Welcome to The Shipwreck Survey’s new blog! Here we will keep you updated on our latest field schools, research, and discoveries. We will also share insights into many other aspects relating to maritime archaeology.
To kick off our new blog, we decided to cover a topic that many of our past students have asked us about: what dive equipment should you buy or use? We always say that this is a very personal choice, and the answer may be different for everyone. However, there are certain types of equipment that are better suited to particular activities than others. In this series, we will focus specifically on dive gear for underwater archaeologists. When taking precise measurements or dealing with fragile artifacts, you want to focus fully on the tasks at hand and not worry about your gear. While this is by no means a definitive guide to the best gear that everyone should buy, these are our suggestions based on twenty years of diving experience and hundreds of archaeological research dives. We hope this guide will help you in deciding which gear best suits your needs and budget.
One of the first questions to ask yourself though, is whether or not you actually need your own dive gear. It very much depends on your situation. If you are seriously considering a career in underwater archaeology, and plan on diving frequently, conducting lots of fieldwork and also dive for pleasure, then you will probably want to invest in your own gear. Renting a full set of dive gear will set you back between $25 and $75 a day, depending on where in the world you are. You can buy a full set for under $2,000. If taken care of properly, your gear can serve you well for many hundreds of dives, so from a long-term financial point of view, it makes total sense to buy your own if you plan on diving a lot. Besides the obvious cost benefit, you will also have gear that you have picked yourself and therefore fits you perfectly, matches your style, and you are familiar with.
Having your own gear does have some downsides. In order to get the most and safest use out of your gear, you have to take care of it. It needs to be rinsed well after every dive day, and you need a place to dry and store it. Regulators and BCDs need to be serviced on a regular basis, and dive computers need battery replacements which you might not be able to do yourself. Moreover, dive gear is heavy and bulky. If you plan on working on lots of projects around the world, you will have to travel with your gear and shlep it across airports, into and out of vehicles and boats, and wherever your travels take you. It can be very cumbersome, and since most airlines now charge extra for checked luggage, it will cost you money every time you take your gear somewhere by plane.
If you only plan to only dive once in a while, are not sure if your career will involve much fieldwork at all, or you just don’t want the hassle of lugging gear all around the world, then you might not want to spend a lot of money on expensive dive equipment. Dive gear can be rented all over the world, wherever there is water. Just make sure that the gear you rent is in good working condition, it fits well and is suitable for the environment you’re diving in.
If you don’t have the money for a full set of gear right off the bat, you can also choose to buy just a few items. We always recommend people to start with a mask (and snorkel), fins, and wetsuit. These are very personal items that need to fit just right in order to make diving comfortable. They are also the cheapest items to get, and won’t weigh you down as much as a full set including a heavy BCD and regulator will. These items also constitute a full set of snorkel gear, so you will be fully prepared for shallow water surveys and coastal projects.
As you can see, whether or not you should get your own dive gear very much depends on your personal situation and future career. For people who are serious about diving and expect to spend many years enjoying it for work and/or pleasure, it makes sense to have your own gear. See it as an investment that will save you money in the long run while at the same enabling you to enjoy comfortable dives with equipment you know and trust.