A Complete Gear and Equipment List for Scuba Diving (2023)

Planning a Scuba Diving Trip: The Complete Guide

  • Mastering Basic Diving Skills
  • Essential Safety Tips
  • What to Know About Liveaboard Trips
  • Guide to Night Diving
  • How to Get Certified to Scuba Dive
  • Certification Programs
  • Cheapest Places to Get Certified
  • Best Diving Destinations in the World
  • Shore Diving Destinations
  • Diving in Aquariums
  • Underwater Museums
  • Dive Watches
  • Diving Fins
  • Scuba Masks
  • Underwater Cameras
  • Types of Scuba Diving
  • Gear and Equipment List

Planning a Scuba Diving Trip: The Complete Guide



    Water Sports


    Jessica Macdonald

    A Complete Gear and Equipment List for Scuba Diving (18)

    Jessica Macdonald

    King's College London

    Jessica Macdonald lives in South Africa's Eastern Cape province and has been TripSavvy's Africa Expert since 2016. She also covers travel products and has written about everything from camping knives to climbing chalk.

    TripSavvy'seditorial guidelines

    Published on 07/13/21

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    A Complete Gear and Equipment List for Scuba Diving (19)

    In This Article

    • Scuba Diving Essentials

    • Renting or Buying Gear

    • Tips for Packing Your Gear

    One of the most important steps to planning an unforgettable scuba vacation is deciding what gear to take with you. The full list will differ from trip to trip and depends on a whole range of factors like the weather and water conditions at your destination and the kind of diving you’ll be doing. Love night diving? A fully charged primary and backup torch inevitably require space in your suitcase. Into underwater photography? Don’t forget your camera, housing, strobe, spare batteries, and memory cards. In this article, however, we look at the bare essentials needed for every scuba trip, whether you decide to bring them with you or rent them once you’re there.

    Scuba Diving Essentials

    • Air Cylinder: A key component of the system that allows you to breathe underwater, an air cylinder or scuba tank holds compressed air. If you’re an experienced diver with the necessary qualifications, you may also fill your tank with nitrox (oxygen-enriched air) or a blend of mixed gases. These are typically used to extend your bottom time and/or allow you to dive beyond recreational limits. There are many different types of cylinders once you start getting technical, but the most basic kinds are made of either steel or aluminum and are usually filled with between 2,400 and 3,500 psi of air. Air cylinders need to be refilled after each dive.
    • Regulators: Regulators connect to your air cylinder and convert the air inside from high pressure to ambient pressure so that you can breathe safely. A standard regulator set includes a first stage and two sets of second stages. A first stage connects to the cylinder opening via one of two methods: a yoke system that fits over the top of the valve or a DIN system that screws directly into the cylinder opening. Second stages are the mouthpieces that you breathe from and you have a primary and a secondary (sometimes called an octo). On the left side of the regulator is your submersible pressure gauge (SPG) or air gauge, and a low-pressure inflator hose for connecting to your buoyancy control device (BCD).
    • Buoyancy Control Device (BCD): A BCD is a kind of jacket that serves several essential purposes. The first is to secure your air cylinder to your back via a primary and secondary strap. The second is to give you control over your buoyancy by allowing you to fill or empty the jacket with air at the touch of a button. This is achieved by connecting your regulator’s low-pressure inflator hose to the BCD’s low-pressure inflator, thereby allowing air to flow directly into it from your cylinder. The low-pressure inflator also has a mouthpiece so that you can inflate the BCD orally in an out-of-air situation. Dump valves give you the ability to remove air quickly from the BCD in an emergency.
    • Weight System: The other aspect of buoyancy control is the weight system, which gives you the negative buoyancy you need to sink below the surface with a full cylinder of air on your back. The simplest weight system is a belt (usually made of nylon webbing) that secures with a stainless steel, quick-release buckle and can be loaded with as many lead weights as you require. Alternatively, some BCDs come with integrated weights that fit neatly into custom-made pockets and also have a quick-release system. The amount of weight you need depends on how much you weigh, your natural buoyancy, your experience level, and whether you’re diving in freshwater or saltwater.
    • Dive Computer: Technically speaking, a dive computer is not an essential piece of equipment. Instead, some divers choose to use a waterproof watch and their SPG to gauge dive time and depth. They use those two metrics to work out their remaining time until decompression (deco). However, using a wrist-mounted dive computer makes these life-saving calculations a lot easier, and a lot more reliable. Dive computers automatically gauge your depth and dive time throughout your dive, adjusting your remaining bottom time as you go. They also warn you if you exceed a safe ascent rate, time your safety stop, and calculate the required surface interval before your next dive. There are options to suit all budgets.
    • Mask and Snorkel: Have you ever tried to open your eyes underwater? If so, you’ll know just how crucial a mask is to have clear vision and comfort whilst diving. A scuba mask differs from swimming goggles in that it covers the nose and eyes. This is so that you can relieve the pressure inside it by exhaling gently through your nose; and so that you can clear any leaking water by the same method. To prevent leaks, it’s essential to buy or rent a mask that fits well. You can test the fit on land by holding the mask in place without using the straps and breathing in through your nose. If it stays securely on your face once you remove your hands, it’s a fit. A snorkel allows you to save air during surface swims.
    • Fins: Dive fins give you the propulsion you need to swim effortlessly without getting fatigued. There are many different styles and brands to choose from. Some are close-heeled, which means that you slip them on over your bare feet much like a shoe. These are ideal for diving in tropical locations. If you’re headed somewhere more temperate, though, open-heeled fins are the better option. These have a rigid pocket and ankle strap that can be adjusted to fit around a neoprene dive sock or boot. Fin blade styles also vary, ranging from the standard paddle shape to split fins and fins with articulated joints designed to give the wearer greater power, comfort, and maneuverability.
    • Exposure Protection: The human body loses warmth quickly underwater, so even in the warmest locations you’re probably going to want some form of exposure protection. Options range from lightweight rash vests that defend against UV rays and jellyfish stings to neoprene wetsuits of varying thicknesses. If you plan on diving mostly in cold climates, consider investing in a drysuit (and the course required to learn how to adjust your diving technique for cold waters). Other forms of exposure protection include dive boots or socks, neoprene gloves, and dive hoods. Be aware that some locations may not allow gloves in an effort to prevent divers from touching and damaging the reef.
    • Additional Accessories: Aside from the absolute essentials, divers have an almost unlimited choice of optional accessories. These include dive knives (primarily for use in case of entanglement, rather than fighting off unfriendly marine life), underwater torches (remember to carry a backup when night diving), tank bangers or rattles (for attracting your buddy’s attention underwater), reef pointers (for pointing out things of interest), and hooks (for staying in one place in extreme current). A dive slate can be useful for communicating beyond standard hand signals, while underwater cameras are a popular investment ranging from a couple of hundred to several thousand dollars.

    Renting or Buying Gear

    The choice between renting or buying gear has always been a conundrum for divers, for several reasons. The first is cost: If you only plan on diving a few times a year, it’s probably a lot more cost-effective to rent gear each time. However, if you dive regularly, investing in your own equipment will save you big time in the long run. Then there’s the question of transporting your gear. If you do most of your diving abroad, you may choose to rent most of your equipment to save on the effort and expense of packing heavy items in your luggage. Some items (like an air cylinder) cannot be transported via plane.

    Most important is the question of reliability. How willing are you to trust that rental gear is up-to-date, well-maintained, cleaned, and inspected/serviced regularly? If you choose to rent, always ask to inspect the gear personally and be sure to acquaint yourself with it properly before your first open water dive. For many divers, the happy middle path between renting everything or owning everything is to purchase a select few items. These include the things that require a good, personal fit (like wetsuit, mask, and fins) and safety essentials (regulators, dive computer).

    Tips for Packing Your Gear

    Regardless of which scuba items you decide to purchase for yourself, check out our list of helpful packing tips ahead of your next vacation.

    • Invest in a purpose-built scuba bag, with plenty of protection and ample space to fit all of your dive gear in one place.
    • Make sure all of your gear is clean and dry before packing to prevent mildew. A good way to ensure your BCD is completely dry is to let it stand with some air inside after your final dive, then fully deflate it before packing.
    • Use your fins to create a protective barrier between the soft outer fabric of your bag and the more easily damaged items in the center.
    • If you don’t have a dedicated regulator bag, mask case, or dive computer sleeve, be sure to wrap all of these breakable items in a towel or thick clothing.
    • Pack smaller valuables (including your regulators and dive computer) in your hand luggage, both for protection from careless baggage handlers and as a precaution against theft.
    • Make sure to pack essential spares, including mask and fin straps, O-rings, and silicone grease for various valves.
    • Research airline rules including excess baggage fees and sporting goods allowances before deciding which one to fly with. Sometimes, joining a frequent flier club can give you added bags for free.
    • Make sure that all of your equipment is adequately insured against baggage loss or theft.
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