A standard full set of scuba diving equipment includes 7 or 8 items, 5 of which are sometimes bought for personal use and taken on vacation. The tanks, weights & weightbelts are usually kept on the boat and supplied included in the diving fee. However, the ‘personal items’ are mask, fins, wetsuit, BCD & regs. There is a certain amount of flexibility for sizes, but in general the better each item fits the diver, the safer, more comfortable and more enjoyable each dive will be. In general, all of a diver’s gear should be in good working order and fit well. The reasons include general comfort, psychological comfort, safety, & to increase the available length of the dive due to air consumption and/or feeling cold. The reasons why scuba diving equipment should fit the diver properly are explained below.
Why your mask should fit properly
- Safety : If you can’t see properly or you are distracted by your mask flooding or being too tight, you are likely to make diving mistakes, or maybe not see something that could cause you or someone else an injury.
- Comfort : A mask that is too tight will hurt. Remember that it should not be tight fitting when you’re at the surface because the pressure of deep water will press it against your face. Some people can dive with no mask strap at all! If your mask is too loose from being the wrong size or design, it is likely to leak salty water into your eyes and nose. Also, some masks are better suited to divers who have a large nose. If the bridge of your nose is large, you need to find a mask that is comfortable to wear.
- Enjoyment : In an ideal dive, you don’t think about your mask at all. It should just be a tool to enable you to see and be so comfortable that you forget it’s there.
- Psychological comfort : If something isn’t perfect, it is likely to cause you to worry. Worry causes stress and reduces your ability to concentrate or relax. Even if your mask’s problem isn’t serious, you worrying about it could cause other problems.
- Dive time : If your mask is giving you problems, you’re likely to be willing to end the dive sooner. However, if your mask is doing its job properly, only other factors will limit your dive time.
Why your wetsuit should fit properly
- Comfort : Wetsuits keep divers warm (not dry) by trapping a thin layer of water inside. That water is heated by the body and maintains a good balance of comfortable temperature. If the wetsuit is too large it can’t trap the water, which will flow out. Therefore, the wetsuit can’t work properly. If the wetsuit is too small, it will obviously be uncomfortably tight and restrict movement.
- Enjoyment : Wetsuits are there to do a job of keeping you comfortably warm, and reduce the friction of the equipment on your back. If the wetsuit can’t do its job properly, your dive will be less enjoyable. If it’s letting cold water flow through or restricting your movement, you will not be able to concentrate on the dive or relax and enjoy yourself properly. While divers don’t need to wave arms and legs around in the water, they do need to be able to move all their limbs without restriction.
- Dive time : If your wetsuit isn’t doing its job properly, it will either make you cold or uncomfortable. This will reduce your enthusiasm or ability to stay in the water for the full predicted or planned length of time. Don’t let your choice of wetsuit limit your dive time.
Why your fins should fit properly
- Safety : You need fins to dive. You also need fins to return to the boat at the surface. If your fins are too loose, they could come off. Fins that float to the surface can’t normally be retrieved safely, and fins that sink to the bottom can’t easily be retrieved either. Your fins are extremely important for your ability to ‘tread water’ at the surface and to dive against a current.
- Comfort : Quite simply, if your fins are too small, they will hurt your feet. If they’re too large, they will be loose and rub and most likely cause cramp and/or blisters.
- Enjoyment : You can’t enjoy a walk if your shoes don’t fit properly, and it’s the same with diving. Properly-fitting fins are vital to ensure that you enjoy your dive.
- Dive time : If your fins don’t fit properly, they can’t work properly. If your legs have to work harder than necessary or in a way that is not normal, you will use more energy. More of your energy results in you breathing your air more quickly than you should. The remaining contents of your tank is usually what dictates when your dive must end. Also, if your fins are too tight or too loose, you will most likely be reluctant to dive for long.
Why your BCD should fit properly
- Safety : Your BCD is extremely important. It connects all of your equipment except your mask and fins. Your tank is attached to the BCD, so are your regs. And although not connected, a lot of your wetsuit touches your BCD. A BCD that doesn’t fit you properly is very likely to cause a problem with one of the other items of your gear. For example, your tank might bang your head. A BCD that’s too tight could hurt you when fully inflated, and a BCD that’s too loose will move around your body during the dive.
- Comfort : The BCD hugs your torso. It needs to fit properly to be comfortable. One too big will flop around, and the heavy tank will not be centralised. One too small will restrict your movement and maybe even hurt you.
Why you should be weighted properly
- Safety : It can’t be stressed enough how important correct weighting is to your diving safety. If you’re too heavy, you will sink until you can make yourself more buoyant. If you’re too light, you will float to the surface. Divers floating to the surface can be in danger of The Bends (DCS) or being hit by a boat.
- Comfort : Your weights should be placed evenly around your body, and in an ideal world you should use as few weights as possible. Don’t forget though that your tank will always become lighter (more buoyant) towards the end of the dive. Therefore, you will need enough weight to remain ‘neutrally buoyant’ during your safety stop.
- Psychological comfort : Buoyancy is the skill that is most difficult to control for new divers. If you’re worrying about hitting the reef or floating up too quickly, you can’t enjoy the dive. Your worry will only increase, and this can cause other problems, such as breathing too much or holding your breath. Then more and other problems will arise, in addition to continued and worse buoyancy problems.
- Dive time : If you’re too heavy or too light, you will use more energy than necessary to maintain good buoyancy. Heavy divers will be moving arms and legs to stay off of the reef, and also use air to inflate their BCD. Light divers will waste energy trying to stay down and not float up to the surface. Both of these divers will consume their air at a much quicker rate than they need to. Consuming your air quickly is the main reason for having to end a dive sooner than planned.
Why your hoses, gauges & straps should be tidily out of the way
- Safety : Anything at all that is dangling from a diver could easily become caught on the reef or part of a wreck. This would cause you to have to free yourself or your buddy to help you. Trapped divers nearly always start to panic, and the most common communication signs for diving don’t normally include the type of things your buddy may need to say to you. Your hoses, straps and gauges need to be kept out of the way at all times.
- Dive time : If you’re not streamlined, you will use more energy to dive through the water. Using this energy wastes your air supply and this will cause your dive to end sooner than planned.
If you don’t have your own scuba diving equipment, the dive centre or boat will supply your rental items. It’s very important to try each item on and make sure that you feel ok in a full set. This process may be boring and appear a waste of precious holiday time, but please understand that it is very important to get the right size for every item. This is time invested for your diving enjoyment, and for your safety.
Divers who like to have their own gear need to choose carefully when they buy each item. Special offers or the latest fashion should not be factors that help your choice. High-quality items that fit properly are vital to ensure safe & enjoyable scuba dives.