If you are like me and buying a new lap top or a DVD player is fraught with obstacles, complicated technical jargon and questions I have no idea how to answer, you may feel the same about buying dive gear. Over the years, I have learnt how to cope and have had quite a few wins and most importantly, I have learnt to not let my more technically minded (often male) friends influence me.
We will start with the general approach and, in subsequent posts, we will narrow it down to specific gear.
First and most important question is this one: What is it for? What will I do with it?
Try and define what exact diving activities you ‘ll use the gear for. I know this sounds obvious but having a super fancy and expensive dive computer when you are mostly doing shallow easy dives doesn't make sense. On the contrary, having a ‘fisherprice’ basic computer when you are into tech makes no sense either.
Having super heavy hard fins when you love photographing macro or having flexible balancing fins when you are a current junky are also not necessarily the best choices. The list goes on. When your most experienced / technical / brave mates tell you ‘you should buy this, you can do so much more with it...'; the real question then is: well, will you? Is it worth spending the extra money for something you may not be comfortable with? May not have use for?
Experience has shown me that I should get the nice comfortable piece of gear that works for what I am doing at that moment, if I suddenly get into a different kind of diving in two years’ time I can always sell off my old stuff and/or save up for new gear then.
Question 2: Is it comfortable? Do I enjoy using it?
This one is more complicated because you usually have to try the stuff and use it a few times before you know. This is where having diver friends in a similar sizes comes in handy. Borrow stuff from your mates. I’ve found out that the super heavy rigid (jet) fins are actually pretty cool in currents and not as cumbersome as I feared (thanks Alixe), I’ve found out that Shark Skin thermal protection rock my world (thanks Elena). Borrowing gear and chatting about good or bad features helps you make good choices, but, remember, people vary in what they like and everything has to fit in with question number 1.
Question 3: How much can I spend?
This is an essential question of course. If you want very sophisticated expensive gear because you want to do very specific activities, you may want to hold off getting gear for a while until you can afford to get the good stuff and test a number of different set ups before you commit. On the contrary, if you want to do easy holiday diving why not go with simple gear similar to what you learnt in and you could even get it second hand for some items (BCDs for instance).
A lot of people (in Europe especially) buy gear, use it a few times and sell it off again, you can get stuff with only a few dives for a fraction of the price new. It’s worth chatting to mates, your local dive centre and looking on forums / diver pages before you commit to buying all new stuff. Work out which items you want to spend a little more on and buy new and what you can find in mint condition second hand. Remember to have everything serviced and checked thoroughly though.
In the next posts, we will go into different items of gear and how you go about choosing them!