While it might seem initially intimidating, scuba diving is a very accessible sport. A dive shop typically provides divers with the ability to rent the necessary equipment. Most divers purchase their own mask, snorkel and fins, and rent a buoyancy compensator, regulator and weight belt. Dive shops always provide oxygen tanks, or dive cylinders, as part of the guided experience.
Mask and Snorkel
The mask and snorkel are the most basic part of any scuba set-up. You can often purchase them together, but if you are looking for something specific, your best bet might be to buy them separately. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you might want to consider getting prescription lenses put in your mask, which can be done at many dive shops. As of 2009, a mask (without prescription lenses) costs anywhere from $20 to $150, and a snorkel can run $5 to $60. You should be able to get a quality mask and snorkel set for about $50.
Fins are essential to any scuba diver. There are a few constructions, but the most important consideration is whether you want a closed- or open-heel construction. Closed-heel fins fit like shoes, and you'll need to try them on to be sure you get the right size. Open-heel fins have an adjustable heel strap but often require you to wear a neoprene bootie underneath. In 2009, a pair of fins costs $20 to $100, and you can often get them with a mask and snorkel set.
The buoyancy compensator, or BC, is an inflatable vest that divers wear to achieve neutral buoyancy while underwater. It also serves as a life jacket to aid in floatation before and after a dive. As of 2009, a BC costs $200 to $500.
The weighting system works hand-in-hand with the BC. A diver's weight quantity depends on his body weight and the buoyancy of the water. The most common system is a belt with weights attached, but divers can also have a BC with space for weights inside it. As of 2009, a belt costs $20 to $70, and the weights cost $10 to $20 each.
The regulator is the hose and mouthpiece that runs from the oxygen tank to the diver, providing a constant supply of air. All regulators are equipped with two mouthpieces as a safety precaution, and a computer that tells the diver how much oxygen remains in the tank. While only the most advanced divers will own a regulator, you can purchase silicone mouthpieces that fit on most regulators for less than $10.