Whether you’re looking to buy your first set of dive gear, want to learn more about your dive equipment, or just don’t want to mispronounce anything, you’ve come to the right place.
There’s a lot of complicated words, acronyms, and jargon when it comes to dive gear.
And this can be confusing for new divers, and even some of the more seasoned scuba junkies.
So we’ve put together a complete guide to scuba diving gear to make sure you know exactly what you’re buying, using, or talking about!
Scuba Diving Gear: The Essentials
These are the core pieces of dive equipment that you can’t go scuba diving without!
Sometimes known as a buoyancy compensator (BC) or dive jacket, the buoyancy control device is best described as an inflatable vest or backpack that holds your tank.
But most importantly, the BCD allows divers to control their buoyancy when in the water, hence the name!
All buoyancy control devices will feature an inflate and deflate mechanism, often located on the left shoulder, which allows you to add and remove air from the device to adjust your buoyancy.
They will also have pockets and/or D rings where you can store or attach other pieces of dive equipment including flashlights and surface marker buoys.
Some BCDs will include integrated weight systems and a variety of other features depending on the type and brand.
Simply put the regulators are what deliver the air from your tank to your mouth, BCD, and other pieces of scuba equipment whilst adjusting the pressure of that air.
Standard scuba regulators usually consist of 5 main parts:
- First Stage
- Primary Second Stage
- Alternate Second Stage
- Low-Pressure Inflator Hose
- Submersible Pressure Gauge
Technically the regulators are what allow us to breathe underwater. And as a result, are often considered the most important piece of dive gear. They’re what keep us alive after all!
Scuba Diving Exposure Suits
Although some divers like to skip the exposure suits in tropical waters, you’ll probably want or need some protection when you go scuba diving. Whether it’s to keep you warm, stop the gear rubbing or a barrier against those pesky jellyfish!
There are 3 main types of exposure suits used in scuba diving:
Skinsuits (Dive Skin)
Usually made of neoprene, a wetsuit keeps you warm by trapping a thin layer of water close to your body. A tight fit is important to prevent you from losing too much heat to the surrounding water.
Wetsuits are available in different thicknesses and lengths depending on the temperature of the water you’re diving in.
A drysuit is a waterproof suit that keeps you dry throughout the entire dive.
It is fully sealed to trap a layer of air inside to keep you warm when diving in cold water.
You can also wear thermal layers underneath the drysuit for added warmth.
You can also get neoprene boots, gloves, and hoods for added exposure protection.
As we all know, the human eyes are not designed to be used underwater. And who wants to go scuba diving and miss out on seeing all the magic? A scuba diving mask, note they are not called goggles, has a tempered plastic lens surrounded by a silicone skirt.
They come in all different shapes, sizes and colors so make sure you get one that fits properly.
This is one of the most personal pieces of dive gear. And, trust us, a poorly fitting mask can really ruin your whole dive.
As much as we wish we were…We’re not fish.
That being said, water is much denser than air, requiring a lot more force to propel us and all the dive equipment we’re wearing. Scuba diving fins help us move through the water easily.
Note: they are called fins, not flippers!
Scuba diving fins come in a multitude of shapes, colors, and sizes but they all fall into 2 main categories: open heel and full foot.
Full foot fins are fitted with a soft rubber pocket that fully encapsulates your foot and is usually worn with bare feet. You can also wear neoprene socks to make them more comfortable and a little warmer.
Open heel fins are designed to be worn with neoprene boots. They have an open foot pocket with either a bungee spring strap or clips and an adjustable rubber strap that is pulled over the heel to secure the fin.
Arguably one of the most important pieces of scuba gear, a dive computer is much more than just a fancy-looking watch. A dive computer is a digital device that precisely tracks your dive profile in real-time and provides you with the information that you need to dive safely within the limits of recreational diving.
By keeping track of your depth and time, a dive computer uses a decompression model to calculate how much nitrogen is dissolved in your body during a dive.
Your computer will also help you track your safety stop, ascent rate, and any emergency decompression stops.
Modern dive computers come with a whole host of extra features including a compass, enriched air nitrox settings, and integrated logbooks.
An air-integrated dive computer can even tell you how much air pressure you have left in your tank!
Because a dive computer tracks your personal dive profile, it is important that every diver has their own. And most dive centers will charge extra for a dive computer so it’s best to look into purchasing your own.
Many divers question whether you really need a snorkel when you go scuba diving. It really comes down to personal choice. But for us, it’s always a good idea to have one on hand. A snorkel lets you preserve your precious air before the dive and swim to safety easily after the dive.
Plus if you run into something incredible just below the surface, even if your tank is empty, you can still experience all the action!
Snorkels come in many different shapes and sizes: from the basic tube with a mouthpiece to quick clearing dump valves and ones that’ll fold up into your BCD pocket.
Scuba Diving Weights
Even if you’re the heaviest, leanest diver out there you’ll probably need to use weights at some point when scuba diving.
Traditionally weights are worn on a weight belt but can also be placed in quick-release pockets integrated into your BCD or additional trim pockets to give you more flexibility.
Scuba Diving Tank
The tank, or cylinder, is what contains the air you breathe when scuba diving. Made from either aluminum or steel, a scuba tank is specifically designed to hold large volumes of air at high pressure.
Scuba Diving Gear: The Key Accessories
Here we’ve included the most important dive accessories. But there are also underwater cameras, waterproof bags, tank bangers, pointers, and much more.
Always brightly colored to ensure visibility, SMBs can be a long tube or around, more typical buoy, shape. Find out more about the different types of SMBs and their uses in our ultimate guide to surface marker buoys.
A dive compass is a compass designed specifically for navigating underwater. In addition to the usual free rotating magnetic north needle that all compasses feature, a dive compass also has a lubber line to indicate your direction and a rotating bezel that allows you to set a bearing.
A dive compass can be worn on the wrist or mounted onto a hose alongside your pressure gauge. If you want to make sure you never lose your bearing on a dive then check out our guide to the best dive compasses.
We’re sorry to break this to you but a dive knife is not a weapon, it’s an emergency tool.A scuba diving knife or shear is designed to cut through anything you might become entangled in underwater.
Normally secured in a sheath, a dive knife can be attached to your BCD or strapped around your arm or leg. There’s a wide range of cutting tools designed specifically for scuba divers.
To find out more about the different types of cutting tools take a look at our guide to the best diving knives and shears.
A dive light is a flashlight or torch designed for underwater use.It’s essential for night dives but we think it’s always useful to have a flashlight with you as you never know what fascinating creatures you’ll find hiding in those small crevices!
As with most dive gear, underwater flashlights come in all different shapes and sizes.
We hope you’re feeling more confident when it comes to the different pieces of scuba diving equipment.
Remember it’s important that you feel comfortable with the dive gear that you’re using and have all the essential equipment needed for each dive.
And if you’re thinking about investing in your own dive equipment don’t forget to check out our extensive scuba diving gear reviews.
Alexa Worswick is a PADI and SSI scuba diving Instructor, recreational freediver and freelance copywriter. She first learnt to scuba dive in the UK aged 15 and has since travelled and dived in multiple locations across 3 different continents. After quitting her marketing job in London in 2016, Alexa is now based in Indonesia where she can pursue her passion for the ocean fulltime.