By: Diane Francis
I often run into people who are new to diving and are completely overwhelmed with their options for equipment. With technology continually advancing and airline weight restrictions getting tighter, it’s no wonder a lot of newer divers eyes glaze over at the thought of buying their own equipment.
When I first started diving, I was apprehensive about what I wanted to get, and often went by looks before quality. Call me foolish, but I was in college! Ultimately, this left me with a high volume mask that looks as though it was glowing underwater. I also wasn’t pleased by its constant leaking; little did I know that the mask—although a lovely shade of pink—was too big for my face. I did the “suck” test! It seemed to work well enough! How could I have gotten it so wrong?
Well, there are a number of ways. First, I went in uneducated. I didn’t know what I wanted, and once confronted with the range of choices, I was befuddled. I didn’t know how to choose, so I went with whatever would match my bathing suit rather than what would match my face shape and dive style. This can extend to more than just a mask; it can extend into fins, snorkels, BCD’s—you name it.
So how do we avoid making the same mistakes? Easy. You need to learn about the equipment, and you need to take a realistic look as to what your body and your dive style require from your gear.
Here is a quick breakdown of questions you should ask yourself:
1. Where am I diving?
If you’re diving in Canada, you may want to look ahead at what equipment will be useful for your future dives in our northern lakes: e.g. drysuit, spring straps, open heel fins, hoods, gloves or mitts. Once you have an idea of what you plan to do, you’ll be better able to choose your gear to meet your needs.
2. What do I need?
Do you have a prescription that you want put in your mask? Do you want something that travels light or something made for colder water (like a drysuit or drysuit fins). Do you need lots of d-rings? Or maybe you want something that you can customize depending on where you’re going. You should make a list of your major needs when looking at equipment. Remember, be realistic!
3. What are my abilities?
Do you have any medical issues that may make it difficult to wear full foot fins? Are you prone to leg cramps or have had any surgeries that might make it uncomfortable to kick with a full blade? If you’re new to diving, you may want a dry top snorkel to make it easier to clear any water out. If you’re prone to cramps or have joint troubles, a split fin or hinged fin may be more comfortable for your kick and add propulsion to your dive. If your eyesight isn’t the greatest, you might want to look into an LED dive computer, or one with a wide face like the Mares Nemo.
4. Does it fit me?
Time to be honest! Does it fit me, my abilities and my dive style—or does it just look really cool? Don’t be drawn in to the “but it’s so cool!” idea. Just because it’s cool doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Compare it to your list of “Where am I diving, My abilities and My needs” list before you jump the gun on the new fangled piece of technology. Make an informed decision and talk to your local dive shop about what their experiences are on regarding the item, the warranty and so on. Ultimately, it’s not worth having if you’re not going to use it, right?
5. Do I have the right training?
Not every piece of equipment will require a course to use it. But you should have an orientation and some time in the pool before you take it into open water.
Some equipment, however, do require an orientation in to using it (e.g. drysuits). You might find that taking that extra step with an instructor vastly changes your knowledge on how YOU use YOUR equipment and what works for YOU. You might also find that taking that course with the instructor will leave you with a better sense of accomplishment, especially if you’re headed into the area of photography. Learning how to take one picture that really makes your trip will really set the bar and inspire you to do and dive more.
I hope this list of ideas has shed some light on how to pick gear. Having your own equipment will make you and your dives that much better and ultimately make you more efficient and knowledgeable about yourself.
In my next post, I’ll share a few tips from other divers about what they wish they knew when they were buying their first piece of equipment.
Until next time..