The 7 Pieces of Scuba Gear You Should Buy First

So, you love scuba diving, and you’ve decided to buy your own gear. That, or you’re thinking about buying your scuba gear, and you’re looking for somewhere to start. If that sounds like you, then you’re in the perfect place.

Here are the 7 pieces of scuba gear you should buy first:

  1. Snorkel: assist in breathing on the surface
  2. Scuba Mask: allows you to see underwater
  3. Wetsuit: keeps your body safely insulated in the water
  4. Scuba Fins: help you swim efficiently in the water
  5. Scuba Regulator: reduces the air pressure from your tank to a breathable pressure and flow rate
  6. Dive Computer: keeps you aware of all your dive time, depths, and nitrogen levels for decompression times and safety
  7. Scuba BCD: for surface use and at depth buoyancy adjustments. Also serves to hold regulators and gauges in place.

These pieces of scuba gear are the basics of what you’ll need to go diving safely. You’ll find dozens of options for each of these pieces, which is why we’ve created a guide to help you learn how you should pick your scuba gear!

Scuba Gear: What It Is and How to Pick

If you want to pick the best scuba gear available, then you have to understand how each piece works and what the purpose is. Everybody has different preferences and body shapes that fit different types of scuba gear, so it’s vital that you find what works best for you. Check out our Recommended Gear pages, but also keep an eye out for special sales from our partner.

Snorkel

If you’re looking for scuba gear, then one of the first things you’ll think about is probably a snorkel. These are simple, curved tubes that help you breathe while you’re at the surface of the water, and they’re great options if you enjoy floating on the water and enjoying the scenery. And in this day of rapidly communicable viral diseases such as COVID-19 and influenza, borrowing or renting a snorkel no longer seems like a good idea.

Snorkels may seem like an easy thing to grab. It’s one of the most important things you’ll want to get right if you enjoy swimming on the surface of the water. When shopping for a snorkel, you’ll need to pay attention to the mouthpiece and the attachment. Read our buying guide and list of options for more.

Mouthpieces vary by a person’s mouth size. To fit properly, it can’t be too big or too small for your mouth. If you have used someone else’s snorkel or have rented one, try to use that snorkel to base your decision on, as you likely won’t be able to stick the snorkel in your mouth in the middle of the aisle. 

Attachments need to work well with whatever scuba mask you get; if you don’t get a scuba mask first, then make sure to get a snorkel that’s got an easy attachment. 

Overall, your snorkel should be easy to breathe through and not too bulky. You’ll find expensive snorkels that are focusing on the dryness of the snorkel. The drier your snorkel is indeed on the inside, the more comfortable you’ll be, but you’ll have a harder time with a bulky snorkel that gets in the way while you’re diving. Bigger snorkels also create more drag, which can be difficult for newer scuba divers. 

The main goal of a snorkel is to help you save the air in the tank when you’re on the surface of the water. Think about how you like to snorkel and what your habits are. If you’re someone who doesn’t spend much time on the surface of the water unless you’re entering or exiting, then don’t fuss with an expensive, complex snorkel since you won’t be using it.

Scuba Mask

Your scuba mask is an essential part of your scuba gear. This can be a difficult thing to get perfect, as everyone’s face and head size are different. But, your diving experience will be directly influenced by how comfortable your scuba mask is.

Diving is not safe if you can’t see, so you have to find a mask that fits you well and that won’t fog or slip off easily. Your snorkel attaches to your mouthpiece too, so it’s a good idea to buy these two at the same time, so you know they work well together.

Your scuba mask should seal to your face once you put it on and breathe gently. It shouldn’t be uncomfortable on your nose, and it shouldn’t be too constricting. You can truly see if a mask fits by trying it without using the strap and lying flat. 

You’ll want to look for a few key features in your scuba mask:

  • Shaped Lens: Make sure you can easily see most angles through your scuba mask. Test this out when you’re trying them on.
  • Bulkiness: When you’re diving, you have to think about how much your gear will drag, especially if you’re diving deep. You don’t want a huge scuba mask that inhibits how well you can dive.
  • Tempered Glass: The water can be a dangerous place, and your eyes need to be protected from anything that they could come in contact with. Tempered glass also doesn’t fog up like plastic will.
  • Fully Enclosed Area for Your Nose: Scuba masks work using your nose, and you can’t dive with your nose not enclosed.

If you wear glasses or contacts, then you can get prescription mask lenses. Amazon carries the Promate line of prescription masks. Sometimes this is a replaceable lens, or it’s an entire mask. Either way, it’s important to do this; you need to be able to see as much as possible while you’re under the water. Make sure you buy a scuba mask rated for pressures and not a snorkeling mask. We compare those categories in this post.

The Types of Scuba Masks

There are several different types of masks to choose from. Here are the most common:

  • Single Window Masks. These masks have one, long viewing lens. Normally divers enjoy these kinds of masks because they can see everything around them.
  • Two Window Masks. These masks have two lenses’ to look through, which can prove a little more difficult to use. However, they are easier to equalize compared to other masks, and it’s also a good option for anyone who wears corrective eyewear.
  • Color Correcting Masks. These masks are for people who struggle with depth perception, and they also help define objects underwater. Depending on where you’re diving, these masks can be really handy.

Choosing the correct mask can completely change your diving experience. If your mask is uncomfortable, then you’re going to have a hard time enjoying what you find underwater. Make sure that whatever mask you choose has a wide band that won’t slip easily. I started with a double lens mask for prescription reasons, and I never switched after having LASIK. The rest of the family prefers single lens for wider visibility.

Masks and snorkels should be first on your list

Wetsuit

According to the Minnesota Sea Grant, your body loses heat 25 times quicker in water than on land. The water will always be colder than your body, and the deeper you go, the colder it gets. Your wetsuit protects you by keeping your body insulated and protected.

Full-body wetsuits protect you partially by keeping water out. You lose heat in water because, as water comes in contact with your skin, the water takes heat away from you and leaves your body. A tight-fitting wetsuit will help repel additional cold water from getting inside and mixing with the warm water layer next to your skin.

They also protect you by insulating your body. Insulation, in a nutshell, is all about not letting airflow from you to the outside, and any wetsuit you find will do just that as long as it fits correctly. Things like wrist and ankle seals help this process.You can browse and order a variety of wetsuits from House of Scuba.

There are a ton of options when it comes to wetsuits, so you should have no trouble finding one that you like. While an all-black wetsuit seems appealing, try to think about what you’ll look like in the water. You want to make sure that you’re easily visible to other divers, so bright colors and graphics are a good idea, especially if you’re diving in more difficult waters.

Men’s wetsuits from House of Scuba. Click for more options.


Because of how wetsuits work, they must fit snugly. You want to make sure there are no gaps anywhere, including places like behind your knee and under your arms. These gaps hold air, and that air doesn’t help your wetsuit insulate you. It also leaves you more vulnerable to water flowing in and out. 

Our wetsuit buyer’s guide includes size charts and some general brand recommendations in each category of wetsuit type.

With that being said, make sure the wetsuit isn’t so tight that it’s restrictive. You need to have full-body movement in order to dive, so a wetsuit that’s too restrictive or that makes it painful to breathe only puts you in more danger instead of protecting you like it’s meant to.

Before you take your wetsuit out, make sure that it’s appropriate in the water you’re diving in. Your wetsuit should have information about the ideal temperatures it’s good in, but double-check before you take it out.

Your wetsuit’s thickness contributes to what temperatures  of waters you can dive in. Here’s the typical chart that you’ll find in most dive stores about ideal thicknesses in water temperatures (confirm with your wetsuit’s instructions before diving):

Temperature of the WaterWetsuit Thickness (in mm)
80 degrees Fahrenheit and Above1mm to 2mm
73 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit3mm to 5mm
66 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit5mm to 7mm

Note: Diving in waters that range from 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit requires a drysuit instead of a wetsuit. This is not advisable unless you’re an experienced scuba diver. Never dive in water that’s below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Women’s wetsuits from House of Scuba. Click for more options.


Scuba Fins

The next step is scuba fins! You wouldn’t get very far without them. They propel you through the water so you can move along and see more sights compared to being stuck in one area while you’re diving.

Going underwater, the weight of even a few feet of water above you can be overwhelming, making it harder to move. In turn, this makes you slower, which makes it much harder to swim. NASA explains this well in their discussion on bottle rockets that you can find here.

Fins also help you save energy. If you’re trying to swim without fins under the heavy pressure of deep waters, then you’d be exerting a lot of energy just to get nowhere. That same energy, used with fins, would take you much farther. This prevents things like muscle cramping as well.

Blue fins stuck upright in rocks. Using fins when snorkeling offer benefits.

When you start looking for your fins, think about your body. People who are shorter and smaller tend to use small, flexible fins that aren’t hard on the hips and legs to use. However, divers who are larger or who have much bigger hip and leg muscles go for longer like less flexible fins. 

There are two types of fins you can look into getting, and each has their own advantages and disadvantages. Either pair does the job, but personal preference will keep you comfortable while you’re out in the water.

While basic fins will do the job in most cases, you can think about the following features that advance fins can provide:

  • Foot Strap. The quality and thickness of the foot strap on open-heel fins is important to pay attention too. In most cases, this is the first thing to break; you want to make sure you buy a pair of scuba fins with a sturdy strap.
  • Split Fins. These scuba fins have a split down the middle, which helps you swim faster than you can with the single paddle fins.
  • Flippable Fins. These fins actually flip up when you’re not using them, letting you walk to and from your diving point with ease.
  • Force Fins. These fins are made so that you can swim fast without having to exert too much energy or use too much of your air. These are the fastest kinds of fins on the market. 

Open-heel fins

These are adjustable fins that leave your heel exposed while you’re out swimming. These are great because they’re adjustable and leave room for you to wear protective footwear while you’re diving. While the protective footwear isn’t necessary while you’re out in the water, it’s definitely beneficial to have while you’re entering and exiting. And it prevents blisters.

Open-heel fins are more comfortable in most cases. Because you’re able to wear footwear, it feels more free compared to the restrictive feeling of full-foot fins.

Full-foot Fins 

These fins encapsulate your entire foot. While these are great in some instances, they don’t provide much protection when you’re walking to and from the water. However, in warmer waters, they’re much more comfortable because you don’t have to have multiple layers of material on your feet. These fins are much better if you’re looking to stay at the surface of the water.

Full-foot fins are used in snorkeling as well, and you’ll find that these are typically cheaper than open-heel fins. Pick up a pair of water socks from our gear pages to use with them.

Scuba Regulator

A scuba regulator is part of your “air kit” so to speak. The air in your diving tank is too high-pressured for you to breathe without a regulator. Your scuba regulator reduces the high-pressured air into a flow rate and volume that you can safely breath. The first stage also supplies air to your BCD when needed. This makes it a vital part of your scuba diving gear.

The easiest way to pick out a scuba regulator is by setting a budget. There is a ton of competition when it comes to scuba regulators, and the prices can have thousand-dollar differences. 

Picture of a ScubaPro brand breathing apparatus for scuba
This ScubaPro set (Amazon) includes first and second stages

Setting a budget makes it a lot easier to narrow down your search. There are a ton of different ways you can go about finding one that’s comfortable for you. There are two main types of scuba regulators you should be looking at:

  • Balanced: These scuba regulators are the most common and most expensive kinds of regulators. Because of how they equalize air pressure, they’re a little easier to breathe through compared to unbalanced regulators.
  • Unbalanced: These scuba regulators are a little harder to breathe through, but they still work in every scenario. They’re a little cheaper than balanced scuba regulators, and you’ll really notice the difference between the two when your air tank starts running low.

You’ll also be able to pick the clamp style. Here are the two different kinds:

  • Yoke/A-clamp: These clamps are what you’ll primarily find in the United States. These regulators get the job done, but they’re not the best for deep dives.
  • DIN: Din clamps are the default choice in Europe because they work much better than yokes. These perform the best under pressure in deeper dives. Because of this, they’re also the pricier choice.

Other things you’ll want to pay attention to on any kind of regulator include the mouthpiece and the hose length.The mouthpiece is very similar to a snorkel. If you’ve already got your snorkel, then you can use that as a size basis for your scuba regulator to make sure you’re comfortable breathing underwater.

For the hose length, you want something that’s long enough not to restrict your head movement but short enough not to get caught in your arms or on something else under the water. You’ll also want to make sure that your hose is compatible with your tank by matching up the diameter of each. 

Test your scuba regulator before you use it underwater for the first time so that you know how to use it before you are deep underwater. You can do this at the surface of water that you can stand up in. 

This ScubaPro model on Amazon is one of the most expensive. 

Dive Computer

These watch-like devices sit on your wrist and give you an abundance of information that relates to your dive. These are handy for beginners and experienced divers alike because of how much information they give you—it’s another safety device you can use to double-check yourself.

Dive computers keep track of how deep you are in the water and how close you are to the bottom. They tell you your no-decompression status so you can safely dive for as long as possible. 

They also display information on your tank pressure and your ascent rate. These are all things that you could keep track of mentally, but it’s easy to lose track of time or forget what you were trying to remember.

House of Scuba Dive Computer Selection


Dive computers help you focus on the beautiful things you’re exploring compared to worrying about how much time you have left in the water, how much pressure is left in your tank, or if you’ve gone too deep. Diving can be dangerous, so this extra measure is critical for every diver to have.

In the past, depth gauges were commonplace among divers. These dive computers have taken that role because of how much more they can do. If you’re used to depth gauges, try upgrading to a dive computer!

They can also track your dives, which can be a useful tool if you enjoy exploring. It’s also helpful if you track things like your exercise, or even just how long you were out for. The ScubaPro model above is very expensive. Mares has several less expensive models on Amazon.

How you carry your dive computer is an important aspect when you’re buying one. A common way to display them is on a watch-type strap, but there are other ways, such as mounting them to hoses or your BCD. Decide what’s most convenient to you and go from there.

Buying a BCD can be expensive but good ones will last a long time
Buying your own scuba gear, you’ll need 7 key items. A BCD is one of those

Scuba BCD

A scuba BCD is an important piece of scuba gear, and it happens to be the most complex one as well. This is also called a buoyancy compensator, or a BC. Because of how important your BCD is, it’s important to set the highest budget possible for this piece of gear.

The main purpose of your BCD is to keep all your gear safely attached to your body while also adjusting you to be buoyant at any level under the water or at the surface of the water. This makes it easier to swim down and stay at deeper levels.

An important thing to consider is how well your BCD fits. You want to try it on with your wetsuit and tighten everything down while it’s as inflated as it can get. It shouldn’t constrict your breathing, and all of the controls need to be easily accessible. Make sure that you also have full movement of your arms and legs.

The inflator hose is important as well. It should be easily accessible and extend as far as your arms can extend. While you’re at it, test out the inflate and deflate buttons to see how easy they are to operate and distinguish without looking. 

Like wetsuits, you can find various styles of scuba BCDs. It’s also beneficial to get a bright color or at least something with some type of reflective material so that other divers can see you. 

More Scuba Gear You Can Get

The following items are things to think about carrying that aren’t as important as everything else.

A solid diving knife is something to consider picking up. This is handy to have in case you find yourself in a difficult situation, like tangled up in an old fishing line.

An underwater flashlight is a simple thing that’s useful to have, too. Water gets darker the further down you dive, so it’s important to have one so that you can see and make your way around.

Should I Buy My Own Scuba Gear?

If you’re new to scuba diving, then you might be thinking that you have to own all your equipment before you begin enjoying the hobby. However, that’s not necessarily the best idea.

Scuba gear can get very expensive, so it’s not always realistic to buy everything before you ever jump in the water and try it out. Diving is difficult, and while it is rewarding, it’s not a sport for everyone. Make sure you enjoy scuba diving before you invest hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, into it. 

If you enjoy scuba diving, then having your scuba gear can free you up. There are new places you can go and explore, and you won’t have to worry about the hygiene of your mouthpiece. Especially in the current period of the ongoing COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. Plus, scuba gear can easily fit inside traveling bags so that you can take it with you for adventures far from home.

It’s also helpful to have scuba gear that fits you perfectly. Most of your scuba gear is dependent on your body type and personal preferences, so renting gear can make scuba diving less comfortable.

Most people buy their scuba gear in stages, and these typically have to do with how expensive each piece is. The cheapest pieces of scuba diving equipment are the three most-commonly purchased items: snorkel, mask, and fins. These items are incredibly common and can be found in a variety of stores, as well as online. 

If you find yourself spending a lot of time under the water, then it’s important to invest in a dive computer next. Again, these are very important safety devices that help you navigate through any waters you’re in.

The last things you’ll want to invest in are the higher-cost items, like your wetsuit, scuba regulator, and scuba BCD. These items come at the highest cost and should be bought once you’ve decided that you want to take diving seriously. Sometimes buying a package makes sense. House of Scuba has these sets in different price ranges.

These items let you dive wherever you want, so it’s not recommended that new divers start at this step. While diving and exploring are extremely fun, it can be dangerous.

Lastly, you want to have confidence in your purchases, so definitely get some experience with different equipment before investing in your own. You won’t have to re-purchase something because you don’t like what you originally bought.


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Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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