As a scuba diving instructor, your dive equipment is more than your life support underwater, it is the tool that enables you to work and teach. Having the right dive equipment allows you to concentrate solely on your students and provides you with the necessary gear to be able to teach successfully and efficiently. Your dive gear needs to be the right fit for you, but also fulfil your needs as an instructor.
Dive gear is a big investment. But if you make the right investment and your equipment will serve you well year after year. There are a few different considerations when buying dive gear as an instructor rather than a recreational diver. Whether you are thinking about becoming a scuba diving instructor, already booked on to an upcoming PADI IDC or have just qualified, you want to make sure that you have the right dive gear for your new career. Here are our top tips to help you make the right choice when buying your dive equipment as a scuba instructor.
An instructor’s dive gear should be durable over travel-able.
As a scuba diving instructor, you have the opportunity to work all over the world, but it is much more important that your dive gear is durable rather than lightweight. If you can find equipment that is both, great! But often travel light equipment is designed for a recreational diver rather than professional. When you are diving up to 4 times a day, almost every day, you want to be sure your dive gear will last. Where possible try to invest more in key pieces, such as regulators and BCDs, that will continue to serve you well for many years.
Let’s talk BCDs for dive instructors
You are probably already aware that a BCD is very personal. It is critical that you get the right fit for your body and diving needs. We recommend you try before you buy and if possible, try out friends and mentors BCDs on a dive to see what works for you. As a scuba diving instructor, there’s a few aspects you should also consider when choosing your BCD.
The buoyancy of the BCD is important, not only does it need to give enough lift for you to stay positive, it also needs to be able to support your students if required. In this case, look for a BCD that provides significantly more lift than your weight. If you plan to teach in colder locations, where thick exposure suits or even dry suits are required, you will also need a more buoyant BCD.
Make sure that your BCD has a power inflator. Some models inflate much faster than others. As a dive instructor you want to be able to establish positive buoyancy as quickly as possible. Ideally, the inflator should be located where students can easily see when you inflate/deflate. Some models of BCD has their inflator button right at the bottom, where students struggle to see when you are demonstrating skills.
Check that there are enough D-rings on the BCD to attach required all the accessories you will require when teaching (slates, pointer, torch, SMB, SPG etc). Are they located appropriately for you?
Pockets are also highly useful on a BCD. You can store additional materials such as slates, spare equipment and ropes, as well as being able to pick up any plastic you might encounter during a dive.
Integrated vs non-integrated weight systems
This is personal preference. As an instructor you need to be comfortable in the gear that you are using. If you are most comfortable with integrated weights, then we recommend sticking with these. But remember when teaching courses, especially entry level, you will need to wear a weight belt to demonstrate skills. It’s also useful to carry your extra weights on your weight belt so you can easily hand them to student divers if needed, without throwing off your own weighting.
Jacket vs Wing
As with the weight systems, this is also personal preference. A jacket style does allow you to stay vertical in the water more easily which can aid supervising and teaching. But this is also possible with practice and correct weight placements on a wing style BCD. As above, we recommend choosing a style that you are most comfortable in and if possible, trying out a few different options in the water.
As a tip, during a Rescue course, it’s always worth getting your students to practise the scenarios with different styles of BCD and weight systems so they will be confident whatever gear they encounter in a real emergency situation in the future.
Can you service this brand of dive gear in the locations you want to work?
This is something many new dive professionals forget about when buying dive gear. Some brands are very well supported in some regions, but not worldwide. You want to make sure that the dive gear you buy can be serviced in the areas you wish to work. Otherwise, it could be very difficult and costly to replace a broken part and look after your dive gear properly. If you plan to work in different locations, look for brands with good after sales service worldwide. If you are not sure, ask a PADI Course Director, email the PADI Regional Manager or even get in touch with a dive shop in that area, they will be happy to answer your queries.
What signalling devices should I have as a dive instructor?
As a dive instructor, you need to have both an audible (a simple whistle will suffice) and visual (SMB) signalling device. We highly recommend purchasing a larger SMB (Surface Marker Buoy) over a more compact model to ensure that you and your group are easily spotted even in rough surface conditions. If possible, look for an SMB with an opening at the bottom and oral inflation. This allows you to quickly inflate manually with your alternate but also have the option to orally inflate in the unlikely event of an out of air situation. A self-sealing valve at the bottom ensures that the air stays inside the SMB and a dump valve will allow you to easily deflate and store the SMB. Models with poppers, elastic bands and Velcro are also useful for keeping the SMB rolled up.
What exposure suit or thermal layers do I need as a dive instructors?
Although you may already know what exposure suit you are most comfortable in, don’t forget to consider that as a dive instructor you will be spending much more time in the water. Additionally, even in tropical locations the water temperature can vary throughout the seasons. Therefore, you might want to consider purchasing a few different options, including individual pieces that can be used alone when it is warmer or layered when it is colder. It is helpful to have shorts and a rash guard for protection in the confined water sessions, but also thicker options for the open water where the temperatures can vary greatly.
What dive gear accessories are useful for a dive instructor?
As a PADI instructor, you’ll want a good snorkel as you’ll be wearing it pretty much every day! Make sure that you have a good clip to connect the snorkel to your mask, it’s not so fun having to replace the snorkel every few weeks.
A torch is always a useful part of your gear. Not only for night diving, but also for pointing out marine life to students or having a peak at what’s hiding underneath that overhang. Something compact and lightweight that you can always have clipped on to your gear is handy.
As a dive instructor you must have a knife and compass with you whenever you are in open water. You’ll also need to have this with you on the PADI Instructor Exam. Look for a knife with a sturdy case that can be easily attached to your gear.
Blank slates are highly beneficial. You can use these to keep track of your student’s skills, to map areas or communicate if signals fail you! It’s a lot easier to be able to scribble something down on the slate than to keep going back up to the surface to talk.
Look after your dive gear!
It doesn’t matter how great your gear is if you don’t look after it properly it is not going to last you very long! Make sure that you rinse and clean your dive gear properly after every use. Follow the manufacturers’ recommendations and have your equipment serviced regularly. Your dive gear is what allows you to do the thing you love most, diving, and to be able to earn a living doing what you love, teaching diving, so don’t neglect it!
Ask for advice. Try out different gear. Make a decision that is right for you.
If you are still unsure about what dive gear is best for you as an instructor, ask for advice from people you trust. Speak to your PADI Course Director and other experienced instructors around you. If they let you, try out their gear on a dive or in a teaching scenario to see how it feels to you. There is nothing like first-hand experience. Make sure you consider outside factors such as location and water conditions and this will greatly affect your choice of dive gear. Ultimately you need to be comfortable, don’t be swayed by brand names, colours or trends. Carefully consider what you need to be the best scuba diving instructor you can be.
We are here to help!
We know it can be a bit overwhelming to choose between the wide array of dive gear available. As PADI Course Directors, we’ve pretty much tried every piece of dive gear there is available, both recreationally and in a professional setting. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us either before, during or long after your IDC to ask about dive gear.