Let’s face it: Humans are not meant to be able to breathe, stay warm, and move freely underwater for an extended period of time. It’s simply not what our bodies evolved for. But guess what? That’s exactly what Scuba Diving is, and that’s exactly what Scuba gear allows us to do! However, scuba gear can be intimidating for newcomers who may think that someone in full scuba gear is doing a Cthulhu cosplay. In this post, we break down each part of the Scuba gear set and tell you what it’s all about. Let’s dive right in:
MaskStarting at the very top, the mask is an important part of your scuba gear set, mostly because it’s what allows you to see underwater. Technically speaking, you could dive without a mask, but then you wouldn’t be able to see anything! Where’s the fun in that?!
Another important feature of the mask is that it creates a pocket of air in front of your face. This allows you to equalize and get rid of that uncomfortable feeling in your ears as you’re descending.
SnorkelUp next is the snorkel. Simply put, it is a long curved tube with an opening at the top and a mouthpiece at the bottom. It allows you to breathe when you’re on the surface, face down in the water. Snorkel is not an essential part of scuba gear since it is rendered useless as soon as you fully submerge in the water. It’s good to have when you want to observe marine life from the surface while conserving the precious air in your tank.
WetsuitsWetsuits (and drysuits) are clothes specially designed to keep us warm and comfortable underwater. The wetsuits are made of multiple layers of fabrics. This act as locks or barriers that stop the escape of warm air. This helps to keep it closer to your body, thus keeping you warmer. When diving in cold climates, a wetsuit is pretty much a necessity if you want to go diving or participate in other water-based activities like surfing. Staying in cold water without adequate protection puts you at risk of hypothermia. If you’re diving in warmer climates like Malaysia and Indonesia, you can get away with wearing just a rash guard, but a wetsuit is still recommended if one is available.
Humans naturally tend to float in water, which is all good if you’re trying to stay at the surface. The little extra weight helps divers to remain fully submerged in the water. Common weight belts are made from fabric or nylon. They are designed in a way that allows weights made out of lead to be attached to them. The weights themselves are available in increments of 1kg. You can wear as many or as little as you need to get yourself in the water. The belts are also designed for easy release. If a situation occurs that requires you to go to the surface, you can easily unhook your weight belt and instantly begin ascending.
FinsFins are yet another essential part of your scuba gear. They help you move through the water without exerting too much energy. There are different kinds of fins designed for different activities like snorkeling and scuba diving. Scuba diving fins are usually 25 to 30 inches in length, have a streamlined design. This allows the water to move along the fin rather than against it. There are closed-heel fins and open-heel fins, which are about equally as common. Open-heel fins tend to be slightly more expensive as they allow you to wear diving boots. This helps to keep your feet warmer when diving in cold climates.
Your regulator, in combination with your tank (explained below), is arguably the only part of your scuba gear that you literally cannot dive without. It’s comprised of the first stage, which is a valve that attaches directly to the tank on your back, and the second stage, which is the part that goes in your mouth which you use to breathe using the air in the tank. The first stage is responsible for depressurizing the air before it’s released into the hose. The second stage can sit comfortably in your mouth allowing you to breathe. It also lets the air out into the water when you exhale, but it does not let water in. Due to that, a diver can even vomit and not have to remove the second stage from their mouth.
TankA scuba tank, or scuba cylinder, is a container usually made from steel or aluminum. Its only purpose is to carry the air that you will use to breathe underwater. Breathing directly from the tank is not possible. The air inside the tank is highly compressed. Hence the first stage of your regulator will decompress the air before sending it down the hose and eventually into your mouth. Before going diving, it’s important to make sure that your tank is securely fastened in place using the straps in your BCD.
Buoyancy Control Device (BCD)The BCD is the jacket-like device that you wear when scuba diving, and its main purpose, as the name would suggest, is to control your buoyancy. What is buoyancy, you may ask? Buoyancy is essentially the balance between the force pushing you up, which is the water, and the force pushing you down, which is the weight of you and your equipment. When these two forces are about equal, you are considered neutrally buoyant. Achieving that, though, is a tad tricky, which is where the BCD helps.
You can inflate your BCD if you want to go up, or you can deflate it for the opposite effect. Mastering your buoyancy and the use of your BCD is one of the most important things you will learn during your Open Water Diver course. Another important function of the BCD is that it comes with velcro straps to hold your tank in place.
Dive ComputerDive computers are fantastic tools that give you real-time information that keep you safe and informed throughout your dive. A dive computer records and uses the amount of time you’ve been diving as well as the depth you’re diving at to calculate the amount of nitrogen that has dissolved into your body, which it can then use to tell you how much time you have left to dive safely and avoid the risk of decompression sickness. They can also record information about previous dives so that you can write that down in your logbook after the dives.
Some advanced dive computers are even able to connect to multiple air tanks and track how much air is in each. Dive computers are somewhat expensive so it is not necessary that you have one as long as at least one person in your diving group has one. Usually, your instructor will be using one and will use the information to manage the dive time and depth.
And there you have it! Now that you know what all the equipment is, seeing a diver in full gear won’t feel so weird anymore! It’s truly magnificent how all these things work together to make diving possible.
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