Most diving specialists will agree that it's essential to get the basic personal kit mask, snorkel and fins sorted out before you leave. Everyone is different and it's important to obtain the kit that suits you.
Everything else, with the exception of the new trendy ``dive computers'' at more than Pounds 600 a time, can be hired from good scuba centres anywhere in the world. This includes heavy and bulky items such as air tanks, regulators and weights that will reduce your baggage allowance. And some airlines are unhappy about cylinders of compressed air stashed in the hold.
But if you have to have the works, Pounds 1,400 will buy a full kit suitable for tropical diving; add another Pounds 300 for warmer insulation in the chilly waters closer to home.
Mask: ``Keep it simple,'' says Jamie Watts of Ocean Leisure. ``There are some with purge valves in the nose, but, to be honest, the simple ones are the best.'' Choose something low volume and low profile, with a thermo-plastic frame and silicone skirt that fits snugly to the face, and with a tempered glass lens (the same as in car windscreens). The closer the fit the wider the field of view. Price range Pounds 30-Pounds 45. Pictured right, a Cressi Sub Marea, Pounds 37.95.
Snorkel: prices range from Pounds 5-Pounds 35. Most are simply thermo-plastic tubes with a mouthpiece. However, the model shown is a Tusa Hyperdrive (Pounds 24) with some useful features: it has a valve close to the mouthpiece making it easier to clear, and a ``splash valve'' at the top that drains water away rather than allowing it to run into the tube; also a flexible mouth section that drops away easily for when you're switching to a regulator mouthpiece.
Fins: Force Fins (pictured, Pounds 83.95) are the latest in fin technology and are based on the contours of a dolphin's flipper. Made of polyurethane, they widen out on the ``power stroke'' and fold in on the ``recovery''. They have to be worn with boots, unlike the traditional longblade flipper, which may be worn on its own. Price range Pounds 40-Pounds 90.
Boots: these will make any fins more comfortable and increase power. Most have neoprene uppers and the best have heat-welded, wrap-around soles. Prices start at Pounds 27 with the Ocean Action pair shown.
Regulators: these have a two-stage design. The first fits onto the cylinder and reduces tank pressure to a manageable level. The second reduces it further to an acceptable ``ambient'' pressure and adjusts this according to depth. The regulator is fitted with a ``primary'' mouthpiece. A standard addition nowadays is a secondary mouthpiece called an ``octopus'' in case of emergency. The regulator shown is a Scubapro D400 at Pounds 300 (including tank regulator) with the M5 Octopus at Pounds 92.
Tanks: these are made of steel or aluminium and weigh between 18lb and 20lb on dry land. In the water this is reduced to 3lb or 4lb because of relative density. Aluminium tanks are heavier because the walls have to be thicker. The tank shown is a Faber 12.5 at Pounds 149.90. Serious divers, and those who demand the coolest kit, carry a spare ``pony'' tank as back-up about Pounds 99.
Buoyancy Control Device (BCD): basically a heavy-duty nylon bag fitted inside a body harness that is connected to the air tank allowing you to rise or fall in the water. The best have quick-release catches in case of trouble and emergency air ``dumps'' that expel a large volume of air in one fell swoop should you be rising to the surface too fast. They come in a variety of thicknesses, although most agree that the lightweight ones are suitable for all but the most daring dives. Price range Pounds 240-Pounds 375. Pictured is a Scubapro jacket at Pounds 273.70.
Wet suits: your choice of wet suit depends entirely on where you are planning to dive. A 3mm ``shorty'' (such as the Gull Venom shown, Pounds 99.95) is ideal for tropical diving. However, you may have to consider a 2/3mm ``convertible'' with detachable arms and legs (Pounds 70-Pounds 100) in southern Europe or a 6/7/8mm semi-dry suit (Pounds 150-Pounds 300) in the UK. Prices start at Pounds 70.
Dive computers: the traditional diver's ``console'' comprising depth and pressure gauges and compass (from about Pounds 150) is being upstaged by the latest in diving equipment what all the best-dressed divers in the Maldives are carrying this winter an all-in-one dive computer. These estimate the length of a dive, depth, how long it is safe down in a non-decompression dive (the most common form of recreational diving) and much more.
Pictured is the Nemesis II (Pounds 666.50), made by Cochran Undersea Technology in America. It's a wire-free and tubeless state-of-the-art device with a liquid crystal wrist display activated simply by ``shaking'' no fiddly buttons or switches. It is linked by radio signal to the computer's ``brain'' on the regulator. Tell the Nemesis if you had a few too many drinks the night before and it will compute how long it will take you to dispose of nitrogen as you approach the surface. Just the thing for a deep-water lush. Less forgiving computers from Pounds 165.
Weight system: in the past, weight systems were cumbersome and uncomfortable. That's all changed with the new generation of flexible systems, which have nylon padded belts with quick-release buckles and velcro-fastening weight pockets. The Scubapro Pocket Belt shown costs Pounds 22.75; weights cost about Pounds 1.15 a pound.
Knives: lost knives on the sea bed are common at popular dive sites. So choose one that locks into a sheath and has a quick-release mechanism that can be operated with one hand. High-grade stainless steel blades all need wiping regularly with WD40 or silicone to keep the rust away. Prices range from Pounds 20-Pounds 60. The knife pictured is a Scubapro K5 at Pounds 29.99.
Torches: Pounds 500 will buy you a torch powerful enough to light up an entire wreck, although if water visibility is poor, all that will happen is that the light will be reflected back in blinding snowstorm effect. Always take a ``back-up'' torch on night dives in case the main one fails so you can still read the gauges as you make your way to the surface. Prices start at Pounds 40. Pictured is a 20-watt Scubapro at Pounds 104.
Watch: even with a state-of-the-art computer a good dive watch is essential back-up: good timekeeping is crucial for safe diving. The good ones are all rated at a depth of 200 metres or more, and several have built-in depth gauges and other features. Prices range from Pounds 50 to Pounds 1,800 for a Rolex Submariner. Shown is a Citizen Aqualand at Pounds 395.
Compass: tropical dive masters all carry compasses, but if you are heading off on your own, especially in the waters around the UK, a good wrist-worn compass is essential. Prices start at Pounds 20. Shown is the Sunto SK5 at Pounds 22.50.
All equipment available from Ocean Leisure outlets, including the central London branch at 11-14 Northumberland Avenue, WC2 (0171-930 5050)
Copyright (C) The Sunday Times, 1995
"Scuba equipment; Gearing Up." Sunday Times [London, England] 3 Sept. 1995: 2. Academic OneFile. Web. 21 Nov. 2009.
Gale Document Number:CJ115574885
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