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A guide to buying dive equipment

So, you’re finally taking the plunge and learning how to dive but you’re not sure what equipment you should buy. When you’re starting out as a scuba diver, it can be tricky to know when you should buy your own gear and what you should buy first. You’re probably feeling a bit out of your depth!

Fear not, aside from a wetsuit (or rash vest at our warmer marine sites) when learning to dive with Opwall, you can hire all of your dive equipment onsite. However, it might be handy to purchase some of the basic pieces of equipment, such as a mask, snorkel, and fins beforehand. If you are travelling to Dominica for example, we strongly recommend you bring your own mask and snorkel!

Even in the world of masks alone, there is a huge array to choose from! I have put together a few key things to look out for and consider when purchasing certain pieces of equipment, to help you navigate your way around the dive stores. We also asked some of the staff around the UK Office which wetsuit, mask, and fins they own and why they’d recommend it to give you a little extra helping hand.

Top tip #1, one way to stay on your instructor’s good side is to make sure you don’t refer to your mask as ‘goggles’ and your fins as ‘flippers’, you can thank us later!

 

Wetsuit

Depending which expedition site you are travelling to this summer, you will require a different wetsuit thickness and length, due to the varying water temperatures. Please double check your kit list beforehand or have a look at our handy wetsuit guide below for a reminder:

Expedition CountryWetsuit thickness and length *recommended
Bay IslandsIf you feel the cold, 3mm shorty
If you don’t bring a wetsuit, please bring a rash vest
Croatia5mm full-length wetsuit
Dominica2/3mm shorty
If you feel the cold, bring a full-length wetsuit
Ecuador and the Galapagos3mm full-length wetsuit
Fiji3mm full-length wetsuit
HondurasIf you feel the cold, 3mm shorty
If you don’t bring a wetsuit, please bring a rash vest
Mexico2/3mm wetsuit, either full-length or shorty
If you don’t bring a wetsuit, please bring a rash vest

*These are simply Opwall’s recommendations. If you wish to bring a thicker wetsuit you are more than welcome to do so.

The wetsuit thickness is measured in mm, and a wetsuit can be multiple thicknesses, represented with two or three numbers separated by a slash. A full-length wetsuit is, how it sounds, full-length on your arms and legs, whereas a shorty is cropped at the arms and/or legs. The most important thing when purchasing a wetsuit is to ensure it is a suitable thickness for the environment you will be diving in (i.e., it will keep you warm enough!) and it fits well (snug and comfortable) to ensure it will properly insulate you.

 

Our staff recommend:

 

Emma recommends the Beuchat wetsuits:
“I own a 2/3mm and the Med C-Zip and I love both of them. They fit comfortably and are highly durable, having both lasted me a long time!”

Alex recommends the Fourth Element Xenos:
“It has a really comfortable fit, it is super easy to put on, and I like the soft seals around my wrists, ankles, and neck.”

Katie recommends the Billabong Women’s 4/3mm Synergy chest zip:
“I took ages to pick a wetsuit because I wanted something that looked cool but was also practical. The main reason I picked this one was that I liked the design, but I also like the ‘surf style’ front zip as it allows you to stay cooler whilst waiting for dive briefings or practicing surveys. However, I find that the surf brand wetsuits can often be incredibly expensive, so unless you are going to use them regularly a non-branded one will do the job just as well!”

Mask

A mask is most likely the first piece of equipment you will want to buy and personally I think investing in your own mask is a brilliant idea! There are a multitude of different masks, and it can be really difficult to decide which one to buy first. For instance some masks are built with one single continuous lens whilst others have two separate lenses, the later is great if you are wanting to buy corrective lenses with your own personal prescription.

Regardless of whether you buy a framed or frameless mask, a mask with a single lens or two lenses, the single most important thing is that it fits you and your face. That is the reason there are so many different styles to choose from; everyone has a slightly different face shape and therefore a slightly different mask to suit them. It is well worth taking the time to pop to your local dive shop to try on a variety of masks to find what works best for you and get it properly fitted.

Top tip #2 it is really worthwhile purchasing a mask tamer (also called mask-strap covers). These are brilliant! They fit over the mask strap for added comfort. For girls it makes our life easier as less hair gets stuck and tangled in our mask, and it also makes removing and replacing your mask a heck of a lot easier.

 

Top tip #3 when you buy a new mask it is really important to clean it and treat it before diving with it for the first time to minimize mask ‘fog’. The best tried and tested method is rubbing regular white toothpaste (not gel) on the lens and leaving it overnight before washing it off.

 

Our staff recommend:

 

Emma recommends the Beuchat Maxlux:
“I love this mask. It is incredibly comfortable and fits multiple face shapes. The single lens gives you a huge field of vision and it comes in a wide array of cool and snazzy colours too.”

Alex recommends the Hollis M4:
“I love the Beuchat Maxlux S but the Hollis M4 is a great alternative for people with slightly larger heads. It has super soft silicone and a large frameless lens design making it super comfortable to wear.”

Katie recommends a Mares mask:  ”
I use a black Mares mask. It’s from one of their junior ranges as when I tried on mask styles in a shop, I found the smaller masks suited my face shape better and felt more comfortable. Trying on your mask beforehand is my top tip!”

Fins

For me, fins are a highly underrated piece of equipment, so it pays to invest in some good fins that are comfortable, fit well and work for you. There are numerous questions to ask yourself when purchasing fins, a lot of which you won’t know the answer to until you actually start diving and get a feel for the underwater environment. Fins broadly fall into two main categories: full-foot or open heeled. At Opwall we ask that most students bring boots with them to marine sites and therefore open heeled fins are recommended so the fin can be worn with the boots on.

 

Our staff recommend:

 

Emma recommends the Apeks RK3s:
“I used to dive with Tusa Solla Strap Fins (also a great fin) but as soon as I discovered the RK3s they changed my diving life (not to be dramatic). They are compact and their blade design offers great maneuverability and efficiency in the water. They are durable, come in different colours, and are an all-round great fin.”

Alex recommends the Mares Avanti Quattro Plus:
“I think they are softer than the RK3s and more beginner friendly. They are lightweight, flexible, and powerful, and suitable for multiple finning techniques.”

Katie recommends the Aqualung Shot FX fins:
“These were a gift when I first joined Opwall, and I knew I was going to be diving more regularly. They are very comfortable and easy to use in the water, but a little bulky for travel!”

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