Scuba diving is a very equipment-oriented activity. Indeed, it is impossible without certain essential pieces of gear. A diver might be able to get away with an awkward, worn-out weight belt or leave behind a diving knife, but there are other pieces of equipment which add immeasurably to the quality of dive, or upon which his life depends. For example, a bad mask can ruin a dive trip, while a bad regulator might prove fatal.
The first consideration for any dive mask is how it fits on a diver's face. Each face is unique, so a mask can rate very highly and provide good service to most people, but be a poor fit for some divers. That aside, the Cressi-Sub Big Eyes is an excellent dive mask. It was the 2006 Gear Bag choice for Scuba Diving magazine, and had great peripheral view combined the rare and useful feature of having an outstanding downward view. A dive mask is the diver's portal to the undersea world, so having a good range of vision is critical and the Big Eyes provides it.
When it came to easy breathing (a key feature for a regulator), Scuba Diving magazine ranked Aqua Lung's Titan LX as their second regulator choice overall, and their first choice in the under $500 category. Bubbles from the regulator obscuring the diver's view isn't a concern, nor is water leaking into the mouthpiece. Even if it did, the mouthpiece clears very easily. All of that performance comes at a very reasonable price, making this regulator an excellent choice.
The dive computer is usually either the first or second major piece of gear that many scuba divers buy. For those who want the virtues of a console computer combined with the easy access of a wrist-mounted computer, the SCUBAPRO/UWATEC Galileo Luna wrist computer is the best choice. It has a big display that provides all the computer information, can be programmed for a variety of gas mixes, and includes an electronic compass. Perhaps the best part is that it can also serve as a hose-less air tank gauge. The computer has a wireless module that can be installed onto the air hose meant for the pressure and air gauge, and transmit that information for easy display with the rest of the computer's data.
3mm is the normal thickness for a diver in sub-tropical waters, and the best choice here is the Mares Tropic suit. It has good seals around the neck, wrists and ankles, and while it has a tighter-than-normal fit, it does not constrain range of motion. The suit's composition also makes it a quick-drier, which is handy for those one-dive trips where another suit might leave a diver choosing between putting a wet wetsuit in the back and letting it soak everything, or hanging around and waiting for the suit to dry out. Finally, at $160 (as of 2009), the suit offers tremendous value.