My advice to new divers

Please register or login

Welcome to ScubaBoard, the world's largest scuba diving community. Registration is not required to read the forums, but we encourage you to join. Joining has its benefits and enables you to participate in the discussions.

Benefits of registering include

  • Ability to post and comment on topics and discussions.
  • A Free photo gallery to share your dive photos with the world.
  • You can make this box go away

Joining is quick and easy. Log in or Register now!

formernuke

ScubaBoard Sponsor
ScubaBoard Sponsor
Messages
3,679
Reaction score
3,345
Location
New England
# of dives
I just don't log dives
This is my personal advice to those who are brand new to diving. I'm targeting those who are considering getting into the sport, currently in OW or just out of OW.

I am not a professional and I not pretend to know everything about this sport. This is based on my experience and the experience of those I know.

I am only talking about new or recently made gear.

First I often see the question is this piece of equipment good. The short answer is always yes that is good equipment provided it is from a common manufacturer. What do I mean by this, a regulator if attached to a tank will provide air where it needs to go, a BC will hold air and vent air etc therefore it is "good" equipment, the manufactures will not make unsafe equipment. The question should be is this good for me. That is much more complex as you need to look at your diving plans and goals etc.

Second I'm only talking recreational if you want to go tec or cave find your local tec and cave divers and follow there advice.So lets start.

Mask:
The first and most important consideration with a mask is does it fit your face right. Fit is very personal, I went through several before I found one that fit right. After fit then look at color, black vs clear skirt etc. In other words go to shops and try as many as you can and go for the one that fits the best.

Fins:
I'm not going to rehash the split vs force fin vs paddle. Each has people that love them each has people that hate them. The recommendation I have is try them, borrow or rent if possible, try the different finning techniques and see which is the most comfortable for you.

Wetsuit:
In order to work properly a wetsuit must fit right.
*The way the work is limiting the water flow so your body heats the thin layer of water there combined with the thermal insulation based on thickness. Water still flows just slow enough that it doesn't rapidly cool you off. This is why you might be fine doing 1 or 2 dives a day with a 3 mil but if you try 4 dives you get cold. If the suit does not fit right to much water will flow and it won't function, not because it's a bad wetsuit it just doesn't fit.
*There some differences in material the stretcher suits tend to be not quite as warm but again the most important thing is fit. When I first started there was a huge debate between buying online vs local I am not trying to rehash that either, but wetsuits is one thing I would not buy online. Put on your swimsuit and pair of jeans over find out what shops carry what brands and go try them all on, the one that fits the best is the best one for you. If you are a odd size you might need to go custom, trust me they are worth it if you have to go that route.

Regulators:
These come in 2 basic types environmentally sealed and non environmentally sealed. The difference is just as it says the sealed ones have sealed first stages to prevent freezing. If you plan on diving cold water you need a sealed reg, though there are reports of people using non sealed in the borderline temperatures without issues it is strongly recommended to get a sealed reg. If you know for a fact that you will only dive warm water than you can get a non sealed reg. With that being said I always recommend a sealed reg for 2 reasons;
*the first is that way if you change your mind and decide to dive cold water you have the reg, the second is the seal also helps keep sand or sentiment from getting in to the first stage and causing issues as a part of that they stay cleaner and are easier to keep clean a clean reg is a happy reg. Cold water regs will also have heat exchangers on the second stage to prevent the second stage from freezing.
The next thing to look at is service do you have the skills and the intent to service your regs yourself. If you do then I would recommend one of the brands that make it easier to service yourself. Some brands are more friendly in this regard then others, I'm not saying you can't do the non friendly ones yourself just the manufacture makes it harder. If your not going to service them yourself then make sure you have a local service center or are willing to ship them out for service. If you are young remember you might move to a new area so you want one that has a larger service network, this the only time I will recommend a brand, in the United States (I do not know about other countries) I recommend aqualung/apeks or scubapro.

As you look at regs beyond the cold or not cold water rated within a brand as price goes up two things tend to happen.
*The work of breathing gets easier and they look better so the difference a low end reg from manufacture X with a seal and high end reg will be the high end will breath better and likely look better.
*Sometimes you will find high and low each offered with or with out the cold water rating.
*I have personally tried 3 different high end regs and I could not tell the difference in the breathing but I could tell the difference between them and ones I rented before I bought my own gear. Others might have tried more regs than I have you will find that a lot of people find one that breaths really well and have no need to get others.

BC's:
There are three main types of BC's;
Jackets, these are what it seems most shops do there OW students in.
*They are just like jackets the air when inflated is around you and almost gives a hug feeling. Some people really like this others don't.
*They also tend to put you higher above the water when on the surface just due to where the air is when inflated.
*They tend to have large pockets on the sides and most modern ones have attached weight pockets. Fit and cut will vary by size and manufacture.

Back plate and wing, these are favored by a lot here on scubaboard.
*They consist of a backplate and a wing some require single tank adapters for diving single tanks and a crotch strap.
*The most basic have a single piece of webbing run through them so you can wear them.
*They do not usually come standard with weight pockets or webbing pockets just rings to attach gear to. Some models will have separate weight pockets you can purchase to match. I have also seen pockets you can put on the webbing but have no personal experience with them.
*The plate is made of stainless steel, aluminum more recently carbon fiber and soft plates.
*The advantages of these is;
if properly adjusted they do not shift or move, the stainless plates take some or all the weight off your belt and move it over your lungs when in trim making trim easier, the same with air when using to control buoyancy in the water
they are very modular and pieces can be added or removed (weight pockets different size wings etc) easily
there is a very detailed beginners guide in the BC section here on scubaboard about these.
*I have heard reports of them pushing people face down on the surface but I have never experienced this myself.
*Stainless plates are heavier and people who travel a lot might want to go with a lighter plate for this reason.

Back inflate, these are a kinda hybrid of the above two. Air is in attached wings over your back, they have pockets though not as large as on jackets and intergraded weight pockets. I have heard complaints of them pushing people face down at the surface as well. My first BC was this style and I never experienced this.

Computers:
First decision console mounted or wrist mounted. For rec diving this is 100% personal preference try both and see which you like better.
*The most important thing with a computer is can you read it in your diving conditions. Do you wear glasses but will not wear them when diving? Do you dive low VIS conditions. Try this first put your mask on and look at them on the surface, try and rent different ones dive with them and see which ones are easiest to read.
*Next play with menus and navigate through them if you can't try them put on your diving gloves can you easily push the buttons? Are the menu options easy for you to navigate?
*Air integration means on a console mount the computer also shows your tank pressure therefore removing the need for a separate pressure gauge on your console and sometimes estimated air time remaining based on it's calculated sac and depth. With a wrist mount the computer does the same with the use of a wireless transmitter attached to your first stage, some people who use these will keep a pressure gauge on the other high pressure port as a backup in case the transmitter loses signal, battery dies etc. Having AI raises the cost by a fairly large amount especially for wrist mount because you also have to buy a transmitter.
*Next decision is algorithm, different computers use different means of determining air loading on repetative dives you will notice one computer saying your at NDL with others saying you still have time remaining. This is referred to as how conservative or aggressive the computer is. Some prefer one over the other, as a new diver it is likely at first you won't notice as your air consumption will limit you more than NDL however as you get more experienced and comfortable your SAC will improve and NDL will become limiting.

This is a long enough rant. Hopefully I have helped new divers in starting to narrow down choices. My biggest recommendation is to rent different brands and styles and see what fits you best. This is a expensive hobby to get started but it is cheaper to buy the right thing the first time, buy once, cry once. I made mistakes in my first gear purchases and lost a lot of money selling used gear.
 
OP
F

formernuke

ScubaBoard Sponsor
ScubaBoard Sponsor
Messages
3,679
Reaction score
3,345
Location
New England
# of dives
I just don't log dives
One more thing on regs. Piston or diaphragm. Honestly in my opinion with modern regs its 100 percent personal preference. In theory diaphragm is more reliable in cold water but piston more reliable in warm. One the three I tried (me and my buddy swapped just to try each others) was a piston. Me and used to dive in pretty cold water down to 31 F with air temps in the teens F. Neither one of us ever had a freezing issue.
 

markmud

Self Reliant Diver--On All Dives.
Messages
1,514
Reaction score
1,862
Location
South Lebanon, Ohio
# of dives
200 - 499
Hi Formernuke,

Great Thread!

My gear buying strategy for the new diver: Buy cheap name brand products or used functional dive gear first. Don't buy top of the line or specialty gear.

Use your standard and inexpensive, or used gear for 50 dives and then buy gear that meets your goals for long term diving. After 50 dives, have you decided that you are an u/w photographer? Or, do you want to go into tech diving?

Or, are you like me, you want the capability to do very light tech, but are mostly a dedicated recreational diver? A recreational diver who is matched-up with insta-buddies occasionally? That's why I dive self-reliant. I also solo dive.

Once you have figured out where your diving avocation is going, then you can whip out the American Express, the Citi card, or the Chase Card.

Tactics:
  1. Buy that NIB Aeris piston regulator for $99 that I saw last week. It is a discontinued product but built by Oceanic. Spare parts are still available. My Oceanic piston regs (of the same exact design) are reliable and breathe easy. My environmentally sealed regs require more service and don't breath any better.
    1. Your NIB Aeris piston regulator can become your back-up or pony reg when you decide you want a really nice Scuba Pro or equal. Or, you decide that that Oceanic environmentally sealed regulator is good enough and h*ll, it is on sale. It is just a regulator for Christ's sake.
  2. Computers. Buy a cheap one to start. Under $300 to start; it can become your back-up later (See PS below). Or buy a used Shearwater. They have good resale value and Shearwater stands behind all of their computers with firmware updates.
  3. Wetsuits: Don't scrimp on this issue. Buy a good one. But at 50 dives, think about a Wetwear (or equal) custom wetsuit or a dry suit (if you really like cold water diving). Being cold and uncomfortable u/w sucks and will ruin your diving avocation. Buy a good one that fits perfectly.
  4. BCD. Just buy that used jacket that is in good condition, or a new basic name-brand BCD. Make sure it fits properly. At 50 dives, you can switch to a BP/W or tech gear. Or, maybe you are like my wife and I, as we went back to our old, simple, and well worn-in BCDs. A bitch'n BP/W won't make you a competent diver--you will do that on your own.
  5. Masks, fins and booties. They are not that expensive. Buy whatever fits properly no matter what the cost. It sucks having a mask that does not fit your face. Or, booties and fin combo that rubs holes in your skin. Buy bungie or spring straps for your fins. Just spend the money; trust me.
That's my strategy with tactics thrown in.

cheers,
m
PS: My wife and I like Surges and Invasions. Our last Surge was at LCBR. Little Cayman Beach Resort (Reef Divers) has a policy for computers that die while you are diving it. You are forced to sit-out diving for 48 hours. A back-up computer is a good idea--really!
 

Eric Sedletzky

Contributor
Messages
7,523
Reaction score
6,242
Location
California
# of dives
500 - 999
My biggest advice to brand new divers and those considering diving is to go ahead and take the class but don’t get slammed into a bunch of dive gear right away by you dive shop. Go ahead and buy your mask first since that is the most personal item. Chances are you’ll be snorkeling if nothing else since you are interested in scuba diving, so buying mask snorkel fins is never a bad idea.
Wait on the rest of the stuff. Rent your gear for the class and resist any hard line sales pressure by the dive shop to buy all your stuff right away.
As time goes on and you dive more you will discover what you like and what you don’t like. You will also become wise to how the dive industry works and you can make better informed decisions on future purchases.
If the internet and all the information and a great site like scubaboard was available back when I got certified I could have saved a ton of money. There is some fantastic advice here.

I’m also a big fan of repurposing used dive gear. It’s the responsible thing to do in this day and age of excess. There is a ton of barely used gear out there for pennies on the dollar. People get slammed by their local dive shops into a bunch of brand new high dollar gear all the time when they first get certified. Then they dive for 2-3 years on vacation and move on. A bunch of that stuff is sitting in boxes in garages and in storage units. Check out eBay, Craigslist, and nextdoor for stuff, it’s out there.
The type of gear is somewhat irrelevant in the beginning, new divers are still learning and it takes a lot of dives to get experience and develop preferences.
All gear works, there is no ‘bad’ gear, provided it has not been severely abused.
 

Pat85

Contributor
Messages
173
Reaction score
64
Location
the Netherlands
# of dives
50 - 99
What a great thread Formernuke!

This is advice I can really use...definitely going to use this as soon i have my OW!
 

Khrissi

Contributor
Messages
209
Reaction score
121
Location
London
# of dives
25 - 49
Yup. All of the above true on my 30 dives. If i wanted to piss money away on expensive kit i would have taken up ski-ing..... K
 

AfterDark

Contributor
Messages
11,052
Reaction score
8,089
Location
Rhode Island, USA
# of dives
1000 - 2499
My 2 cents. As a new diver when you decide that you love this sport and intend to make it a lifetime activity as I did 50 years ago, that's the time to make your equipment choices.

IMO the 1st item to buy scuba related is a regulator. My choice then was the top of line regulator in 1968 in todays money probably somewhere in the $1000. - 1500. range. Regulators do not wear out with proper care and regular service as a result I still use that same regulator today. Quality stands the test of time. It performs as well as it did in 1968 and is probably the most copied design in scuba regulators to this day. The regulator is the only thing between you and your air supply don't cheap out, at best it could cost you a dive(s) at some point, at worse a very exciting ascent. Piston or diaphragm is almost a personal preference. My choice was piston design. I'd bet that reg has seen more cold water diving than most diaphragm regs have never a freeze up. The trick is don't breathe from it when it is out of the water and air is cold!

Any other piece of gear IMO is subject to bargain hunting. I cheap out on exposure suits the cheapest wet suit will still keep you warm you just wouldn't get as many dives out of as a more expensive one but you'll have saved the money to replace it.

Ten years ago I bought the cheapest dive computer I could find that does both air and nitrox. It works so well I bought another one of the same (used) to be used as a backup. User changeable batteries is IMO the way to go.

Masks require 3 things fit, fit and safety glass lens. I have always preferred masks with side lens and some kind of nose pocket to make equalizing easier. After that I guess is color. :)

All fins IMO need one thing, spring straps. After that dealers call.

BCD a lot depends on the environment you dive. Cold water with thick wet suits or dry suits require a lot of weight a SS back plate/ will add about 6lb which means you can lose 6lb of lead. Jackets are good for warm water but also fine in cold water. BP/wings tend to keep a diver on the surface vertical in the water whereas a jacket acts more like a life jacket and kind of tilts the wearer back a little. Also I have found BP/wing make it hard for me surface swim face down using a snorkel where my jacket allows comfortable face down surface swims. A lot of this is personal preference.
 

Perryed

Contributor
Messages
307
Reaction score
232
Location
Missouri
# of dives
500 - 999
I remember buying cheap used gear when I first started diving in 92. Good salesman sold me some cheap crap used. Got rid of it soon after and then made an informed decision about a year and 50 dive later. There is so much available out there that the best thing ANY new diver can do is take your time. Excellent used equipment is available out there for less than 1/2 what it would be new.

New divers have much more recourses than I could have imagined back when I started. Online dive shops to compare and forums like Scubaboard where every piece of equipment made is dissected by people that know what they are talking about.(or seem to at least:))
 

buddhasummer

Bat sh.t crazy
Scuba Instructor
Divemaster
Messages
12,471
Reaction score
4,928
Location
Nanny State
# of dives
1000 - 2499
Just to add re masks, try them on with a reg or mouthpiece or snorkel your mouth as this can affect sealing. A properly fitting mask should not need the strap to stay on your face. Inhale through your nose and hold, if the mask sticks to your face, vacuum, you're onto a winner. Price has almost zero meaning when it comes to fit, a $40 mask is worth $200 if it fits, a $200 mask is worth nothing if it leaks. When you find a mask that fits properly, buy a spare. I bought three out of fear they'd stop making it, in over 20 years it's the only mask that has ever fitted me properly.

Good thread by the way, thank you for making it, I'm sure it will help many.
 

icechip

ScubaBoard Supporter
ScubaBoard Supporter
Messages
750
Reaction score
336
Location
Maine
# of dives
200 - 499
It's an acquaintance, accumulation and personal learning curve. You get acquainted with different types of gear, trying out this and that and accumulate gear over time. This is all the while slowly (or quickly) weeding out what you don't like, use or need. Always read/ask others about their likes/disllikes and make your own call. Evolving through gear is also a nice way to sell off your used stuff and/or fill up your dive locker(s).
 
https://www.shearwater.com/products/teric/

Top Bottom