What SCUBA Equipment to Buy First

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A little while back I trained a student who instantly fell in love with SCUBA. After their first few dives, they were already wanting to buy their own gear. At this point, they asked me what was most important, and where to start. When you decide to buy your gear piece by piece it can be tricky figuring out which purchases will be the more vital. Hence I have decided to write this gear guide on what SCUBA equipment to buy first, which I would like to develop into a series of posts helping divers choose the equipment best suited to them.

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This article is based on my personal opinions and feelings and experiences. I hope that you all find it useful!

Numero Uno

The big cojones on my order to buy scuba gear list is the mask. Every person has a different kind of face making the mask one of the more important buys. I say this because the mask is typically one of your primary sources of comfort while diving. Imagine have a leaky rental mask that just doesn’t quite fit even when you tighten it own so hard you feel like you’ve put your head in a vice grip. Not fun. Many people find ill-fitting masks very deterring and even cause some people to panic while diving.

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Finding a mask that properly fits your face, doesn’t fog up on you, and fits comfortably is a great first choice scuba purchase. The mask is also one of the less expensive pieces of gear typically sold in the $50-$120 range. It’s lightweight, easy to travel with, and you can use it for snorkeling too!

Safety is Important

Especially in SCUBA diving, safety is extremely important. It is for this reason that I highly recommend that a dive computer be at the top of your ‘what SCUBA equipment to buy first’ list. A dive computer can not only help you log your dives, but also save you from decompression illness. Computers can also extend your bottom times in comparison to using dive tables. This is because dive computers calculate your no stop limits as you dive.

There are many great models out there that are quite affordable and great quality. After you buy your computer make sure that you read the manual and get familiar with it. Knowing how your computer works and being able to understand the displayed information is key when it comes to avoiding decompression illness.

They say to follow your feet

After buying a mask and computer the next vital gear pieces are a bit of a toss-up. That being said I would recommend your next purchase to be fins. It’s a hard decision between fins and wetsuit but in the end, I choose handy dandy flippers. The reason for this being that many shops cheap out on rental fins.

A fair few dive shops will provide snorkel fins instead of dive fins because of their lesser cost. The problem is that they are really crappy underwater. If faced with any kind of current, or even if you are simply a weak swimmer, having good-for-nothing fins can be dangerous. Having a proper SCUBA fin that fits properly can save you a whole lot of trouble in the water.

Exposure protection!

As I mentioned earlier it was a hard decision between wetsuit and fins for 3rd place. If you are wondering why, well it has to do with something you may find disturbing. I wasn’t to place wetsuit third for the simple reason that rental wetsuits are often peed in… Yeah, totally gross. I know. It is for this reason that many divers choose wetsuit when deciding what SCUBA equipment to buy first. However, the trouble with wetsuits is that depending on where you are diving you may require different thicknesses of suits. Where ever you decide to dive, proper exposure protection should be available to rent. Whether you need no wetsuit, a 3mm all the way up to a dry suit. 

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Why buy a wetsuit? You mean apart from not having to dive in a smelly, old, peed in rental? Well rentals, being old, tend to get thinner meaning they don’t offer the same warmth as a newer personal wetsuit. You can also buy one that is exactly your size, meaning no too short limbs for the tall and slender, and extra room in junk trunk spaces for women buying ladies wetsuits. In addition, there are many different wetsuit technologies out there such as infrared and polar fleece that will keep you warmer than generic neoprene.

The Life Line

That’s right, coming in second to last on my list is your regulator set. My reasoning for having it so low on the list is that a proper dive shop will maintain their regulators well. Meaning that you shouldn’t need to worry about it malfunctioning. Unlike the previous pieces of gear, your regulator will need servicing and maintenance at regular intervals, especially if you aren’t using it for an extended period of time. With proper maintenance and care your personal regulator will become one of your scuba treasures. Not to mention, having a regulator that you trust and are comfortable with can help you feel relaxed, improving your breathing technique.

The Big Piece

Last but not least is your BCD. though this too is an important part of your SCUBA set up I recommend it as the last purchase for a few reasons. The first being that it requires just as much maintenance if not more than your regulator. With a BCD it is very important you always wash, dry and store it properly, as a failure to do so can end up in a malfunction at depth. The other reason I believe you should get your BCD last is that it is the most difficult piece of equipment to pack in a suitcase.

That being said, once you do fall so deeply in love with the underwater world that you are ready to buy and drag a BCD around the world with you, that purchase is going to be one of your little babies. When I finally bought my first BCD I was in love with it and 7 years later, I’m still loving it and taking all the steps to make sure it lasts another 7 years. Having your own BCD can also help with your buoyancy control. Diving with the same equipment on a regular basis allows you to get to know how it works, instead of switching it up all the time wiith different rentals.

What SCUBA Equipment to Buy First

When trying to decide what SCUBA equipment to buy first you will need to take a few things into consideration. Things like comfort, safety, peace of mind, cost, etc. Each of these is important but you need to prioritize what is most important to you. I hope you found this guide insightful and has made your ‘what SCUBA equipment to buy first’ conundrum a little easier to solve!


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