I just signed up for my open water course, now how much do I need for gear?
More often than not, new scuba students have no idea what their first set of gear should cost. The best answer doesn’t have as much a monetary answer as it does getting the gear you need to make your first experience one worth continuing in scuba. The $150 mask isn’t guaranteed not to leak or fit perfectly, the $200 fins aren’t guaranteed to fit like your favorite shoes, and buying a premade kit might not be the right answer either. The cost of your first set of gear will more likely be dictated by what works for you as a new diver than any particular price tag.
Masks, snorkels, fins, and even weights all have their particular appeals. Color should be second, “it’s cool” should also come second, keeping up with the other guy or gal that has several hundred dives should come second, your buddy has it . . . Lets look at some factors you should consider before you even look at the price tag.
Masks are some of the most inciting pieces of equipment. Every manufacturer produces a multitude of shapes, sizes, and colors. First and foremost should be fit and comfort without fail. The color won’t stop a mask leak; the shape needs to be conducive to your face to help produce a good seal. Once you find the right mask that fits your face THEN see if they have that mask in whatever color you want. Masks can be frustrating; you may need to try several before you find the right one. Finding the right mask will make your diving experience so much better. My first mask was only $44 and I still use it to this day, several years later. Buying last year’s model can sometimes save you several dollars.
Fins can be your best friends or the first thing you want to throw in the boat in disgust. Everyone talks about fit, but your body make-up and the kind of diving you’ll be doing should also have a big influence on your decision. I have a set of fins I use to snorkel and two other sets for scuba. Your fins should fit snuggly and comfortably.
Your boots, if you use them, will be equally important; they’ll protect you from skin abrasion and provide important warmth. Your local dive professionals should be able to point you in the right direction. Your first set of fins probably won’t be your last. My first scuba fins were $150 BUT I have spinal problems and it was important for me to get better quality fins that would work with my particular problem and still provide for my scuba needs.
Snorkels do NOT all fit the same, wear the same, or have the same shape or features. There are lots of divers that never use their snorkels again after their open water courses and there are people like myself who use a snorkel routinely. Dry snorkels prevent water from entering the snorkel while at the surface, semi-dry snorkels will allow some water to enter but the amount of water is minimal and manageable. Freediving snorkels are in a world all their own. Think about how much you will need and use it and what kind of diving you’ll be doing and really consider the different shapes and sizes of the mouthpieces; there are differences, minimal but they do exist. My first snorkel was $39, if I remember correctly.
Surface Marker Buoys are probably some of the most underrated pieces of equipment in the scuba industry but they are extremely important. They only come in a handful of colors and a few slightly different size variations. They can be the simplest pieces of equipment to use or complex enough to connect to external air sources. As a new diver, you don’t need anything overcomplicated. You need an SMB that that you can manipulate (with or without gloves) that is easy for you to get air into. Some have oral inflation tubes and some have valves that can be a little challenging depending on your manual dexterity and the strength of your hand. Check them out thoroughly in the store and make sure you understand how to work it. My first one was $21 and I later upgraded to a nicer DSMB that was closer to $40 but much better for drift diving Florida’s east coast.
Weights can easily become expensive fast since you are buying your weights by the pound! Most shops will require you to purchase weight in different sizes i.e. 2 – 3lbs, 2 -2lbs, 2 -1lbs or any combination thereof. If you can borrow weight at first, please do! As your diving environment, your equipment, and your body changes so will your weight needs.
The sum total cost of your first set of gear will equal what works for you, be it a few dollars or several. Set a budget, comparison shop, and buy what fits best, is comfortable, and works for you. A final parting word about purchasing scuba gear from “friends” or social media – be very, very careful. Unless you know first hand how the equipment has been maintained or you can put your hands on it, don’t buy it. Be safe, support your local dive shops, and with the help of a dive professional you’ll be set up for success. As always Dive, Dive, Dive!!!
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