Looking for help with my first gear purchase.

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Milwaukee, Wisconsin - USA
# of dives
0 - 24
This is kind of an intro built into a question I have been certified PADI Open Water since Fall of 2020 but I have not logged a whole lot of dives. I did 4 Grenada, 2 in Mexico (Cancun), and 2 in Costa Rica (Pacific Side). So all of my dives have been in warm salt water. I have never put on a wetsuit in my life.

I would love to dive a whole lot more, but if I only do it when I travel to warm exotic locations I wont be logging them that often. That said, I live in Milwaukee Wisconsin. There is a lot of diving here, but I am going to need to learn to dive in cold fresh water. I am scheduled for an Advanced Open Water course in June here in lake Michigan. I would really like this to be the start of me really breaking out into this hobby and being able to log lots of dives. Which is why I would like to purchase my own equipment now. I would like to be fully setup with basically everything but tanks. Up until know I have only rented so I own nothing (not even a mask or fins).

Buying it all at once is a bit overwhelming so that is why I am asking about it here. First of all there is the wetsuit. I have done a little bit of research and I am thinking about purchasing a 7mm suit with hood and booties/gloves. I know that a dry suit might be more ideal for the location, but they are more expensive, more prone to damage, I would need to get certified for dry suit (which I am ok with if I go that route, but it is more expense). And wet suits seem more versatile. So my first question is... Is this a really foolish move. I am a heavier guy and run warm usually. Will a 7mm suit work or should I bite the bullet and go dry suit?

Second question. When I said "I am a heavier guy" I meant I am fat. Do any of you have helpful advice for getting the size and fit right for a fat man in a wetsuit. Like I said above, I have never even put one on. I am honestly a bit nervous/embarrassed about it.

Ok, finally my main question... I would like to get all top of the line equipment, but my budget wont allow for that. I am trying to balance getting safe reliable equipment with getting lower cost equipment. I came across this bundle on amazon and the price seems too good to be true. But if it is legit, it would save me a ton of money. Again, I didn't want to dive in (pun intended) to this decision without running it past people with a lot more experience than I have. Any red flags here?

Thank you so much, in advance, for your help!
I would like to get all top of the line equipment,
More expensive doesn't necessarily mean better... When it comes down to it, the basic tech of regulators hasn't changed since the 60's. Pretty much any current regulator will perform fine, and if tuned well will probably outperform any of the rental regs you've used (partly due to rentals usually being detuned to extend service interval). I'm a DIY guy, and my kids and I dive regs that are over 40 years old... and outperform rental regs (and perform great for everything we do). If you want new, look at your needs instead of "the top of the line." I'm a wimp and won't wear anything thicker than a good 3mm, so if the water's less than 60 I'm not getting in.... So I don't worry about cold water regs. I'll let others speak to that.
Do any of you have helpful advice for getting the size and fit right for a fat man in a wetsuit
Best bet is to go to a shop and try them on. Just if you do that, whether or not you buy a wetsuit from them try to do something to support them. But if you've already lined up AOW with a shop, go to them for fitting... then if you end up going elsewhere for the actual purchase you won't have just used them as a fitting room.

Regarding bundles, they are often just ok. There is often something lumped in that is sub optimal, and they use the bundle to off load it. Before commiting to anything, I would recommend at least pool testing 3 basic types (jacket style, back inflate, and BPW). I don't push anyone towards a specific type, but suggest you try all three and decide what YOU like.

More to follow later.


Don't buy anything now. Do the AOW course and then maybe a few local dives in a rented wetsuit. And then take a drysuit course. You want to figure out if cold water diving is in your future and whether it will be wet or dry before spending a bunch of money on gear.

This goes beyond just the suit. For example, instead of a fabric BCD I'd strongly recommend using a backplate and wing setup (BP/W) with a steel plate and 30 to 35 pound wing if you'll be diving locally. Actually I'd still recommend a BP/W for tropical diving, but you can use a smaller wing and possibly an aluminum plate to get the travel weight down. Or if you want to stick with a more conventional BCD for tropical dives, you should look for something lighter and more compact.
Oh and about the bundle. Most of us started with something like that and most of us ended up ditching all of it except the regs. And in this case, if you end up diving a lot, you'd only be using 2/3rds of the regret since you'd eventually end up swapping out the integrated octo for a dedicated second stage octo.
You need to get your own mask and snorkel now at least. You mention you’re a fat guy. Make sure the dive shop has a wet suit that will fit you before you do your AOW. Otherwise, get a 7mm and booties.
Here's something I wrote in another thread regarding BCD types:

Just some clarification of terms (which can get fuzzy!):

Jacket BCD - the aircell is the whole vest (or nearly so) and wraps around you. That puts some of the air in front of you when fully inflated. Helpful if you want to have your head and neck fully out of the water at the surface, but means the air cell will also hug or squeeze you as it inflates. It's also just a lot of "Stuff" on the front of your body (built in pockets and such).

BPW - Made up of components. The Backplate (which can be aluminum, stainless steel, plastic, or even a fabric "soft-plate"), the Harness (ranges from 1 piece continuous to fancy multi buckle padded monstrosities), and the Wing (donut or horse shoe air cell that goes between the plate and tank). Minimal clutter on the front of you, pockets and D-rings can be added and put where you want them, and the air cell is behind you (typically good for in water trim, not as good if you want to sit high in the water at the surface. With my BPW I typically hang out on the surface with my chin touching the water... if I want to sit higher then I lay back on the wing).

Back inflate - Basically a jacket where the air cell is strictly behind you. Think prebuilt pockets and such of a jacket with the air cell of a BPW.

As to benefits of each, some is addressed above.... but the most critical thing is to find what YOU prefer. I love the freedom of minimal clutter that a basic BPW gives me. My wife can't stand back inflate or BPW, only likes Jackets. It really is all about personal preference until you get into niche stuff (like tech diving or vintage) where the dives dictate the gear.


If you spend much time reading SB, you will realize you want a jacket BC, an Air 2 backup regulator, a console computer, a snorkel, and split fins :) Folks on SB often have very strong preferences.

Try out the options, buy what's best for you. Seems like you would like to cover a variety of environments.

What will your local water temps be? I can only comfortably dive to the low 50s in a wetsuit, full 7 mm and a good 5/3 mm hooded vest. I've dived in the high 40s, too cold for me.
BP/W - grows/shrinks with you and doesn't have a lot of floaty bits like BC jackets
Drysuit - Seaskin Drysuits | Custom-Made Drysuits Direct from the Factory
Not split fins
Not Suunto computer
Any reg set, don't get the most expensive as they're not worth it at all
Mask - whatever fits you with a reg or snorkel in your mouth

First off, do you know the water temps?
I use a 7mm two piece wetsuit with booties, 3 mil gloves and a hooded vest in 50 degree average water (47-53) This is in Northern California and almost everyone around here just uses a wetsuit.
If you wanted to do deep dives eventually for extended time periods then I would definitely look into a drysuit, but for now just to get in and get wet a wetsuit is fine. And then the other question is how big tall and how fat?
Stock off the rack wetsuits are mostly for what I call the “American Cut”, for the very well fed people that we are. Pinnacle for instance is cut for tall skinny people but there are other brands that cater more to shorter wider physiques with more of a straight cut rather than a tapered cut. So ask around and do some shopping to see what’s out there.
For regs, unless you have a good dive shop close by, I would look at Deep6 or Dive Gear Express “gears” brand regs. Main line regs like Scubapro, Aqualung, Atomic, etc. are going to be Rolex pricing. It’s stupid when you look at how simple these things are that they should cost that much.
However, if you want to buy from a local shop and have them service your stuff then you might want to look into what they carry, even though it will most likely be a mainline brand. Regs are something that you should get as nice as you can within your spending budget. I have all Scubapro and even though they were expensive I don’t regret any of it. You could start with a simple SP model like a MK2/R190 and get another really nice balanced 2nd stage like a G260 as your main reg. That stuff would be a lifetime purchase.
I’m using regs over 40 years old that they are just as nice as the day they were brand new.
as far as BCD, I’d go with a Back Plate & Wing from DGX (Dive Gear Express). They have one fully rigged ready to use for around $400. It’s stainless and the wing is #30 lbs lift which is plenty. The plate weighs 5-6 lbs and would be perfect to help offset some of your wetsuit floatiness. Just make up the rest of your ballast with a steel tank and the rest on a weightbelt. Don’t overweight yourself!, you want to fine tune your weighting so you can end up at your 15’ safety stop with your tank down to 300-500 psi and the ability to hold your stop with a completely empty BC, controlling your buoyancy with breathing only.
A lot of shops are anti BP&W because they don’t understand them and most don’t carry them so they will probably scoff about it and try to steer you into what they carry, but ignore that crap. Trust us here, you want one. You will be buying your last BC first.

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