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The best Scuba diving equipment to buy first as a new Diver!

Updated: Nov 24, 2023


Your ultimate list of scuba diving starter gear to get your new underwater life started while looking good!

With this list, there shouldn't be any more questions about what piece of gear or equipment to buy first. You'll be ready to dive into your new adventure, as kitted out as possible, while still able to travel!


Investing in your scuba equipment is like unlocking a treasure chest filled with personalized wonders. Your mask becomes a window to vibrant marine life, your fins propel you through underwater realms, and your regulator is the key to rhythmic breaths in the silent embrace of the ocean.

Me in gear on the beach

This post contains affiliate links to products that will help maintain the website.


Let me start with a personal experience: I was scuba diving quite a lot in the past 10+ years, and every time I visited a new dive center, it was the same story. Or rather, a different one, since the equipment fitting is usually the first thing being done.


But with every dive center, comes new equipment types, brands, and fits. And for me getting my perfect mask, my perfect BCD or wetsuit was always less than a 50/50 chance.


Scuba diving isn't cheap! Why not invest (even a little) in some decent, custom-fitted gear, so you can focus on all the amazing things you will see underwater, instead of worrying about safety, fitting, and comfort?!


I have had too many dives where my experience was less than optimal because of simple things like a bad sealing mask, or too spacious fitting fins for example.


But no more! After reading this guide, you will know exactly what you should focus on to have only amazing dives from now on!




Apo Island Coral Reef

What you can learn in this article:


In the following section, we'll be going into the best pieces of gear for you to focus on first. I will make this into my personal "top 5" and leave some links to these items for you to take a look at and perhaps purchase them yourself, using the affiliate link to support Divingscene.



 


Me in full gear on a boat


1: Why Is Buying Your Own Scuba diving Equipment So Important?


Picture this: After being in airports and airplanes for over 24 hours, taking a 4-hour bus ride, and a boat ride for another 3 hours you've finally arrived at your ultimate diving scene. You put on the gear the dive center has provided, and once you hit the water, descending into this amazing drift dive, you realize the seal of your mask isn't great with your face, as well as the fins start to create blisters because you had to swim slightly against the current for a little bit.

Now you're focussing more on the pain and annoyance, and forget to look at the 100 sharks, manta rays, and dolphins you could see!


There are many reasons to invest in your own scuba diving gear. Be it the complete set, or just parts of it. The main reason will always be to enhance your overall experience while doing the thing you love most: Scuba diving! And we'll go into more detail about the precise reasons why you should buy your own scuba diving equipment.


Squid during a nightdive

Here are 7 reasons:


1 - Personal Fit:

  • Our bodies are unique, and we have the luxury of investing in scuba diving gear and many different brands, offering different fits and techniques. There is a perfect fit for everyone and everybody.


2 - Familiarity:

  • When using your own equipment consistently, you will become familiar with it. This will help you feel safer, and more knowledgeable and give you a sense of security and trust in yourself.




3 - Hygiene and Health:

  • While this should not be an issue, not all dive centers provide the same hygiene standards. Some, if not most, do all they can to provide the absolute best. But some might lack, due to whatever reason. Proper Hygiene can result in reduced risk of skin irritation or infections.


False Clownfish in Anemone

4 - Always Ready to Dive

  • Being the owner of your equipment means you're always ready to dive! Now you will probably still need to rent a tank with compressed air though since they're quite heavy to bring.


5 - Cheaper in the Long Run:

  • While many people will agree that purchasing scuba diving equipment is quite expensive, it's actually much cheaper in the long run. The overall quality of scuba diving brands is incredible, and masks, wetsuits, and BCD are very durable, come with guarantee, and worst case scenario, are usually quite easy to fix. So if you're a frequent diver, this might be the only reason you need.




6 - Looking good:

  • Admit it, this is the main reason we want our own equipment. We want to reflect our sense of style underwater. Whether you want to look like a bag of Skittles or be stylish in all black and chrome, anyone can have any style. Jokes aside, having your distinct style is actually considered an increase in safety as well. since bright fins or bright-colored wetsuits might make you more easily recognizable.


7 - Improved Dive Performance:

  • Not necessarily the most important in my opinion, since I believe that using different styles of gear might even make you a better scuba diver over time, but that is a discussion for another time, or comment on this if you agree, or disagree! However, using the same and/or your own equipment will let you focus less on your actual equipment, and more on your scuba diving skill, trim, air consumption, and buoyancy.



So I think we can agree that there are plenty of reasons to invest in your own equipment, be it for fun, finance, or safety.


 




Diving in grassy dive site



Top 5 Equipment I Would Advise You to Buy First


Here I will give you my top 5 equipment to invest in first, and also explain the different types of those you should consider and why.


When starting with scuba diving, it's important to invest in essential gear that ensures your safety and comfort underwater. Here's a list of key scuba diving gear that someone should consider buying first:

1. Mask/ Snorkel:


I cannot stress more, how much I recommend buying your mask as soon as possible.


Firstly: it's an easy item to take with you while traveling.

Second: you can go snorkeling or freediving, pretty much whenever you want.

Third: there is little as annoying and immersion breaking, as a bad-fitting mask.


A well-fitted mask is crucial for clear vision underwater, and you should choose one with a silicone skirt for a comfortable seal. There are many different kinds of scuba diving masks, and here are some of the options, with links to stores provided where possible:




 

Single Lens Mask:

  • Features a single large lens, providing a wide field of view.

  • Popular for recreational diving due to the unobstructed vision.

Single lens Mask

 

Double Lens Mask:

  • Has two separate lenses, typically divided by a nose bridge.

  • Offers good visibility and may be easier to equalize.

Double lens mask

 

Frameless Mask:

  • Lacks a rigid frame, resulting in a lower profile and lighter weight.

  • Often preferred by traveling divers for its compact design.

Frameless mask

Juvenile Blue Angelfish

 

Low-Volume Mask:

  • Has a smaller air pocket between the face and the lens, reducing buoyancy.

  • Popular among freedivers and divers who want less drag.

low volume mask



 

Wide-View Mask:

  • Designed with large side windows to enhance peripheral vision.

  • Offers an expanded field of view compared to traditional masks.

wideview mask

 

Prescription Mask:

  • Customized with prescription lenses for divers with vision impairments.

  • Allows users to see clearly underwater without wearing contact lenses.

prescriptive mask



 

Mask with Integrated GoPro Mount:

  • Features a built-in mount for attaching a GoPro or other action cameras.

  • Ideal for capturing underwater footage during dives.

mask with gopro integrated

 

Snorkel:

  • A snorkel allows you to breathe on the surface without using your tank air.

  • Look for a simple, durable design with a comfortable mouthpiece that you can replace!

Red snorkel

 

Coral reefs of Apo Island


2. Fins:

Fins are an easy number 2 for me to invest in since they're relatively cheap and usually very, very durable. The only downside is that it's usually quite big to travel around with. However, they are important because fins provide mobility, efficiency, and propulsion obviously.


Which type of fins are right for you? Depending on your style of diving and preference here are some examples of different styles of fins.





Open Heel Fins:

  • These are the fins you will usually encounter in dive centers around the world. They come in all shapes and sizes, are supposed to be worn with booties for extra protection and warmth, and are usually adjustable in size.


Open Heel Fins blue and black

 

Full Foot Fins:

  • These are fins you will see in some shops, almost always in warmer waters. These are the go-to fins for snorkeling and often also freediving, although freediving usually requires longer fins. Most people choose these because they are lightweight and thus a good choice for travel.


Full foot fins black

 


Turtle close-up


Split Fins:

  • Not seen that often nowadays, because split fins are a little less sturdy than your traditional paddle fins. They do offer less resistance and more efficiency when swimming, reducing leg fatigue. You can buy split fins with soft blades, as well as split fins with paddle (sturdy fin) blades.


Black split fins

 

Power/ Jet Fins:

  • These are fins that are quite heavy, but very durable and provide some serious power when used. Usually not the cheapest, they are often preferred among seasoned scuba divers.


Black jet fins

 



Force Fins:

  • Force fins have a unique design with a smaller surface area, making them efficient for precise maneuvers and frog-kick techniques. You could look into these if your frequent diving area requires these specific fins.


Cressi force fins

 


Batfishes under a jetty


3. Dive Computer/ Watch:

A dive computer is an important piece of gear, and I would say to focus on investing in this first. However, we all know that these computers aren't cheap, and they used to be good for 1 thing: Scuba Diving! Nowadays, computers look more and more like actual watches, and many even perform that as a main role.


With the introduction of smartwatches, more and more brands are also integrating dive computers into their smartwatches, so it might be worth looking into this.


Dive computers come in different price ranges and with different abilities. The main focus however is that they monitor depth, time, and decompression limits, providing crucial information for a safe dive.




Choose one with features suitable for your diving experience level.

Buying a dive computer is an important decision for any scuba diver. A dive computer not only helps you track crucial dive information but also contributes to your safety underwater.


Here are some considerations when looking to buy a dive computer:


Type of Dive Computer:

  • Wrist-Mounted: Typically worn like a watch on the wrist.

  • Console-Mounted: Integrated into a dive console along with other gauges.

  • Watch-Style: Combines the functionality of a dive computer with a regular wristwatch.





2 divers in blue from below

 

Shearwater peregrine

Algorithm: Different dive computers use different decompression algorithms to calculate your dive limits. The most common algorithms include Bühlmann, RGBM, and some derivatives.


Nitrox Compatibility: Check if the dive computer is compatible with Nitrox or other gas mixes if you plan on using them. Some computers are Nitrox-ready, allowing you to dive with enriched air. I would highly recommend making sure this is possible since Nitrox is becoming more and more mainstream.




Display:

Ensure the display is easy to read, especially in various lighting conditions underwater. Backlit or high-contrast displays are beneficial.


Console dive computer


Connectivity: Some dive computers come with Bluetooth or USB connectivity, allowing you to download and log dive data to your computer or a mobile app. This feature can be handy for tracking and analyzing your dives.


Battery Life: Consider the battery life of the dive computer. Some models have user-replaceable batteries, while others require professional servicing. Longer battery life is often preferred, especially for extended dive trips.




Ambon Scorpionfish

Additional Features: Some dive computers come with additional features like a digital compass, integrated GPS, dive planning modes, or freediving modes. This might be something to look into, also thinking about what you might need or want in the future.


Budget: Determine your budget and look for dive computers that offer the best features within that range. Remember that a dive computer is a critical piece of safety equipment, so it's often worth investing in a reliable and reputable brand.


Dive computers from established brands like Shearwater, Garmin, Suunto, Cressi, Mares, and Aqualung for example all offer low- and high-range models with incredible durability.


Garmin descent dive computer



 

Coral reef and blue waters

4. Wetsuit or Drysuit:

Of course, concerning wetsuits or drysuits, your location and type of diving are decisive here.


Usually, drysuits are more expensive since there is just way more technique involved in producing these. I would highly recommend looking for a quality drysuit since this will last you for a very long time and is very much worth the investment in the long run.


If you're used to diving in warmer waters you would probably be best off, looking for wetsuits. Below you will find some different options that all have their pros and cons.


Wetsuits are a crucial component of scuba diving gear, providing thermal insulation to keep divers warm in underwater environments. There are several types of wetsuits designed for various water temperatures and diving conditions. Here are the main types of wetsuits for scuba diving:




Shorty Wetsuit:

  • Also called "shorties", these wetsuits provide minimal insulation for scuba diving. This might, however, be exactly what you're looking for. The wetsuit covers your core mostly, with short sleeves and short legs.

  • The upside here is that it provides maximum freedom of movement, lightweight for travel. A downside is that its' insulation, or rather lack thereof, will not always suffice. "Shorties" are usually used in water with temperatures above 75°F (24°C).


Black shorty wet suit

 


Green Turtle

Full Wetsuit:

  • These are the most common wetsuits seen in many dive centers across the world, in warmer waters of 50°F to 75°F (10°C to 24°C). These wetsuits cover your core, legs, and arms completely and offer descend insulation, partially due to the fact they come in different thicknesses.

  • Depending on the location they will usually be 3 - 5 - 7 millimeter thickness. where 7mm is the maximum thickness usually used before switching to a dry suit.


Full wetsuit



 



Two-Piece Wetsuit:

  • My personal preference is the two-piece wetsuit. These wetsuits separate into a jacket and pants. The upsides are you can mix and match for different purposes and conditions, it's easy to wear, usually quite affordable, and easy to travel with.



Wetsuit top

 
wetsuit bottom

 

Blue spotted stingray


Dry Suit:

  • Typically used in water temperatures below 50°F (10°C) or in extremely cold conditions. These costly, but comfortable suits offer maximum protection, and insulation, and can be custom-fitted completely. Although they can be used in warmer water, that will not make you a very happy scuba diver.

  • Dry suits are made to completely seal wrists, ankles, and neck preventing any water from coming entering.


drysuit black




 


Semi-Dry Suit:

  • Slightly different in that it seals at the wrists and ankles to minimize water entry, providing some dry suit benefits. It offers better thermal protection than a wetsuit but without the complexity of a full dry suit.



Semi Drysuit

 


Some extra options to look into/ Variations mentioned above:

Hooded Wetsuit:

  • Simply put, a full wetsuit or shorty, with an integrated hood. Because heat loss in your body mainly occurs via your head, a hood can be an easy and incredibly effective solution if you're struggling to stay warm in your regular wetsuit. However, you might be better off buying a separate hood.


Hooded wetsuit



 


Farmer John/Jane Wetsuit:

  • A combination of shorty and full wetsuit, that has full-length legs but does not protect the sleeves. You could opt to invest in a separate vest or jacket to adjust on the fly in times of need. Mostly chosen because it gives optimal freedom of the arms.


wetsuit no legs on a girl

 

Farmer John wetsuit black

 

When choosing a wetsuit, consider the water temperature of your dive destination, your personal cold tolerance, and the duration of your dives. It's essential to select a wetsuit that provides adequate thermal protection for the specific conditions you'll be encountering. Additionally, ensure a proper fit for optimal effectiveness.



 

Banded sea krait

5. Dive Boots (and Gloves):

  • Depending on the water temperature, invest in appropriate boots and gloves for thermal protection.

Diving boots, also known as dive boots or wetsuit boots, play a crucial role in providing thermal protection and foot support for divers. They come in various styles and materials to suit different diving conditions. Here are some different kinds of diving boots:


Neoprene Dive Boots:

  • Neoprene is probably the most used material for diving boots. It provides insulation, flexibility, and comfort for scuba divers. They come in different shapes and sizes, varying from 3mm to 7mm, hard or soft-sole, zipper or slip-on. You name it. I will go over different options here.



 

Hard-Sole vs. Soft-Sole Dive Boots:

  • Hard-sole is often made with a rigid sole of rubber or durable material offering protection from rocky or rough terrain before and after dives.


black neoprene diving boots

  • Soft-sole features a soft, flexible sole made of neoprene, that offers great comfort and flexibility but lacks the protection of a Hard-sole. Also consider looking into hard patches to protect your feet from contact points with your fins, to avoid blistering and chafing.


black neoprene diving boots no zipper



 


inside a cavern diving

Zipper vs. Slip-on Boots:

  • Zipper boots have the great advantage of coming off and on, very quickly and easily. However, zippers can and sometimes will open, letting in the sand for example. For this reason alone some divers automatically go for Slip-on Boots. They offer the security of not letting in any sand for example, but they might be a little more tricky to put on. Slip-on Boots are usually also more lightweight.


black neoprene diving boots

  • Personally, I prefer a zipper with a smart-lock system of simple Velcro to make sure the zipper doesn't open by accident.


Low slip black neoprene diving boots

 


High-Top vs. Low-Top Dive Boots:

  • This is very much a preference, since in my opinion, there is no real difference, except that High-Top will give you slightly more insulation and protection over Low-Top. Low-top is mostly used in warm waters for this reason, and of course, is usually more lightweight than High-Top.


High black neoprene diving boots no zipper



 
low black neoprene diving boots

 

Scorpionfish looking at fish

Rock Boots/ Boots for Drysuits:

  • Specifically used for technical dry suit divers, these boots are reinforced with rubber and/or heavy-duty fabric, for maximum insulation and protection, and can often be attached to a dry suit.


Rock boots for drysuit

 

Tropical Dive Socks:

  • As you can probably imagine, socks are used in warmer waters. Usually made of neoprene or Lycra, they offer minimal protection and insulation, which is often desired when looking for these.


tropical diving socks

 

When selecting diving boots, consider the water temperature, the type of diving you'll be doing, and the conditions you may encounter. It's crucial to choose boots that fit well, provide the necessary thermal protection, and offer the right level of support for your specific diving needs.

 


Batfishes in blue waters

Honourable mentions:


Regulator: The regulator is essential for breathing underwater. It connects to your tank and reduces the high-pressure air to a breathable pressure.

Ensure it is regularly serviced for safety.


Regulator set
 



Buoyancy Control Device (BCD): The BCD allows you to control your buoyancy by inflating or deflating it.

It also provides attachment points for your tank and other accessories.


Scubapro BCD
 

Dive Bag: A sturdy dive bag helps you organize and transport your gear easily.

Diving bag black and blue
 



Surface Signaling Device: Consider carrying a signaling device like a whistle or surface marker buoy for added safety.



Surface marker buoy

 

Purple Stonehenge coral reef in Koh Lipe

3: The Downsides of Buying Your Own Equipment


It's important to note that while purchasing your own mask, snorkel, and fins is common for personal comfort and fit, some divers prefer to rent larger and more specialized gear like regulators, BCDs, and of course tanks until they gain more experience.


While owning your own diving equipment offers numerous advantages, there are also some downsides and considerations to be aware of:


Initial Cost: The upfront cost of purchasing all the necessary scuba gear can be substantial. High-quality equipment, such as regulators and dive computers, can be particularly expensive.


Maintenance Costs: Owning your equipment comes with responsibilities, including regular maintenance. Equipment like regulators and BCDs require servicing, which can incur additional costs.

The risk of improper maintenance is equipment malfunction and thus compromising your safety, so it's worth keeping this in mind.


Storage Space/ travel constraints: Storing scuba gear, especially if you have a complete set, can take up a significant amount of space. Also, keep in mind that the significant weight of scuba diving equipment can, and probably will incur additional costs when flying to your favorite destination.




Outgrowing Gear/ Different conditions: As your diving skills and preferences evolve, you may find that the gear you initially purchased no longer meets your needs. Our bodies change over the years and the wetsuit which had a nice snug fit might be too large or too small now. Dive centers usually have all sizes available, so there is less risk of misfittings.


Also keep in mind that your 3mm wetsuit might not be sufficient in 22 degrees Celsius water, so you might need to own different sizes/ thicknesses, or perhaps choose something in between.



Despite these downsides, many divers find that the benefits of owning their gear, such as comfort, familiarity, and personalization, outweigh the drawbacks. Careful consideration of your diving habits, travel frequency, and budget can help you determine whether owning your own equipment is the right choice for you.




 


Inside a shipwreck

What We've Learned:


The customization of your equipment is something you can enjoy for the rest of your diving days. Upgrading, or just replacing your gear is easy, although it can be expensive. The good news is that although scuba diving equipment depreciates over time, it seems to always retain some resale value.


My biggest advice to you would be: Start small, and "cheap" with basic gear, and upgrade slowly using this top 5 you will not throw away money needlessly and will always retain some resale value if you decide to quit scuba diving, which would be a sad day of course.


Thank you for reading this blog, which started small, but became quite extensive. More information on where to go diving with all that new equipment can be found on the website.


Leave a like and a comment if you agree, or disagree, so we can update this post to keep it up-to-date for as long as possible!


Remember: If you can breathe, you can dive!


Me with turtle and peace sign

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