Follow these tips to ensure you buy the scuba gear that's right for you — and your wallet.
1. Start at Your Local PADI Dive Shop. This is where to find the most trusted advice. Well-trained staff will know the local environment and can also advise on what you’ll need for travel. And there’s no substitute for getting fitted by an expert.
2. Look at What Your Instructor Is Using. He or she has spent years perfecting that kit and can offer specific advice for your personal needs based on a professional assessment of your skills.
3. Buy Gear Appropriate to Your Skill Level. That slick tec back plate looks ultra-cool, but it’s not a great choice for a new diver. it’s best to keep your kit simple and suitable for your abilities, then upgrade as your skills and capabilities increase.
4. Stick to Established Brands. These products have been rigorously tested before they ever reach the market. Plus, they offer warrantees, and you’re more likely to find a technician specifically trained to service these brands.
5. Solicit Multiple Opinions. Ask your buddies what they like or dislike about their gear, and seek advice from online dive forums like those at sportdiver.com.
6. Visit Consumer Dive Shows. These events are a one-stop shop for more brands than you’ll ever find in one local dive shop. And nobody knows more about a brand’s line than the folks working the booths.
7. Be Cautious of Used Equipment. When considering preowned life-support instruments or other gear, always have it inspected first. And be sure to service any used purchase before that first dive.
8. Try Before Buying. Most operators keep their rental gear relatively updated, a low-cost way to sample something before buying it. Some even offer demo programs that serve the same purpose.
9. Shop Strategically. Look for preholiday winter sales, or in the spring when the next year’s gear is arriving in shops.
10. Use Sport Diver. We’ve included the latest and greatest gear in both the print magazine and website.