Because divers want to achieve depth and some dive gear is positively buoyant, divers must wear weight to descend. The amount of weight required by divers is an individual thing and relies on a variety of circumstances, including the following:
Divers have more options than ever when deciding how to weigh themselves down. Many BCDs now offer integrated weight, which reduces the amount of weight divers wear around their waists. Divers can also decide between wearing hard weights or soft weights on their weight belts.
Just like most things, hard weights have their advantages and drawbacks. Hard weights are made from lead or plastic-coated lead. The plastic coated weights are typically considered more comfortable than their non-coated counterparts.
The advantage of using hard weights is the fact that they can easily be changed. Simply by sliding the weights on and off of the belt, you can adjust the amount of weight you carry on a dive-by-dive basis. For example, if you normally wear a 7mm wetsuit but are now wearing a 3mm wetsuit because you're on vacation in a warm water climate, you can simply slide the unneeded weights off of your belt.
The disadvantage of hard weights is many divers find them uncomfortable and cumbersome. The are a rigid form and, thus, cannot assume the shape of the person wearing them.
Soft weights come in two formats: weight pouches and weight belts. Soft weights are typically lead shot in a mesh pocket.
Divers who favor soft weights appreciate the fact that the weight pouches easily assume the shape of the diver. They shift slightly as the diver moves, which also adds to the comfort factor. Another benefit to soft weights is they are quite versatile. For example, if you feel like your ankle weights are cumbersome, your dive buddy can help you move the weights from your ankles to around your tank or into your BCD pockets.
The disadvantage of soft weights is the amount of weight on the some belts cannot be changed easily. Some soft weight belts are a set amount; a few belts have pouches with Velcro® closures that allow the diver to adjust weight on the belt, but this is not a common belt configuration.
If your original weight belt has seen better days and is showing more wear and tear than it used to, it may be time to replace it. Mesh belts are an easy way to confirm the soundness of your dive gear and keep you safe.
If your original buckle is damaged for any reason, it must be replaced before you dive with it. Keep a spare weight belt buckle in your scuba gear bag and replace your old buckle if you ever think it might fail to perform.
These plastic or stainless steel buckles slide onto your mesh weight belt and keep your weights from sliding along your belt during your dive. Shifting weights can negatively affect your balance and the enjoyment of your dive.
If you use soft weight, weight pouches allow you to store multiple soft weight increments as a single unit. Weight pouches allow you to easily add and remove weights in your BCD. This item also reduces the chances of you loosing individual weights.
The last thing you want to do is find out on the beach or dive boat that something is wrong with your gear, and not have a way to fix the problem. By carrying a save-a-dive kit, you can still safely enjoy your dive or snorkeling adventure just like you planned.