Diving is a kit intensive pastime. It can be quite expensive so probably best bought gradually and having had an opportunity to see or try different options. Some, such as cylinders, is difficult to store and expensive to maintain. A new diver shouldn’t rush out and buy a full set of kit immediately. Quite a lot of the learning in the training is to help divers make informed choices rather than buying what a salesman was pushing that day or what is fashionable on the internet.
This list is vaguely in order of priority and discusses whether a particular item is easily borrowed or a priority to buy.
Please don’t assume that the brands or configurations used by the club will be ideal for you. The compromises of fitting a wide range of people, or being simple or being cheap will not always apply to a particular person.
A mask is an essential item. It has to fit, a £20 mask that fits is great, a £120 that leaks is not. We have some at the pool but owning your own save time and faffing about at the start of each lesson.
Fins are needed, again we have some but having your own helps. The choice is more complicated so buying the cheapest pair that fits for the pool is a good idea. Later an open heeled pair that fits boot or a drysuit will be required, then there are questions about heavy vs light and so forth require some thought.
Hood, gloves, boots
Again these are things that need to fit you personally. We have some so we can take people into lakes but borrowing them leads to extra logistical hassle. Most people will dive abroad at some time so owning wetsuit boots is not a waste even if you buy a drysuit.
In the UK 5mm thing hoods and gloves are fine all year, 3mm gloves in the warmer months. Get the chunkiest boots you can so you have a chance of using the same fins with those and a drysuit, also cold feet are no fun.
Being neat on the boat is important. Having a place for everything is important. Once all the main kit is together a mesh bag to hold mask, fins, hood, gloves. A big holdall (maybe 100l) can take the BCD, regs, and everything else to get to the boat. Once the BCD, cylinder, regs are all set up that bag can crush down and be put away.
While it is possible to rent a computer abroad it is much better to have one which you understand and can operate. In the UK we may be able to find someone willing to lend one out for early dives, but really this should be an early purchase. They start at about £150 and go to £1000 plus. My recommendation is to buy a cheap one, such as a Suunto Zoop or the Aqualung or Cressi equivalent. Some can also be worn as watches but beware the smaller text
On holiday you will be lent lead, but maybe not a belt unless hiring a whole set. There is a choice between simple webbing belts which start at about £10 and more expensive pouch belts. The pouch belts can take either hard blocks or bags of shot. Shot is more comfortable. Another option is a weight harness which can be much more comfortable. Lead is very expensive, between £7 and £12/kilo.
DSMB and reel
This is how the boat knows where you are. In UK waters every diver must have a DSMB and be able to deploy it. There are quite a lot of options with a DSMB but broadly split into a proper reel and large DSMB or a spool, double ender clip and a smaller DSMB. Initially get a proper reel (such as MGE) and bag (eg the APD one BSAC sells). Some subtle things apply, eg use in either hand, and so trying one out that another club member has is a good idea. You may also need some bungee, a ring and clip. Expect to spend about £80 in all.
A torch is almost always a good idea. In the UK at depth you will need one, on a night dive you will need two. They don’t have to be terribly expensive now. £80 will buy a small but bright rechargeable one (eg Orca Torch) or £45 a AA one suitable for tropical night dives or as a spare. For the UK a torch with a narrow bright beam is idea. It can be used for signals and looking in holes. A wider beam is better for tropical diving.
Again, if going on holiday there is a set of kit that you’d rather know well. Regulators come into that. Expect to pay £400 for a setup with first stage, primary second stage, octopus (secondary second stage) and contents gauge. These must be good for cold water use (<10C) to be safe in UK conditions. Personally I buy Apeks ATX or XTX ranges. Beware of super light or especially fancy regulators. There are three questions – Will it freeflow in the cold? Can I get it serviced? When someone puts a cylinder down on it on the boat will it survive?
We do have club regulators, so this might not be a priority for UK diving. Regulators don’t need to fit and are expensive.
Drysuit and/or wetsuit
“There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes.” Billy Connolly. There is no reason to be cold while diving. In the UK the best idea is a drysuit. The club has three which cover most sizes of people. The idea being to extend the training season. We also have a variety of wetsuits which do for warmer conditions. They are also simpler to use. While hiring a suit from the club will work for a few dives, having your own is ideal, particularly to get a good fit. A whole page could be written on the subject of suit choices.
The club has a collection of BCDs of various sizes for trainees. They are generally available for use on club dives but of course trainees get priority.
Traditionally everyone owned their own cylinders. Maybe a 15 and a 12 or a couple of 12s. Again that is ideal, but buying cylinders can probably be low on the list of priorities.