If You Were To Buy One Piece of Equipment, This Is It.

Ocean First   Jul 01, 2022

I've been in this industry for 21 years and I am so grateful for all of the people I have met and conversations I have had. In all those years, the two most common questions I have been asked are "Where is your favorite place to dive?" and "If I were to buy one piece of equipment, what should I get?" Both of these questions don't have easy answers, but as the retail manager at Ocean First, I am happy to shed some light on the latter.

Ownership Is Key

We all know that gear ownership is the more ideal option for any sport. You know how to use your gear, you know when it was last serviced, and you know that it fits-this leads to you having safer and more enjoyable dives. A simple, although imperfect, answer to the question "what equipment should I own?" is the Total Diving System: a regulator, BCD, computer, mask, snorkel, fins, and wetsuit. That sets the foundation for what will keep you safe and comfortable while diving. If your budget allows, the Total Diving System is the best route to take.

Start With The Basics

If you are like me when I got certified as a teen, buying everything right away isn't a possibility. You instead have to buy over time. In that case, the question isn't necessarily what one piece of equipment to buy, but rather what order to buy the gear in. Generally, it makes the most sense to get your snorkeling system (mask, snorkel, and fins) first. These are all items that can make or break your experience and that you want to fit your specific style and size. Leaky snorkels, fins that give blisters, and masks that don't fit your face can commonly cause people to hate their first experience in the water. Even if you don't have a ton of dive trips on your calendar, you can still get plenty of use out of them with snorkeling.

From there, exposure protection is important. Depending on water temperatures, I recommend a wetsuit or rashguard to provide protection from stings, abrasion, and cold. Have you heard the old saying, "There are two kinds of divers, those that pee in their wetsuits and those that lie about it?" I personally took that to heart and always bring my own wetsuit to avoid the gross factor and stay warm...I'm a bit of a wimp in cold!

What About The Bigger Ticket Items?

This is where things get tough...regulators, BCDs, and computers. At first glance, a regulator sounds like the obvious choice for safety; however, if you are looking to get one thing, you can't necessarily just grab a "regulator" because a regulator is comprised of several parts. You will also need gauges/computer and an alternate air attached to make a full system, meaning you would need to buy more than one item. Some people consider starting with a BCD because they had issues with finding rental ones that fit correctly or that were easy to understand how to use. These are very valid reasons to buy a BCD sooner rather than later. If you want the streamlined integrated alternate air, that inflator won't connect to a borrowed regulator, making it hard to match to other gear on the go. If you want the most out of your BCD, you'll want to also own a regulator.

The Most Reasonable Single Piece of Equipment is...

With all of that said, the most reasonable single piece of equipment to own is a stand-alone wrist computer. Not only is it independent of all other equipment, it actually makes the most sense from a safety standpoint. In general, regulators and BCDs are easy to figure out on the fly. Dive computers, with some exceptions, have a steeper learning curve. You want to be able to understand everything your computer is telling you underwater, which is impossible to do if it's just been handed to you.

There are computers in every price range, making it easy to find one that fits in your budget and diving style. If you decide to start with a basic, less expensive model, it can function as a backup computer if you decide to upgrade later down the line. If you want an upper-end computer with wireless air pressure transmitter technology (my personal favorite), you can get the computer on its own to start off, and then add the transmitter once you decide to purchase your own your regulator. With all of the options out there, it doesn't make sense to NOT own a computer.


Regardless of what you choose, any gear ownership is better than none. We can only fit in so many dives in a year, so we should make the best of them by staying comfortable and safe. I always make the analogy between skiing and diving: if you average 12 skiing days a year, you probably own your own ski equipment. Even if you only go on one or two dives trips a year, that is likely at least 12 dives. So why not own dive equipment? It's even more important when you consider that unlike skis, dive equipment is your life support underwater!

Happy diving!

- Kathy Gagliardo, Ocean First Retail Manager & Buyer