What gear do I need to scuba dive?
Scuba dive gear makes it possible for you to be submerged and experience the underwater world while breathing normally. Scuba diving gear also protects you from the underwater world environment such as cold and protects you from rocks and coral you may accidentally get in contact with.
So let’s look at the equipment you may need to go scuba diving:
The Scuba Diving Wetsuit (or in cold water environments a dry suit) protects you from cold and accidental body contact with under water objects. Keep in mind that various different wetsuits are available for different sports such as surfing, spear fishing, skiing and so on. Scuba diving wetsuits are usually made from neoprene and are available as one piece, two piece and semi dry options. You can also select from 3mm (in tropical areas you may even consider scuba diving without a wetsuit), 5mm, 6.5mm and 7mm thickness protection against colder water temperatures. Make sure you consult your local scuba dive shop for the right wetsuit to suit the conditions you’ll be diving in. Scuba diving vests are also available to keep your body warmer for that cold water dive and hoodies will keep your head warm.
Scuba Diving Boots (or booties) protects your feet against rocky, hot or cold surfaces while walking to your scuba entry point and keeps your feet warm, options such as soft or hard soles are available depending on your requirements. You can even purchase scuba diving socks to keep your feet warmer on a cold water dive and scuba diving gloves will protect your hands under water.
Scuba Diving Masks are used to be able to see under water. There are lots of different products on the market and you need to look for a mask that fits well and which is a recognised scuba dive brand because not all masks you’ll find in ordinary shops are considered safe for use with scuba diving. Your scuba dive shop will show you a quick and easy way of determining if the mask will fit you well. Scuba divers with prescription classes can even have lenses made for their masks, how cool is that?
The snorkel plays an important part during a scuba dive. It helps you save precious air while you’re swimming on the surface looking down in the water to find the scuba dive spot you want to descent to. It also assists you to breathe on the surface when the water around you is a bit choppy and water may splash into your mouth.
Scuba diving fins are used to propel you through the water. Several different types of fins are available in the market and ranges from very soft bendable fins to harder fins for speed, split fins and short fins, open heel fins and closed heel fins (when you don’t need booties). You should consult a scuba dive professional to assist you in obtaining the right fins for you.
The scuba dive weight system is an important part of your scuba diving experience as it assists you in obtaining neutral buoyancy. Weight systems come in different forms, the most common is a weight belt that holds individual weights. You can also make use of integrated weights in your BCD (later discussed). During your open water scuba dive course you will be assisted in picking the right amount of weights you will need to achieve neutral buoyancy and most scuba dive schools offer a peak performance buoyancy course so you can learn how to fine tune your buoyancy.
A scuba dive watch measures your dive time which is important as scuba divers cannot stay underwater indefinitely even if they have ten scuba cylinders to breathe from. The ambient pressure and the time under water has an impact on your body, this is discussed in detail in your open water scuba dive course.
A scuba dive computer not only measures your dive time, it also brings into account the depth at which you are scuba diving at and will calculate for how long you can remain at a certain depth before you need to start ascending to a shallower depth. It will also calculate previous dives in the last few hours or day and bring this into consideration during your next dive even telling you how long your next scuba dive can be. This is also referred to as scuba dive planning. There are various scuba dive computers available in the market from entry level to very advanced and you should not blindly purchase one before consulting a scuba dive professional. To find a scuba dive professional you can make use of websites such as http://www.divedeals.co.za which lists all the scuba dive shops by region in South Africa and Mozambique.
Scuba dive regulators are used to bring the pressure down from your scuba tank to an ambient pressure that you can easily breathe in. It supplies air on demand meaning that it only provides air when you breathe in. This way you save a lot of air during a scuba dive. There are mainly two types of regulators, an open circuit regulator release the air you exhale into the water and a closed circuit regulator forms part of a highly complex system where the air you exhale is rebreathed after going through a scrubbing process. This has several benefits which includes being able to stay submerged for a much longer period of time and being able to dive in very cold water.
The buoyancy compensating device or BCD is used to keep you neutrally buoyant during your scuba dive; it most commonly comes in the form of a jacket. Many different types of BCD’s are available in various sizes and for a variety of types of scuba diving. Some have integrated weight systems, pockets to store equipment, back inflation and some can even hold two scuba tanks at the back. Some scuba divers such as the advanced technical divers prefer to assemble their own system starting with a harness and back plate and then they add components as they require. Some scuba divers also prefer to dive with the absolute minimum as they feel their scuba dive experience is more comfortable.
Very important instruments during scuba diving are your air gauge and your depth gauge. Scuba diving without this is extremely dangerous as you will not have an idea of how deep you descent or how much air you have left. Many scuba diving computers have this built in.
Some other common scuba diving gear and tools are:
- Compasses to assist you with direction during your scuba dive. Note that you cannot take any compass under water as the water pressure will damage the compass.
- Scuba diving torches for use to shine light into caves and crevasses and during scuba diving at night. As with the compasses you also cannot take any torch on a scuba dive.
- Slates are used to write messages to other scuba divers under water or to make notes or draw shapes of dive sites and more.
- Underwater horns are used to signal to other scuba divers and can also be used above water to draw the attention of a boat.
- Reels are used during scuba diving in caves or wrecks to mark an exit route; this should not be tried without comprehensive training to be able to do these types of scuba dives. Reels are also used by dive masters as buoy line to pull a buoy at the surface when they do drift dives. This means that the boat is not anchored but it follows the buoy pulled along by the dive master.
- A scuba dive knife is a multipurpose tool and contrary to believe its main purpose is not that of self defence.
- An inflatable SMB or surface marker buoy is used to mark a scuba divers presence on the surface. It is a great piece of equipment to have together with a whistle to signal a boat as to your position after a dive.
If you are new to scuba diving the above list seems huge, but most equipment can be hired from a scuba diving school, scuba dive club or dive charter. If you want to start buying equipment it may be a good idea to purchase the soft gear first such as a well fitting scuba dive wet or dry suit, mask and snorkel as well as some good fins.