There is a huge range of diving equipment available to the diver today, most of it is high quality with a price to match. Watch out for these rebranded foreign imports and attractive features that you never really use. Remember to check out the availability of spares and servicing. Follow these guides to get what is right for you at the best possible price.
Choose the right mask
There are a tremendous variety of masks on the market, if you wear prescription spectacles, you may also want to get a prescription mask.
Modern Silicon Mask
Use these pointers to assist your decision:
- Modern masks are made with hypoallergenic silicone, which as it name suggests minimises the risks of allergic reactions. It is also impervious to damage caused by ozone, ultraviolet, chlorine, and saltwater. Some cheaper masks may be made of a cheaper grade of silicon and may not work as well.
- Wraparound masks have two small additional panes of glass on the side of the mask to improve peripheral vision.
- Ensure it fits well, you can find the best fit by following this simple procedure:
- Place the strap over the front of the mask.
- Gently position the mask over your face and nose so that the skirt rests directly beneath your nose.
- Inhale lightly through your nose and let go of the mask.
- If the mask fits you correctly, it should seal against your face immediately without any external pressure.
- If this happens, continue to inhale and listen closely for any leaking.
- Test the seal further by leaning your head forward and shaking it slightly while continuing to inhale through your nose.
If the mask provides anything less than a perfect fit, ignore it and try a different one. If possible, find at least two different models that fit you well, and then compare those to determine which one fits you best and provides the best comfort, field of vision, and ease of clearing and adjustment. Other requirements include:
- It should be made from tempered safety glass. This is similar to a car windscreen, in that if does break this grade of glass is designed to break in a pattern of dull, square fragments, rather than long sharp slivers.
- Low volume masks are better, they are easier to clear and equalise and they usually have better vision as the glass is closer to the eyes.
- Get one with the maximum vision. Some masks restrict your vision at the sides, top and bottoms. The Cressi 'Big Eyes' is good in this respect.
- Check that they can be tightened and released easily, even with gloves on.
- Check that you can easily clear your ears, even with gloves on.
- Good mask makes a real difference to enjoyment of dive. Don't buy the cheaper masks.
- Avoid black skirts as they can restrict vision and don't look good in underwater photography. The clear silicone masks allow much more light to reach your face and eyes.
- Some masks have one way valves at the bottom so that you can purge them simply be blowing through your nose.
- Mask defoggers really do work.
Popular Brands Cressi, Mares, Oceanic, Scubapro, Tusa. Expect to Pay £30 - £45.
Choose the right fins
The selection of a fin begins with deciding between a full foot design that is intended primarily for pool work or snorkeling/diving in bare feet or an open heel, larger blade design that is better suited for use with SCUBA. The open heel fin is designed to be worn over a neoprene boot or a dry suit boot. As most of the diving in the UK is with dry suits, the latter is the most popular option. For pool training and diving in warmer climates these can be used with a neoprene boot which gives added protection to the feet against rocks, shingle and the decks of boats.
Full Foot Fins
Open Heal Fin
The latest technology in modern fin blade design is the "split fin". Fins of this type are made by many manufacturers using a licensed technology. The basic concept of a split fin uses what is often cited as propeller technology. These fins allow water to spill through a specially designed split which starts a propeller like movement (and thrust pattern). You can not simply take your old fins and cut a slit in them though. A great deal goes into the overall engineering and materials selection for these fins. Their claim to fame is that they allow for the most efficient kick i.e., less effort for the same propulsion. They are worth trying as they really do work.
Key pointers are:
- Get the right size; remember that dry-suit boots are generally bigger than ordinary shoe sizes so make sure your dry suit boots will fit into your fins. This may mean purchasing your dry suit first and trying the fins on whilst wearing the suit. Fins shouldn't be so tight that they pinch or cramp the feet, neither should they wobble when wiggling the feet.
- Can you walk in them? Some of the modern split fins are difficult to walk in.
- Robust straps - fin strap snaps are extremely inconvenient at the best of times.
- Get bright colours, as often your fins are the last things your buddy can see as you swim away.
- When trying on any fin, check to make sure it has the following basic features:
- Ankle support - while wearing the fin, check to determine the position of your foot inside the foot pocket. If it is a quality fin that fits properly, the sole of the foot pocket should reach nearly to the edge of your heel, and the top lip of the foot pocket should come up to your instep. Otherwise, your ankle will not be fully supported, and you may experience fatigue and soreness.
- Ease of adjustment - before placing your foot inside the fin, adjust the strap out to its loosest position. Then, insert your foot completely into the foot pocket and bring the strap up over your heel. Adjustment should be a simple procedure that can be performed while the fin is on your foot by simply pulling both ends of the strap towards you until it is comfortably snug. (Nearly all fins today have Fastex-style connectors for their fin straps, which make them easy to remove. Mares, however, has gone one step further and introduced a quick-fastening connector that makes it easier to get the fins on, too.)
- Check the ease of removal, bear in mind you may be wearing thick gloves or have cold hands.
Popular Brands Cressi, Mares, Scubapro, Technisub. Expect to Pay £40 - £80
Choose the right snorkel
Leonardo da Vinci invented the original snorkel long ago but it didn't work as it was far too long at 6 metres. This meant that the diver was unable to draw air down it against the ambient water pressure of 1.6 bar.
The average length of a snorkel is about 35cm. This keeps the top well clear of the water when the user is face down, and the column of water that forms once the snorkel has been flooded is easy enough for the user to clear. Some snorkels have valves at the lower end of the tube so that they are much easier to clear when the snorkeler surfaces. The average bore is around 2cm, wide enough to allow a good flow of air in and minimising the ingress of water from splashes.
Although there are hundreds of different types on the market, buy a cheap one, a bent pipe with a comfortable mouthpiece, as it is rarely used beyond pool training and easy to lose on a dive.
Popular Brands Scubapro, Tusa. Expect to Pay £10 - £20
Choose the right stab jacket
Buoyancy Control Devices (BCD's) or stab jacket fall into two main types:
- Stab jackets - stab jackets are probably the best option if you are using a standard cylinder. They are better than wings at keeping your face out of the water on the surface as there is more buoyancy at the front.
- Wings - wings usually have greater buoyancy and give more movement freedom at the front. The centre of buoyancy is nearer the centre of weight (especially with twin cylinders) and this helps to reduce unwanted body roll. On the down side it is difficult to make sure they hold your face out of water on the surface and there are usually no pockets on the front to put things in.
Both types could have integrated weight systems, i.e., special pockets that contain lead weights and have a quick release mechanism so that the weights can be easily jettisoned in an emergency.
There are many factors to consider when selecting a stab jacket, including your body shape and the type of suit you will be wearing. Most importantly, however, you should consider the type of diving you will be doing and the activities you may wish to pursue. If you will primarily be traveling to warm water destinations for casual recreational diving, you may be happiest with a more basic and streamlined model that is lightweight and easy to pack for the trip. There are also many optional features, and it is important to understand the benefits they can provide.
The stab jacket is designed to distribute buoyancy around the divers waist, as well as over the back and up the shoulders. The primary advantage of this design is the way in which it can hold the diver upright while resting on the surface, with the neck and chest held comfortably above the water. Some divers, however, prefer a wing design with a bladder that is located entirely on the rear of the jacket, on both sides of the cylinder. This provides a more streamlined effect along the front of the torso, and allows more options for the attachment points of accessories. Some stab jackets feature larger bladders that provide more lift, while others are smaller and more streamlined for more casual and tropical use.
Whichever style you choose, it is important to find a stab jacket that does not squeeze you when it is fully inflated and will give you adequate lift.
Things to look out for:
- It can provide sufficient lift - a minimum of 20kg.
- Heavy-duty materials.
- Strong straps and connectors
- Quick releases.
- Sufficient metal D rings to clip items to.
- Strong backpack system that can support twin sets (if required).
- Body position on the surface.
- Some jackets have twin bladders, in case one is perforated.
- Auto air, an emergency regulator system.
- Integrated weight systems - This feature allows you to quickly remove and jettison either all or part or the weight in the event of an emergency.
- Easy to find and use inflators, deflators and dump valves.
- Modern jackets have at least 2 dump valves, 1 of which is at the base of the jacket to dump whilst inverted. They also act as over pressure relief valves to prevent bladder rupture with over inflation.
- Emergency cylinders - Some jackets have a 0.4 litre cylinder attached to provide emergency inflation of your jacket or to provide you with a few extra breaths. In reality, it should not be needed for emergency inflation because you would simply jettison your weight belt. They do need careful management as they have been known to be accidentally switched on, sending the diver to the surface.
- Ability to self inflate the jacket.
Popular Brands Jackets - Buddy, Mares, Scubapro, Seaquest, Sherwood
Wings - Buddy, OMI. Expect to Pay £300 - £550
Choose the right cylinders
Cylinders come in 7, 10, 12 or 15 litre sizes, although you can get them in Aluminium and Steel most divers choose the latter. Aluminium is corrosion free, but they are much thicker walled which perversely, makes them heavier than good steel ones. In addition the 12 litre cylinders come in various shapes e.g., short and dumpy or standard. Depending on the quality of the steel they also have different weights, details of which are stamped on the collar of the cylinder
Most cylinders have a working capacity of about 232 bar and this is sufficient for most divers, you can get 300 bar cylinders but they are heavier and need special DIN connections. Furthermore air fills to 300 bar can be difficult to get and are more expensive than the standard 232 fills. They can't be used to charge stab jacket emergency cylinders either as these are rated to 232 bar.
DIN fitting or 'A' clamp
The regulator connects onto the cylinder in one of two ways; a screw in DIN connection or the traditional 'A' clamp or yoke fitting.
A Clamp Connection
Modern cylinders have a screw in 'insert' that converts the DIN connection to an 'A' clamp so you can use both types of regulator.
Which to buy depends a lot on your size and strength, slight girls can get by with a 10 litre; larger muscular males may prefer a 15 litre. Most divers buy a 12 litre steel cylinder to start and this is not a bad strategy as you can twin them when you start going deeper.
Popular Brands Faber , Tortec. Expect to Pay 10 Litre - £130, 12 Litre - £140, 15 Litre - £150.
Choose the right regulator
Of all the scuba equipment you will purchase, the regulator will be the most important item. You will want it to deliver life-sustaining air to you easily and smoothly without having to think about it. Selecting a regulator for purchase can be a rather daunting task especially if you are a new diver. Of course, your instructor and club divers will be able to offer you advice.
First and second stage regulator
The purpose of a regulator is to take high-pressure air from the cylinder and deliver it to you at a pressure equal to your surrounding depth (ambient pressure). This is because the human lungs can only take in air that is delivered at ambient pressure. To accomplish this, the air must go through two pressure reductions, the first stage and the second stage. The first stage attaches to the cylinder valve and takes incoming high-pressure air from the cylinder and reduces it to an intermediate pressure of approximately 10 -11 bar above ambient.
The second stage, which goes in your mouth, receives this intermediate pressure from the first stage and reduces it to ambient pressure. Your exhalation exits the second stage through a one-way valve and is dispersed into the water in the form of bubbles.
You will need a regulator and first stage, a second regulator (octopus), hoses from your jacket and suit and pressure and depth gauges.
First stage options
- Diaphragm first stage - As mentioned earlier, the first stage reduces high-pressure air to approximately 10 - 11 bar above ambient pressure. But how does a regulator know what ambient pressure is? On diaphragm model first stages, the water pressure acts on a main diaphragm, which transfers the pressure to the inner valve of the unit. The benefit is that the internal components do not come in contact with the water, silt or contamination. Therefore, by the nature of its design, it is environmentally sealed. This results in reliability and easier servicing.
- Piston first stage - In piston regulators external water pressure acts directly on a piston which is the main moving part.
- Environmental sealing - This option provides an insulated layer of silicon or alcohol base fluid between the external water and piston or diaphragm. Whilst pressure is transmitted through the medium it acts to as an insulator to cold water, reducing the risk of freezing up the first stage
- Balanced valve - Both piston and diaphragm first stages may be balanced. This means that as the air in the cylinder is depleted during the course of the dive, the intermediate pressure going through the hose remains constant. This results in consistent, easy breathing from the beginning of your dive until the end.
- Low pressure ports - The first stage should have enough ports to allow you to connect two second stages, a low pressure jacket inflator hose and a dry suit inflator hose.
- DIN or A Clamp Connections
This is little difference to the diver with either the diaphragm or piston types.
Second stage options
Most mainstream regulators will handle most diving situations. They will give many years of reliable service if they are properly maintained. There are however a number of options to consider:
- Styles - There are two main styles. The conventional second stage must come over the right shoulder and has the diaphragm and purge button at the front. These cannot be used upside down and water may leak into the diver's air if used whilst inverted. The second type has the purge button and the exhaust manifold on the side and these can be used either way.
Conventional regulator with front purge button
Side mounted purge and
- Valve type - Again there are two main types; downstream and pilot valves. Downstream valves are the mostly used in the conventional regulators. As the diver inhales, a diaphragm is sucked in, which in turn pushes a demand lever which delivers air to the diver. These are simple mechanisms that should they fail will continuously deliver air (free flow). Pilot valves work slightly differently in that the demand lever opens a small valve which in turn opens a larger valve. This provides more air with less effort.
- Adjustments - Whilst all regulators have internal mechanisms of adjustment which are checked and adjusted during servicing some regulators have additional external controls. These vary the amount of suction (effort) needed to activate the regulator (cracking pressure) and the amount of positive pressure required to stop the air flow (the venturi effect). These may be nice to have but are not essential, some would argue they are yet another thing to think about,
Advice for new purchases include:
- Most mainstream regulators will serve you well for many years; all will cope with diving in the UK.
- Consider the weight and the comfort.
- Regulators that are too small will send bubbles in front of the mask, thus obscuring the view.
- Check availability and cost of servicing.
- Recommend getting a simple, no nonsense low-to-middle price regulator at first, then if you're diving starts to get more demanding upgrade and use your existing regulator for your pony.
Popular Brands Apeks, Dacor, Mares, Oceanic, Poseidon, Scubapro, Sherwood, US Divers. Expect to Pay £200 - £400
When fitting an octopus, you have a choice of placing this on your left side to make easy for buddy to use, or your right hand to make it easier for you to use. There has been much debate regarding the better option. The club preference is on the latter i.e., the right side. This is primarily based on the view that you might be in need of the spare regulator yourself if yours malfunctions and in a panic situation, your buddy is more likely to just grab the regulator from your mouth than go by the book, so you need a second regulator that is easy for you to locate and breathe from. An octopus on the left side is only good for your buddy. It is also conventional to make the octopus hose longer than the primary regulator hose.
Choose the right gauges
The trend today is to combine several dive instruments into one console so they can be easily carried and viewed. Instrument consoles are available in a variety of different sizes and configurations. For example, a two gauge console is designed to carry the submersible pressure gauge (SPG) and depth gauge. A three gauge console may contain a submersible pressure gauge, depth gauge and underwater compass. Some instrument consoles feature additional add-ons such as a thermometer gauge or a dive timer.
The pressure gauge has a high pressure hose connected to your regulator first stage. The gauge itself measures the pressure in your scuba tank and displays it on an analogue dial face. The pressure range indicated on the dial face generally ranges from 0 to 300 bar. Some enhancements include a luminous dial faces so they can be easily read in the dim light of depth or murky water.
The depth gauge is usually an analogue display of your current depth. Enhancements include a maximum depth indicator needle. This needle is pushed along by the primary needle and stops at the deepest depth achieved during each dive. After the dive the maximum depth indicator can be reset to zero for the next dive.
Popular Brands Apeks, Beaver, Cressi Sub, Oceanic, Suunto, Uwatec. Expect to Pay Single Gauge: £35 - £50, Dual Gauge: £60 - £80, Triple Gauge: £90 - £120.
Choose the right weight belt
Weights are either built into the Stab jacket or wings or added to a belt system, of the latter there are two main types:
- A 5cm-wide length of webbing threaded with lead weights and joined at the ends by a quick-release buckle - problems with these are that they can be very uncomfortable especially if a weight is pressing on the hipbone. Changing the weights, for example when going from fresh to salt water can be difficult. These are the cheaper option.
- Shot weight belts that contain pouches of lead shot (or lead slabs). These are the better option, although they are more expensive, changing the weights is usually very simple and they are much more comfortable. Make sure the pocket flaps are very secure to avoid loosing weights when inverted, zips are more secure than Velcro.
Whichever system you choose make sure that the belt won't loosen or slip off accidentally and that it can come off quickly in case of an emergency. If you are one of the unfortunate few with no hips or narrowed waist you can get harnesses that fit over the shoulder, whilst they will keep your weight belt around the waist, releasing them quickly is much more difficult.
Ankle weights perform a valuable function, adding stability to your feet when wearing a dry suit.
Popular Brands Beaver, Sea Quest. Expect to Pay £30 - £60 including weights
Choose the right diving suit
Diving suits come in three main types; wetsuits, semi dry and dry suits. Dry suits can be made of neoprene, crushed neoprene or a membrane material such as nylon-butyl-trilaminate. Wet suits are too cold for UK diving, although you may still see them in the summer.
There has been much debate about 'semi dry' versus 'dry suits' and 'neoprene' or crushed neoprene versus 'membrane', however most divers in the UK opt for a membrane dry suit for the following reasons:
- They are easier to get in and out of. Neoprene suits need to fit tight.
- They are more resistant to abrasions, punctures and tears.
- They are warmer, particularly after a dive.
- You can easily adjust the underclothing to suit the conditions.
- They do not compress as neoprene suits do, loosing their insulating properties.
However there are some important disadvantages:
- Membrane suits are more expensive.
- Harder to control buoyancy.
- Can overheat in hot weather.
- Not as stretchy as a neoprene suit so their cut is more generous to allow the diver a full range of movement. If the suit is tight, seams may be stretched and leak.
- Poorly fitted suits could contain large air pockets that could migrate around the suit.
- Because of the large air content in a dry suit, there are more buoyancy adjustments to make.
- Buy locally in case of leaks or other problems.
- Consider made to measure, which may or may not be more expensive. Check delivery times.
- Stick to well known brands.
- Check the price and return times for repairs, particularly for new zips.
- Fit - Must be comfortable (with you under suit) throughout a full range of movements, particularly getting fins on and off and reaching behind to close off valves.
- Boots - These need to fit snugly with bootees, too loose and your foot may slip out. Avoid boots with thin soles, they are uncomfortable when walking on rocks or pebbles.
- Zips - Normally across the chest or along the back. Zips across the chest don't seem to last long as they can become crushed as you bend over.
- Valves - Swivel inflation valves are better as they can swivel in any direction to connect to the inflation hose.
- Pockets - Better on the sides of the thigh as opposed to the front as the latter increase drag and can get caught as you get into a RIB.
- Dumps - There are two main types, cuff dumps and shoulder automatic dumps. The latter is the more modern but some divers prefer the cuff dumps arguing they have more control. Cuff dumps work by simply elevating the left hand and air will vent out. This can be a problem as you may vent air unexpectedly whilst undertaking some exercise such hanging onto a shot line or sending up a delayed SMB. The shoulder dump bleeds air automatically, by turning the dump valve you can control the degree by which the air is vented off.
Under suits are usually made of 'fleece', 'thinsulates' and 'pirtek'. They come in various grades from 100g to 400g, depending on the level of insulation you require under your dry suit; 100g will probably be sufficient for summer diving, and a 200 or 400gm for winter, although some people use a the heavier insulation all year round. In addition many divers also get a good set of thermal underwear to wear with their under suit.
The key points are ensure a good fit with no restriction on movements and make sure that the under suit is made from a wicking material that will carry perspiration away from your body.
Popular Brands DUI, Northern Diver, Otter, Polar Bear. Expect to Pay Membrane suit :£400 - £600, Under suit: £50 - £140
Choose the right hood
It is estimated that as much as 75% of heat may be lost through the heads, so the the hood plays a major role in reducing this heat loss. They also protect the head and neck from abrasions etc. They are usually made of neoprene and come in many styles, sizes and lengths with a thickness of about 3, 5 or 7mm. The latter is most popular with UK divers. Points to watch are:
- Comfortable fit.
- The facial opening must be large enough to ensure that masks can be removed and replaced easily and that both the mask and regulator are not pushed out of position.
- It provides good insulation including the neck.
- Bright colours are much safer, although less popular.
A small hole in the top of the hood will ensure it will not collect air.
Popular Brands Beaver, Mares. Expect to Pay £30 - £45.
Choose the right gloves
Heat loss through the hands is significant and can be dangerous if it leads to loss of dexterity. Gloves will reduce this heat loss and also protect the diver from stings and abrasions. There are two types; standard wet gloves and dry gloves. Thicker gloves can be cumbersome and you loose your ability to undertake intricate tasks such as fastening small straps or buckles. Many divers have two pairs of gloves, a lightweight pair for warmer waters and a heavy pair for those colder days.
Wet gloves - Come in the usual sizes, the lighter gloves are made from various rot resistant materials and the heavier gloves are usually made of neoprene. They can be closed at the wrist with zips or more commonly now, Velcro elasticated straps.
Dry gloves - As the name suggest the dry glove stays dry on the inside and are sealed at the wrist. They usually have an internal fur-like lining and are said to be very warm. The colours distinguish the thickness of the glove walls and blue is appropriate for diving. Dry gloves do suffer from some disadvantages;
- On the surface they are quite large, making it very difficult to undertake small intricate tasks.
- They suffer from squeeze at you descend and there is no way of equalising it. Some divers have resolved this problem by placing a thin straw which runs from their dry suit wrist seal through the glove seal thereby equalising the pressure.
- If they do become perforated, which is not too difficult on a wreck dive, they become inefficient.
- They are more expensive than standard gloves.
With all gloves the points to watch are:
- Right thickness for the water temperature
- Good comfortable fit, too large will make you feel clumsy and will allow water in. To tight and they are difficult to get on, especially when wet.
- Most neoprene gloves have a plastic coating on the palm and fingers, this will extend the life of the glove but only for a short time. Other materials are now being used such as 'Kevlar' which should improve this.
- Easy to get in and out of.
Popular Brands Beaver, Mares, Poseidon, Sherwood. Expect to Pay Wet Gloves: £12 - £25, Dry Gloves: £35.
Choose the right compass
Using a compass is an essential skill for any diver, and it takes only a little practice to become proficient. You must be careful to avoid any interference from the ferrous metal you are wearing such as the steel cylinders on your back, and you should be aware that a magnetic compass is of little use to a diver within the confines of a steel wreck or if it is placed next to a steel computer or watch.
Console mounted models are located at the end of the pressure gauge and high pressure hose. With a wrist model, it is sometimes better to take it off your wrist when using it and hold it with two hands. This makes it easier to hold its "direction of swim" or "lubber" line parallel to your body. In either case be sure to hold it level so that the needle or compass card does not jam.
There are new electronic compasses now coming on to the market that make it easy to pre-programme a complex route and its reciprocal, before setting off. They cost around £100 more than the average compass.
Popular Brands Suunto, Uwatec. Expect to Pay £30 - £45
Choose the right dive computer
Almost all divers purchase a dive computer at some point, but it recommended that new divers learn to use the tables first and purchase a computer at a later date. This will enable the diver to understand the underlying principals of decompression sickness.
Choose an alternative air supply
As you progress you may want to purchase a separate air source i.e., a pony or a twin set. Just which one you go for depends on what sort of diving you want to do.
A pony cylinder with an additional regulator can be a life saver in some situations by providing a truly independent and secondary air system. If you dive below 20m on a single cylinder, get one.
The cylinders are usually 3 litre capacity and require their own regulator and pressure gauge. They should provide sufficient air to get you to the surface in an emergency. They are normally attached to the main tank via a variety of bag systems or a metal clasping systems. The latter system is more expensive but it is much easier, as they can be simply clipped on or off. The advantages are:
- Using the modern clip systems, it can be added and removed easily to your main cylinder.
- Changing your main cylinder is easy with the clip system.
- Cheapest option.
- Lighter than twin sets.
- Independent air system.
A twin set is simply the connecting of two cylinders together using stainless steel bands or other device. The common sizes are 7,10 or 12 litre, occasionally you may see a twinned 15 litre, although they are normally too heavy for most divers.
Twin 10 litre cylinders with manifold and dual boot
The cylinders may be completely independent or manifolded to make one large cylinder. With manifolds it is usual to have a valve in the centre to isolate the two tanks in case of a free flow. Clearly a twin set will provide substantially more air for those deeper or longer dives.
- More air in total.
- Better for deep dives i.e., 40m.
- Independent air supply.
- Better balanced.
- Heavier, more difficult to manage on a hard boat or RIB.
- You may need to invest in wings as some jackets do not have the buoyancy to lift the weight.
- When empty or low they can be quite buoyant. Because of this you need to be a little heavier than you would normally.
Choose the right Delayed SMB
The latest from the AP Valves (Buddy) 'Hiviz' range. normal, self sealing and with inflation cylinder
Delayed SMB's are almost mandatory for sea dives, they save the hassle of managing the SMB throughout the dive.
Divers usually inflate the SMB at the end of the dive or when they drift/swim off a designated area thus informing the boat of their whereabouts. There are a number of different types, some are self sealing to stop air leaking out and some have their own inflation device. The cheaper DSMB's may loose their buoyancy if they are caught in surface winds or rough waters. Purchase the self sealing SMB's.
Inflation cylinder and valve
Popular Brands AP Valves, Expect to Pay £20 - £90
Choose the right reel
There are a number or reels on the market now, most are good but some are better. Points to look out for are:
- Robust construction.
- An easy to use ratchet system to lock the reel.
- You need a minimum of 50m of strong nylon line.
- No traps for the line to get caught in, for example, between the bobbin and the frame.
- Small reels are tedious to wind up.
- Can be used with either hand.
- Easy to clip onto the diver when not being used.
Popular Brandsare Beaver, MGE, expect to Pay £30 - £45.
Choosing the right torch
A torch not only illuminates those lobster filled holes but they also help buddies to find each other. They are of course, essential for night dives. The best torches are the rechargeable type such as the D4R. They give a good light and save a small fortune on batteries. Most divers have a large rechargeable torch and a small backup battery torch. Points to consider:
- Robust casing.
- Sufficient brightness. A broad beam with a narrow bright spot is best.
- A mechanism to prevent accidentally turning on is essential. Many dive torches are designed to be cooled by water and will burn very hot, perhaps melting or worse, burning a hole in your dry suit.
- The torch should be easy to operate with cold hands and/or large gloves.
- It can be securely attached to a lanyard or clip.
- Batteries - duration of burn and ease of replacement.
- The cost of replacement batteries and bulbs.
- Buoyancy - neutral is preferred.
- Some torches have a dual bulb in case one blows.
- Some torches have different power settings.
Popular Brands Aqualung, Dive Rite, Mares, Underwater Kinetics (UK), Expect to Pay Rechargeable: £100 - £120. Backup torch: £12 - £30.
There are many items or gadgets your can buy to augment your equipment, if money permits get them in this order:
- Tank bangers - very useful for attracting attention and they only cost a few pounds.
- Strobes - useful for poor surface visibility and night dives. Some divers clip them to SMB's.
- Lifting bag - useful if you do deep dives as most of the shallower dives have been stripped of treasures.
- Slate and pencil - an essential item for all dives.