Scuba diving is a very gear intensive sport. Fortunately in the water, the weight of the gear is hardly noticeable and the payoff for the hassle is unbelievable.

  • Mask: The mask creates a layer of air between our eyes and the water, enabling you to focus clearly underwater. It also has a nose pocket, which allows you to equalize the pressure inside the mask as you continue descending. Before you buy a mask, check to make sure it fits your face by making a firm seal. To do so, press the mask against your face without slipping the strap over the back of your head and breathe in. If the mask stays firmly against your face, you have selected one with a proper seal. Furthermore, look for a mask with tempered glass. Tempered glass minimizes breaking and helps to avoid eye injury should it break. Prior to diving, one must spit in the lens of their mask, rub it around with their finger and rinse it to prevent the glass from fogging up. Commercial defog is also available in most dive shops.
  • Snorkel: Snorkels help divers conserve energy and air from your tank while floating on the surface before and after diving. When selecting a snorkel, comfort and breathing ease are the two most important features to check for. Look for one that is between 12-14 inches long. If it is two short, your snorkel will constantly be flooded while in rough seas, but if it is too long, it will be too difficult to breathe through. Some snorkels have a one-way chamber on the top of them to prevent water from getting in.
  • Fins: Fins serve as your main method of propulsion through the water. Using fins both free up a diverís hands and enables them to use larger leg muscles while swimming. Fins come in either a full-foot or heel-strap. Full-foot fins are more common in snorkeling and warm water diving. When using heel-strap fins, divers must wear booties to prevent blisters. Make sure the blade of your fin isnít too long, as itíll be hard to kick and make leg cramps more likely.
  • Cylinders: Cylinders also referred to as tanks, allow for a large amount of air compressed in a small space. Cylinders are carried on a diverís back, attached to their buoyancy compensator. Tanks are either made of aluminum or steel. Aluminum is lighter on a diverís back, but more easily damaged, while steel, though more durable, allow for corrosion should water get inside the tank. In the United States, cylinders are regulated by the Department of Transportation. Cylinders are regulated by how many pounds per square inch, or psi, their walls are strong enough to withstand, which is between 1800-4500 psi. Other markings on the shoulder of the tank include their serial number, manufacturer and last hydrostatic testing date. In the US, tanks are visually inspected every year and hydrostatic tested every five years.
  • Weights: Most divers need to wear some form of weight while diving to offset the buoyancy of their body, wetsuit and other dive gear. The most common form is a weight belt, which is a nylon belt through which molded weights are threaded. Integrated weight systems allow divers to put pouches of soft weights directly into their BC. Integrated weight systems are advantageous to weight belts in that the weights canít slide around the diverís body and less pressure is put on the diverís back. I prefer them as they enable me to keep a better trim on my dives. Regardless, one feature both systems must have is a quick release should you need to drop your weights in an emergency situation.
  • Buoyancy Compensator: Commonly shortened to BC, this piece of equipment allows a diver to float at the surface, hover while diving or sink to the bottom on descent. This is done through the power inflator, which attaches to your tank from a hose on your regulator, and either adds or vents air to your BC. All BC must have some form of a dump valve should the power inflator get stuck and air is rapidly filling the BC, as a diver could be carried to the surface faster than the safe ascent rate of 30 feet per minute. BCís come in horse collar, back flotation and jacket style, with the latter being most common.
  • Regulators: The regulator is the actual piece of equipment that a diver breathes off of during their dive. Most common in the US are regulators that attach to the valve on a cylinder via a yoke and yoke screw. The two make a tight seal with the O-ring between the two. In the top part of a regulator, near the yoke and yoke screw, is the first stage, which breaks pressure from the cylinder down to about 150 psi above the tankís surrounding pressure. The air then continues down a low-pressure hose to the second stage. There the air is further reduced to whatever the surrounding ambient pressure or the pressure in the environment. The second stage has a mouthpiece for the diver to breathe off of. Most regulators come with an extra second stage called an octopus, which serves as an alternate air source for either the diver or his or her buddy in an emergency. Regulators also have a power inflator hose for your BC and a submersible pressure gauge that allows the diver to monitor his or her air supply.
  • Assembly and Entry Video:

All information on equipment came from the NAUI Scuba Diver manual.