The Dive Otter

What to Buy When? - Travel Edition

ALL OF THESE RECOMMENDATIONS ARE FOR A RECREATIONAL DIVER IN THE MIDWEST

Scuba diving can become expensive, especially if you’re into gadgets and technology. But do you really need all that gear? Here’s a guide to help you prioritize your purchases, listed in order of importance and with reasons why. Remember, for items requiring regular maintenance like regulators and BCDs, it’s best to buy from a local shop that can service them. Sometimes, you'll get free lifetime parts with your purchase. making it more practical to stick with your local shop, even if it limits your brand options. Supporting your local dive shop ensures you know the people servicing your gear and helps you maintain a good relationship with a shop that fits your vibe.

Mostly Local Diving (Cold Water) or Mostly Travel Diving (Warm Water)?

This matters becase the first couple pieces of gear you should buy will change. The below list assumes you are going to be a mostly a travel diver in warm destinations. If you are mostly local diver in cool and cold water...see this list instead.

As a mostly travel warm water diver, you are likely not going to have a lot of gear. However, the cheapest you can get into diving with your own NEW gear is truthfully ~$2,000. You certainly can rent equipment from most travel destination, but it won't be the gear you know and the gear you trust.

Let us assume you are going to buy your own gear and you already have the basic mask, fins, snorkel....
The GearCostWhy / Considerations?
Wetsuit/Gloves/Hood$5003mm is what you want. If you can spare an extra couple hundred dollars at this point, buy the Bare Reactive so you can eak out a couple more degrees of warmth. The Bare Velocity is another good, cheaper, option and the one I have. I even dive my 3mm for 90% of the summer in Chicago it is so nice.

You have another option as well which is a neutrally buoyant "wetsuit" like the Sharkskin. I have one...it's not as comfortable to wear for me as the 3mm wetsuit...but it is certainly lighter and easier to travel with.
$1003mm Bare Ultrawarm gloves...no other discussion necessary.
$50You may not even need a hood...but if you want one (I do) I would recommend a neutrally buoyant one like the Sharkskin
Computer$500Even though I don't trust rental regulators, you'll be doing repetitive dives with safety stops when traveling so get the computer first. If you do not have enough budget to buy your own regulators, then there is no point buying the Air Integrated computer since you need a transmitter on the 1st stage and well...you'll be renting regulators. If you know you want Air Integration in the future and you are willing to spend $700 right now...buy a Shearwater Peregrine TX and upgrade to AI later.
Regulator Set$1,000This is life support equipment and the one thing that if poorly maintained...can literally kill you. I don't trust the service interval on rental equipment and you won't either once you've seen the rental equipment in remote locations.

As a recreational diver any major brand regulator will be fine...go with whatever your local dive shop can service.
BCD$600Oh man...picking a BCD can start a holy war. I would wait to buy your BCD until you are ABSOLUTELY sure you know what the next few years of your diving will look like. The main choice will be a "jacket" style BCD or a Backplate and Wing (BPW). Jacket style BCDs will serve you just fine...but a BPW feels sooooo much better from a buoyancy/trim perspective....at least for me. If done correctly...a BPW can be substantialy lighter than a jacket BCD for travel. Just remember that the lighter your travel BCD the more weight you'll need to carry if you try and use it for local cool/cold water diving. There is a happy middle place if you want to use your BCD for both.

If you do go BPW for travel...most people should buy an Aluminum plate as a "do it all" BCD until you have the funds to buy more than one.
Defog$15I've used it all. Baby shampoo, spit, some boat mix thing in a bottle...buy yourself a small bottle of Stream2Sea defog and call it a day. It has never failed and it beats all of the other options by miles. (Note: If you don't prep a new mask nothing will help...prep your new mask!)
dSMB$40Do not get the pre-packaged ones or ones that come with their own pouch. Sounds like a good idea...they suck. Just buy a normal one from your local shop...it's probably HOG brand. I prefer closed end SMBs, but open ended are fine too for recreational needs. Your first one does not need to be some 7ft monster...just get a 4ft and do some practice and carry it with you on EVERY dive. Literally every dive...why?
100ft Spool$30You do not need the $120 Apex spool. Your local dive shop should have a ~$30 plastic/Delrin basic spool. If they do not, go to AliExpress and buy one of these...but toss the boltsnap it comes with
Bolt Snaps &
Double Enders
$100Buy at least 4 double enders and at least 4 regular. Don't cheap out or you'll end up buying these twice. Spend an extra couple bucks and get the xDeep brand. Yes..they are better. Bigger finger knob to open the gate and a bigger hook area with a wider gate opening.
Trilobite$30You don't need a dive knife. I repeat. You do not need a dive knife. Get one of these...put it on your belt or chest strap...or some folks put it on the strap of their dive computer.
Torch/Light$150Get an OrcaTorch D710 or D530. They will work just fine for what you need.
Save-a-Dive Kit$100No need to buy everything at once. Put spares of things you buy in a tupperware you stole from your kitchen. If you want some ideas on what to put in it...See Mine
Dive Bag$200You can get a duffle bag on Amazon (make sure it fits the parameters of checked luggage if you want it for travel too) or you can go specialized like a Pelican or Stahlsac. I used cheap duffle bags for 2 years and they worked just fine before I invested in something nicer. You'll have to consider if you are willing to carry a 45lb bag on your shoulder or if you want wheels for the airport. (Note: This is not the "mesh" bag your local dive shop tried to sell you...see below. You don't need this...save your money.)
Whistle/Mirror$50Unfortunately, there are plenty of stories of a boat crew leaving their diver behind. For $50 it's well worth putting a whistle and a signal mirror in a pocket.
Air Integration$300Hopefully you saved your money and bought the more expensive computer above that had Air Integration capability. Buy the Air Integration transmitter module now. If you didn't buy the better computer...well now you need to buy it. Air Integration is a convenience thing, but man is it great.

What You Will Never Need

The GearCostWhy / Considerations?
Mesh Dive Bag$100Yeah...I bought one just like everyone else. It seems like a good idea. Put all your crap in one bag...but it's actually a pain to use. You will be much happier if you buy a dive bag you can also use for travel. There are much better options for boat diving.
Dive KnifeNo.Just.No.Totally unnecessary...we're not hunting things underwater and there are far superior cutting devices. Like scissors. But they are cool..I'll grant you that.
Tank Banger /
Noise Maker
No.Just.No.I swear to $diety I want to stab anyone who has one on the dive that isn't the dive master. Okay maybe I do need a dive knife.
Pointy ThingNo.Just.No.Dude. You're not the dive master! Put that thing away!