Looking to buy your first set of scuba diver gear or just looking at upgrading your scuba equipment, it's no easy ride, so we have created the ultimate guide to buying scuba dive equipment here!
“You should definitely buy the BCD I have, it’s the best option there is!”
We’ve all heard it time and again, then turned around a moment later only to hear another buddy declare the exact same thing about a totally different model. The thing is, they’re probably both right – if they’re passionate about their equipment, then they’ve likely made a great decision for them.
Read on to discover the benefits of owning your own equipment, what to consider when you’re choosing gear, the importance of researching your purchases, and advice on trying before you buy. On top of all that, we’ll explore which items to purchase first if you’re a new diver, as well as helpful tips on where to buy equipment for new and seasoned divers alike.
Why buy my own equipment?
Your instructor may have touched on the benefits of owning your equipment during your Open Water Course, and we promise they weren’t just trying to get more commission! First and foremost, having your own gear will be much more comfortable. With some items this is almost instantaneous; there’s nothing quite like the feeling of completing your first dive with a non-leaky mask. This enhanced comfort particularly applies as a female – we know all too well that the generic sizing of rental gear does not suit all body types.
Owning your own equipment makes you a much better diver in the long run. More familiarity with your setup will likely result in more consistent buoyancy and more efficient fin kicking - both of which have an impact on reducing your air consumption. All in all, your fundamental skills will be truly elevated.
You can’t deny the benefits of having your own gear, but that’s not to say you should rush into purchasing everything. The best gear purchases come with a little bit of thought behind them – and that’s where our help comes in.
What do I need to think about when buying scuba gear?
There are three main elements we should consider when deciding what scuba equipment to invest in, and although we list to them here as separate elements it’s important to understand that suitability, fit, and comfort all work together to make your gear work better for you.
Is this suitable for my diving habits?
Suitability should always be at the forefront of your mind when making equipment decisions, and by asking yourself a few questions you can establish whether your choices are right for you - both now and in the future. The key here is in understanding what type of diving you will be doing most, whether that’s travelling to dive a few times a year, local diving in cold water and low visibility, or a combination of different types of diving.
At first thought, suitability seems most relevant to exposure suits – a skin suit isn’t suitable for cold water diving, for example. However, suitability runs much deeper than that. Other questions you may want to ask yourself include: does my BCD have enough lift for the amount of weight I need? Will my fins be suitable if I’m diving in strong current? Is my equipment light enough to travel with? Will my boots be comfortable if I’m walking to shore entries?
We all know that dive equipment can be expensive, so future-proof your purchases by considering how long it will be suitable for. It’s hard to say exactly where our dive journeys will take us, but think about whether your equipment will grow with your skills to prevent it becoming redundant in a few years time. For example, if you see yourself tech diving in the future, you may want to consider a harness style BCD with room to adapt it or change the bladder, or if instructing is in your future you may want something with generous pockets to carry teaching materials.
Are you fitting comfortably?
Well-fitted gear will enhance your enjoyment of a dive, and being more comfortable underwater will give you more time to focus on your skills as opposed to the niggle of a too-large BCD or discomfort of a loose wetsuit.
Comfort goes hand-in-hand with good fit, and choosing female specific scuba equipment can hugely improve your comfort. When it comes to exposure suits, female cuts are generally better suited to accommodate hips and busts, whilst female BCD models can be better padded around the back and shoulders, and shorter in height to fit comfortably around the waist. Of course, there is still variation in body shapes and sizes – so you may need to try different styles to find something perfect for you! Check out our post here for some of the best female-specific equipment on the market.
Which equipment should I buy first?
If money was no object it would be tempting to purchase everything in one fell swoop, but realistically most of us can’t purchase a full kit the second we’ve passed our certification. Some equipment purchases will take a while to get comfortable with, such as your BCD, but others will give instant value to your dives. Here are a few suggestions on what you might want to add to your equipment collection first.
Looking for gear to keep you warm when diving? We show you the best gear and tips on keeping yourself warm when diving here
The majority of divers can give you a story of an ill-fitting, leaky, or foggy mask ruining an otherwise incredible dive. In comparison to other equipment buys, choosing a great mask can be relatively simple. It’s also one of the easiest pieces of gear to travel with – a lot of minimalist travel divers will always take mask, computer and regulators.
You can shop for a good fitting mask ahead of beginning your certification course, which will make skills such as mask clearance much easier. It’s important to try masks on; consider shopping where helpful staff can assist you in finding a perfect fit, or read on to find our tips for shopping online.
Nowadays we mostly learn to dive with a computer, and in doing so we also learn the importance of every single diver having their own. Our individual dive profiles are never totally alike; one computer shared between buddies is not sufficient.
With this in mind, safety is the number one reason why we would recommend a dive computer as one of your first equipment purchases. Consistently checking your depth and remaining no-decompression limits will also give you a much better understanding of how those limits work and fluctuate during a dive, which will make you a safer and better diver as time goes on.
Purchasing a dive computer doesn’t have to be expensive; there are many entry-level models which are functional and affordable, and even the more wearable watch-style computers can be found at a reasonable price. Much like your mask, a computer is also a great piece of gear to travel with – you can always be prepared if you stumble upon an unexpected dive location! Check out GTS best dive computers reviews for more info and prices on computers from beginners - advanced.
Given that it’s clothing, and clothing that people are known to pee themselves in, this might seem like one of the most obvious first buys. But, for the extra expense, the travel space, and high possibility of having to stuff it in your suitcase semi-dry for your flight home, whether or not you need one early on will come down to personal choice. However, along with your BCD a female wetsuit is the most important piece of gender specific kit, so if you’re investing in a wetsuit it should be well fitted - our hips don’t lie! Ideally we’d all have custom made wetsuits but that can be pretty pricey, so these ones do a great job too. Or looking for plus-size wetsuits and swimsuits? We have a whole article on those for you too.
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Do your homework
Once you’ve established what sort of equipment will be suitable for your needs, get stuck into a bit of research – much more exciting “homework” than maths questions or literature essays! Read online reviews, check reviews on retailer sites as well as more impartial and in-depth blogs, and also search YouTube for detailed video reviews. Be sure to use the GTS Facebook group, too! Search first to see if your chosen equipment has been discussed, and if you can’t find a relevant post, create one yourself to seek out the wisdom of our community.
Fancy an even more exciting way of researching new gear? If you’re lucky enough to have lots of dive friends, borrow equipment from others to try different styles, or try out different types of equipment when you’re renting. Some dive shops may have the facilities to let you try before you buy, or even generous returns policies to allow you time to work out whether your purchase is right for you.
Where's the best place to buy new dive gear?
Keep it local
Be sure to find out if you have a local provider; you’ll be supporting your local dive community, and building a relationship with them will help you make better equipment decisions in the future. This can also prove useful when it comes to getting your gear serviced; many shops will be trained in servicing the equipment they sell, and it’s important to keep your gear in tip-top shape.
Get in a bit of destination dive shopping! Dive providers will often sell a range of the equipment they rent out, and you’ll have instructors on hand who are fountains of knowledge for hard-wearing dive equipment. Bear in mind that dive schools are often brand-affiliated, though, so may not have the widest variety. Additionally, buying abroad is usually better suited to small items such as masks - you may not have the luggage space to take things home.
Many people buy all the gear after just a handful of dives and then fall out of love with the hobby and sell everything on, so there are bargains to be had in the second hand world. You can find barely-used equipment at a great price in places such as local Facebook buy-and-sell groups like our GTS Female dive gear group and Ebay. Exert some caution when purchasing like this though; if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Again, dive club pals may come in handy in selling on pre-loved equipment, and dive schools sometimes sell on entry level models when upgrading their rental gear. Always be sure to check quality before handing over your hard-earned cash.
Of course, there’s always the wonder of online shopping if you want the widest possible choice. Remember to check returns policies to ensure you’re covered if something doesn’t quite fit right, and check for newsletter sign-ups for possible discounts or loyalty schemes. If an online retailer does offer easy returns, consider ordering a number of different models and sizes to see what the fit is like in person. GTS loves: Mikes Dive Store, Simply Scuba, Scubapro.com
We have a whole section dedicated to equipment shopping at dive shows in our full post here.
With those tips in mind, what will be your next scuba purchase? Let us know in the comments below, post to share with the Facebook community, or tag us on Instagram for a feature on our Share Saturday!
About the author - our GTS blogger Lauren
Lauren originally learned to dive in 2008, and her heart has been in the ocean ever since. In 2018 her sense of adventure and passion for the underwater world led her to Indonesia, where she completed her PADI Divemaster and Instructor qualifications. You can find her on Instagram @laurennn_elizabeth to follow where the currents take her next!