SUBMERGE subscriber, Hein Boucher, posed a question that all divers inevitably ask themselves: What is a good price versus quality balance when looking for dive equipment? We consulted industry suppliers on this all-important topic and this is what a few had to say…
STEVE RUSZNYAK – GENERAL MANAGER AT SCUBAPRO
What is a good price versus quality balance when looking for new or replacement equipment? In one word, value. How do you ensure that you are getting good value when purchasing new diving equipment? This eternal question applies to almost any purchase for any activity. It is also particularly difficult for the average person on the street to ascertain good value. Without an in-depth technical knowledge of diving gear or, at the very least, a trustworthy sales consultant who provides premium advice built on integrity, the task is a mammoth one.
The other dilemma is what constitutes a “good price”. This is tricky to determine as one diver’s budget might differ substantially from another’s. However, the old cliché of “you get what you pay for” is generally a good rule of thumb.
There are a number of other factors to consider. Integrity of design is essential, and back-up service including servicing and maintenance costs (especially where regulators, BCDs and dive computers are concerned) is paramount. Also important to consider is the quality of workmanship and materials, as well as the quality control processes used. Again though, how does one definitively measure all of these characteristics of a particular item without being a specialist?
The short answer is to seek out product models and brands that have a long-standing reputation for quality and reliability and that offer premium service including good warranty policies, reasonable servicing costs and worldwide distribution.
In my opinion, another important factor is to support authorised dealers that have a long-standing reputation for reliable advice and stock well-known, reputable brands. It is definitely worth your while to develop relationships with stores that sell for you and not to you. There is a vast difference between a sales person and a sales consultant; it is easy to sell something but it is a lot harder to sell the right thing.
A consultant should understand your current needs, but should also understand your potential needs in the future by asking questions. The consultant should ask you where you see yourself certification-wise in a few years’ time, which environments you will be diving in and what your diving interests are. Being sensitive to your preferences and budget is a must, and the consultant should thoroughly explain the advantages and disadvantages of different designs, including specific benefits. All of these needs should be met with the correct product fit. Thereafter, the consultant should impart essential advice on how to get the most out of your gear.
From a manufacturing perspective, if customers only wanted one product, we would only make one! Each diver’s needs differ greatly, so choosing between price and quality will depend on what the individual diver values. Diving manufacturers and dive store sales consultants have one aim and that is to provide you with the item that offers you value.
GAVIN JONES BRANCH MANAGER AT MANEX & POWER MARINE
As a new diver, you are encouraged to purchase your own equipment, specifically the soft gear. This equipment is important as it will need to have the right fit, be comfortable and be perfectly suited to the conditions being dived in.
The mask is one of the most vital pieces of equipment so it is important to find the correct fit. While a wetsuit also needs to be fitted correctly, its thickness needs to be appropriate to the general conditions that the diver will be diving in.
These are just two of the basics when it comes to dive gear, but if a diver intends on doing more diving, more equipment may need to be purchased. It is recommended that divers start by purchasing a dive computer; this will allow for more valuable time underwater. Then, divers should consider buying their own hard gear, such as the regulator, BCD and cylinder.
All this new gear may seem overwhelming and costly. However, divers do not necessarily have to buy the most expensive items. The key is to make sure that the equipment fits correctly and would not be dangerous or cause undue stress underwater. Ideally, I would recommend buying the best you can afford.
Most of the top equipment manufacturers have researched and developed products that best suit specific types of diving, specific locations and/or the shape of the diver. This research, testing and innovation comes at a cost; therefore, the more specifically designed the gear, the more expensive it is likely to be.
Inversely, cheaper equipment is more suited to fit a larger range of divers and offers fewer comfort features. School gear or rental equipment falls into this category.
Another factor to keep in mind when considering buying gear is that if you travel a lot, you might need lighter gear, due to travel weight restrictions.
It is a good idea to try some demo equipment from various brands and see what works for you and what is comfortable.
As you will likely purchase gear only once in your lifetime, it is important to consider reliability, support and backup. Research whether the brand is globally very strong, and whether spares are easily attainable. The price of the product often speaks to the quality of the materials used as well as its durability and potential lifespan. Often, but not always, the price of the gear reflects its performance abilities (this is especially true for regulators).
In standard recreational diving, a diver often does not notice the performance difference between a top-end regulator and a mid-level regulator. It is more often than not the fit and comfort of the product which gives the perception of better performance, rather than test bench results. Although, it needs to be said that a technical diving regulator can perform beautifully at depth and in the shallows, while an entry-level, unbalanced regulator will perform sufficiently in the shallows but will certainly not be safe at depth.
Fit is the primary consideration for almost any piece of equipment. Even if you love pink and it is the only mask, for example, on offer, if it does not fit, do not buy it! If it fits, then you can kit yourself out in pink from head to toe.
When you start diving you are often influenced by the instructor or dive master on what gear to buy. Take your time, speak to other people, and try out other gear. See what works for you. A good example is the decision between back inflation and jacket style BCDs, which both have pros and cons. You should research and understand the benefits of each and come to understand which is more suited to you according to where you want to dive and what type of diving you are likely going to be doing.
Buying dive equipment is very much a personal choice. Fit reigns supreme, followed by functionality, price and colour. Buy the best you can afford and look after it. Remember to follow servicing recommendations, just as you do with your car, and your gear will look after you by giving you a lifetime of diving pleasure.