When you start scuba diving, you are not sure what to choose for your diving equipment.
Those in the club recommend fins (often Volo race), you find a 5 mm wet suit at a great price at the dive shop, you find a second-hand wetsuit and off you go!After a few dives, you end up saying to yourself that Volo Race is nice but a bit soft and that a wetsuit in your size and lighter would have been better.As instructors, we are often asked questions. The most common one is: What was your maximum depth?!? (with shining eyes of course). But we are also asked for advice on diving equipment. So, with a little hindsight and experience, here’s what we pay attention to when we buy equipment. We’ll try not to advertise too much and don’t mention brands or models except when there’s no other solution.The maskThe mask is a bit like a ski boot. If there’s one thing to buy when you’re starting out, it’s the mask, especially when you don’t feel comfortable emptying it. As with the rest of the equipment, make sure you take a mask that fits you. The salesperson will ask you to put it on your face and breathe in through your nose. The mask must stay stuck on. This is a good start, but it is clearly not enough. For my part, I can take almost any mask and make it fit this way. You also need to look at the space between the inner skirt and your eyes (about 1 cm) as well as the space between the bottom of the outer skirt and your upper lip. The silicone should not come into contact with your lip. On the forehead, the mask should not crush (or even touch) you above the bridge of your nose, between your eyebrows.As for the skirt, translucent or opaque, it’s a bit of a choice. Personally, I prefer a translucent skirt because it is more luminous. With the opaque skirt, I feel like I’m looking through a door lock. 1 glass or 2 ? With 2 panes, emptying is a priori simpler but now it really becomes a matter of personal taste. If you need optical correction, you can buy a mask for your eyesight but you can also glue glasses (flat if possible). There are also self-adhesive lenses to be placed in the mask (inside!!). Lenses cost less, but a mask for your eyesight can be partially (or fully) covered by your health insurance.The snorkelNot much to say about snorkelling except that we still see people diving with a snorkel without a valve. Please forget about these prehistoric relics and opt for a snorkel with a valve that is so much easier to empty. A small concession, though, if you want a collapsible snorkel. There are roll-up snorkels available without a valve.The combinationWhen it comes to wetsuits, the first thing to think about is the temperature of the water in which you will be diving most often. If you are training in the sleeve, choose 8 mm. If the water is cold, no thanks, 5 mm is softer and easier to put on. Beware of inner seams which can quickly irritate the most sensitive parts of your anatomy (behind the knees, between the thighs). If you’re the cold type, you can invest in an extra shorty to put underneath your wetsuit, it’s a bit expensive but you’ll see the difference. I recommend the Aqualung Titanium. Frankly, since I have it, I have been so happy with it that I bought a new one when I finally wore out the first one after more than 300 dives.FinsWhen I started diving in France, I was recommended the Mares Volo Race. Of course, they are good pool flippers but personally, I find them much too soft for the sea, especially when you have to force yourself a little. So, be careful not to take flippers that are too soft. You have the choice between adjustable fins and foot fins. The former require booties. This is practical when you have to walk. If you always dive from a boat, the interest is a little more questionable. As far as I am concerned, I am not a fan of booties. I find that the fin is not very attached to my foot. So I opted for booties. One of the problems with boots is that they can end up hurting your feet, especially under the malleoli. The other problem is when you dive in really cold water. For these two reasons, I use 2 mm or 3 mm neoprene slippers. If you still prefer adjustable fins, there are two systems of adjustment. A strap that pulls out or a spring/elastic. I find that the strap system is not very practical and the strap ends up breaking. Anyway, strap or spring/elastic, always have a spare one!To find out if the fin is the right size for you, put it on and stand on tiptoe. If your heel comes out of the flipper by itself, it is too big. On the other hand, if your toes stick out a lot, it’s too small. Also, make sure you’re not too tight in the forefoot (the widest part of the foot, at the base of your toes).The stabAs usual, take a piece of equipment in your size. To check the size, put on the stab, close the velcro and the buckles. The velcro should close more than 1 cm (don’t forget that you will most likely be diving with a wetsuit that will add thickness!) and the space between the straps and the top of your shoulders should not be large when you pull the waistcoat up.If you are planning to travel, choose a lighter stall. A real handle on the back of the waistcoat makes it easier to manipulate the whole thing, especially when you have capsized. Having pockets big enough to hold your equipment (parachute, lamp, etc.) is a real plus. The plumb pockets will weigh less on your waist than the belt. As far as the main strap is concerned, I prefer the metal quick release rather than the plastic buckle that is usually found. Indeed, the metal fastener is much quicker and easier to handle than the buckle.Rings on the shoulder straps and pockets will allow you to easily hang a lamp, a system to hang the octopus, a camera or a camera. Speaking of octopus, some waistcoats have a place to put the octopus. It doesn’t matter whether it’s on the shoulder or in the pocket, but it’s still more practical than having to invest in a ball, a magnet or any other system that will inevitably end up deteriorating.The pressure reducerWell, normally, if you’re in the process of buying a regulator, you’ve already been diving a bit and you know what it’s all about. My feedback as a diver who dives almost every day is the following: First DIN stage. Yes, the caliper is easier to handle, but frankly, if the knurl on your DIN is of good workmanship, you will have no problem with mounting and dismounting. Above all, you won’t have any problems with the seal. A plastic, triangular or round knurl, but avoid chrome knurls as they are difficult to loosen.The hoses must be long enough (and mount the octopus on the left, it is much more practical). The purge knob on the second floor should be big enough so that you don’t have to look for it when you need it. The second stage must also be compensated. So yes, one day you will try a top-of-the-range regulator and you will see the difference. In the meantime, you don’t need to jump straight into a Legend, Titan or Apeks right away. But still avoid the entry-level model.The computerThe computer should be part of the basic diving equipment of every diver. Unfortunately this is not often the case, but what a pleasure it is when you finally buy your own. Of course, you want the best until you see the price. It’s quite calming. For starters, there’s no need to invest a kidney in a new toy. Don’t take the entry-level one either. Nowadays, almost all computers are air and nitrox but if you buy a second-hand one, make sure it’s at least bi-gas, even if you can’t change gas while diving. Get a heavy-duty one with a clear and sufficiently large display. Ideally, a night mode, the possibility to synchronize with the home computer (see our article on logbook) . If you can change the battery yourself, that’s always a time saver. For ease of use, favour a model with at least two buttons to navigate through the menus.Second-hand equipmentIs it possible to buy second-hand equipment? Yes and no. Yes, but be careful. Mask, flippers, wetsuit, just look at them to see possible problems. For the stab, it is necessary to test that there are no leaks, that the purges and the inflator work. Make sure that the zips are working and that the plumb bags are not missing. For the regulator and the computer, it becomes complicated. Unless you’ve tried them several times on a dive, you’re taking a risk of buying equipment that doesn’t work or doesn’t work well. For the regulator, find out when it was last serviced and how much it costs before you buy.ConclusionThe choice of diving equipment is always delicate. We want to be sure not to make a mistake. You will always have someone to advise you on a brand or model and someone else to tell you that they have already tried it and that it was the worst equipment they have ever had (such as advice on banks, telephones, insurance, etc.). We hope that these few tips about diving equipment will be useful and will help you to see a little more clearly what you need to take into account. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to use the area provided below.