Equipment Advice Page

Here at Cardiff Scuba we understand that purchasing your own equipment is a significant investment so we've compiled this guide on how to get the best equipment for your type of diving. Once you've decided that you are going to start purchasing items please come in to the shop to have an in depth discussion about the best equipment to suit you. We deal with a large number of manufacturers to bring you the best equipment at the lowest prices. We also have a flexible finance plan available for your purchases please visit the finance page for more details.

In the meantime we have a large range of equipment for hire. Please visit the kit hire page for more details.

This page contains advice on the following pieces of equipment:

Mask (back to top)

Mask image

What it Does :  The purpose of the mask is to create an airspace in font of your eyes that allows your eyes to focus underwater. As a result it is arguably the most important equipment purchase you will make. Masks can range in price from £10 up to £80 and while there are many things to consider, the most important is comfort and fit.

Things to Consider :

  • Does it fit? Place the mask on your face (without the strap in place) and breathe in through your nose. Take your hand away and the mask should 'stick' to your face and stay in place. If it doesn't do this, it is an inidcation of a poor fit.
  • Is the mask comfortable? Once you have determined that the mask fits, check to make sure the mask is not pressing uncomfortably. Common 'pressure points' are the bridge of the nose, the toplip, and the nose.
  • Are the lenses tempered glass? These will not shatter if they were to break.
  • Is it a low-volume mask? Generally these will be easier to clear if it floods and will give a better field of vision.
  • Is the silicone skirt of a high grade for a lasting and comfortable seal?
  • Does it come with a hard protective case?
  • If you were to need prescriptive lenses, can these be added at a later date?

Snorkel (back to top)

Snorkel image

What it does : All scuba divers will spend a certain amount of time waiting and/or moving around on the surface before and after dives. A snorkel allows you to both use this time constructively and save energy by keeping your head in the water and enjoying the sights below. They will range in price from £9 up to £26, and can have a wider range of features than many people realise.

 Things to consider :

  • Probably most important, does it have a clearing valve? This allows water to cleared directly down and out of the snorkel, rather than up the whole length of it.
  • Does this clearing valve have a protective guard to help stop sand/grit getting into it and p[revent it working properly?
  • Does it have system that prevents water splashing into the snorkel? This can be particularly useful if using the snorkel in choppy seas.
  • Does it have a clip that allows easy yet effective attachment to your mask?
  • Is the snokels' diameter correct? Too narrow and it will be hard to breathe, to wide and it will be uncomfortable and create a lot of drag when in use.
  • Is it collapsable for easy staorage when not in use?

Fins (back to top)

Fins image

What they do : Put simply, fins convert the energy that our legs produce and convert into thrust to allow movement through the water. When you have all of your kit on in the water, movement without fins is almost impossible and very tiring.... swimming with your arms is not effective. With fins it can be amazingly easy. Why do you think fish have fins?!?! Prices range from £25 to £99.

Things to consider :

  • Do you want strap fins or foot fins? Foot fins are cheaper but provide less power and are much more suited to poolwork, snorkelling and very leisurely open water dives.
  • A recent development in fin technology (and there is more to them than you may think!) is split fins. They are designed to make the work of finning as easy as possible with no compromise in thrust. They are a little more expensive however.
  • Are they comfortable? You may have to wear them for up to an hour.
  • If they are strap fins, are they easy to use and are the buckles robust?

Wetsuits (back to top)

Wetsuits image

What it does : Wetsuits and drysuits both fall under the term 'exposure suits'. These are a very important consideration in scuba diving. Our normal body temperature is 37°c. The water we dive in is always going to be cooler than that and so we must take steps to prevent getting too cold. Wetsuits are usually the choice for diving in warmer climates. They are made of neoprene - a synthetic rubber filled with millions of microscopic air bubbles. In brief, they work by trapping a thin layer of water next to the skin which your body will then warm up. This, coupled with the neoprene itself, helps to insulate you and keep you warm. Wetsuits come in a wide variety of thicknesses, types, and qualities. Prices vary from as little as £35 for a thin 'shorty' up to £280 for a full, all weather 3 piece 'semi dry' suit.

Things to consider :

  • 'Shorty' (i.e. no legs and arms) or 'full suit'. Full suits will be warmer and offer some extra protection from possible scrapes or injuries. 
  • What thickness do you want? Where are you going to be using this suit?? Broadly speaking, the thicker the suit, the warmer it will be.
  • Does it fit? This is VERY important. The suit needs to 'hug' you closely in order to function effectively - especially on your torso. You want a suit made of soft, stretchy neoprene.
  • Is it comfortable? While this can be difficult determine while the suit is dry, if it is obviously rubbing somewhere or squeezing your chest so tight you cant breathe properly, it will be no good for diving.
  • Does it have re-inforced knee pads? This is often the place a suit wears through first.
  • Is it a 'semi-dry'  suit? These are thicker, two piece suits more suited to diving in cooler water. They are 'seals' on the wrists and ankles that prevent water getting in and out of the suit, helping to keep you warmer.
  • Is the suit versatile?? If it is a two piece suit, does it offer the option of using each piece on its own according to where you are diving?
  • Does it have strong heavy duty zips?
  • Is it made by a reputable manufacturer?? The last thing you want is to find that the seams are starting to come apart after only a few uses.

Drysuits (back to top)

Drysuits image

What it does : As mentioned abaove, drysuits are another type of exposure suit. As the name suggests, they work by keeping you completely dry for the duration of the dive. This allows you to wear warm clothes underneath the suit, and it is these, along with the air they trap that works to insulate you from the cold.  If you are scuba diving in colder water you may want to invest in a dry suit. They are considerably more expensive than wet suits, but the level of warmth and protection is unmatched by any other form of thermal protection. They take a little to while to get used to, and there are some new skills to master, but most people that have taken the step would never look back. A drysuit is possibly the single largest equipment investment you make, so make sure to consider the options. They can range in price from £300 up to £1000.  

Things to Consider :

  • The first, and biggest choice to make is what you want the suit to made of. Drysuits fall into two broad categories : neoprene and trilaminate (membrane). There are yet more types within these groups, but we'll try to keep it simple here. There are benefits and drawbacks of both types of suit that need to be discussed in more detail than can be reasonably done here. Please get in touch with us at the shop to have a chat.
  • Does it fit? As with wetsuits, fit is absolutely essential. Drysuits have little, if any 'give' in them. If it doesn't fit properly it can restrict your movement in the water. You may want to consider getting a 'made-to-measure' suit.
  • The neck and wrists are 'sealed' to keep the water out with either neoprene or latex seals. Again, there are up and down sides to both that you should seek advice on.
  • Does the suit have a shoulder 'auto' dump or a wrist dump. While they may take a little more getting used to, auto dumps are much easier to use and take a little of the workload off you by venting expanding air from the suit as you ascend to help maintain your buoyancy.
  • Does it have reinforced knee pads?
  • Does it have a heavy duty zip? The dry zip is the single most expensive element of the drysuit. You want one that is tough and going to last.
  • Does it have 'cargo' pockets? These large pockets are mounted on the legs and offer a convenient and tidy place to store some of the many accessories that you take with you on the dive.
  • There are other options such as front entry-zips, warm collars, extendable torso sections, and others. Be sure you know what you are getting.

Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) (back to top)

Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) image

What it does : As it names suggests, the primary purpose of the BCD is to allow you easy and responsive control over your buoyancy while on the dive. It is definately one of the biggest purchases you will make so careful consideration is needed. It is one of the key components of any SCUBA system and modern BCD's now incorporate more functions than just that of buoyancy control. Most of these are touched on below, and all will have a bearing on the price, which will range from £200 to £600.

Things to consider :

  • Broadly speaking there are two types of BCD - 'jacket' style and 'wing' style. There are pro and cons to both, and choosing which one is suitable for you depends on the type of diving you intend to do. This is something we would need to discuss in greater detailin the shop.
  • Does you BCd have an integrated weight system. Is it  easy to use? Does it hold the weight that you need it to?
  • Is it streamlined?
  • Does is have an over-pressure relief valve? This is to make sure the BCD cant be broken by over inflation.
  • Does it have plenty of D-ring attachment points to clip your gear/accessories to?
  • Does it have any impact on your upper body dexterity eg. moevment of arms, head etc ? If fully inflated does it put too much pressure on your chest and interfere with your breathing?
  • Does it have a hard backplate to support the weight of the tank and provide a stable attachment point?
  • Does it provide enough lift? This is very important - the BCD must be able to support you comfortably on the surface with all of your kit on.
  • Does it have pockets that are accesible even when you are wearing it?
  • Is it a proven and relaible design? Is it tough and well made?

Regulators (back to top)

Regulators image

What it does : The reulator is the heart of the scuba system. In short, it is the one piece of equipment that makes scuba diving possible. All regulators will consist of both a first stage and a second stage. They work together to take the very high pressure air from your cylinder and deliver it to you at a pressure you can breathe comfortably. Talk of regulators can become quite technical, but to put it all simply you want one that delivers a smooth and comfortable 'ease of breathe', regardless of the depth you are at or the amount of air you have remaining in your cylinder. Aside from this, regualtor manufacturers have added a wide range of different features to their products - not all of which have a great deal of effect (except on the price!!) Prices (with an Octopus / alternate air source) can start from £190 and can reach over £800.

Things to consider :

  • Is it suitable to the type of diving you are planning to do? In particular, is it suitable for cold water diving.
  • Is it a 'balanced' or 'non-balanced' design? This is important... non-balanced designs do not perform as well and should be avoided.
  • Is the first stage a 'piston' or 'diaphragm' design? There is some debate as to which performs best, however there are more 'diaphragm' types available. Many people prefer them as they are an environmentally sealed unit with less moving parts.
  • Is it nitrox compatible?
  • How many high and low pressure ports does it have to attach gauges/hoses to?
  • Does it have a warranty?
  • Is it a reputable, well-tested brand?
  • Is it made of non-corrosive metals e.g titanium?
  • Is it easy/cheap to get serviced?
  • Does it allow a convenient routing of hoses?
  • Can the purge button be easily found and used, even when wearing thick neoprene gloves?

Cylinders (back to top)

Cylinders image

What it does : Fairly obvious really!! Cylinders (tanks, bottles) are the vessels we use to take all the air we need to breathe underwater with us. Needless to say, they have to be extremely strong to withstand the pressures they are subjected to and should be well looked after. All diving cylinders must be tested evey two and a half years to ensure they are still safe to use. There isn't a great deal of features/points to be considered really. The main influence on price is the size of it - they can vary from £90 to £150.

Things to consider :

  • What metal is it made of? Commonly, cylinders are made of either steel or aluminum. On the whole, in the UK, steel is the metal of choice. Aluminium is most commonly used in more tropical destinations where its increased resistance to corrosion is favorable.
  • Most important - what size is the cylinder? Cylinders sizes are stated in terms of 'water capacity' i.e if you took the valve off and filled it with water, how much would it hold? 10 litres are the smallest that is commonly used. They are usually favoured by smaller people and/or light breathers. 12 litres are the 'norm'. They offer a reasonable trade-off between size/weight and capacity. They can also be incorporated into a twinset at a later date if you wish. 15 litre cylinders offer the maximum amount of air but are heavier and can affect your trim/balance in the water due to their wider diameter.  
  • What pressure is the cylinder? By far the most common is 232 bar. Nearly all dive centres can offer fills to this pressure. 300 bar cylinders are also available and allow you to carry more air. However they are much heavier and may put other components of your scuba setup under extra strain. Also 300 bar fills are not so widely available.
  • Pillar Valves. The most important choice is between a DIN conection or and A-clamp connection. Some valves are convertible and would therefore be the best option. Otherwise, DIN would most likely be favourable as it provides a more secure attachment of the regulator to your cylinder.

Gauges / Console (back to top)

Gauges / Console image

What it does : It is probably common knowledge even to non-divers that depth and the amount of air remaining in your tank are very important peices of knowledge to have under the water. Consoles can come in a variety of shapes and combinations - some will even integrate compasses and even dive computers. As a result of this there can a huge variation in prices - anything from £45 to £500. Try to bear in mind that computers, depth gauges and compasses can all be wrist mounted if you would prefer.

Things to consider :

  • Can I easily read the information my console is giving me? Is it luminous for darker dives?
  • Is the low pressure zone (i.e. the last 50 bar clearly marked so I can easily see when I am starting to use my air reserve?
  • Is the hose length just right? Too short and you cannot see the console clearly, too long and it will create drag and get caught on things underwater.
  • Is it heavy and cumbersome? Ideally you want a neat, compact gauge/console that is not heavy and doesn't create unneccesy drag when swimming.
  • Does it have easy and convenient attachment points to clip it onto your BCD?

Computer (back to top)

Computer image

What it does : It is probably fair to say that nobody really enjoys using dive tables. However, keeping track of nitrogen levels in your body is critical. Put simply, dive computers incorporate a dive timer, a depth gauge and some clever electronics and uses these to do all the hard work for you. A dive computer will display your available no-decompression data and other important information, aswell as offering a whole host of other useful features. These include logbooks, air data, ascent alarms.....One other real benefit of note is the ability of computers to extend your allowable bottom time by eliminating the unnecessary rounding that often accompanies dive table usage. Some computers on the market are geared more towards the technical side of diving. Perhaps unsurprisingly, prices range a great deal from £200 to approximately £1000.

Things to consider :

  • Is it a recognised and reputable brand?
  • Is the screen and the information it displays well laid out and easy to see?
  • Some computers allow you to upload dive data to a PC and store it there. This can be useful.
  • Are the buttons easy to use in cold water with thick neoprene gloves on?
  • Will it handle the use of gas mixes other than air? (nitrox especially)
  • Can the battery be easily changed?
  • Does it have a back light?
  • Are the audible alarms easy to hear in the water?
  • What decompression model and ascent rate does it use?
  • Does it fit easily around my wrist when wearing my exposure suit?