One of the questions most newly qualified divers ask is “What piece of scuba equipment should I buy first?”
My answer is usually “it depends” since there are a few factors to consider:
- how often do you intend diving
- how much are you comfortable with spending when you go to your first scuba diving store
- if you wear glasses or contact lenses
It’s probably a good idea to consider budget first. Going into a dive store for a diver is like a child going into a sweet store only a lot more expensive!
Ahh the smell of neoprene…
If your budget allows, buying both a mask and a dive computer is ideal as your first scuba equipment purchase – yes, I know it’s two pieces of kit which is why considering your budget first is a good idea.
Buying both takes care of a major comfort factor and one main safety factor.
One adds to the enjoyment of your dive and the other helps you to ensure it’s a safe dive.
The first piece of equipment to buy is a mask – especially if you wear glasses or contact lenses as prescription masks are available so you will be able to see with the same level of vision as you have on land.
You will then have a piece of equipment you know fits you well and won’t fog (ask the dive store to either treat it for you or show you how to do it).
It is fine to use a mask your dive centre provides to rent or as part of the diving fee however there is always the risk of it leaking. It’s a little hard to change it once you are underwater unless it leaks on your descent. In these cases, there is usually a spare mask on the boat.
Though you may have the same problem with that one too.
A poor fitting mask is a source of frustration. The constant leaking reaches the point where you are either repeatedly clearing it or taking it off underwater, adjusting it and clearing a fully-flooded mask.
You’ve just been doing this as part of your Open Water Course and it is a good idea to refresh your skills regularly however, do you really want to be doing this from necessity when you could just have your own mask?
A well-fitted mask saves you having to repeatedly clear it. It gives you the opportunity to focus on your surroundings instead.
In some countries, it is standard to sell mask, fins and snorkel as a kit. One of the advantages in buying all three at the same time is you are then able to snorkel at those times when you are not able to scuba dive!
The other piece of equipment that is great to buy fairly early on (if you don’t buy it at the same time as your mask) is a dive computer.
This is the safety perspective.
Having your own computer is a better option than borrowing one from the dive centre or relying on your dive guide or buddy. That said, you need to have read the manual and know how to use it correctly as they are all a bit different.
Relying on your own dive computer to let you know your depth, time underwater and no decompression limits as well as your safety stop times (and any decompression stops should you need them) is by far the safer option than relying on anyone else’s.
This is because:
- you will know your computer and where to see each of these readings at a quick glance
- doing multiple dives either in the day or over a few days impacts your diving profile and only your dive computer will have been to the exact same depths and for the length of time as you
Dive computers are an expensive piece of equipment and if you’re not diving fairly regularly in a year, borrowing one from the dive centre isn’t a bad alternative as long as you are shown how to use it properly and you use the same one over your time diving there.
If you’re not sure how to use the computer you’ve been given, or you see something on it underwater and you’re not sure what it means, please ask whoever is leading your dive. Remember, it is a piece of equipment you are using for your safety so it is crucial you understand the display and the warnings it gives you.
The other reason I suggest these two pieces of equipment as your first purchase is because they are both easy to travel with and the rest of the equipment can be borrowed / hired from wherever you are diving.
What to buy next?
As you dive more, there are definitely other purchases to be made that will add to your comfort.
Diving with the equipment from the dive centre initially gives you the opportunity to work out what it is you like and don’t like with particular pieces. You will learn about different BCD styles, fin styles, types of regulator etc and which you think you will need next.
You will also meet a lot of experienced divers using all sorts of equipment so you can ask questions from them too.
While comfort is important, consider what you should carry from a safety perspective eg your own surface marker buoy and reel, a dive knife etc.
There is always more you can buy now that you’re a diver!