Dive Gear Buying Guide
If you are starting to dive and want to get your own equipment, the decisions might be hard to make and expensive. You should gather as much information as you can in advance, so that you could be confident in your decisions when buying expensive gear that will serve you for years to come. Scuba experts can help you with some useful tips:
1. Dive gear is a serious investment
The needed equipment is expensive. This is a fact. It is also a fact that it will last virtually forever. So look at it as a long time investment. Scuba experts complete thousands of miles and rarely need to change the main components, as long as they take care of them and get service regularly. It is safe to say, that the same gear will serve you 10, 20, or more years. Amortize the cost of your gear over the span of your diving activities. Don’t save on key components, like BCDs and regulators – they are very important for the comfort of your dives and essential for your safety.
2. Dive gear is individual and customizable
You will not have to share your equipment with anybody, ever. It will become a part of you with every dive that you take. It will support your hobby, your profession, and your life. There is nothing more important in scuba diving than the equipment that you choose. It has to fit your body and your diving needs just right.
This being said, it is obvious that you should try everything you buy, and try various makes and models to find that perfect fit. Consider prices, reviews, and expert suggestions before buying and then go to the specialty store and buy key components in person. Your key components are exposure suit, fins, mask, boots, CBDs, and regulators.
Another benefit of trying everything on is the fun that you will have. You will talk to the experts who work there, share your stories, and techniques, listen to theirs, and learn something new.
3. Not all gear is created equally
Many companies make scuba gear: Mares, Bare, Henderson, DUI, Scubapro, Zeagle, Aqualung, Hollis, OMS, and Oceanic. This is just a few of them. Do some research and find out what each company is famous for. Some will make better fins, while others will be known for masks or suits. Some might excel at making costumes for special type of diving; others will be good at wide range of gear parts. Take into account what kind of diving you will most likely do and your body type.
Most experienced divers don't buy from one company, but select the best makers of each component and create the best collection that works for them.
Approach "complete packages" from manufacturers with caution. This type of sale works best for the company, not you. We advise to examine each piece separately and evaluate based on how it fits you. Don’t be afraid to mix and match. Most specialized stores carry many products by many different manufacturers, so you should be able to create your unique mix of core gear. You can even place a special order in many dive gear centers if you see it fit.
4. Selective renting
If you don’t feel very confident and are not sure what works best for you, try renting equipment to test it during dives before making the final and pricey decision. Rent two kinds of the same gear and test both. A good example is weight integrated and non-weight integrated SBDs – try both before deciding which one works for you.
While renting the equipment you can understand which components are crucial for you and start buying them first. Many people find that rental suits never fit them just right and make the first investment there. Some gear, like tanks, are pretty similar, and can be purchased at a later time. Other drivers want to own the diving computer to record all their drives and rent different suits for different types of dives. The choice is your personal.
When you will start replacing your rental gear with your own pieces, you can invest a little more on each component than you would allow yourself if you bought everything at once.
5. Used equipment
Be careful while buying used equipment online. Keep in mind that their equipment was customized and fitted for them. Don’t assume that a good deal price-wise will be a good deal in terms of fit. Your life depends on the equipment very literally here, so weigh your options carefully.
If you are convinced that you want to purchase a used gear, buy it at a dive center with a good reputation. Some of them sell used rental equipment that has been maintained and serviced by experts. If any issues should arise, you can always go back to them. An online seller will wash his hands off completely after the transaction.
The warranty on diving gear should never be overlooked. As we stated before – your equipment is your life, so maintaining it is crucial. The best way to be certain about the good working order is by having the manufacturer’s warranty and ensuring that all the needed services and tune-ups are done in time. Make sure the warranty covers the country where you live and where you will be maintaining the gear.
The online retailers, who have significantly lower prices than specialized centers, can achieve that by not offering any manufacturer’s warranty. Stay away from such shops. The same thing can happen to gear that was purchased during vacations in foreign countries. This will eventually cost you more because each time you will have to service your equipment, you will have to get expensive parts that would be included in the warranty. Even worse, if something goes wrong and breaks, you will have no coverage and will have to pay a steep price again.
7. Commission sales versus experts
Good equipment stores will ask a lot of questions. It is essential to determine your exact needs before suggesting any products. If you are not asked many questions, chances are the sales person just wants to sell you what he wants and not what you need.
The sales representative should find out where you will be doing your diving, will you travel with your equipment, how often will you be using it, what kind of diving will you do, how long have you been diving, how much do you care about the manufacturers names, and many others. Those questions help understanding what costume you need, for cold water or for warm, the weight and compactness of the gear, what expert level equipment you need, and if you care about the function only or if appearances matter to you.
Answer all the questions honestly because you want to be happy with your purchase and you want to use it for years to come. Be prepared to spend some time at the store and answer even more questions.
8. Talk to experts
Diving magazines have great overviews and reviews, so read them. But take them with a grain of salt – many manufacturers pay to be included and reviewed. The best practice is turning to the experts and talking to them personally. See what they use, especially if they do similar dives to what you like. Good dive centers employ experienced divers who will be able to guide you in a right direction. Your diving teacher or instructor can give you some useful tips too.
Reading all this you can see that there are a lot of things to consider, but don’t fret. You are in control and you will make the right decisions in time. The most important thing is to be safe and to enjoy your dives . Take your time to select the right equipment, and once you do, go and have the time of your life!