Scuba diving is a challenging, enthralling, and rewarding hobby that can lead to careers and open doors to unimagined opportunities. But it’s not for everyone. This is an activity that requires a certain amount of physical fitness, stamina, training, accessories, and of course, money. Scuba gear is not cheap. (Scuba divers carry a lot more equipment than just an oxygen tank on their back).
What dive gear is needed at a minimum to ensure safe and successful scuba diving? Anyone engaging in open water scuba diving should have approved masks, fins, snorkels, buoyancy control devices (BCDs), regulators, scuba gauges, breathing cylinders, submersible pressure gauges, dive computers, and exposure protection.
The purpose of some of this equipment is fairly evident. Masks allow divers to see underwater and provide some vision protection. Fins provide swimming mobility. Snorkels are an increasingly controversial piece of equipment among scuba divers. Those in the “nay” camp feel that it’s a potentially tangling nuisance that can offer a carbon dioxide risk for careless divers. Those in the “yay” camp feel that snorkels provide an alternative source of oxygen and unimpaired vision for surface swimming. BCDs provide negative buoyancy to keep divers underwater when they want to be, and positive buoyancy when they want to bob on the surface after a dive’s completion.
Regulators control divers’ breathing through balancing gases. Submersible pressure gauges (also called SPGs) let you know how much oxygen is in your tank at all times. Other scuba gauges allow divers to know the direction that they’re moving in, and how deep they’re diving. Breathing cylinders are often known as diving or oxygen tanks, and connect directly to the regulator. Exposure protection generally refers to full wetsuits, gloves, and occasionally full helmets. And there’s no escape from computers anywhere it seems, even underwater. “Dive computers” are digital watch-like devices that calculate for divers how deeply they can dive and remain underwater. They are not an essential piece of scuba gear, as divers can calculate the same information using dive tables. But they can be a useful tool for divers making many deep dives in the course of a day. The cost of such a computer is no more than that of a good digital watch.