Is Your Gear (Still) Right for You?
By Ken Kollwitz
I don’t know about anyone else, but when I first started diving (28 Year ago), the gear I bought is what I thought I needed. Of Course, diving then was a bit different, with some things like: wreck, tech, cave and rebreather diving not being as available as it is today. Back then I just wanted to get certified, dive and have fun. Probably not unlike anyone else. The only piece of original gear I have left is my regulator that I use for my Pony Bottle. I replaced everything because it either didn’t fit or do what I needed it to do anymore. Plain and simple, my diving habits have changed. I do own a lot of different gear now, but that is because I use different gear for different kinds of diving. Had I thought into the future a little more about what kinds of diving I wanted to do, I would not have as much diving equipment as I do now. I don’t believe in the person who has the most gear wins; it is too expensive for that. I know people who are still using the same gear they used for many years. That is great if it still fits comfortably, fits their type of diving and doe’s what they want it too. Sometimes you need to make some minor changes or get some new gear to make your diving safe and fun. Let’s face it, the more comfortable you are in the water the more you will dive. We are very lucky to have some of the best diving right in our own back yard. It seems to be a shame after spending the time and expense to learn to dive and then to give up diving because you don’t have the right equipment (bad fitting, old, not comfortable or getting cold). To me, I think it is worth the investment in good gear so I can enjoy diving all year long. In my opinion, there are 5 main pieces of equipment you really need to think about. They are your wetsuit/drysuit, regulator setup (gauges/computer), buoyancy compensator, weights and tanks (another article). If you are having problems with your gear or are thinking of buying some new gear, here are a few things to consider.
Are you warm enough when diving or do you limit your dives to 20 minutes because your teeth are chattering out of your head? Being warm is #1 and you need either a GOOD wetsuit with enough layers (hooded vest or step in jacket) or a good drysuit. All the new wetsuits are made with new types of materials so you stay warmer and more comfortable. If you are going to do multiple days of diving in a wetsuit you might want a dive skin for under the suit, otherwise you might be in agony from it rubbing against you (I know from experience). Of course a drysuit is always a good idea; especially for our colder water. Also the drysuit will outlast the wetsuit with some maintenance. I still like using my wetsuit for beach dives, lobster diving and dives that require a bit of work to get to. Being cold is the #1 reason I hear from people as to why they don’t like to dive here.
The next combination of equipment you need to think about is your regulator setup (1st & 2nd stage) with its gauges and/or computer (Nitrox?). Most all new regulators now are lighter, easier to breathe from and are good with Nitrox mixes up to 40%. Some people still like the old analog gauges, but with the cost of computers and all the information they will tell you a dive computer makes good sense(not to mention longer dive times and not having to use dive tables). There are lots of brands of dive computers now, so you might want to do some homework. I would recommend a computer that will calculate nitrox as you probably will end up using it, as nitrox(another good thing) is becoming more popular now. Plus most dive computers are much smaller in size then a gauge console. Another thing to consider is, do you think you will use a high pressure tank (3500psi.) later. They are becoming more main stream now days. The reason to consider this is that most 1st stages of a regulator setup come with a yoke(thumbscrew) on it to attach to the tank valve High pressure tanks use a D.I.N. valve or a new style that will work on both D.I.N. or yoke. For the most part all tech diving is done with a D.I.N. style 1st stage. If you do not have a D.I.N. style it will cost extra for the part and labor to convert it from the yoke style to D.I.N. This may make the overall price quite expensive. There are some good regulators you can get like Diverite (I have several) that come D.I.N. ready. They also come with an adaptor to use with a yoke style tank and are priced very well. This is another thing I learned from experience. I really like and still use Scubapro, but for diving where I needed a D.I.N. style connection, the Scubapro was about $200.00 more after the D.I.N. conversion and the Diverite is as good a regulator as Scubapro. I even bought a Diverite regulator for my grandson so now he’s ready to dive with any tank, but then again I also got him a pressed steel high pressure 80 which is smaller and lighter then most tanks (another article).The main thing is to buy as good a regulator setup as you can afford as your life depends on this piece of equipment. You also can change the mouthpiece to make it more comfortable if need be ( I have changed all mine to smaller ones).
The next piece of equipment is your B.C. (buoyancy compensator).Doe’s your B.C. fit correctly. Can you feel it move side to side while diving and do you feel the shoulder straps cut into your body (you shouldn’t).A bad fitting B.C. makes for a bad or uncomfortable dive. You can make some changes/adjustments in some B.C.’s so they will fit correctly (you can even change the mouthpiece on the filler hose) or maybe it is just time to buy a new one. If you are going to buy a new one, think about what kind of diving you expect to do in the future. Will the B.C. have enough D-rings to clip things to, can you adjust it as you grow, will it have enough pocket space (you can add pockets), do you need weight intergraded . Basically is it versatile to do what you want so you don’t have to buy another B.C. when your diving changes. Some B.C.’s you can even change the bladder (you might want to use doubles sometime-tech diving). The bladder is really the part that doe’s the work; everything else is just straps, D-rings and hardware. Not to be partial, but I bought a Diverite Transpac for my grandson Louie as Diverite will resize it for free until he is 16 years old. The price was as good as any other quality B.C.It is well thought out and as versatile as a B.C. can be. I thought this way he would not have to change to a different B.C. (I have 3 different kinds) for different kinds of diving as he grows older, saving money in the long run.
The last item I will cover is weights. You can get weights for belts, intergraded systems, with straps to place were you want (ankle weights) or just individually(for mounting in pockets or other places).For the most part I still use weight belts and ankle weights, but on long hikes they sometimes dig into my hips. I also add weights in pockets (on my tank straps) depending on the dive and what tank I use. By getting your weights right (how much you need) and in the right place you can get your buoyancy perfect and have a great dive. I took a class to be able to dive with handicapped divers and really learned how much better my dive could be by shifting my weights, even during the dive if necessary. Also if you use intergraded weights in pockets you do not have to put all the weight in the pockets. You can put part of the overall weight you need in another location. The name of the game is whatever works best, experiment sometime; you might find out something works better. Also if you can, try using a little less weight. I know people who lost weights on a dive and never knew the difference, because they were over weighted
So you see, there really is more to consider then you might have thought. The biggest thing is to try and think ahead. What type of diving do you think you might want to do in the future? You can also do some research before buying your equipment. You can always try to rent something before you buy it so you can test it, it may look good in the show room, but not work to well when using it. So, is your gear still right for you?
***DISCLAIMER- I am NO equipment expert. This information is based on my personal views from things I have learned, read or heard over the years. If any of the information helps you great, if not that is ok. ***