Take a peek into the gear bags of Editor Ty Sawyer, Associate Editor Brooke Morton, Contributing Editor Jason Heller and Teen Editor Hunter Noren.
Ty Sawyer's Gear
SeaQuest Balance BC I'm generally an if-it's-not-broke-don't-fix-it kind of guy, especially concerning my gear. I want to put it on, get in the water, explore and not think about it. So, when I find gear I like, it stays with me like an old friend. And that is especially true of my BC. It's one of the first SeaQuest Balance BCs. A back-inflate, and one of the first integrated weight models on the market (OK, I'll admit it at this point, I bought it in 1996). A friend of mine from my high school in England actually designed the weight pockets while working as an engineer for SeaQuest and what I love about them is the pure simplicity. A weight pocket secured by Velcro. That's it. No extra clips, tabs, doodads, just an easy in, easy out weight pocket. And being a back inflate, the rest of the BC feels wonderfully open.
Next, my mask. My face prefers the models of mask that Cressi makes. I say my face, because no matter how much I might like the technology or features of other masks, if they don't fit well, they don't. And for comfort and ease, you have to have a mask that fits the kind of face you have. For me, it's a Cressi Big Eyes with a black skirt.
Now comes my life support. First, I have to say the market is crammed with top notch regulator systems. Since I travel so much, I like lightweight and it needs to be able to function without much white glove treatment. I'm hard on my gear, so I shy away from gear that requires too much maintenance and go for workhorses. So, my SCUBAPRO MK25 titanium first stage and S600 second stage have a permanent place in my dive bag. I also use a SCUBAPRO R380 as an octopus because I don't believe in having a back up that isn't a superior reg, too. If I ever need that, I want a good one. And also on the SCUBAPRO front .
I love my black SCUBAPRO full-foot split fins. I've used them in high current and everything in between, all while pushing around and hauling an anchor of a camera system, and they work like a dream. I never get cramps in my calves and my (getting older) ankles and knees don't ache like they used to when I used regular blade fins.
Right now, however, I'm on the hunt for a new wetsuit. I've had a 3 mm Body Glove for years, which they made with the Sport Diver logo. It kept me warm like a 5 mm and was as comfy as an old sweatshirt. It finally, after 6 years, bit the dust. So, I've got a new Body Glove Vapor that I'm wearing, as well as a Bare, both 3/2 mm. And that's my tropical thermal protection. I also have an O'Neill neoprene scull cap and a Henderson Skin, as well as an assortment of polartec vests and hoods that I've acquired over the years for extra layers. Now, if it's cold. Say, anything less than 72°F, I generally (because I'm a cold water wimp) opt for a shell drysuit. I love the ease and flexibility of the DUI CLX 450 for most temperate environments, but if it's really cold, then I don a crushed neoprene Bare XCD2 Tech Dry.
For my computer, the smaller and hoseless the better and I travel with two Suunto D9s. They're super easy to use and to make up for their conservative algorithm, I set the RGBM to 50 percent. The only thing I haven't been able figure out (due to my technically-challenged brain) is the digital compass. I hope I don't get lost.
On the gadget and accessorizing side of things, I only take what's essential. Generally, I always have a safety sausage and whistle. And, of course SeaDrops for my mask and I would not leave home without my CoCoCheznaynay socks for both good critter juju and to protect my feet from friction blisters.
Brooke Morton's Gear Bag
Henderson InstraDry wetsuit I wear the 5mm, which acts like a 7 mm. It's by far the best suit I have ever tried. The suit's material clings almost like rubber, which is why it's easier to don it in a pool or ocean. Or bring a spray bottle. It might be more work to get on, but it far outperforms neoprene.
Mares Kaila BC It's lightweight, yet rugged. Its weight-integration pockets slide in easily and have bright red pull-tabs, making the pockets easy to remove in the water or on the boat.
Mares Abyss regulator I'm impressed with this regulator, which I purchased in 1996. I service it every six months or so, and it has proven to be a great value. It's heavy, but this is something I can overlook given that it has been so reliable.
Mares Volo fins The dive center that I worked for in St. Croix carried Mares and my boss gave me a pair of these fins. I wasn't sure I was ready to trade my paddle-style fins, but after a few dives I was hooked. They're extremely comfortable and I think they look pretty cool in photos. For diving in the Caribbean or other low-key environments, the Volo is the perfect go-to fin. However, in environments with strong currents or in situations that involve powering heavy cameras, something stiffer would be needed.
SCUBAPRO Solara mask This is a no frills kind of mask. It fits well and the frame has stood up to lots of abuse.
Cressi Edy computer Easy enough to learn during a short flight (which is what I did). It only has four buttons and is programmable (and looks) like a stopwatch. Everything about this computer is easy, including the planning mode, which I couldn't live without.
Jason Heller's Gear Bag
Wetsuits: I have two wetsuits, and still wear the first wetsuit I ever bought: It is a Bare (formerly 3mm now paper thin after decades of use). For colder dives I wear a Cressi 7mm semi dry. I wear a Radiator rash guard under my wetsuit at all times it is by far the warmest and thinnest piece of super material. I also wear a hood on every dive.
BC: I've been using a Seaquest Pro QD, but now have my eye on a Mares Dragon. When shopping for a BC, I look for specific features in a BC, like multiple D rings for accessories to clip onto, multiple dump vales including a rear bottom valve for when you are upside down shooting, and always integrated weights.
Fins: There's only one way to go for underwater photographers, a firm single blade non-split fin that allows you to control your position in the water. I prefer the Mares Avanti line and still use my original pair.
Mask: I use the Sea Vision color-enhancing mask with the pink pane. It has a black skirt, which is excellent for photography, and it creates extra contrast in daytime conditions allowing me to sometimes spot some of the smaller critters on the reef. However, the mask is not the best to use at night.
Snorkel: What's a snorkel?
Teen Editor Hunter Noren's Equipment
Mares X-comfort mask I am using the Mares X-comfort mask. It's a comfortable mask that really lives up to its name. I have had it for years and it is surprisingly resilient, it has withstood scratches and tears, and still performs perfectly.
Regulator My regulator is made up from several different brands. I have tried many types and simply took what I liked best from them all. I have an Aqua Lung Glacia second stage, which I like for its breathing ease; even in the Arctic Sea, it never has frozen up on me. For a first stage I have Aqua Lung's Legend LX, also freeze resistant. My pressure gauge is from Scubapro, I like it for its low profile it is small and never in the way.
Mares Thermic 5mm I have had my suit since I was 15: It is a Mares Thermic 5mm with separate hood. I usually use a Mares rash guard under it to trap water on cooler dives. I like the increased freedom of movement that a 5 mm suit provides compared to a 7mm. This suit was the first suit I ever bought and it has worked well in destinations ranging from Egypt to Germany.
Mares Rapida I prefer stiff, light fins so when I tried Mares' Rapida fins and they were perfect. The stiffness allows me to glide farther on one kick and I like the response they provide when maneuvering through wrecks. The only problem is that the jet that comes off of them is strong so you have to make sure that it is not directed somewhere where silt could ruin visibility.
SeaQuest Balance I have an old SeaQuest Balance. I have yet to find a BCD that I prefer more than this one. It has the bladder on the back so when it has air in it I am not restricted in my movements. Also the detachable weight pockets are great. The only problem is that because the weight pockets are secured with Velcro and if you are not careful and do not clean the fuzz out of them they could slip out.