As an Instructor people often ask whether they should buy or rent their equipment for when they go diving. There are a few pros and cons for both but when you're starting your Scuba it's hard to know which is best for you.
First of all in pretty much all dive packages your lead and cylinder is included so you don't have to buy your own lead and try to fly it out of the country every time you go diving. And specialist equipment like Nitrox analysers are usually available by any operation offering Nitrox but I've been caught out before on a boat that didn't even have any allen keys for an insert. In this Blog though when I talk about equipment I'm going to be talking about the essentials like regulators, computers, BCDs, wetsuits, masks and fins etc.
SHOULD I BUY?
The first question I usually ask people is what kind of diver are you?
If you only plan to dive once a year or less in warm water only then renting might be the best way to go for you but if you're serious about diving and you want to be comfortable or want to dive at home in the UK as well as abroad or more than a few times in your career then buying is the best.
No matter what kind of diver you are I will always recommend to buy your own mask, fins and computer as your mask has to fit or you will be forever clearing it. Computers convey essential information during your dive and if you don't know what it's trying to tell you because it's not your computer then you're going to have a confusing dive. Your own computer will tell you everything you need to know at a glance and get you back to the surface safely.
The best part about owning your own equipment is you know exactly how it has been kept, how it works and you can customise it to your specific needs. Your own equipment will be comfortable and be in top condition if you look after it.
You will learn exactly how your equipment works and feels, most important with your dive computer. Computers display a whole range of information which can be confusing if you don't know what you're looking at. I've lost count of the number of times people have asked me how to find their last dive on their computer to log their dive because they can't use a rented computer.
I know every time I pressurise my regulators they will work flawlessly because they are inspected before every dive, washed and cleaned after every dive and inspected regularly.
Regulators keep you alive underwater and are your most essential piece of equipment as far as I'm concerned so buying your own means you can feel if they start to act differently before a problem might occur and you can add extra parts like wireless air transmitters that you won't get on rental gear.
You will never appreciate the reduced air consumption and smooth breathe of a high end regulator until you use your own regs.
There is more than one type of neoprene and the better the quality, the warmer and more flexible it will be. Rented suits are usually tired old suits that can be quite rough on your skin with average seals that can let cold water to flow in and out. Holding a new wetsuit next to a cheap rental suit you can literally feel the quality and once you own your own you will never go back to rented.
SHOULD I RENT?
Renting equipment appears cheaper in the short-run but if you're going to be diving more than once or twice a year it's definitely worth getting your own gear. In Egypt for example you can expect to pay around £25-30 per day for a full set of equipment. Put simply a pair of fins will cost you anywhere up to £5 a day, for 5 days diving that's £25 and that's over half way to buying a pair of Oceanic Viper Fins that you can use in the UK and abroad and they only weigh about 1.6kg.
If you're renting equipment you get the benefit of not having to carry any equipment back and forth on planes, but when you do carry your own equipment you do get extra baggage allowance, I had an extra 20kg once flying to South Africa...
If you're struggling to meet baggage allowance then yes renting can be a way to go or you could use the rental money to pay for extra baggage and bring your own kit. Most of my clothing for a warm week abroad fits in carry-on leaving plenty of space and weight for check-in.
Rental gear is often very low spec and used daily which means that the gear gets worn out quickly and won't perform as well as newer or higher spec equipment.
For example I went diving abroad, no names mentioned, and rented regulators for a few dives. They were pretty beaten up and the rubber on the hoses was cracked terribly but I tested them out in the shallows and they seemed to work fine so I continued. The regs continued to work fine until I decided to look up at the surface when the 2nd stage decided to fill with water. Needless to say I didn't look up again during the dive but if I was a novice diver that could have turned into a very bad situation.
Rental kit is often the cheapest/simplest gear available from the manufacturers because the dive centre doesn't want to give away high-end equipment for just a few quid a day that they might never see again. So expect to see basic diaphragm regs, simple jacket style BCDs and a computer with just one button and a lot of abbreviated messages.
Concerning wetsuits, apart from the obvious number of people who have worn the wetsuit before you and what they might have done in them... neoprene compresses at depth and repeated compression reduces the wetsuit's warmth. Brand new a 5mm wetsuit will keep you nice and warm in the water but after a few seasons diving it will probably work more like a 3mm.
Rental gear is often unisex and generically sized so don't expect it to be that comfortable and you won't have that much time to try things on and make sure they're comfortable before jumping . As I mentioned earlier rental equipment, much like school equipment, is pretty basic without added benefits like padding or breathing adjustment so straps often rub and breathing can be rough.
Ok yes; I sell Scuba equipment so I can be seen as biased but I honestly believe buying your own equipment is the way to go. There are definite benefits to renting but why doesn't everybody rent equipment then?
When you start to own your own equipment you feel more confident using it and the more relaxed you are the better your diving will be. The initial cost isn't bad when you consider your equipment can last a good 10 years or more if you look after it. Technology today is improving performance while reducing weight all the time so your cold water rated regulators are now light enough to warrant taking them abroad. If you're looking for the best order to buy equipment I'd recommend: