Scuba Equipment Glossary

Scuba Equipment Glossary

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BCD's (Buoyancy Compensation Devices)

BCD's are an essential part of scuba diving gear. They look like an elaborate life jacket, yet are much more functional. A BCD harnesses the tank to your back, contains a back pack and is inflatable if necessary. All of the diving gear is anchored to the scuba BCD.

The two most common styles of BCD are the Jacket and wing styles. The vest is inflatable, wraps around your front where it buckles. The wing contains an air cell that is located alongside the tank. These balloons balance the buoyancy in the back because weight is distributed more toward the front. Remember that your BCD can be adjusted to individual buoyancies based on depth, body weight and density. They are graded on lift capacity, or the amount of weight each one can keep afloat.

The BCD should not be of tighter fit than most other scuba apparel and should not squeeze or inhibit breathing. They should have a proper lift capacity suited based on environmental requirements, quick release straps, and pressure-release valves within reach.

Dive Computers Guide the Way

Scuba computers, or dive computers, perform the task of nitrogen management inside a digital device. The software gauges the absorption of gases and can enhance your dive experience by calculating nitrogen management. This is very common tool in the world of recreational diving.

A dive computer will keep track of depth and time you spend underwater, compute the amount of nitrogen present in the your body, and will alert you if levels are too high, guiding you to decompression. This computerized depth tracking allows the diver to stay deeper in the water for a longer period of time.

Some important things to consider when choosing to purchase a dive computer include recognizable manufacturers and consumer guides, ability to handle other mixes of gas, lit and easy-to-read interface, and buttons that are large, spaced apart, and easy to press while wearing neoprene gloves.

Scuba Snorkels

Snorkels may seem like a hindrance to both the scuba diver who is just starting out as well as the experienced scuba diver. Most are not functionally idyllic, and if they are, they tend to be cumbersome. Purge valves in the snorkel are necessary for clearing the water out but they add excessive weight to the mask. A simple, streamlined snorkel without a valve will not suffice for the avid scuba diver. The tube can easily become a water passageway resulting in a healthy swig of saltwater! So who needs them?

Everyone who scuba dives! Regardless of how great of physical condition a diver is in, he or she can quickly fatigue without the use of a snorkel. In 2005, DAN (Divers Alert Network) reported that exhaustion was the number-one culprit in the majority of diving deaths. One must consider what can happen if equipment fails during a surface dive: drifting away from the boat, broken fin straps, an unsalvageable regulator, and BCD failure can create a perilous scenario if no snorkel is available for back up.

So whether you are a novice or a seasoned scuba diver, always include a snorkel as part of your diving gear. Think of it as a crutch you can lean on in the event of an equipment failure.

Scuba Tanks: A Diving Necessity

A scuba tank is made out of steel or aluminum. The latter costs less and is more common, however, but they wear down much quicker than steel. Steel tanks are bit pricier but more substantial when it comes to durability. The only problem with steel tanks is they tend to rust.

Tank size is based on tank size needed to complete a specific task or dive profile, deeper diving you will need more air . The most commonly used tank holds 80 cubic feet of air and the capacity is filled to 3000 psi. They can range from 3 cubic feet "pony tanks" to very large 120 cubic feet tanks. The size needed is based on dive profile, not gender or size.

The pony tank has gained quite a bit of notoriety not as the main source of air consumption, but as a back-up source. It can clasp onto the diving gear with separate regulators and gauges. If any equipment malfunctions, the pony tank holds enough air to perform ascension to the surface of the water. It is useful as an emergency back up air supply only.

As you can see, tanks are yet another critical part of the scuba diver's list of necessities. You should do a thorough search to find the tank that best fits your needs.

Swim Faster with Fins

Swim fins are one of the greatest inventions of diving gear to date. Without them, more energy must be exerted making long sessions of scuba diving next to impossible. Fins allow you to glide through the water with less energy and swim faster.

There are many types of fins to choose from: some include curved, webbed, flexible, split, and stiff. Fins will fit differently on every person, so experiment to find the one that is the perfect fit for you. They should not cause leg cramps after long bouts of swimming nor should they squeeze your heels or toes.

It is best that scuba fins are worn over neoprene scuba booties. Booties offer padding and protection so that fins can be strapped easily to your feet. If you are looking at scuba diving as becoming a long-term hobby, it is very crucial that you purchase high-quality scuba fins. The material that fins are made of varies as much as style, but they must be able to withstand saltwater, sun, and sand.

The Right Scuba Mask for You

Masks are a critical part of scuba diving apparel. There are many sizes and shapes to pick from that offer a variety of options for vision. A 3-pane lens contains a fron lens and left and right side windows. A 4-pane mask separates the front lens in two pieces with windows on the right and left side. Although these two types are the most common, some divers prefer single or 2-pane lenses because they are the most comfortable. They are of lower volume, which is a positive characteristic when diving scuba because there is less space to equalize or clear when flooding.

The shape of the mask is the most important factor as it must accommodate the shape of your face. The skirt must contain top quality-rubber or silicone that will ensure longevity for the life of the mask. Because only full face or diving helmets will anti-fog themselves, you must apply anti-fog drops to your mask. It should not be too large or too small, so you are able to purge the mask effectively. The straps on scuba masks can be in a single or double strap design. The single wraps around the center of the head while a double wraps around the top part and lower part of the head.

A great way to tell if your mask is well suited to you is to hold it up to your face without the straps, inhale through your nose only, and hold your breath. If it sticks to your face and you don’t hear any hissing sound of air leaking, it fits. It must not leak but it must be comfortable to wear.

What to Look for in a Wetsuit

The wetsuit is arguably the most important piece of apparel worn during any scuba diving excursion. It must adhere to the body so as to allow easy movement under water. If the wetsuit is not form-fitting, it will hinder your ability to swim freely. The most important reason for a well-fitting wetsuit is that if it fits loosely the water exchange in and out of the suit will be too quick and rapidly cool the body instead of keeping the diver warm. You will expend energy, use more air, absorb more nitrogen and ultimately shorten your dive time in a best case scenario. In a worse case scenario, you can experience hypothermia and or decompression illness.

One very important feature to watch out for when purchasing a wetsuit is the ability to turn your arms in a full circle with no constriction. It must be snug but not uncomfortable. Most suits are made of neoprene material which can be helpful when a diver is experiencing acute conditions in the water. This includes adjusting to temperature changes in the water and protection from cuts, scrapes, and jellyfish. In order to attain the most protection while remaining comfortable, the wetsuit should have 5mm of neoprene thickness throughout, double lined, and 5mm of steamers as well. A suit needs to be picked based on dive environment only -- this is why a large variety of millimeters is used by all divers and no one suit will be appropriate for every excursion.

Those divers with more discriminating tastes might be compelled to buy a suit with Titanium lining. This can be found between the neoprene and inside the lining of the wetsuit. Titanium is very beneficial because it will prevent heat from escaping the body as well as cold getting inside.