Your own gear is a wonderful luxury and the right kit can completely change your diving experience. Dragging on stiff suits and peering through a foggy mask can add stress and unnecessary angst to what should be an awesome experience. On the flipside, buying everything you need is a big investment and it can be hard to know what to buy, when to buy it and where to get it. This series of posts should answer some of those questions and cover off the basics of investing in your own gear.
Diving is a hugely popular adventure sport and many people get so enthused that they go out and purchase their whole kit which then sits dormant in a garage for years before they realise they probably aren’t going to be the intrepid Diver Dan they originally thought. This means there is a huge market for second hand goods which can be a great way to pick up gear at a lower price, but do be careful about how old it is, where it has been stored and always get it serviced properly before using it. As you would expect with any second-hand purchase, it’s at your own risk and if it doesn’t work or fit you can’t take it back to an experienced sales person for help.
So let’s start at the very beginning with the most important thing you will ever buy…
Your mask is the first thing you should buy even if it’s the only thing you can afford. It’s the key to completing your dive with full visibility and comfort. A foggy, leaking mask will cause you no end of bother and really impact your enjoyment of the dive. It’s important to get fitted properly and try a whole range of styles, faces are all unique so it’s not a one size fits all system.
Two things you want in a mask is a silicone skirt and tempered glass lenses, this means it will be super soft and safe to wear. In your search you will also see references to the terms low-volume or low-profile meaning it sits close to your face giving a wide field of vision with minimal interference. If you’re based in NZ then head to Wettie for the largest range of top quality masks, they have a great video (embedded below) which explains more about trying and buying. If you wear glasses then there are also lots of styles that will allow a prescription so you can enjoy the underwater world in full HD.
I personally wear the Oceanic Shadow Mask in mini which I absolutely love, it has a neoprene band which is a godsend if you have long hair that is always being torn out by silicone straps. Alternatively you can buy a neoprene mask strap cover fairly cheaply to put over your existing strap and save your hair. I wear it in a clear silicone which, although it contradicts Wettie’s advice, I prefer and I find can also help if someone feels claustrophobic in their gear.
When fitting a mask you never want to suck it onto your face, instead tip your head back slightly and sit it gently on your face. Then you can feel around the edges for and spaces where the silicone isn’t sitting flush to the skin. It’s a good idea to have someone else there who can check this for you, anything with a gap can go right back on the shelf.
Don’t think that you have to choose the best from what’s available, you should only buy the very best for your face, I’ve ended up with a dud before because I didn’t go far enough afield. It’s like picking a significant other, don’t settle for what’s right in front of you because it’s ‘good enough’ you have to do a bit of searching to find The One and hopefully avoid kissing any frogs like I did.
Once you’ve found Mr or Mrs Right you need to prepare them for aquatic adventuring. Most masks will come out of the factory with a coating on the lens that will contribute to the fogging problem we all encounter. The best way to get rid of this is to burn it off (only do this to glass!) by holding a lighter briefly underneath the lens and watch as it turns black. Give it a rinse and then whack some tooth paste in there and leave it to sit (you only need to do this once). Then just before you jump in the water spit in your mask, spread it over the lens and give it a quick rinse before putting it on and leaving it there, removing it will just allow it to fog again.
Your own mask is the first and most important piece of kit you buy, get that right and you’re 80% there. And remember my gear mantra, passed down from Father to Daughter: If you take good care of it, it will take good care of you. So always wash, dry and store your gear properly people.
Feature Image by: Jeremy Bishop