By Alec Peirce
Viewers have asked for advice on what order should scuba gear be purchased? Alec explains his recommended buying sequence for divers crushed by the many options and pressured by dive store preferences.
This is a good question because if you walk into a decent dive store there is too much to pick from – different people have different opinions as to what you should buy first. I will give you my opinion and of course you have to weigh what is best for you. Never listen to someone who insists “this is the best”, use your common sense. Today we are going to talk about what you should buy first. Whether you just got hooked on scuba diving or have been diving a long time but took off for several years and now want to get back into it again and have to get new gear – what should you buy first?
Your first purchase.
What is the sequence of buying scuba gear – okay let’s do it! What is the single most important piece of equipment you will ever own, it is not the regulator, not the tank. The single most important piece of equipment you will ever own is the MASK. Sure, you need to buy other gear but if your mask leaks every dive, fogs up or is uncomfortable and leaves a red welt on your forehead or doesn’t work well for you – you will not enjoy scuba diving and you stay with it. What is the point of having all the other equipment if you don’t have a good mask then you will be a mess. Go to your local scuba store, try on several masks, listen to the staff’s advice. I did discuss in a previous episode how to properly fit a mask.
Your mask is the single most important piece of scuba equipment – a quality brand-name mask with easy strap adjustments. Now once you have a good mask, the next item I want you to buy is a snorkel to match! It is nice these days with all the many different colors and features. This particular snorkel is great – the mouthpiece falls away when you are scuba diving. It has a purge on the bottom and a replaceable mouthpiece. So much better today than 50 years ago when I started diving. This has a dry valve on top and again we didn’t use a dry valve long ago because they weren’t very good but now using silicon it is great. Your mask and snorkel are first!
Usually a dive store will have packages where you can buy a mask and snorkel and fins as a package. They all match, look beautiful and assuming it fits – the fit is the most important thing. They look good and are highly efficient. Normally when you buy mask, snorkel and fins you get a dive boot. So, this is your first purchase – a good quality set should cost between $200-300. Good quality name and backed up against breakage. Why is this important? You need this to scuba diving – all types of diving – you don’t need all the other gear for scuba but you always need these. You can use it anywhere on any dive and is very personal to you and fits your face, nose and mouth. They all fit and work well and you will use it on every scuba dive. Between dives you can use it for snorkeling on the surface, skin diving or in a pool.
Your next purchase.
If you are going to be an active scuba diver and want to enjoy yourself and plan to learn more – the next thing you need is a dive computer. I started diving in 1958 at ten years old – even as old as I am – I encourage you to get a dive computer. It records every dive, is very accurate, logs every dives date, time, how deep, how long.
If you have dive tables you really don’t know if it’s safe to go diving without checking the old tables – a dive computer will quickly tell you if it’s safe to dive. Dive computers are like car tires – they rarely fail. Many years ago, I used to get lots of flat tires and today I rarely get one – now that doesn’t mean you won’t get a flat one but it’s very rare and not a disaster. So if your dive computer fails, you signal your dive buddy and slowly surface together. Dive computers are like car tires – they hardly fail.
Now you have your own mask, snorkel, fins and dive computer so you can dive anywhere. You generally rent a scuba tank – they are almost all the same anywhere in the world. You can rent regulators and BCD’s – unless you are a very odd size. You can also rent wetsuits unless again you are an odd size.
Your last purchase.
My suggestion for the third item to buy is the scuba unit. Let’s look at a regulator system that includes a first and second stage. If you have your own dive computer – you can mount it on the console. I suggest the regulator before the BCD because it is kind of a personal item. They are not a lot of money and it then is yours and you know it works well, is comfortable and you know its service history. If you are an odd size you can always get a custom BCD – many stores have packages at special rates. The scuba unit is generally sold as a package. Of course, afterward you will want some sort of comfortable wetsuit no matter where you dive in th world. It is nice to have a suit that fits you like a glove for around $300.
You are now a fully outfitted diver. There are lots of other things you will want like a knife or flashlight but I suggest you start with a mask, snorkel and fins package, a dive computer, the scuba unit and a wetsuit. See what special considerations you need for your particular diving and adapt these ideas to fit.
Hope this has been helpful.