The Complete Scuba Diving Equipment List

scuba diving equipment list

You’ve discovered scuba diving is for you. Now you need gear! There are many different pieces of dive gear, from essentials to fun accessories. We’re outlining all of it in this scuba diving equipment list!

Basic Scuba Diving Equipment

There are a few pieces of gear every scuba diver needs to dive. Good quality essentials can make your dive experience better. These are also some of the first pieces of equipment you should consider buying rather than renting.

Scuba Mask

A mask is what allows you to see underwater while diving. This is the first piece of equipment a beginner should consider buying. A well-fitting mask dramatically improves the diving experience since it is less likely to leak, fog up, or have glare problems.

Rental masks are typically lower quality and do not fit all face shapes. Also, having your own mask is more hygienic. Masks are also relatively inexpensive and easy to travel with.

Snorkel

In some places, it is required by law to have a snorkel on you while scuba diving. This is because they make it easier to swim at the surface in rough conditions. Therefore, it is wise to get a snorkel when you purchase your mask, as they can be discounted for the package and match.

However, suppose you do not plan to use your snorkel for snorkeling. In that case, you can also buy a collapsible snorkel to keep on you to comply with laws and as a safety measure without it being in the way.

Scuba Diving Fins

The second piece of scuba diving equipment you should consider buying is fins. Like masks, rental fins tend to be of lower quality and inferior fit than those you would purchase for personal use. Most divers prefer either frog-kicking or flutter-kicking. Each of these swimming styles is easier with the right fins.  

Heel Style

  • Closed-heel fins: These fins have flexible foot pockets that cover a diver’s heel entirely.
  • Open heel fins: These are designed to be worn with booties (see below) and are typically more rigid.

Fin type

  • Paddle fins: These have a continuous rubber blade and are the most versatile and efficient for frog and flutter kicking.
  • Split fins: These fins have a big split in the middle and therefore are designed for reduced effort flutter kicking. However, they do not perform well in currents.
  • Jet fins: The most rigid type of fins and fantastic for frog kicking.

Dive Computer

Dive computers record information about your dive in real-time. These statistics include:

  • Dive time
  • Current depth
  • Max depth of the dive
  • Ascension rates
  • Safety stop countdown
  • Decompression times
  • Enriched air management
  • Time until it is safe to fly

Most dive professionals recommend a dive computer as the first big gear purchase after mask, snorkel, and fins. This is because the computer stores vital information for dive safety, which can be confused when sharing.

Types of Dive Computers

  • Wrist Dive Computers: These dive computers include popular watch-style computers worn on a diver’s wrist. They can even be air-integrated, telling you how much air is left in your tank and approximately how long that air will last through an air transmitter. This dive computer style is the most versatile and convenient.
  • Console Dive Computer: A console dive computer is attached by a hose to your regulators. These typically come with a pressure gauge and can be easier to read.

Scuba Dive Regulator

A scuba regulator is the primary piece of life-sustaining gear a diver uses since it allows you to breathe underwater. Since the air in a scuba tank is highly pressurized, a regulator must be used to reduce that pressure to make the air breathable.

Owning your own quality regulator is a must for any frequent diver. While beginners may choose to rent, you can guarantee that it is clean and recently serviced when you have your own regulator.

Parts of a Scuba Regulator

There are two essential parts of a diving regulator, the first stage and the second stage. However, today there are additional components. Each of the two stages is responsible for pressure reduction. Sometimes, regulators are sold separately as first and second-stage components.

  • First Stage Regulator: Attaches to the scuba tank and reduces high-pressure air to the hoses’ intermediate pressure. However, at this pressure, the air is still unbreathable
  • Primary Second Stage: This is the part of the regulator a diver puts in their mouth. It further reduces the pressure of the air to the pressure of the surrounding water, making it safe for the diver to breathe
  • Alternate Second Stage: An octopus is a backup second stage that allows one tank of air to be used by two buddies in an out of air emergency.
  • Submersible Pressure Gauge: A pressure gauge or SPG allows the diver to monitor how much air remains in their tank. It is connected to the first stage via a high-pressure hose. This is also where a console dive computer or compass may be attached.
  • Low-Pressure Inflator Hose: This low-pressure hose, also called an LPI hose, attaches to the buoyancy compensator to allow easy inflation of the BCD air bladder.

Ready to purchase your own regulator? We’ve outlined our choices in the Regulator Buying Guide.

Buoyancy Compensator Device

A scuba diving buoyancy compensator is often called a BCD or BC for short. This piece of gear has three primary purposes: keeping a diver afloat at the surface, maintaining neutral buoyancy underwater, and securing air tanks.

Parts of a BCD

  • Air bladder: Holds air within the BCD
  • Low-pressure inflator (LPI): Attaches to the regulator to inflate the air bladder.
  • Pressure release valve: Prevents the bladder from over-inflating
  • Dump valves: Cords that allow the diver to release air quickly from the BC
  • Integrated weight pockets: Optional feature that holds weights, so the diver does not need to wear a weight belt

Types of BCDs

  • Jacket BCD: Common for beginner divers and rental gear, a jacket or vest style BC has a large air bladder that wraps around the diver. These BCs are very comfortable and offer security.
  • Back Inflation BCD: These scuba BCs are also called wing style and are typically used by experienced divers. Since the air bladder is only on the diver’s back, they are more streamlined and allow for more ease of movement. However, they do not provide as much security at the surface, and there are fewer places to attach gear.

Ready to purchase a BCD? Take a look at our BCD Buying Guide.

scuba gear list

Surface Marker Buoy + Reel

An SMB and accompanying reel makes it easy for divers to be spotted by boats. This ensures you aren’t hit by a boat during your 3-minute safety stop and that your own boat can spot you after you surface.

The reel can also be a dual-purpose item. By having a long spool of rope at your disposal, you can efficiently carry out search patterns and even penetrate wrecks if you are certified to do so.

Scuba Dive Cylinder

Scuba tanks or cylinders hold the pressurized air divers breathe underwater. Most divers do not need to purchase their own. However, if you enjoy buddy diving without a charter, you may need to buy tanks.

Types of Air Tanks

  • Steel: Tough and negatively buoyant, these tanks are popular with cold water divers and typically last longer when properly maintained.
  • Aluminum: Popular and affordable choice, these tanks are easy to get filled anywhere. However, they become positively buoyant at the end of a dive, requiring users to carry more weight diving to compensate.

Types of Cylinder Valves

Be sure to use and purchase a tank with the valve which corresponds to your regulator or use an adaptor.

  • DIN Valve: DIN, or Deutsche Industrie Norm, has a threaded opening that you screw directly into the cylinder valve. Typically considered the safer option, most modern divers use this valve type.
  • Yoke Valve: Also called an A-clamp first stage, the yoke is still the dominant choice in some locations.

Air Tank Maintenance

Besides their considerable weight, the main reason divers only own tanks if they need to is maintenance. A visual inspection is required annually, and hydro tests are required every 5 years.

Ready to purchase a Dive Tank? Take a look at our Scuba Tank Buying Guide.

Scuba Weights

Most divers require weights to achieve neutral buoyancy. How much additional weight is dependent on experience, body type, and other equipment. Like tanks, most dive operations will provide weights to their customers. However, if you are buddy diving independently from a dive shop, you will need to buy your own.

There are two main ways divers carry weights, either on a quick-release weight belt or in pockets integrated into their BCD. No matter what method you choose, weights must be able to be dropped quickly in case of an emergency ascent.

Almost Essential Scuba Gear

There are many pieces of scuba gear you can technically dive without. However, these items are highly recommended and in many conditions necessary for a safe and comfortable dive.

Underwater Compass

Having a decent underwater compass is essential for most underwater navigation. While divers who exclusively dive under the supervision of a divemaster may not need this bit of gear, it is always safer to dive with one.

An excellent underwater compass will be easy to read with clear headers, glow-in-the-dark, and have no visible bubbles when submerged. While some dive computers may have an integrated compass, it is best to have a separate compass for ease of use.

Scuba Dive Knife

Dive knives are another bit of gear that is necessary unless you stick with another diver who carries one. As a safety precaution, knives are used in case of diver entanglement. And it’s not just humans that can be entangled. There are also instances where a proper dive knife could also help save trapped marine life.

Scuba Dive Wetsuit

Diving wetsuits are also nearly essential and, depending on conditions critical, for scuba diving. Even tropical waters can be significantly colder at your dive’s max depth, and getting cold while diving can be dangerous.

Purchasing a well-fit wetsuit maximizes comfort and effectiveness, as dive shops may not have every size available, and suits may be well worn. Unfortunately, there’s also a good chance that someone else has gone #1 in a rented wetsuit. While they clean them well, it’s still not a pleasant thought.

Wetsuit Styles

  • Full-length wet suit: Will reach the diver’s ankles and wrists for maximum coverage.
  • Shorty wetsuit: Will not cover the entire leg and may or may not have full sleeves.
  • Jacket wet suit: Worn like a regular jacket, with a zipper in the front and full sleeves and only covers the upper body.

Scuba Wetsuit Thickness Guide

Wetsuit warmth is measured in the thickness of the neoprene. While needs vary based on how prone an individual diver is to getting cold, generally, divers will use:

  • Water temp 80 to 85 degrees; no wet suit – 2mm wetsuit
  • Water temp 73 to 79 degrees; 3mm – 5mm wetsuit
  • Water temp 66 to 71 degrees; 5mm – 7mm
  • Water temp 70 to 57 degrees; 7mm – drysuit (cold water drysuit diving is a fantastic specialty, and the course needed to use this equipment)

Scuba Wetsuits vs. Surfing Wetsuits

When choosing a scuba wetsuit, it is crucial to ensure it was not designed for surfing. While the two kinds of wetsuits look similar, the neoprene used in scuba wetsuits is pressure-resistant, keeping you warm at depth. However, since this is an unnecessary feature for surfers, the neoprene compresses, making them much less effective the deeper you go.

Additionally, diving wetsuits are optimized for scuba divers’ needs. Zippers are in logical places, and they have reinforcement in popular wear spots such as the knees. Some even have clips to attach gear!

Scuba Dive Hood

To stay warm in even colder waters, divers will often use a hood. This could be attached or detached from your wetsuit and is designed to keep your head and neck warm. Some divers even prefer wearing a hood to manage long hair.

Scuba Dive Gloves

Gloves are worn by divers for two main reasons. First, they keep your hands warm during cold dives. Second, they protect your hands, which can be incredibly important depending on the kind of diving you’re doing.

There is no reason to use your hands for anything besides communicating with your buddies in easy recreational diving. But when spearfishing, doing coral conservation, wreck diving, and drift diving, gloves become essential to prevent cuts and stings to the hands.

Scuba Dive Booties

With some scuba diving fins, wearing booties is essential. They also protect the diver’s feet when entering and exiting the water on a shore dive. Purchasing well-fitting booties not only prevent blisters but supports your foot while kicking, providing stability and power. Some divers will even choose to wear neoprene socks to prevent rubbing on full-foot fins.

Rash Guard

For divers who chose not to wear a wetsuit or in conditions where the water is hot, it is advisable to wear a rash guard. These water shirts come in both short and long sleeve variations and are primarily used to prevent a diver’s BCD from rubbing their chest and shoulders. They are also helpful for sun protection and from irritants such as sea lice.

Nice-to-Have Dive Gear

In this section, we talk about all the fun stuff you don’t necessarily need but will make your dive better in some way.

Scuba Bandana

Many divers, especially those with long hair, love to wear neoprene dive bandanas or do-rags to prevent hair from getting stuck in their masks or horribly tangled. However, some just say, “Scuba hair, don’t care!” To each their own, but I love mine.

Mask Defog

Special mask defog products are another thing some divers swear by, while others find the soap provided on the boat to be enough. If you constantly struggle with a foggy mask, a mask defog product might just solve your problems.

Underwater Camera + Waterproof Casing

GoPros and other underwater cameras are super popular underwater gadgets. Who doesn’t want to show the world their incredible dive! There are even underwater photography specialty courses offered by the major dive agencies.

Scuba Dive Torch

Underwater flashlights, typically called torches, are helpful not only for night diving! Like an ordinary flashlight, they allow you to see into dark crevices and highlight colors lost through absorption. Every diver must have a torch on night dives, so having one you love will improve your night-diving experience. Just be sure to remove your torch battery and grease the o-ring after every dive to prolong its life.

UV Dive Torch

Like a regular torch in appearance, a UV torch is a fun toy for people who love night diving. Many types of coral and some other sea life are fluorescent under UV light. So by shining your UV torch around on night dive, the ocean can feel like a psychedelic rave.

Alternate Second Stage Clip

While diving, it is important to have all your gear streamlined and not dangling. One nifty gadget to manage your hoses is an alternate regulator clip. This will attach to your BCD for easy access to your alternate without the risk of it dangling away.

Scuba Dive Slate

Dive slates are fantastic for communicating underwater. They can range in size from the size of your palm to a multipage mini-book. You can write in pencil on the slate underwater to convey something to your buddy when hand gestures fail.

You can also jot things down for yourself to remember on the surface. Slates are super helpful when mapping dive sites or for training exercises as well.

Double-sided Clips

Divers are always looking for places to attach their gear. A spare double-sided clip can solve many gear attachment issues and is a hot commodity on any dive boat. Having a couple of these in your dive bag will help you keep your gear straight and may even make you very popular with someone who needs one.

Scuba Pointer Stick

Divers, especially dive guides, love pointers. These handy sticks are made of anti-corrosive metal and are multi-purpose. First, they allow you to point out marine life clearly while avoiding touching anything. Second, they can even be used to bang your tank to get other divers’ attention.

On the Boat Dive Gear

Awesome scuba dive gear doesn’t stop with things for underwater. There are a few on-boat items divers swear by.

Fish Identifying Guides

A knowledgeable local has created a fish identifier guide for most places you might want to scuba dive. Not only do these books show you what you may see underwater, but their purchase typically supports local divers or organizations.

Drybag

These waterproof bags allow you to bring everything from your phone to your lunch out on a dive charter with you without the worry of water leakage. Typically, these bags are made of heavy-duty plastic with a rollable closing mechanism that ensures not a drop of water gets in.

Reusable Water Bottle

Scuba diving can be incredibly dehydrating, and you will crave fresh water after every dive. By bringing your own reusable water bottle, you limit the chances that disposable cups and plastic bottles end up in the ocean.

Reef-Safe Sunscreen

When spending long exciting days out on a dive boat, the last thing many people consider is sunscreen. However, it is common to get sunburnt during surface intervals, and sunscreen is essential! The beautiful reef can be harmed by chemicals in many sunscreens, so be sure to only apply reef-safe sunscreen if you intend to dive.

Scuba Dive Gear Bag

Once you have collected all this awesome gear, you will need somewhere to store it. A dive gear bag is typically an oversized duffel bag with mesh panels that allow water to escape. Durability is key, as many operations tend to toss gear on and off boats, and you want to be sure none of your equipment falls out. There are also travel variations that can be checked easily on an airplane.

scuba diving BCD lined up on boat

Scuba Gear FAQs

Where Do I Find Scuba Gear for Sale?

You can purchase scuba gear either at your local dive shop or online. A local operation is the best option for some items such as fins and dive wetsuits that need to be fitted. However, you may find a better selection online for some dive gear.

How Much Does Scuba Gear Cost?

Scuba diving can be an expensive hobby. However, lower-budget gear will get you in the water just the same. Plus, most popular dive gear brands have price agreements in place to prevent online retailers from undercutting in-person shops. So you can guarantee a fair price wherever you buy.

Is it Okay to Buy Used Dive Gear?

That depends. There are two pieces of dive gear you should rarely buy used, regulators and BCDs. Your regulator is your primary life-sustaining bit of equipment. If you buy used, you cannot be sure if it had been properly maintained throughout its lifetime.

For BCDs, it’s best to buy new since air bladders are prone to leaks that are almost impossible to identify out of the water. If you do decide to purchase a used BCD, be sure to water test it before buying.

Other pieces of dive gear such as SMBs, torches, and even fins are okay to buy used. Just be sure to visually inspect for any wear and tear.

What is the Best Dive Gear?

There is no such thing as the best dive equipment, only the best for you. It all depends on the type of diving you do and your personal preferences. For example, my husband is also a dive professional and loves his jet fins. But I find them too wide and clunky for me and prefer my longer paddle-style fins. As they say, to each their own.

Is Scuba Gear Heavy?

Dive gear can be heavy on land, especially when wet. However, in the water, this is no longer an issue as you dive neutrally buoyant. The heaviest piece of gear is your tank, which is why many people choose to rent these.

If you find scuba gear too heavy to manage on your own while on land, there are trolleys and wheeled dive bags you can use. Many dive operations will also lower your gear into the water if you have a mobility issue.

When Should I Buy My Own Dive Gear?

Most beginners don’t need to go out and purchase a complete set of dive equipment. Instead, the more you scuba dive, you learn what gear you like and can begin to piece together a full set as needed. A general guideline for scuba dive gear purchase order is:

  • Small essentials such as a mask, snorkel, fins, and computer.
  • Wearables that need to be fitted like a scuba wetsuit, booties, and rashguards.
  • Essential accessories including an SMB, reel, compass, and dive knife.
  • Big-ticket necessities, including a regulator and BCD. At this point, you will also need a gear bag.
  • Everything else that makes your dive better.

About the Author Alex Dryjowicz

Alex Dryjowicz is an avid writer, blogger, and professional scuba divemaster. A nomad at heart, she spends her time bouncing between the world’s best diving destinations while calling a ridiculously oversized backpack home. She is thrilled to be here at Watercraft Watch, sharing her insights into all things scuba diving.

Leave a Comment: