Personal equipment like wetsuit, mask or fins for diving should be selected primarily on the basis of convenience and compliance with dive conditions, primarily water temperature. For this equipment seasonality and extra pricing for “thingies” are very typical. Do not let yourself be caught on marketing hooks! Take into account tips from scuba diving experts.
The second one important thing is recognizability. Divers in black suits and black vests all look the same underwater. How can you find your buddy? I recommend do not neglect it and possibly buy one or two bright and unique things. But do not forget also about the change of colors underwater. It’s better to choose something white, yellow or lime-green.
Cressi Big Eyes Evolution
In my opinion, a comfortable mask is a precondition for comfortable dives. In the most of cases we go underwater to see the underwater world. There is no much fun, if you can see nothing.
I had an experience of diving with a mask that was completely filled with water in a few minutes. It was a continuous struggle with a water instead of a pleasure. The interesting fact is that I tested this mask not only in a shop, but also in a pool. However, under more pressure it behaved quite differently. Hence the conclusion:
Don’t buy a cheap mask for diving!
Spend some amount of money, choose a well suited shape, high-quality soft silicone, reliable glass and sturdy buckles. Cheap masks are often made of a rigid silicone; usually they don’t fit snugly to a face.
First try in the store.
Enclose the mask to your face. Inhale. The mask should fit snugly to the face without any airspace. Pay particular attention to the masks with large glasses.
Choosing of a suitable mask is very important. A lot of times I had to give my mask to students instead of their leaky masks. Cheap masks usually are made of a rigid silicone, so they are not very well fit a face. So do not skimp when you choose a mask for diving. A usual issue for men is unshaven, mustache or beard. Some use a Vaseline or another gel to prevent leakage of the mask.
There is only trail-and-error method when you choose your mask. Try numerous recommended brands and models in shops, ask friend to test their masks in a pool. Unfortunately, you can’t be sure that the mask that fit well in a shop will be good enough under the water. For myself, I prefer Mares LiquidSkin masks. High elasticity of soft silicone makes these masks more or less universal for any face shapes. These masks worked well as a mask for a forced replacement of “current” masks of students and colleagues.
My choice: Cressi Big Eyes Evolution or Aqua Sphere Sphera (mask for freediving)
Martin’s choice: Aqualung Look
Oksana’s choice: Mares LiquidSkin
In the most of cases, a snorkel is not necessary. But it can be life-saving in the case of big waves or in case of long distance you need to swim towards a boat after diving.
As for snorkels, there are two opposite opinions. One says that a snorkel should be as simple as possible, without any valves or ridged materials. Another opinion says about the comfort of using more complex design snorkels with valves, which are becoming more and more efficient.
I have snorkels of both options. I like both. But for snorkel activity I prefer my snorkel with two valves: the water in not going inside when diving and it’s not necessary to blow water through the whole tube to the top.
Akona Quantum Stretch
Mares Trilastic 3-2-2
Cressi Spring 3mm
Choice of a wetsuit is the most interesting and complex part of selection an equipment for diving. Whatever you choose, it’s important to remember these two things.
- The wetsuit must fit snugly to the body, but don’t fit too tightly;
- The wetsuit must comply with the conditions of the dive.
All people have different heat exchange. In average for the water 28-30 °C your need a 1.5-3 mm wetsuit or lycra, for 26-28 °C – 3-5 mm wetsuit. I’m not going to touch a theme of dry suits. I myself don’t have such experience and those who buy them, no longer newbies in diving, so they know what they want.
Choosing the right wetsuit for scuba diving:
- Be sure to try on a wetsuit in a dive shop. The suit should fit snugly to the body. Everywhere, even in the area of the loin. Otherwise, the wetsuit almost does not make sense. If the water flows out of the wetsuit and flows in it, the wetsuit just can’t keep you warm. But if the suit fits to tightly or rubs don’t take it! As for me, for example, I couldn’t choose Aqualung wetsuit, all models fit too tightly in the armpits.
- The quality of a wetsuit depends on the quality of neoprene and exterior material, sewing and used technologies. This is something that is worth to pay to get a durable and comfortable thing.
- However, the cost is often determined by a novelty of the model (a model of this season), a design (the famous floral ornaments of Aqualung wetsuits for example), or some other things like a diagonal zipper or original obturating. In most cases, these are just marketing ploys. I would not pay more for such trifles.
I have known about the neoprene Yamamoto. Super stretch, soft and lightweight. One of the best neoprene in the world.
Martin told me about some technologies and brands of more luxury wetsuits than usual models available for rent in dive centers.
With over 50 years of experience in designing and manufacturing wetsuits, Henderson has developed a reputation of quality and performance. Since every wetsuit is originally designed and manufactured at its USA factory, Henderson can provide warranty and repair services. Henderson utilizes a proprietary neoprene formula developed exclusively for Henderson.This formula combines a low modulus with superior memory in a microcell structure, ensuring every wetsuit will maintain its thickness and superior warmth and comfort over many years of service.
- Hyperstretch is a revolutionary neoprene that allows Henderson wetsuits to offer over 250% stretch.
- Insta Dry material has total body memory that will learn how you move and remember your personal body form.
- Black Gold technology slip skin interior that slides on easily, seals out water and retains greater warmth.
- Gold Core lining provides a soft and easy to wear fit, dries fast (usually between dives), is anti-microbial which prevents the suit from developing odors.
- Aqua Lock system offers interlocking wetsuit wrists, ankles and neck openings, which are designed specifically to mate with interlocking Aqua Lock hoods, boots and gloves to form a nearly impenetrable seal which minimizes cold water entry into the Aqua Lock ensemble. The Aqua Lock wetsuits offer over 250% stretch.
Akona also offers super stretch wetsuits. It’s ideal for people with non-standard body form.
Waterproof is another one award-winning brand that offers high-tech wetsuits. The unique anatomical design and soft interior materials make wetsuits amazingly comfort, fully functional and waterproof. They look very cool like spacesuits. The brand specializes in suits for cold water.
Average service life of a wetsuit is 2-2.5 years. However, I would never recommend brands that provide materials which became hard after the first dive trip, so divers have to use all sorts of tricks like using of plastic bags when puts on the wetsuit. No way. Only stretch neoprene. Wetsuit should dress easily and naturally as women’s tights. Especially if the diver has to change several times a day. Also wetsuit must fit the body very well. Different companies use different patterns. So you need to spend time on try-on to find “your” brand. As for me, I prefer super stretch wetsuits from Mares. Also heard a lot of great reviews about Henderson.
My experience: I have two wetsuit and one lycra suit. 5 mm wetsuit from unknown Korean brand Aquaz, but Yamomoto neoprene, without zippers on wrists and ankles, bright blue color that makes it easy to find me under the water. And Mares Tropic 3 mm Trilastic, which I bought almost by accident at a discount of 80%. I’m quite pleased with it.
Mares Avanti Quattro
When you select fins for scuba diving please remember the following two things.
- Fins should be not too heavy for you, otherwise after an hour in the water feet start to ache and cramps may occur.
- The design of fins should allow you to swim fast enough in case of strong currents, and allow you to use your preferred or required kicking technique.
Choosing right diving fins.
There are plenty of models available on the market. I want to describe a few types, which pros and cons raise questions.
Full-Foots or Open-Heels?
In most cases, divers prefer open heel fins. This allows you to wear boots. In any case, when you have to go through the land with all the equipment on the back, it is preferable to go in boots, not wearing socks and certainly not barefoot. Especially if there is a reef under water.
Slipstream, Jet Fin and analogues.
It’s a very popular model among Russian divers. Materials of construction for these fins, and design features give a certain firmness and elasticity, allowing powerful and efficient kicks with a proper technique of swimming. These fins are very good for a technical diving, when you have to deal with a large amount of equipment. Also they work great in strong currents. Take into account that for appropriate reliability you have to replace plastic buckles to metal spring straps.Martin:
Fins with spring straps are very comfortable to use because you don’t have to clasp buckles. This is extremely important for technical diving, when there are a lot of heavy equipment on your back. But sometimes not appropriate metal springs cut fins material. Also this type of fins poorly suited for beginners, because a comfortable use requires certain skills.
Splits or Paddles?
It’s a matter of taste, of course, but please just remember that split fins are not suitable for Frog kicking style. If you are going to dive to caves or wrecks it’s not very convenient.
Soft or Firm?
Soft fins are lighter and more comfortable to use for beginners in comparison with firm fins. But usually they are less effective, and firm rubber rails are required for Frog kicking.
Long Blade Fins.
The perfect balance of speed and maneuverability, but often they are full foots fins, which may be inconvenient in the case of shore dives. In addition, it’s easier to broke long and thin blades. A carelessness of a crew on a boat and the “big step” entrance into the water is a stress load for fins. However, I know a few dive guides who prefer long blade models.
You need to know how to use your fins. Understanding how to use different types of fins is an interesting and complicated thing. As for more or less universal models, I would recommend Mares Avanti Quattro and Mares Quattro Excel. Kant of fins should be rather high and firm, blades should be mid-elastic. In this case, a diver is going to be comfortable in case of simple recreational dives, dives in strong currents and if it’s necessary to use techniques to move backwards.
I used Aqualung Blades and Mares Quattro for many years. These fins are durable, which is very important in my work, because at regular diving a load on fins is very high.
Frog kicking is like a breaststroke, but with fins.My experience: I’ve been using Tusa Imprex for many years. They are not expensive, reliable, durable and responsive. Sufficiently firm fins let me use frog kicking. For me it means fewer movements under water, better control and allows to dive into caves or wrecks without picking up sand and silt from the bottom and walls.
If I choose fins today, I would prefer Mares Avanti Quattro or Mares Avanti Superchannel.
Neoprene boots and socks
Boots and socks as well as wetsuits are super individual items of equipment. The most important thing is to avoid corns, because they are not going to be better day by day in salt water, long time no heal.
When choosing, it is important to take into account the conditions of upcoming dives. If you have to cross rocks or corals, you need boots with thick soles. In case of diving from a boat, thin soles are ok. If you use full foot fins, you can use neoprene socks.
- Helmet is absolutely necessary for cold water (I would say 26 °C and below). 70% of the heat is lost through head, it should not be neglected. Also with helmets ears are protected from cold water.
- Gloves. Extremely useful for strong current conditions, Maldives dive spots for example, to grasp rocks and keep yourself on particular place. Also they are almost necessary for wreck dives. But at some dive sites using of gloves is prohibited.
- Vests, jackets, T-shirts with hoods and other additional neoprene items of clothes. It’s much more easier to put on some of these items instead of a thicker wetsuit. Moreover, it is a great option if you want to dive without a wetsuit.
Thanks for help in writing the article.
Oksana Wilf. PADI Master Instructor. She started to dive in 1998 and became an instructor in 2008. Oksana always finds creative ways for the learning process, she is always happy her students new achievements, works with them over the outcome, pays great attention to the psychology of behavior under the water, because she knows that often it is the key to success. Oksana dived in seas and oceans around the world, so it’s not easy to surprise her. Nevertheless, she always finds something interesting in every dive. I myself received Deep and Drift specifications with Oksana, learned the art of swimming with fins, and joined her at a few diving trips. Oksana is a wonderful person and instructor. If you need to improve your diving skills in Moscow, Oksana is the best instructor to do it.
Photos from trips on Picasa.
Martin Slisans started diving in 2003. Since 2009 lives in Moalboal in Cebu, works and actively engaged in diving in the Philippines. PADI Staff Instructor, Speciality Instructor (nitrox, deep, night, wreck, sidemount, peak performance, search and recovery), Emergency First Response Instructor, TesDeep instructor, Technical Sidemount Instructor. Martin helps people to get any diving certificate, from Open Water Diver to IDC Staff Instructor. Together with his wife Laura, Martin regularly organizes diving safari in the Philippines. I myself didn’t joined Martin’s courses, but I know many people who did. All respond with gratitude and appreciation. I can say that Martin is a very responsible person with a creative approach to learning. He genuinely enjoys the success of his students and becomes their friend for many years.
Personal site: http://phildiving.com