New to scuba? Here’s a brief summary of the various pieces of gear we use in scuba diving.
The scuba mask is arguably one of the most important pieces of equipment because it allows divers to witness the wonders of the underwater world! Masks are made up of silicone and tempered glass and are designed to create a watertight seal with the diver’s face. While scuba masks come in a variety of shapes, sizes, designs and colours it is crucial that divers find a mask that fits snugly – otherwise the mask may leak or cause uncomfortable pressure on a diver’s face. The best way to test if a mask is the right fit is to place it against your face and without using the strap gently inhale through your nose; if the mask sticks on your face comfortably it means no air is getting in, and more importantly it won’t leak underwater.
Toronto Scuba Centre has a large selection of scuba masks from all the top brands.
The snorkel allows divers to breathe when swimming just below the surface. Snorkels range in design from a simple plastic tube to more complex semi-dry or dry-top models equip with angled purge valves, ortho-consciously mouth-pieces, crystal silicon flexible necks, detachable two-section swivel adapters for free movement and special three-dimensional pipe curving for the ideal snorkeling angle. On top of all of these features, snorkels also come in a variety of colours!
Boots are worn with open-heeled fins and keep divers’ feet warm and protected. Similar to wetsuits, dive boots are made from neoprene and come in a variety of thicknesses (most common being 3mm, 5mm and 7mm). Although boots are commonly used in colder waters, some divers prefer to use them all the time because they serve as protection while walking to and from the dive sites, and minimize the uncomfortable chaffing that can occur in closed heel fins.
Fins are long flat rubber or plastic extensions of the feet that allow divers to cruise through the water with ease and speed. There are two major classifications for fins: full foot or open heeled. Full foot fins cover the diver’s foot and are more commonly used in warm tropical waters, while open heeled fins are paired with diving boots and keep the diver’s feet warm in cooler waters. It is important to note that open heeled fins are not exclusively used in cold water – many divers prefer the range of motion and comfort these fins provide.
The primary role of a wetsuit is to keep divers warm under water. These neoprene suits fit snugly as to allow only a small amount of water to move against the diver’s skin. They range in thickness (1mm-7mm), size, shape (full body or short) and colour.
Gloves & Hoods
Gloves and hoods are made up of the same material as wetsuits and boots and their primary role is to keep the diver warm. Similar to wetsuits and boots, dive gloves vary in thickness from 1mm tropical dive gloves to 7mm cold-water gloves.
The BCD, which stands for buoyancy control device or buoyancy compensating device, is the inflating vest that divers wear to establish neutral buoyancy. It may be power-inflated from the diver’s air tank or manually inflated by using the mouthpiece. BCDs not only attach divers to their air tanks but also provide storage and clips for alternate air source regulators, gauges, compasses and other dive accessories.
Regulators & Octos
A regulator allows divers to breathe air from their tank. As it’s name suggests, this piece of equipment regulates the pressure of the air that a diver breathes. The regulator reduces the air pressure in two parts: the first stage and second stage. The first stage reduces the air pressure from the tank to an intermediate pressure, which is then further reduced by the second stage to reach a pressure that is safe for divers to breath.
The octo (short for octopus) acts as a backup, second stage regulator is used in the unlikely event that the primary regulator fails or a dive buddy needs to share air. This alternate air source is often recognized by its bright yellow colour and is secured to the BCD for easy access.
Compasses & Gauges
The compass is a navigational tool commonly used by divers. They may be attached to gauge consoles or worn separately on your wrist like a watch. Some dive computers even have digital compasses built into them!
Dive gauges serve as a way for divers to keep track what is going on while they dive. For example, they keep track air consumption (bar or PSI), depth, temperature of the water, no-decompression time, and are often be equip with a compass for navigation. The features included on a gauge vary depending on the model.
Dive computers vary in complexity – from the most basic models, which measure depth, and dive times, to more complex versions that calculate no-decompression limits over multiple dives, track air consumption, temperature, and have built in compasses. Some dive computers are even built into modern masks!