A scuba diver is nothing without the right equipment, but what is the right equipment? When you ask 100 scuba divers an opinion, you get 100 different answers. They all have an opinion about brands, models, regulator piston versus diaphragm balanced or not, DIN versus yoke, Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) versus wing jackets, dive computers, air or not air integrated or about its algorithm, single tank, double tank, sidemount, long hose configuration or whatever. There is enough choice, and for different sorts of diving, you can choose the right equipment and configuration you prefer.
I will explain the kind of standard equipment I use for my diving in the Maldives. Everyone has their own – and maybe a different – opinion and that is fine.
I will mention some brands and models I'm using as of today (May 2020). Over the past 25 years, I have used different brands and models in regulators, BCD's, dive computers, fins and masks. For sure, I will try and change brands and models again as new equipment arrives on the market each year.
We start with the heart of our scuba equipment. The purpose of the regulator is to reduce high-pressure gas from the tank (200bar) to a low pressure (ambient pressure) gas that is easy to breathe.
The most important for me is that I can breathe comfortably at all depths during the dive and this also during a heavy workload.
I dive with a diaphragm balanced first stage and a balanced second stage. The balanced first stage will give you breathing comfort at any depth with any tank pressure and because of the (diaphragm) design, there is no direct water contact with the moving parts inside the regulator.
The adjustable, balanced second stage is useful because you can close it a little when you have to swim against currents so you don't get a free flow. Strong current can give enough pressure against your second stage membrane to create a free flow.
The Submersible Pressure Gauge (SPG) shows how many bar or PSI you have in your tank, they have a metal or plastic housing, they are with 250 and 350 bar scaling.
My advice: first stage – balanced diaphragm or piston, second stage – an alternate air source (octopus). These are recommended by the brand of the first stage, and any SPG you prefer.
My regulator set: APEKS DST DIN first stage with a TX50 second stage and a TX40 alternate air source with a Suunto SM-36 SPG in a CB1 console
The primary purpose of the BCD is, to compensate volume and weight changes during the dive.The BCD is also a life-jacket. When you inflate the BCD on the surface you become positive so it prevents you from drowning.
The secondary purpose of the BCD to store or hook extra equipment in or on it such as an extra mask, a flashlight (torch), camera, Surface Marker Buoy (SMB), reef hook or anything that you want to take with you during the dive. The most important for me is that the BCD is strong and durable, and that's why I choose a 1,000 denier twin-bag construction. The BCD I use has huge zipper pockets so I can store enough extra gear like 2 SMB's, 2 reels, an extra mask, a laser rescue flare and there is space left.
The BCD also has great air volume so on the surface my head is far out of the water and that's important when you have to wait for the dive boat with high waves. The BCD keeps my body position straight up and in theory, I can sleep on the surface without falling to the front or any other direction. This BCD has enough D-rings to hook extra equipment like a camera, reef hook and flashlight.
My advice: Stabjacket or wing (backplate) but have enough D-rings and or storage pockets
My BCD: Buddy CommandoTD from AP Diving
The dive computer is a part of the basic scuba setup. Since the first dive computer was introduced in 1983, a lot is changed.
When I started diving in the middle of the 1990s, we used dive tables and I bought my first dive computer in 1997. What a luxury was that was, just jump in the water and you knew exactly what your remaining bottom time was. The time I spent with dive table calculations for multiple dives a day was over. There was one other big advantage of using the dive computer – we could dive much longer now. The dive tables were not designed for multi-level dive planning but the dive computer was.
20 years later, the dive computer is much more than just a multi-level, non-deco, bottom time calculator. Now, all computers are decompression computers, so when you exceed the maximum bottom time, it tells you exactly which depth you have to accent to and for how long. Most computers can switch between two different gasses (Air and Enriched Air Nitrox), and even the more expensive ones can also switch between different gasses during the dive.
When you have a tech dive computer, you also can adjust the dive algorithm. Some dive computers have a built-in compass, is air integrated with a sensor, bright colourful display, wireless charging and titanium housing – these are just some of the futures.
Year after year I am diving with an Alladin Pro, the grey one. I bought my first Suunto, a D6, in 2014 because it looked cool and many of my friends used one. As written before, all dive computers do what they have to do as long you dive in the limits of recreational diving.
Nowadays, most computers are for air and Enriched Air Nitrox (EAN). The computer lets you know what your remain bottom time is, tell you what to do when you exceed the maximum bottom time, gives you a warning when your accents speed is too fast, what more do you need? The choice is more based on how the computer looks, how easy you can read the numbers in the display, how easy you can change settings and use the menu. User comfort is the most important reason when considering what kind of a computer the diver will buy.
My advice: any Air/Nitrox deco computer as long you can clearly read the display and you understand how to adjust the settings.
My computer: Suunto D9TX
Your wetsuit is worn to keep you warm and to protect you against marine life. The water temperature in the Maldives is normally between 27c and 30c and that is warm.
Sometimes, the water temperature drops to 25c or even colder. I dive 90% of the year in a 3mm shorty but when you get easily cold, a 3mm or 5mm long suit is not a luxury. The use of a hood will also reduce body temperature lost.
Gloves have always been a discussion point at dive centres. Some centres don't allow you to wear them. I don't have any problem when divers wear hand gloves, as long as they don't touch any marine life. Ask your dive centre about their regulations about wearing gloves before you dive.
My advice: you can dive in a shorty but if you get easily cold, then a 5mm long wetsuit is fine. Wearing a hood is also a good option.
My wetsuit(s): 3mm Bare shorty and a 3mm Cressi long wetsuit
ABC equipment is the old term for snorkel equipment. When you go to a dive shop or check online, then you can find hundreds of brands and models. When scuba diving we need a little more than just masks, fins and a snorkel. A scuba diving mask has tempered glass and fins have to be powerful to swim against currents in the Maldives. Of course, you can go for a snorkel with your scuba ABC set.
It's very important you buy the right gear – nothing will give you more irritation as a leaking mask or snorkel, or you have fins that give you leg cramps.
When you buy a mask you have different options. You can buy double or single glass, transparent or black silicone, transparent or UV coloured glass. There are many options but most important is your mask has to fit well. So, go to a dive shop to try on different brands and models, and buy the one who fits best.
In general, you have 2 different types, basic type without the one-way purge valve and snorkels with the one-way purge valve. I do not use a snorkel on my mask in the Maldives, but it is always good to carry one with you. If you don't want to dive with a snorkel connected to your mask, but you want to carry a snorkel with you, then you can buy a flexible snorkel and put it in your BCD pocket.
Fins There are different type of fins:
closed heeled (full footed) fins
long bladel fins,
open heeled fins
Fins are also personal depending on the power you have in your legs. When you dive with hard fins, the chance will be greater to get cramp in your legs than if you dive with flexible fins.
In the Maldives, I prefer open heeled fins because you wear these fins with boots (shoes) and can be more comfortable when you have to use the ladder from the dive boat. I also prefer little negative fins and flexible blade fins.
My advice: use the fins you are diving with already, the blade fins are my favorite, with split fins it can be more difficult to swim against currents.
My Fins: Mares Avanti Quatro My Mask: Hollis M2.
I take most of these items with me for safety purpose, I will explain what extra I take with me and the purpose of it.
Surface Marker Buoy (SMB)
The sausage is, in my opinion, a must-have in the Maldives. I use this for different reasons,
At the end of every dive, I shoot the SMB from 5-metres so boat traffic on the surface can see that divers are below.
When the current is strong and we are drifting further away or in a different direction than the boat captain thinks we would end up, I shoot the SMB from greater depth (max 30-metres) so the dive boat can follow us.
When we are at the surface and the boat is far away, we can lift it high in the air and give a signal to the boat crew.
Note: I use an SMB that is semi-closed, so I can inflate it with the second stage and hold it out of the water when I'm at the surface. The size of the SMB is 180cm by 15cm red colour.
Spool/Reel The reel is connected to your SMB so you can shoot the SMB underwater, depending on how long your line is on your spool. I have one spool and one reel with me – I use the spool during the safety stop and use my 30-metre reel during a drift dive.
Reef hook The reef hook is used when you have to stay at one place in currents. You hook on a rock or other place (no corals) and the other end you can keep in your hand or connect the stainless steel snap bolt to one of your D-rings on your BCD. I use a single stainless 6mm hook with 5mm climb rope, 150cm long. I prefer a single hook rather than a double hook – a single hook is easier to hook.
Line cutter Small tool to cut thin lines, like fishing lines. Most days I use this tool to remove fishing lines from the reef.
Dive knife A small knife can be a help on the boat or underwater to cut medium size ropes. I use the knife when the boat propeller is strangled in a net or rope.
Flashlight (torch) A small flashlight (1000 /1200 lumen) gives you the colours back underwater. You can light up small holes to find marine life. The flashlight is also a safety item – when you are on the surface during heavy rain and the boat can't see you or the SMB or you, then you can give signs with your light in the direction of the boat. The stronger the light, the easier the boat crew can see you.
Rescue laser flare A laser flare has a visibility of 30km at night and 1.5km to 5km during the day. The one I use has a red laser with a burning time of 40 hours and waterproof to 25-metres
Divers dry box (Dry Egg) A small dry box to take with you underwater, I use this for my Rescue Laser (the rescue laser is waterproof to 25 metres but I dive deeper than that).
My extra items:
SMB - Mares Reel - AP Diving Spool - Unknown brand Line Cutter - Mares Flashlight - Weefine 1200 Dive Knife - Remora Reefhook - Own make Rescue Laser - Greatland Laser (small model) Dry Egg - Unknown brand