvantages
  • Quite heavy and bulky.
  • For some, there is a plastic ridge that sits directly on the toes; this can cause rubbing and discomfort, if the fin is not fitted properly.

Aqua Lung Express Full Foot Fins

Aqua Lung Smart-Snorkel Full Face Mask

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Aqua Lung Express Full Foot Fins:

Advantages:
  • The blade of this fin is made up of 2 different materials that work perfectly to increase efficiency and flexibility.
  • Provides excellent power for scuba divers.
  • They have anti-slip pads on the base of the foot pockets, which prevents you from sliding around.
Disadvantages:
  • This is not a great fin for any other underwater sports other than scuba diving or snorkelling.

Check the price on:

Leisurepro with shipping to US and Canada
Amazon with shipping worldwide

Mares Avanti Quattro Plus Review

Mares Avanti Quattro Plus

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Mares Avanti Quattro Plus:

Our recommendations:

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Mares Avanti Quattro Plus:

  • Advantages
  • These fins are made of two types of material to aid in strength and durability.
  • They have a bungee heel strap, which is perfect for putting them on quickly and removing them quickly, as well as securing the fit.
  • Extremely well made and comfortable.
  • Disadvantages
  • They are on the pricier side.
  • Can come up a little small in size so choose accordingly.

Snorkel for scuba diving

It’s not always common for divers to have a snorkel, but having one on hand is always a good idea.

On a long surface swim, you’ll swim better using the snorkel plus it’ll save your air for the dive. Having a snorkel can also come in handy if you run into something amazing.  You’ll still be able to put your face down to take a look, even if you are out of air.

If you want to know more about the gear used for snorkeling, read more here.

Snorkels come in all types: from basic tubes with a mouthpiece to more advanced snorkels that can fold up and be put in the BCD pocket. The most popular snorkels today come with valves in the bottom making it easier and quicker to empty out water.

Aqua Lung Nautilus Foldable Travel Snorkel

Aqua Lung Nautilus Foldable Travel Snorkel

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Aqua Lung Nautilus Foldable Travel Snorkel:

Our recommendations:

Advantages & Disadvantages of the Aqua Lung Nautilus Foldable Travel Snorkel:

  • Advantages :
  • This snorkel is ideal for the travelers. It’s lightweight and easy to pack.
  • It is flexible and easily sits on the face.
  • This is a great snorkel for beginner snorkelers and divers.
  • Disadvantages :
  • The airway can sometimes become blocked with dirt and sand, if not cleaned properly after every use.
  • There is no splashguard, meaning that water can enter the top of the snorkel whilst you’re on the surface.

Cressi Supernova Dry Snorkel

Cressi Supernova Dry Snorkel

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Cressi Supernova Dry Snorkel:

Our recommendations:

Advantages & Disadvantages of the Cressi Supernova Dry Snorkel:

  • Advantages :
  • This snorkel is extremely comfortable to use.
  • It has a splashguard, which means if you’re ending your dive in choppy water, you do not need to worry about inhaling water.
  • One of the best snorkels available on the market.
  • Disadvantages :
  • This snorkel tends to flap around a bit if it hasn’t been fastened onto the mask properly.
  • If you get sand stuck in the valve at the top of the snorkel, this can block the tube and therefore not allow you to breathe through it.

Accessories

If you are into gadgets then you’ll be happy to know that the diving industry is full of cool accessories.

Diving knives, dive lights, dive gloves, uw communication equipment, uw photo gear, SMBs, rings, hooks, extra pockets, tank bangers, pointers, scooters, heated wetsuits, computers, and on and on it goes.

Know the first equipment that you need to purchase.

As long as your wallet can handle it if you can imagine it, you can probably get it.

How to take care of your dive gear

When you own your own scuba gear it's important to know how to take care of it.

Storage of your dive gear

How to storrage dive gear

Torben Lonne - DIVE.in

The first step is to ensure that you’re storing your gear properly.

Always follow the instructions in your equipment’s manual or care guide.

 

 

General rules of thumb would be:

  • All gear should be rinsed and dried thoroughly
  • BCDs and wetsuits or drysuits be stored on appropriate hangers
  • BCD stored partly inflated
  • Regulator sets be stored loosely rolled up or hanged
  • Fins are stored where they don't bend or get miss-shaped
  • And along with all other gear be stored in a dry, well-ventilated place out of direct sunlight.

Also ensure you keep your gear away from any chemicals that may damage it, in particular if you’re storing it in your garage or basement.

Getting your dive gear ready

Getting your scuba gear ready

Torben Lonne - DIVE.in

Once you’re ready to break out the scuba gear after the winter break, start with a visual inspection of all items. Are there any obvious frays, dents, or other signs of wear and tear that you didn’t pick up on during the dive season. Have these mended. If it’s just a bit of fraying, a pair of scissors and a heat source to seal them off may do it.

If it’s a sign of more serious damage, have it tended to by a qualified shop.

Check your BCD and suits

Check all zippers on BCD’s and drysuits or wetsuits. Check that they’re intact, and that they run smoothly. If they’re hard to zip, add either a professional grade lubricant, natural beeswax, or simply a bit of candle wax (rub the stub of a candle on the entire zipper) to make it run smoothly again.

And check for any holes or punctures in the material, for drysuits, in particular in the membranes around neck and wrist.

Check your regulator

Scuba Regulators

Torben Lonne - DIVE.in

Check your regulator set visually by pulling back on any hose protectors you may have, and ensure that all hoses are intact and haven’t started cracking at the points where they bend.

Check the rubber on the hoses for decay, they will feel very soft, and may even crumble a bit it you scrape a nail on them.

Look at your mouthpieces and the strips that connect them. Both should be intact, if not, change them for new ones.

If you have access to a full tank of air, attach the regulator set to this and take a few breaths and check that the breathing is easy, and that there are no unexpected sounds when you breathe in it.

A rasping sound can indicate a problem with membrane, which should be addressed by a trained technician.

Check all your “loose” parts

Check gloves and hoods for holes, frays, and general wear and tear. Check fin straps to ensure that they’re still robust and won’t suddenly tear. Check dive knives for rust and re-lubricate it with vaseline to protect it from further corrosion.

Check mask straps for wear, and consider rubbing the lens with toothpaste inside and out to remove any buildup. And finally, check dive lights for batteries and to ensure the bulb is still working.

Finally, consult your gear service log and see if any of your gear is ripe for a full-on service. You do have a service log for your gear, right?

If you find any problems with your gear that cannot be readily fixed, such as replacing a mask strap, turn it in at an authorized shop.

Do a check-out dive

Diver checking propper weigting

Irabel8

Finally, take your dive gear for an easy dive at a well-known site, to ensure that everything works in real life.

This is also a good chance to test the most important element in your equipment configuration: You. Most dive accidents can be traced back to the human elements, with bad decisions, panic, and error in judgment being the main reasons dives turn bad.

So check that your dive skills are still up to spec, and if you feel a bit rustier than you like, ally yourself with a good, qualified instructor or divemaster and do a tune-up dive or two before taking your dive adventures to the deep water.

Going through your gear like this at the beginning of each dive season, or any time you’ve been away from diving for an extended period will greatly enhance your dive safety and enjoyment.

Cut Costs Not Safety – Is It Safe To Rent Scuba Gear?

Cut Costs Not Safety – Is It Safe To Rent Scuba Gear?

The equipment required for scuba diving can cost a fortune. Renting equipment from a dive store is a great way to save money. Buy the essential items for yourself first, then rent scuba gear for the rest of the remaining equipment that you need. One thing you do need...

read more
Tips To Defog Scuba Mask

Tips To Defog Scuba Mask

Unless you do something about it, it’s bound to happen, your mask fogs up during a dive. If you forgot what your scuba instructor taught you on this subject here is a small guide to avoid it, without you having to buy “mask defog liquid”. New Scuba Mask After buying a...

read more
What Is The First Dive Equipment I Need To Purchase?

What Is The First Dive Equipment I Need To Purchase?

You have just finished your last of many diving courses and now you are a certified diver. You learned a lot of new exciting things and a whole new world has opened up to you. This includes a lot of new cool dive equipment. During the course you learned to use the...

read more
Dive Gear: When to Buy What?

Dive Gear: When to Buy What?

You might ask yourself: When should I buy my first set of Dive Gear? Here on DIVE.in, we've already covered what dive equipment should be your first bit of dive equipment. But what about the remaining kit? When should you go all-in and buy your own? How much should...

read more
Equipment Review – Fourth Element Argonaut Drysuit

Equipment Review – Fourth Element Argonaut Drysuit

British diving “software” producer Fourth Element has long been known for their high quality insulating undergarments, wetsuits, gloves, hoodies, boots, and most recently, their travel gear. It had long been rumored that they’d be putting out a drysuit, as this was...

read more
Scuba Diving Weights: Weight belt or BCD integrated system

Scuba Diving Weights: Weight belt or BCD integrated system

First it should be established that contrary to what the name implies, weight systems are not intended to make you sink while diving. Many people hear that weight systems are needed when diving and fear that they will sink straight to the bottom of the sea. Weight...

read more
Equipment Review: Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Dive Watch

Equipment Review: Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Dive Watch

Presented on the recent Basel World 2013 watch expo, this brand new mechanical dive watch is aching to show you how deep it is. Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Oris has a solid reputation among divers. While their watches do not have the notoriety of Rolex or Omega,...

read more
Choosing a Regulator mouthpiece

Choosing a Regulator mouthpiece

Being comfortable in the water is a big thing for me. I believe that not only does it make diving more enjoyable but can have an impact on my air consumption too.  And having a good mouthpiece is a simple but really important thing on a good long dive. There's nothing...

read more
Safety Equipment: Nautilus Lifeline

Safety Equipment: Nautilus Lifeline

The Nautilus Lifeline is a product intended never to be used: a combined VHF radio and GPS transmitter, making it possible for divers who get separated from their boat to radio their own boat or any boats in range and transmit their position. On a recent liveaboard to...

read more
Equipment Review: Turtle Fins

Equipment Review: Turtle Fins

The Turtle Fin is made of classic design, wide, short, and made of natural rubber. This makes for a powerful, no-bull fin, ideal for technical diving. A staple with technical divers and professional divers (including military and rescue divers) it’s a tried-and-true...

read more
SMB And DSMB: Identifying Your Marker Buoys

SMB And DSMB: Identifying Your Marker Buoys

SMB or DSMB is short for Surface Marker Buoy or Delayed Surface Marker Buoy.Searching around the internet I found a lot of different opinions on this subject. All agree that it’s a surface marker, and that DSMB is deployed underwater. But an SMB can either...

read more
How divers rate us: