Although we probably agree that diving is pretty much the best thing on the planet, there is no denying that it is an expensive and heavy hobby to have. Scuba equipment is not cheap, and you need a lot of it to be able to actually get underwater in the first place. Luckily most of the equipment is available for rent, so you do not have to buy it all to start with. High baggage fees from airlines could mean you have to pay even more if you want to take your own gear on a dive vacation. Personally I think that you can leave most of your heavy, expensive gear at home. However, for safety and comfort reasons, these four pieces of scuba equipment should go on every dive trip with you, even if you are not yet certified and thinking of taking your Open Water course.
Your scuba diving mask is probably the most important piece of gear that you own. Having a mask that is comfortable and fits can make the difference between the best dive in your life, and the worst. A leaky mask can not only make it so you don’t really see anything, it can also promote less experienced to panic.
There are many reasons why you should consider buying your own mask, even if you are not certified yet. Because we all have different shaped faces, not all masks will fit us, so no dive school can guarantee to have a mask that will fit you properly. The silicone that masks are made of will in time, mold to the shape of your face, so your own mask will be as unique and personal as a boxers mouth guard. Masks are not too expensive, they are relatively durable and they are light, making them suitable for travelers. If you, like myself, have bad vision and require prescription glasses, then you should get your own prescription mask. Most dive operators do not offer prescription masks for rent, and if they do there is no guarantee that they have one to match your prescription.
Another massive bonus of owning your own mask is that for a few extra pounds you can add a snorkel to it! Now you have all you need to be able to enjoy shallow reefs, and it is effectively free!
2) Surface Marker Kit
You should always carry your audible and visual signalling devices, especially when diving in the ocean. Many dive operators include equipment in the price of the dive, such as cylinder, mask, weight, or in other words, the bare minimum that you need to dive. But in my opinion, every diver should be given a whistle and an SMB too. All dive leaders will carry one of these, but that is only sufficient if the group stays together. Strong currents, equalisation troubles, bad visibility and more can easily break up a group, and suddenly those markers no longer work for everybody.
Each diver of the group should have both a whistle and an SMB (surface mark buoy) and they should know how to use it. Without a brightly coloured surface marker, the chances of the boat captain seeing you after a strong current has swept you away a few hundred metres is pretty slim. Look for ones made of fabric, not plastic, as the plastic ones can pop or tear easily. They are inexpensive, light, and can save your life one day.
3) Exposure Suit
Have you ever wondered why you need to pee so much while diving? And is it just you? There is a reason why you may feel the need to pee underwater, and no it is not just you. If you tested every single wetsuit at a dive shop, I bet all most all of them would test positive for urine. If that grosses you out, then you should consider taking your own suit with you.
We all know that water cools you quicker underwater, and some divers cool quicker than others. Some divers may feel perfectly comfortable spending 45 minutes in 29 degree water in a 3mm wetsuit, whereas others might start shivering after 10 minutes. Being cold underwater will ruin your dive, either because you spend 45 minutes trying to not think about being cold, or you end the dive prematurely because of it. Most dive schools will stock only one type of suit, and they are usually so well worn that what may have once been 3mm is more like 1mm. If you get cold easily underwater then you should defiantly consider getting your own exposure suit and traveling with it.
4) Dive Computer
Although not an essential piece of dive equipment, a dive computer allows you to get more out of your dives than you would if you were only using the tables. Depth alarms, NDL alarms and 02 tracking is just of a few of the reasons why you are safer to dive with a computer than without them. They range from very basic for less than £200, to over £1000 for the top of the range one. Unless you want a fashionable watch, or a Trimix rebreather computer, the entry levels ones be more than adequate.
Dive computer are electronic, and they can malfunction. You should still have another form of depth gauge and timer with you in case things go wrong. You should always have a good knowledge of the dive tables. I have seen a malfunction on a computer that read a 45 minute NDL (no decompression limit) at 30 metres. Had I not known the dive tables, I could have had a bad case of the bends.
‘4 Items a Traveling Diver Should Own’ was written by Mike