A Primer on Diving Gear

primer on scuba diving gear

If you want to go scuba diving, you’re going to need a full set of diving gear. Diving isn’t one of those sports where you can pick up pieces as you go along, slowly adding to your collection as you work your way into the sport. Sure, there are some things that don’t need to be on hand for every dive, and you won’t need all the tools a technical diver uses for recreational diving, but the fact is that most of the equipment a diver takes with them, they need every time out.

Take your tanks, for instance; there’s a piece of diving gear no scuba diver will be insane enough to leave the surface without. Diving without air – well it’s not scuba diving, is it? The irony of that statement is that almost all divers dive with something other than air in their tanks. Oh sure, they use compressed gasses, but they’re not air. Air is defined as the heterogeneous mixture of gasses that occur in the atmosphere. The mix contains impurities, pollutants, areas where certain gasses are more prevalent, the whole concept of air is one big, uncontrolled mix.

That doesn’t work for a diver; they need a scientifically precise mixture of gasses with documented effects on the human body. Why the need for precision? Pressure, in a word, is the reason. Divers operate under high pressures. Because of the way the human lung works, this means that their air has to be supplied at high pressures. This necessarily high pressure amplifies the effects of gasses. A slight irritant at atmospheric pressure becomes a deadly toxin in high concentration. And that’s exactly what high pressure does; it concentrates gasses.

It can get so bad that even the oxygen we breath starts having adverse effects on our bodies. The atmospheric concentration of oxygen is around 21%. Some diving mixes shave that down to 16%; just so that our body can handle high-pressure doses of it. Nitrogen, the other major component of our atmosphere, is also toxic at high concentrations. Deep sea diving mixes often cut it out of the air mix entirely, electing to replace it with helium and hydrogen. This requires specialized diving gear to switch between air tanks for use as you descend to different depths and to switch back when you are on your way up.

And that’s only one piece of diving gear! Admittedly, along with your mouthpiece and air delivery system, your tanks are the most important thing you bring with you when you go down. But there is the rest of your body to worry about as well. You can’t move efficiently without flippers for your feet. You won’t be able to see, and you could actually seriously damage your eyes if you go deep enough without a diving mask. And of course, there’s the suit. Whether you choose a wetsuit or a dry suit, you’ll want something to cover your body when you go down, the water temperature at the surface may seem balmy, but the temperature can quickly turn frigid as you descend to the darker depths of the sea.