The number one rule to scuba diving is never stop breathing. The second rule; and one that I believe is unwritten; is your comfort underwater. This is paramount, and something that I am seeing in the industry as overlooked at times. Properly fitting equipment that you, as a diver, are trained on properly is vitally important to your safety underwater. It is an important thing to consider when purchasing gear. Taking gear that is new, cool, hip, and awesome is great; but purchasing it when you have no idea whether or not it will fit is setting yourself up for failure. Owning your own gear is important in this sport, so here are a few things you could do to ensure that you get the maximum out of your equipment and your fun as you dive.
Buy smart – – This is incredibly important to any purchase you make. Educate yourself on the equipment and any training you may need to use it (i.e. a dry suit), before you buy it. Manufacturers have websites with a plethora of information on their products and any accessories that may apply. Check these sites out and learn about the equipment before you purchase it, being a responsible diver is about education; and having a good general knowledge about the equipment and any maintenance/ service requirements are important. Also you should educate yourself about any warranties, and how they work.
Buy authorised – – I cannot stress this enough. When you do decide to buy, you should buy from an authorised dealer. Check with the manufacturer before you buy from a shop or a dive centre. It will help in the long run when you need servicing or warranty work done on the equipment. If you’re in a club you should be sure that your club is known to the manufacturer or at the very least has some form of arrangement. For example I really prefer Apeks regulators, but the dive centre I work at is not an authorised Apeks dealer. The club I am involved with locally is not an authorised dealer either. This had initially forced me to take my equipment to a completely different place. This had not caused me a lot of concern. But it may be of some concern to you. So you should make sure of what you’re buying and who you’re buying from.
Buy uniform – – This is not a big deal, but it helps when you get your gear serviced. Having regulators that are the same manufacturer makes service time easy. Think about it, if you have a Mares first stage and Mares second stage primary, but an Oceanic octo; come service time you’re dealing with two different warranties (if any), and two different sets of parts and maybe even labour charges. When you buy from an authorised dealer you can get a set of regulators that will match as far as manufacturer, so come service time you’ve lowered your wait, and your costs. This works for everything with your gear; BCDs, regulators, wetsuits, etc… You don’t have to get crazy with it, but you should try to stay in a reasonable family of manufacturers. For example I purchase a lot of AUP (American Underwater Products – Aeris, Oceanic, Hollis, OceanPro, Lavacore). I also purchase a lot of Aqua Lung (Apeks, Aqua Lung, Sea Quest). The dive centre I work at is an authorised AUP dealer, so I get all my AUP stuff serviced there. If I want any of my Aqua Lung stuff serviced, it should realistically go to another centre. Now, in all honesty I am an apprentice service technician, and the first things I learned to work on were my own; the Master technician I apprentice under knows Apeks very well, and I am soon to be certified to work on Aqua Lung; so this is not a big deal for me, but for you it may become a bigger hassle. So bear these examples from me in mind when you’re purchasing, and try to keep your purchases uniform, especially on BCDs. If you have an Oceanic BCD, and you want an integrated Octo, try to make it an Oceanic part. Simple, right?
Buy comfort – – Again I cannot stress this enough. Your comfort underwater is a huge deal. It affects everything you do underwater. Cold, animals, strange environments, and anything else you can imagine can raise your stressors and cause your SAC rates to jump. Being comfortable in your own gear should be the last thing you’re worrying about. Make sure your gear is properly fitted (this is also why you should buy from an authorised dealer). Make sure you’re educated about the gear, its’ functions, and how it feels with you underwater. A good suggestion is to take the equipment in the pool and just have fun, learn about your equipment, and how it functions underwater. Better to make a mistake in 3 metres than 33 metres. You should ask questions when purchasing about durability, points of failure, manufacturer’s warranty, and above all; rated abilities. Not all BCDs are meant to dive in Antarctica or Alaska; you should think about this, and know what the equipment is rated for.