EXPERT ADVICE ON BUYING YOUR FIRST DIVE KIT: THE BASICS
Once a diver has fallen in love with the underwater world, it’s natural that they feel the need to purchase their own dive gear – after all, it’s better to have stuff you’re familiar with and not rely on rental gear that has been used, and even abused, by lots of other people.
When it comes to purchasing your own dive equipment, however, there are as many pitfalls as there are products, and every discussion about dive gear – which is one of the most frequently asked questions on dive boats, around beer tables, and on web forums – comes with a whole world of advice from both dive professionals and those know-it-all 'expert' divers.
You know the type – got all the latest dive bling and know everything there is to know about everything, even though they can’t actually dive worth toffee but need to let the dive group that know they are superior in every way because they own the most expensive regulator.
Buying dive gear is analogous to buying a car – when you take them back to basics, all cars do fundamentally the same thing: they go, they stop, they turn around corners and have some switches and gauges to assist you when you’re driving.
If you want bells, whistles, auto-sport-mode-tiptronic-go-faster-alloy-wheel-sat-nav-cell-phone fancy pants stuff then fine but remember a flash car is not in any meaningful way going to get you to your destination substantially faster than a cheap runabout, neither will it make you a better nor a safer driver. In fact, until you’ve mastered the basics of driving a car, some of that extra gubbins may well compromise your ability to drive in the first place.
You also have to take into account the reasons for buying your own vehicle in the first place. Do you really need one or is it cheaper to take the bus? Are you travelling long distances or just tootling back and forth from work, school and the shops? Do you live in the city, the suburbs or miles away from civilization in the countryside? Is a two-seater sports coupé really appropriate if you’ve got three kids?
The same principles apply to dive gear. Dive equipment can be very expensive, so if you’re only diving once or twice per year on holiday, would it suit your budget to rent some of the equipment from the dive centre? It may seem expensive at the time but you can get a whole holiday for the price of a single set of regulators. Will you be diving in the tropics or every other weekend in a freezing cold quarry?
Is it cheaper to rent some of the more expensive items or do you insist on owning your own? Do you want to look cool because you have the latest bling? Or do you want to look cool because you’re comfortable and confident in the water?
Buy to your means both financially and in terms of practicality and don’t be sold by an over-abundance of features – they may be wholly unnecessary for the type of diving you plan to do – and basic, inexpensive gear will, by and large ,do the same job as the latest hi-tech equipment. To some extent, I would say stick with what you know, at least for now.
There are tried-and-tested pieces of equipment that have been around for yonks, and are perfectly suited to the average diver who’s about to invest in their first kit, in the same way that it’s probably best to start with a fairly basic model car as your first automobile, rather than diving in there straight for the Hummer…!
The first and most common purchases are masks, snorkels and fins. They are generally the most accessible and least expensive so let's start there with the next installment…
MASKS & SNORKELS