Scuba regulators are what make diving possible.
Forget every other piece of equipment; if you have a reg and an air source you can dive.
When Jacques Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan modified a welding regulator into a pressure-sensitive demand regulator in 1943, they opened the mysteries of the underwater world to anyone willing to discover them.
Although there have been a few innovations since those first scuba diving regulators, today’s modern regulator is essentially the same piece of equipment.
This guide shows you how to review diving regulators and select the right one for your diving needs.
Types of Scuba Diving Regulators
Although there are dozens of different brands and models of diving regulators to choose from there are only 3 basic types.
- Over Balanced
Each of these types has their own characteristics, benefits and drawbacks.
Diving regulators have a host of features, all of which you need to consider before spending your hard earned cash.
From how your regs attatch to your air tank to what you should look for in a second stage, everything from top to bottom needs to be looked at closely.
Maintenance and Care
An important consideration most people overlook is maintenance.
If you buy an older model second hand regulator, or some exotic piece of equipment, you may have a hard time getting it serviced.
Scuba regulators should be serviced annually and if your local shop can’t do it you may have just bought yourself an expensive paper weight.
You have to think not only about your local shop, but what if you have a problem on vacation? Will you be able to get your diving regulator serviced on site?
If you stick with a fairly new regulator of common make and model you shouldn’t have any trouble with service, home or abroad.
Putting It All Together
Before you buy your first set of scuba regulators you have some thinking to do. Not about the nice shiny new toy you are going to buy, but about what kind of diving you do and what kind of diver you are.
If you dive mostly on vacation in warm tropical waters on shallow coral reefs you will require a far less robust, and expensive, diving regulator than if you are plunging to the cold depths on mixed gas.
Be honest with yourself.
Make a checklist of what you are looking for in a scuba diving regulator.
Start reading reviews and manufacturers specifications.
Do your homework and you’ll have scuba regulators that you’ll enjoy and be able to dive with for years.
Scuba wetsuits transform us from lumbering, hairy terrestrial mammals, into graceful, sleek underwater creatures.
More importantly, they keep you warm.
A wetsuit keeps you warm by trapping a layer of water against your body which heats the water and acts as an insulator. Hence the name “wet suit”. Not the most original but it gets the point across.
So how do you choose the right wetsuit for your scuba diving needs?
As with all diving equipment you have to start by figuring out what kind of diving you’ll be doing.
If you dive in mostly tropical locations you’ll need something different than if you dive in mostly cold water.
This guide shows you how to review scuba wetsuits and select the right one for your diving needs.
Types of Scuba Diving Wetsuits
Scuba wetsuits come in all kinds of styles and configurations.
- Rash guards
- And more…
Each type is more, or less, appropriate for different types of scuba diving.
Thicknesses of Scuba Diving Wetsuits
Whether you are diving in the tropical waters of the Caribbean or cold water diving in British Colombia, your wetsuit is what will keep you warm and protected.
The thickness of the neoprene is what makes a wetsuit suitable for either warm or cold water.
A 1mm rash guard isn’t going to cut it in the North Pacific while a 6mm full body steamer suit is over kill in the Caribbean.
Fitting Scuba Diving Wetsuits
I would like to say that finding a wetsuit that fits is as easy as picking small, medium or large and you’re done.
Unfortunately it’s not that easy, especially for women.
If a wetsuit is too tight it will be uncomfortable, restrict your movement and maybe even make it hard to breathe.
If it’s too loose it will let water flow too freely and you’ll get cold faster, making your dive uncomfortable or worse, leaving you with hypothermia.
Maintenance and Care
Taking good care of a wetsuit will ensure it has a long life, and if you learn a few basic repairs you can save both time and money.
Putting it All Together
Before you buy a wetsuit you have some thinking to do. Not about how good you look in the mirror with this skin tight suit on pulling everything into place, but about what kind of diving you will be doing.
If you dive mostly on vacation in warm tropical waters on shallow coral reefs you might only need a rash guard, shorty or 3mm steamer.
If most of your diving is cold water, you will want something thicker.
Be honest with yourself and make a list of what you need in a wetsuit
Start reading reviews and manufacturers specifications on scuba wetsuits.
Do your homework and you’ll have a piece of gear that you’ll enjoy and be able to dive with for years.
Scuba Dry Suits
Scuba dry suits, or drysuits, are a piece of dive equipment that have a way of being more trouble and expense than they’re worth if you don’t know how to use them properly.
Once on a commercial job I was directed to another diver who was shouting for help over the comms.
When I got there I found him hanging on to the staging with his feet floating above his head ready to drag him to the surface and shoot him upside down out of the water like a dolphin doing tricks at sea world.
What did I do? After I laughed so hard my dry suit was almost a wet suit, I got his feet underneath him and dumped the excess air he’d pumped into his drysuit out of the dump valve on his shoulder. Good times.
With a little practice, dry suits can provide unparalleled warmth and comfort during a dive as well as leaving you nice and dry between and after dives.
***I found the previous image on the NOAA Ocean Explorer website. They have an interesting site with a lot of information. Click on the picture to check it out.***
Types Of Dry Suits
Scuba drysuits are made from a few different materials.
- Vulcanized Rubber
- And more…
Each type of suit comes with its own unique set of pluses and minuses.
A suits features are what turns it from a big person shaped water bag into something that can keep you warm and dry in even the coldest water.
Multiple valves, zippers and seals all come together to form what looks to be a deceptively simple suit but is actually a sophisticated piece of environmental survival equipment.
Because they are worn baggier than a wetsuit and exact fit isn’t necessary, fitting a dry suit is very easy.
I’m not going to post a size chart because different brands can vary in their sizing.
The best thing to do is try on the suit while wearing whatever thermal under garment you plan to wear while diving.
Try squatting down to see if you can do so comfortably. Reach your hands over your head, hug yourself, bend twist and generally move around. If you feel like you have a good range of motion in all angles and directions without the suit being too baggy or tight then the suit fits.
Make sure the boots fit as this will be your biggest source of discomfort if not sized properly.
If you can’t find something off the rack then you’ll have to get measurements done and order a custom suit.
Putting it All Together
There is no way around it, buying a drysuit is probably the most expensive piece of equipment the “average” diver will buy. That’s IF you can call anyone who is looking for a way to dive in freezing cold water and/or weather “average”.
If you take a look at each of the above sections you’ll have a good head start on picking out a great suit.
If you’re lucky and have some dive buddies that own drysuits and are willing to let you try theirs, or a local dive shop that rents them you’ll be a lot further ahead.
Take the time to do your homework and you’ll find the right suit that hopefully won’t empty your bank account.
The Scuba BCD
A scuba bcd makes you float.
I had a friend who wanted to do the open water certification with me years ago. During the swim test the guy sank like a rock. But when he was asked to dive to the bottom he couldn’t get off the surface. His butt stayed above the water like a duck who couldn’t dive
I had a friend who wanted to do the open water certification with me years ago. During the swim test the guy sank like a rock. But when he was asked to dive to the bottom he couldn’t get off the surface. His butt stayed above the water like a duck who couldn’t dive.
If you don’t have the right buoyancy compensator device(bcd) you can end up like my buddy and spend your dive constantly fighting your bcd. You want to float and it’s dragging you down, you want to dive and it’s keeping you up.
For the most part this is fixed by actually knowing how to use your bcd properly, but choosing the right bcd for your diving needs and diving ability make learning how to use it a lot easier.
Types of Scuba Diving BCD
There three basic types of Scuba Buoyancy Compensators.
- Vest or Jacket
- Horse Collar
Only two of these are really used in scuba diving today.
Buoyancy compensators can have a ton of features or very few. Options are almost limitless.
The more features it has usually the more expensive it is. But what do you need and what is just fluff?
Maintenance And Care
Scuba bcds are expensive. Practicing good post dive care and general maintenance will give your equipment a long life and save you from having to spend money on a new one.
Putting It All Together
There’s a lot to consider before buying a bcd.
On the surface a scuba bcd should fit like a snug jacket. Not too tight under the arms or across the torso. Women should choose a model designed for them.
But like everything else when it comes to diving it’s about more than just fit and style
You need to consider what type of diving you are doing and what gear you’ll need to carry with you to do it. A bcd is not just an airbag. A good one is like Batmans utility belt.
Consider what features are essential to you and find the one that most closely fits that profile.
Start reading reviews and manufacturers materials, read forums and ask other divers for their opinions.
Be honest with yourself about the type of diving you’ll be doing, make a checklist of everything you need in a scuba bcd,do your homework and you should end up with the right scuba bcd for you.
Scuba Diving Tanks
Scuba diving tanks are awkward and heavy, and if you fall down with one on you’ll be lying on your back flailing your arms and legs in the air like a turtle flipped on it’s shell.
Without scuba tanks you can never be like that same turtle “flying” gracefully through the water experiencing a world that almost defies explanation.
Like all scuba gear, choosing a scuba diving tank takes more thought and planning than just walking into a dive shop and grabbing the first thing you see.
There are a few different kinds of tanks, each with their own pros and cons. Not to mention not all diving tanks can be used for all types of diving.
Types of Scuba Diving Tanks
Aluminum – Aluminum tanks are the most common scuba tanks you’ll find. Every dive shop, boat, resort and operation uses them worldwide.
The most common size used for diving is the aluminum 80, but they can be smaller or larger depending on what they’re meant to be used for.
For example, a bail out or pony bottle is much smaller than a standard size aluminum 80.
Aluminum tanks are relatively light and inexpensive and are a good choice for most recreational scuba divers.
One downside of the aluminum scuba diving tank is that it’ll become more positively buoyant the emptier it gets, so most divers wear an extra few pounds of weight to compensate for this.
There are a few models of aluminum tanks that are built specifically to eliminate this problem but like everything else the more features it has, the more expensive it is.
Steel – Steel scuba tanks are much heavier and more expensive than aluminum tanks.
A steel tank is a lot tougher than an aluminum one and if you take care of it can last for decades.
Because steel is stronger it can be handle higher pressures making a steel tank smaller than an aluminum one of similar capacity.
Steel isn’t right for everyone. It’s heavy and may not be suited to a diver who isn’t physically able to handle the weight.
Also If you want to use higher pressures you will need to use a DIN valve which may make it hard to get refills depending on where you’re diving.
Most technical divers use steel scuba tanks but they can be a good tank for regular recreational scuba diving too.
Considerations When Buying Scuba Diving Tanks
Do you really need to buy tanks?
Yes I know you need a scuba diving tank to actually dive, but are you sure you really need to buy one? Unless you dive very frequently buying tanks may be a waste of money.
These numbers were taken from a dive shop near where I live and may be different in your area.
- An aluminum 80 sells for about $199.99+tax
- Yearly visual inspection $14+tax
- Hydro test every 5 years $45+tax
- Air fills $5+tax
Compare that to
- Tank rental with air fill included $12/day or $18/weekend
and it’s not hard to see that unless you’re doing a lot of diving it’s just not worth it to buy scuba tanks.
If you’re still in the market here are a few other things to consider before buying.
- Size of the tank. Is it so long it bumps your butt and the back of your head at the same time?
- Weight of the tank. Is it too heavy for you to handle comfortably?
- Type of diving. Do you technical dive or not?
- If it’s steel is it a low pressure(lp) steel tank or a high pressure(HP) one
- Does it have a DIN valve or more common A-clamp/Yoke valve?
- If it’s a used tank when was it last visually inspected or hydro tested?
Use this list as a guide when reviewing scuba diving tanks and you should be able to find the right tank to last you for years of diving.
Without scuba fins a jellyfish is faster and more graceful than you are underwater.
Fins transform you from a slow moving, limbs flailing underwater creature into a true denizen of the deeps. They enable you to dart about with speed, mobility and efficiency.
How do you choose the right scuba diving fin for you?
When you walk into your local dive shop the sheer variety of diving fins can seem overwhelming.
Flex fins, split fins, force fins, closed heel, open heel, the list goes on and on.
When it comes down to it there are really only 2 basic types of scuba diving fins. All fins are just variations on either one of these themes.
Types of Scuba Fins
Paddle Fins – The most common type of fin used in diving.
Paddle fins can be cheap or expensive depending on the style, make and model. Different features, like flex points, can add significantly to the price.
A paddle scuba fin offers good mobility and agility. Overall it’s a great choice for any diver.
A downside to the paddle style fin it that it has the most resistance and requires big strong leg kicks which can tire a diver out and result in more air consumption.
Features like flex or pivot points can alter how much effort it takes and when it comes to buying these more expensive fins I would suggest trying before buying if possible. At lest do as much homework as possible before layng out the cash.
Split Fins – The split fin has a blade which is split in half down the middle.
When a scuba diver kicks the split blade acts like a propeller to push the diver forward.
Split fins require less effort to kick and are good for divers whose leg strength might not be very strong or who prefer short flutter style kicking.
Some divers feel that split fins aren’t as effective when diving in strong currents.
Other Features of Scuba Fins
It’s the features that manufacturers add to their specific fin design that makes the price start to rise.
Go on any scuba forum, or anywhere divers are talking, and you’ll hear debate for or against any particular design feature.
It’s always a matter of individual comfort and preference combined with each divers particular style whether a certain type of fin “works” for them or not.
Things to consider before buying scuba fins
Comfort – Are they comfortable? Comfort is paramount.
Wear dive boots when trying on any fin you are considering to see how it feels.
Price – Any fin will get you through the water. High performance racing tires and cheap discount store tires both let a car roll.
Buy what you can afford and upgrade when you can.
Open or Closed Heel – A closed heel fin is usually used for snorkeling, however if you are doing very easy dives with minimal equipment in warm water you can definitely use them.
Otherwise an open heel used with a bootie is better for most scuba diving.
Traveler or Drifter – Do you travel a lot when you dive, moving from spot to spot, always swimming? If so a dive fin designed to help you cover a lot of distance easily would be best.
Leg Strength – If you have stronger legs you should be able to use a stiffer more robust fin IF that’s what you want.
The 2 biggest considerations in my opinion are comfort and price.
There’s a lot of debate over fins. This is more agile than that, this is harder to kick than that, this makes me move faster than that, blah blah blah.
Yes the different features do affect performance. But if a fin isn’t comfortable your dive will suck. If it’s too expensive, you’ll be too broke to buy air to dive with.
Think about what type of diving you mostly do and make a checklist of what you are looking for in scuba fins.
Try out a few different styles. If you rent gear ask the shop if they have different style fins available, or ask other divers if you can try theirs.
Then buy the best pair you can afford.
Scuba Diving Mask
A scuba diving mask is more than just a window through which to view the underwater world.
Without a dive mask your eyes can’t focus in the water. The space that a mask gives you lets your eyes focus the light normally and taa daa, you can see.
You would think that choosing a mask would be simple to do, but like any piece of scuba gear it takes some thought and research to pick the right scuba mask for you.
Types of Scuba Diving Masks
Single Pane Mask – The descendant of the oval frogman mask we all remember from old movies, modern single pane scuba masks have almost nothing in common with their vintage counterparts.
For one thing they don’t make you look like some big google eyed Cyclops. Hey, fashion is important.
Modern masks have silicon skirts to help fit better, as well a low profile design to bring the pane closer to the face and provide a wider range of vision.
Because the pane is all one piece this type of mask can’t be outfitted as a prescription scuba mask.
Double Pane Mask – This is probably the most common type of mask around.
This scuba diving mask has a very low profile providing a wider range of vision than the single pane mask. The low profile also makes it easier to equalize at depth, as well as reduce mask “squeeze”.
If you wear glasses a double pane mask can be outfitted as a prescription dive mask.
Some divers do complain about the mask sitting between the eyes, but most see past that after a bit don’t even notice that it’s there.
Full Face Mask – These masks are used mostly buy commercial divers, although there are models made for recreational use.
A benefit of this style mask is that it can be outfitted with underwater communication so you can actually talk with your dive buddy or a surface team.
Some divers feel that because these masks are so comfortable to breath you may actually end up going though more air than usual.
Considerations When Buying a Scuba Diving Mask
- Hold the dive mask to your face and breath in slightly. Does it stick with no air leaks?
- Put the mask on all the way. If you use a snorkel attach one and see if it still fits.
- Look in the mirror, does the inner skirt circle your face without crossing over your eyebrows or eye creases?
- Pinch your nose. Is it easy to reach through the skirt and can you equalize?
Skirt Color – You can choose a clear or opaque silicon skirt.
An opaque skirt is good for a diver who does underwater photography or video. The opaque skirt helps to focus on the subject and avoid distractions.
A clear skirt lets light enter from the sides and helps with peripheral vision.
Multiple Panes – Some scuba masks have panes on the side and bottom to give a wider range of vision. The light can sometime act “funny” with these masks and can be distracting. Definitely a matter of preference and something you should try before you buy.
Purge Valve – A built in purge valve can make it easier to clear your dive mask if it floods out.
A downside is that it could fail at depth leaving you in the position of cutting your dive short.
Scuba or Snorkeling – make sure your nice shiny new mask is actually made for scuba diving. If you use a mask that is only made for snorkeling you could end up in serious trouble when you exceed the depth limits of the mask.
Consider the type of diving you do and the conditions under which you dive, then make a checklist of the features you are looking for in a mask.
If at all possible dive the different styles to see which you prefer. See if your local dive shope has different styles you can try or rent.
Choosing the right scuba diving mask can be like going from a 15 inch black and white TV to a 53 inch HDTV complete with home theater.
Well maybe not that drastic, but better, definitely better.
Scuba Diving Snorkels
Scuba diving snorkels are essentially just straws.
Breathe in at the wrong time and you’ll find yourself taking a nice big swig of sea water.
Straw or not, it’s an important piece of scuba diving gear.
You can go on any scuba forum and find people arguing that point but I look at it this way, would you rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it?
Considering that it’s basically a straw it can’t be difficult choosing the best snorkeling gear right?
Like all scuba diving gear, snorkeling equipment comes in different styles with a whole range of features and benefits.
Rigid Barrel – Has a hard plastic tube and is the most basic type you can find.
It’s also usually the cheapest.
One downside is the hard inflexible barrel may make it more difficult to keep in your mouth and breath.
Positioning the mouthpiece may twist the mask strap and couldbe uncomfortable for long surface swims.
If it fits, it fits. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
Flexible Barrel – Part of the barrel is flexible allowing for greater range of motion and an easier fit.
A step up from the rigid barrel it’s usually also a step up in price.
Just because it’s flexible doesn’t mean it will fit so make sure you try it on before you buy.
Rotating Mouthpiece – This can make it easier to fit and more comfortable to use.
Purge Valve – Instead of having to blow like a whale to purge you can get a purge valve. The purge valve makes it easier to clear and put into action.
Semi Dry – A semi dry snorkel still gets water in it. The design of these makes it harder for water to enter while doing surface swims.
Dry – Designed to close when you dive so that when you reach the surface and want to use it you won’t have to purge. This is the most complicated and most expensive. Great for gear junkies.
Foldable – It folds up for storage.
If you don’t want to use one for whatever reason but you still have an itch to have one on you just in case, a foldable snorkel may be the answer.
Fold it up and keep it in your bcd pocket until you need it, just make sure it’s easy to attach to your mask when you want to use it.
Things To Consider When Buying Snorkeling Gear
Comfort and Fit – Take your mask with you when buying snorkeling gear. It sucks when you buy a piece of gear without trying it and it doesn’t fit or is uncomfortable.
Attach it to your mask.
- Does the mouthpiece reach comfortably or do you have to force it into place?
- Is it comfortable against the side of your head where it attaches to the mask?
- Is it in the way?
Keeper – Does the keeper actually fit your style mask strap? Is it relatively easy to attach and detach?
Length and Diameter – If the barrel is too long it will be difficult to breathe and could be potentially dangerous. On the flip side if it’s too short it will allow water to enter while swimming and you’ll be drinking the ocean.
The thinner the diameter of the barrel the harder it will be to breathe, but the thicker it is the more it will add to bulk and drag.
Most snorkeling gear designed for scuba diving is designed well, and usually anything you pick up at the dive shop will be the right length and diameter.
Bulk – The bulkier any piece of diving gear is the more drag it will cause and the harder it will be to swim. Be aware of this if you are the kind of diver who likes to travel a lot underwater.
Review this list when buying snorkeling equipment and you’ll be able to choose the best one for your needs.
And if you say snorkel 10 times fast you’ll become convinced that it’s possibly the dumbest word in the English language.
Buying scuba dive boots is probably the easiest piece of scuba gear to buy. No sense making it more complicated than it is. This will be short and sweet.
Types of dive boots
There are basically 2 types of wetsuit boots.
Ankle High Boots– Ankle high scuba boots are usually made of thinner material and are great for warm weather diving where you’re probably wearing a shorty style wetsuit.
They’re easy to slip on and off.
Make sure they are high enough to protect your heel chaffing from your fins.
You can get thicker ankle high scuba boots for colder water and they’re not necessarily a bad choice.
Be aware that you might have some exposed skin on your upper ankle when you swim, and that the increased water flow through the boots will let your feet get colder faster.
High Top Boots– High top wetsuit boots are a great all around choice.
If you’re only going to buy one set of scuba boots, a thicker, 5-7mm, neoprene high top boot is good for just about anything.
You can get them with or without zippers on the side to make them easier to get on and off.
Considerations Before Buying Scuba Boots
Fit– Wetsuit boots don’t come in half sizes so always go a size up if you take a half size shoe. A size down may feel ok in the shop, but when the pressure at depth starts to crush the boot around your toes you’ll wish you had a bigger boot.
Try your fins on with the boots. If it doesn’t fit into the pocket of the fins, pick another boot. Or buy new fins.
Yes that means bring your fins to the shop with you when you go to buy scuba boots.
I’m sorry ladies but dive boots are usually quoted in men’s sizes. I don’t know why sizes aren’t just quoted in inches or centimeters but they aren’t.
Usually you subtract a 1 or 2 from your shoe size. E.g. A women’s size 8 would be a men’s 7(possibly 6)
Thickness– The thicker the material the warmer your feet will be. Your feet will never be too warm, but cold toes will make you want to end your dive.
Soles– Most dive boots have soles covered in rubber treads. If you do a lot of shore diving, a thick tread will be more comfortable and durable when you are humping your gear through the woods, over the rocks and across the beaches.
That’s really all there is too it. Like I said, short and sweet.
Scuba gloves do what any gloves do, keep your hands warm and protected.
All those little fingers hanging way out there on their own get cold and make great little targets for the biters and scratchers.
For the most part gloves are gloves and there isn’t much to picking out a pair. There are a couple things to think about before buying a pair of dive gloves.
Types of Scuba Gloves
Mitten or Lobster Claw – Good for cold water. These bad boys are usually made of thick (5-7mm) neoprene and will keep your hands as warm and protected as it’s possible to be.
You do lose some function as most of your hand is in the bigger mitten part, but how much freedom of movement do you actually need for your fingers.
I’ve used this style of glove on different commercial jobs and have never had any problems doing anything.
Five Finger Gloves – These can be thicker for colder water or thinner for warmer. No matter how thick they are they aren’t as warm as the lobster claw style.
Still a thick 5-7mm neoprene glove will keep you plenty warm.
Even in warm water, wearing dive gloves are a good idea to keep your fingers and hands protected.
Warm water will still leech the heat out of your body and make you cold after awhile.
Dry Gloves – Dry gloves have a wrist seal and keep your hands completely dry. This of course keeps your hands warmer.
I’ve tried a few different styles of dry gloves and am still on the fence about them.
If they leak for any reason they can be very uncomfortable and distracting to the point of ruining a dive.
And they aren’t cheap.
They’re not bad gloves and they may make sense for you, so give them a try and make your own decision.
There isn’t much else to say about scuba gloves. They can be like other dive equipment and come with all the bells and whistles, zippers, Velcro, Kevlar palms, yadda yadda yadda or as simple as a glove.
Consider what conditions you dive in and buy a dive glove that suits your needs. Other than that, stay warm and watch out for those things that bite and scratch!
Using wetsuit hoods are a good idea in cold or warm water. The old saying that you lose most heat through your head is a myth but if you don’t cover up it will get cold, even in bathtub warm water.
Types of Scuba Hoods
Scuba Beanie – A beanie style hood is really only good for warm water diving.
They’re almost always made of thinner, 2-3mm, neoprene or Lycra.
This style of hood will leave your neck and a lot of your face exposed and if you try to use it in cold water you’ll learn what “brain freeze” is pretty fast.
This is a good choice for warm water diving. Just enough material to keep warm and not so thick as to feel uncomfortable.
Bibbed Hood – Bibbed wetsuit hoods can be thinner or thicker and are the most common.
These scuba hoods cover your head, neck and part of your face.
Some try to maximize coverage by leaving only a space for your mask and a hole cut for your mouth. This can be uncomfortable so I would try it on with a mask and regulator to see how it feels before you buy one.
The bib tucks down into your wetsuit to minimize water flow.
Dry Suit Hood – Dry suit scuba hoods are the same as bibbed wetsuit hoods except without the bib.
“Why” you ask?
Because if you tucked a bib into the neck of your dry suit you no longer have a dry suit, you have a water balloon.
You can use a dry suit hood with a wetsuit no problem at all, even in colder water you can get away with this style hood.
I live in the Maritimes of Canada and most of the dive shops here use dry suit hoods as their rental hoods. Even for certifications done in November.
Integrated Hood System – This system has the hood built in as part of the wetsuit.
The only issue I have with this is if the hood doesn’t fit. You either have to cut it off and use another hood or buy a different wetsuit.
I have a small head and when I put on a ball cap I look like a little kid wearing an adults hat.
I have yet to find an integrated hood set that fits me.
Fitting Scuba Hoods
Fitting isn’t that difficult.
Take a tape measure and measure at the widest part of your head.
Start with this chart.
- Inches| Hood Size
- 20-21| XS
- 21-22| SM
- 22-23| MD
- 23-24| LG
- 24-25| XL
- 25-26| 2X
Don’t just take the chart as law. Try on the hood!
Make sure it’s snug but you can still breathe and swallow easily.
Try on a mask and/or regulator and see if it feels comfortable.
That’s really all there is to fitting and buying wetsuit hoods. Some divers will dive with gear that’s not the right size but trust me, when everything fits right your dive will be better. No question about it.
Scuba Dive Lights
Buying scuba dive lights is easy right? Shell out the cash, turn it on, it lights up and voila Technicolor sea life.
I’m not going to bore you with Wattages, Lumens, or other technical mumbo jumbo.
Not right now anyway. I know little maore than the basics when it comes to lighting, especially for underwater photography or video. That’s information I’ll put together, or get someone much more experienced to do it, and publish down the road.
I am however going to give you some basic information to help you review the different dive lights on the market and select the best one for your needs.
So like the genie in Aladdin said, “why don’t you just ruminate, whilst I illuminate the possibilities.”
Types of Scuba Dive Lights
Conventional – Conventional diving lights usually come with halogen or xenon bulbs. Some older models and smaller lights, great for use as backups, come with incandescent bulbs.
Conventional scuba lights are the cheapest you can buy but don’t let price be the deciding factor.
These lights use a lot of battery power. You may pay less for the dive light in the short run but over the long haul you’ll spend a lot more on batteries.
Conventional lights cast a yellowish light which doesn’t do the greatest job at showing off the true colors of the undersea world.
Older models can burn hot and should only be turned on in the water or else they can burn out.
Because they use bulbs they can and will break if thrown around. The bulbs are usually cheap and easy to replace.
Also because they use a bulb there can be a black spot or ring around the center of the light beam.
New models of conventional scuba dive lights have made improvements, but for the most part except for use as backup lights and specialty lights they are disappearing.
HID Lights – HID stands for “High Intensity Discharge” and based on pure performance these are the best scuba lights around. They are really bright. Really bright! And really white. Really really white!
They are also the most expensive.
Besides price another downfall with HID Lights is the bulb. Because it is a bulb it can break, and some models can be a real pain in the ass to change.
On the plus side, HID dive lights are great on batteries. This will help save money and make up for the extra cost of the light over time.
LED Lights – Unless you have been living with the nomads in Mongolia for the last 10 years you have heard of LED lights. Christmas lights, traffic lights, billboards and everything under the sun that lights up is going LED.
LED scuba diving lights are cheaper than HID lights, more durable and use a fraction of the battery power.
Not all LED lights are made the same. Some throw off a bluer light, and because of the way LED lights work it can be tough to find one that penetrates the water or casts a wide enough beam.
The debate between what is the better light, HID or LED, is a hot one on most scuba forums. Like everything else, “better”, depends on who you ask.
LED diving lights combine a good price, amazing battery life, and near indestructability to make them a great choice for divers as a primary dive light.
If you are the kind of person that always wants the absolute best and price isn’t an issue, HID lights would probably be the best fit for you.
In the next few years this choice will get harder and harder as the gap between LED and HID quality and price gets smaller and smaller.
Types of Grips
Torch Grip – This is the traditional flashlight type of grip. Usually when you see a dive light with this style grip it’s a back up light.
A lot of high end canister style lights that are used by technical divers, cave divers and wreck divers are “torch” style. Most times you will see these divers fit their lights with a “Goodman” handle.
Goodman Handle – Goodman handles are basically a strap and a mount used to fix a torch style light to the back of your hand.
This helps to keep your hand free to use while still being able to point the light in a generally useful direction.
You can easily slip the light off and on your hand depending on the situation and what you need to accomplish.
Goodman handles are used a lot by cave and wreck divers where keeping a light pointing forward while holding and following a guideline is necessary.
Pistol Grip – The pistol grip is the most common style of grip you’ll see with diving lights.
The pistol grip looks like the handle of a pistol, duh.
This grip is comfortable and easy to use.
Things to Consider Before Buying Dive Lights
Primary Light – Your primary scuba light should be a larger model with a wide, bright beam. Remember in the Scuba diving world bigger is not always best.
A giant sized light will probably just get in the way if all you’re using it for is to illuminate sea life in less than total dark conditions.
Back up Light – This is a smaller light. Something you can tuck into or clip to your BCD or harness.
Back up diving lights will be smaller, and most divers if they even carry one usually buy cheap lights that break or flood out easily.
Don’t make this mistake!
Your back up light is every bit as important as your primary one. Look for a durable light. You’ll usually have it tucked away somewhere and you’ll tend to forget you have it (until you need it) and it’ll get thrown around a lot.
Always check your back up lights before a dive to make sure they work and the batteries are fresh. It really sucks when you get a flat tire only to find out the spare is flat too. True story.
A medium sized or smaller large size light will suit 99% of recreational divers.
Battery life – is a major consideration, especially when planning night or penetration dives of any kind. The rule of thumb is to carry a primary dive light that has twice the battery life as your planned dive time.
Durability – If you travel a lot or don’t dive often and have your gear in storage most of the time, a light that can handle some abuse is best.
You don’t want to toss your light on a plane, in a boat or in the closet and have someone throw, bury or kick around your delicate and expensive piece of equipment.
Attachments – Make sure your light has a lanyard or some other method to secure it so you don’t lose or drop it. Also a carabiner so you can clip it to your BCD when you aren’t using it is a good idea.
Illumination for Photography and Video
This is a whole other world of dive lights. Lumens, wattages, strobes and floating particulate. All that boring technical stuff I promised not to get into at the beginning of this page.
I’ll add information on this in the future but since this can be a complex area it deserves special attention.
In the meantime as that fast talking genie said, “You have been a fabulous audience! Tell you what, you’re the best audience in the whole world. Take care of yourselves! Good night, fellas! Good night, Agrabah! Adios, amigos!”
The Scuba Dive Computer
The dive computer is the biggest technological advance in scuba diving since the invention of the demand regulator.
Diving computers let you go deeper and/or stay longer and still stay within safe diving limits, by monitoring your depths and times and calculating the nitrogen in your blood on the fly.
Doing it on paper assumes a profile of descent to a certain depth, bottom time at that depth, then ascent; scuba computers allow for the near constant change in depth that happens during a real dive.
I’m going to admit a dirty little secret to you. When I started diving I never planed or logged my dives. Every time I dove I would hear in the back of my mind that little nagging voice, “plan your dive and dive your plan.” But I never did.
It was too much work. If I was diving a new site I had to research it at the dive shop before hand, Work out the dive profile, keep track of time, depth and pressure, calculate my nitrogen levels and plan the repeat dive. Even when diving a site I dove before the pre dive plan just seemed like a hassle.
I just wanted to strap on my gear, hit the water and see stuff. I would swim with the fishes until my tank hit 500psi, then head to the surface and make the swim to shore.
Later on, when I went to commercial diving school and started to really dig into dive tables and dive planning and the true life stories of what can happen when you fail to plan, I realized how stupid that was.
Now I plan every dive I do but my dive computer takes a lot of the tedious paperwork and calculations out of that planning.
Considerations When Buying a Scuba Diving Computer
Buttons– Are the buttons easy to use even with dive gloves on?
Display Visibility– Can you read the display even in a low light situation. Are the numbers big enough? Does the background light up if needed?
The key numbers you need to be able to see are Depth and Available Bottom Time Remaining. Everything else is a matter of preference.
The more information you want to see, the smaller it will need to be to fit on the screen.
Display Information– scuba diving computers can display a lot of information.
Some things you may see are:
- Current Depth
- Max Depth
- Bottom Time Remaining
- Ascent Rate Monitors
- Surface Interval Time
- No Deco Time Limits For Next Dive
- Water Temp
And any other information you might ever possibly want to know.
You need to decide what information is important to you and buy a dive computer that displays that info.
Power On and Off– Some diving computers begin to record the dive automatically and continue to run for hours after the last dive. Some need to be turned on. Are you the forgetful type or not?
Air or Nitrox– Do you dive mixed gas now or plan to in the future? If so you need to buy a dive computer that lets you set the oxygen percentage. You can still use these computers to dive air just set the oxygen % to 21.
If you don’t plan on diving mixed gas you can save money and buy an air only scuba computer.
Aggressive or conservative– An aggressive computer lets you stay down longer than a conservative one. Some diving computers will be aggressive shallow and conservative deep or vice versa. Some computers will let you adjust this.
Research the scuba diving computer before hand and pick one that you are comfortable with.
Altitude– Does it adjust automatically, manually or at all for diving at altitude.
Air-integrated or Stand alone– An air integrated computer will monitor tank pressure and calculate air and bottom time remaining. You can get models that either plug into a hose or even do this wirelessly.
Stand alone computers don’t record this info and you’ll need to use a separate pressure gauge.
Batteries– Can you change the batteries yourself or do you need to take it to the shop or even send it back to the manufacturer?
Memory– How many dives will it record? Does it only record the last dive or does it record multiple (usually 10).
If it only records the last dive you’ll have to write the info down in between dives if you want to do a second.
Does the memory wipe when you turn the power off? Will the dive computer retain that info if the batteries fail?
Downloadable– Can you download the recorded dive to your laptop or desktop computer? Do you have to buy a separate software package or hardware (usb cord or other cable) to do so or does it come with everything?
How do you “Wear” it?– Is it wrist mounted, console style or clip on?
Warranty/Service– What type of warranty does it have? Can you get it serviced locally or will you have to send it to the manufacturer?
There’s obviously a lot to consider when looking at buying a scuba dive computer. Make a list of what you want/need and start reading reviews and manufacturers material until you find one that fits.
The more options it has, usually the more expensive it’ll be.
If you want a Nitrox compatible, wirelessly air integrated, expanded memory, satellite link up, gps, does everything for you except make the actual dive and it could probably do that remotely too, you’re going to pay for it.
The more bare bones it is the cheaper it’ll be.
Remember no matter how much you pay or how good your dive computer is, it’s still just a tool. Like all tools if it isn’t used right it can get you hurt.
Don’t ignore common sense and your own intuition just because your computer is telling you everything is cool.
Make sure you practice doing paper dives or even check your computers recorded dive by doing it with a table yourself every now and then just to stay sharp and keep your skills up.
And don’t forget to “Plan your dive and dive your plan!”
Scuba Gear Bags
Scuba gear bags can be any bag that you carry scuba gear in. A plastic bag with a set of regs in it is a gear bag. It would look a little crazy if you showed up to dive with a bunch of grocery bags but you could if you wanted to.
A scuba diving bag makes it easier to keep your diving supplies together and carry them around. Not to mention it makes it harder for your gear to “walk off” if you know what I mean.
Types of Gear Bags
Duffel Bag – The duffel bag is the simplest type of gear bag there is.
I used an old army duffel bag for years to carry my dive gear and it worked just fine.
Of course when I switched to a bag that was designed for scuba diving I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I didn’t do it sooner.
A duffel scuba diving bag is usually just a large bag made of waterproof material or mesh with straps for carrying.
As with all scuba gear the more features it has, like pockets and wheels, the more expensive it is.
Backpack – The back pack style bag is usually a little more expensive and usually has more features.
I say usually because both styles can be inexpensive or outrageous depending on what bells and whistles are attached.
The backpack scuba diving bag has shoulder straps so you can carry your gear comfortably strapped to your back and not slung over your shoulder like the duffel bag.
Hard Case – These are the most expensive type of scuba gear bags to buy. They’re more like a suitcase than a bag.
Good for traveling with as it will protect your dive gear, especially expensive underwater photo or video equipment.
It can get a little cumbersome carrying these suckers around though, so it would be a good idea to use them mostly for travel and have a lighter weight cloth bag to use when diving.
Specialty bags – These are bags designed to carry your diving supplies separately.
You can get bags for regulators, fins, masks and just about any piece of scuba gear you have. They come in nylon, mesh, padded, unpadded, hard case and anything you can think of.
If it makes sense to you or if you want it, buy it. If not, don’t.
If you travel a lot a separate padded regulator bag is a good idea so you can take your diving regulator as carry on instead of letting the airport baggage handlers smash it around. Sorry to any baggage handlers out there but you know what I’m talking about.
Things to Consider Before Buying Scuba Gear Bags
Zippers – Large corrosion proof zippers are a must. My old army bag had metal zippers that jammed and rusted out long before I stopped using the bag. Again, what the hell was I thinking?
Material – Sturdy material that won’t rot from water exposure. If it’s waterproof even better.
Drainage – Your gear will get wet. Where is the water going to go?
Mesh – With mesh scuba gear bags you don’t need to worry about things like drain holes. Also a mesh bag can be loaded with gear and then the whole thing dumped in a rinse tank for cleaning. If you do this remember to take your gear out to dry it at some point unless you like smelling moldy.
Pockets – The more pockets the more organized you can be. Instead of throwing everything into one large compartment you can assign pockets to different gear and supplies.
Wheels – Wheels are great if you travel a lot. Rolling your scuba gear through the airport is easier than carrying it.
These wheels aren’t made for off roading, so watch where you use them or you’ll have broken wheels.
Buying scuba gear bags more than any other piece of diving gear is a matter of preference. Some people just want a bag and other people want a bag, pockets, space age material and a built in gps.
Like all gear, consider the type of diving you do and buy to fit your style. If I see you at the beach with a bunch of grocery bags, I’ll give you my old army bag. If you want it.
Choosing The Best Scuba Watches
Scuba watches more than any other piece of dive gear is where fashion meets function.
On the dive boat, in the water or at the bar afterwards a dive watch stands out. They’re just plain cool.
People won’t wear a wetsuit on a night out, but they will wear a dive watch.
Almost every watch manufacturer makes dive watches even though few will ever actually hit the water, unless you get caught in the rain or drop it in the sink.
I know I wouldn’t wear an $8,000+ Rolex scuba diving watch Rolex scuba diving watch on a shore dive from a rocky beach in Nova Scotia, but if you have the money to drop on the watch in the first place you might not mind taking it with you.
So what is it that makes a dive watch a dive watch, and is it a necessary piece of equipment?
Features Of Scuba Watches
Bezel – The defining feature of scuba diving watches(besides being water resistant) are the rotating bezel.
At the start of your dive you Line the bezel up with the minute hand. At any point during the dive you can easily tell how much time has elapsed and how long before you have to make your ascent.
Of course digital watches don’t have bezels.
Depth Rating – This is how deep the watch can go before water penetrates the casing.
These ratings can be misleading because they assume no movement by either watch or water.
Types of Dive Watches
Classic(Analog) – The classic style scuba dive watch is in my opinion the nicest looking watch.
These watches feature a rotaing bezel and in general more “moving parts” than other styles. This means there is the chance for more to go wrong.
Buying a quality wacth form a reputable manufacturer will lessen the chance of the watch being a lemon.
They can be cheap, around $100, or insanely expensive, $20,000+.
Digital – A little more techie looking and depending on the brand can be a stylish watch.
Digital watches are usually a bit more rugged and sportier.
Digital scuba watches sometimes have more functions than just timing for a dive, and are more like a computer than simply a watch.
Dive Computer – Some dive computers have a time function and are scaled down in size to look more like watches. Is it a computer? Is it a watch? It’s both.
Is a Scuba Diving Watch Necessary?
If you don’t use a dive computer then absolutely YES!
If you have a computer then no it’s not strictly necessary, but having one as a back up timer is a good idea.
Whether you own a computer or not I think it’s a good to have a dive watch as a back up.
Considerations When Buying Scuba Dive Watches
Unidirectional Bezel – A good Scuba Watches bezel turns in one direction only, Counter-clockwise!
The reason for this is in case the bezel gets bumped turning ccw will “show” more elapsed time, causing you to ascend earlier erring on the side of caution.
Depth Rating – I mentioned before that the manufacturers depth rating assumes no watch movement or water movement.
As soon as you hit the water, you or the ocean is in constant movement. Swimming, descending, ascending, currents, all this puts added pressure on the watch.
Even though safe “recreational” diving limits are considered to be around 40 meters or 130 feet I recommend a water resistant rating for 200 meters or 656 feet.
This should ensure your watch can stand up to whatever pressures you subject it to.
Watch Straps – Rubber wrist bands are a comfortable and strong, and although they wont rust they will get old and become brittle over time.
Also the rubber can be cut.
Stainless steel and titanium bands are a great choice and won’t rust.
Titanium is lighter and stronger than steel but of course this makes it more expensive.
If you go with SS or Titanium a great feature is a wetsuit extension.
The folding link will allow you to fit the band easily over your dive suit when folded out and comfortably on your bare arm for topside wear when folded in.
Clarity – Make sure everything is uncluttered and easy to read, especially in low light and sub-optimal conditions.
Large bold type face and luminescent markings for low to no light make a huge difference.
Contrasting colors are best, especially black on white.
Make sure the numbers on the bezel are etched and not just painted on. Paint rubs off and that can get you in trouble.
Intended Purpose – If you are going to use it for diving and not just for looking good, make sure it was built for diving.
Scuba watches don’t have to cost a fortune but a watch made specifically for diving will be a little more expensive then one that isn’t, and it will look cool besides.