BASIC SCUBA GEAR
Although it looks complicated, a complete scuba outfit is comprised of just a handful of easy-to-understand items, each of which has a simple, straightforward purpose.
1. Mask — A good-quality mask covers your nose, so you can adjust for pressure changes by exhaling; it includes a tempered-glass lens for safety.
2. Snorkel — Low tech, but important, a snorkel allows you to breathe easily while at the surface before or after a dive.
3. Regulator(s) — More than just a tube connecting an air tank to a mouthpiece, a regulator is a multi-stage bit of equipment that ensures the high-pressure air in your tank is at a pressure you can actually breathe, no matter what your depth. So crucial is this piece of equipment, the standard setup comes with at least one spare.
4. Submersible Pressure Gauge — Allows you to monitor how much air pressure is in your tank. You can go with either a mechanical unit or a digital one.
5. Dive watch or computer — In the past a watch was crucial for allowing a diver to track bottom and decompression times. Now a small, submersible computer can do the thinking for you.
6. Tank — Tanks are typically constructed of steel or aluminum. They range in capacity from 45 cubic feet to 150 cubic feet, depending on how much air you’d like to have with you, and how long and deep you like to dive. (And how big a tank you’re willing to lug around.) They need to be inspected annually.
7. Buoyancy Compensator (BC) — Also called a Buoyancy Control Device (BCD), a BC doesn’t just secure a tank to your back; it also contains an inflatable bladder that allows you to control how you’re floating in the water, whether it’s on the surface or down at depth making eyes with a fish.
8. Weights — Carried either on a separate belt or in a BC, they are necessary to compensate for the body’s natural buoyancy so that you can get to depth with a minimum of effort. A quick release is vital in the event you need to return to or stay at the surface in an emergency situation.
9. Wetsuit — Even in the tropics, the surrounding water will quickly suck the heat from even the hardiest of divers when at depth. Wet suits (and dry suits in chillier waters) also help protect the body from abrasion and anything that might cut or sting you.
10. Fins — Although you can snorkel in shallow water without fins, you’re going to need the extra power they provide.