Which gear to dive is one of the most hotly contested concepts in the dive community. While there is no one perfect set of dive gear for all dive professionals, there are certain characteristics that make gear more appealing to those of us who work in diving.
What do you need? Below, you can see the current list of required dive gear for a dive professional from the PADI Instructor Manual. While this is not necessarily all the gear you may want, it is a great starting point:
- Fins, mask and snorkel
- Compressed gas cylinder and valve
- Buoyancy control device (BCD) with tank mount or separate backpack, and low-pressure inflator
- Primary regulator and alternate air source
- Breathing gas monitoring device (e.g. submersible pressure gauge)
- Depth monitoring device
- Quick release weight system and weights (if necessary, for neutral buoyancy, or if required for skills practice)
- Adequate exposure protection appropriate for local dive conditions.
- At least one audible emergency surface signaling device (whistle, air horn, etc.).
- Dive computer or RDP (eRDPml or Table)
- Time monitoring device
- Knife/diver’s tool (Exception: Where prohibited locally.)
- Two surface signaling devices – one audible (whistle, air horn, etc.) and one visible (inflatable surface tube, flare, signal mirror, etc.)
- Dive flag – where required locally
- Instructions for use for dive computer or RDP/eRDPml*
*PADI Instructor Manual – General Standards and Procedures
Instructor Specific Gear
Most of our instructional team have separate pool and ocean gear sets. Those of us who favor backplate / harness set ups in the ocean have more traditional BCDs for the pool. The purpose behind this is being able to demonstrate skills in a manner appropriate for student learning. You want to have gear that, as much as possible, resembles the gear your students will be using so a good place to start is finding out what type of gear the dive shop you hope to work for uses in their rental fleet.
Additionally, you may need a second wetsuit if the pool you teach in is a drastically different temperature than the Open Water site you do your dives in.
If your dive shop teaches students to use a dive computer, you must use a dive computer. Students learn from role-model behavior, so you should be using the gear you are teaching them to use. You should also have the instructions for your computer and the computer that the shop you work for keeps in their rental fleet available to you. Most dive computer manuals are available to download for free on the manufacturer’s website.
While recreational divers enjoy the ability to not dive if they experience a minor gear problem, such as breaking the strap on their favorite mask on the boat ride to the site, instructors ending a dive for the same reason could hinder a dive operation and provide poor customer service. Dive professionals should do their best to prepare for gear issues by practicing redundancy. Some of the more popular redundancy options among our senior staff include having both pressure gauges and transmitters, having two dive computers on every dive, and having an extra full tank at the dive site. All current and future instructors should consider carrying two masks with them when they teach (some of our staff are known to have two masks on them, one in their float, and another one in their car at the dive site just in case).
Specialty Instructor Gear
Depending on what specialty courses you train to teach, you will need specialized gear for that course. Ask your Specialty Instructor Trainer what gear she or he recommends for that course. Some examples of common specialty-specific gear include wreck or cave reels, dive lights, and fish identification slates.
Where to Get Your Gear
Go to your local dive shop! As a new dive professional, you can gain a lot of insight into gear choices by talking to the senior instructors at the dive shop you are training at. Do not buy dive gear online unless the dive shop you are training with does not sell gear and there are no good local dive centers near you. You do not want to spend a lot of money only to come into your first day of the Instructor Development Course and find out that the gear you purchased will significantly hinder your success in the program. A dive shop that is a professional development center will usually work with future dive professionals to create dive gear packages to fit their dive and budgetary needs.
Renting Gear vs. Buying Gear
If you are looking at working as a dive professional, renting gear should not be on your list of viable options. The volume of rental fees you would incur renting for just your Divemaster and Instructor Development courses would pay for a full set of dive gear. Additionally, it is much more difficult to show demonstration quality skills, such as hovering, when you use different rental gear every time you dive. You are embarking on a lifetime adventure and your gear is your constant companion through the world. You want to find great gear that works for you and will keep you, and your students, safe.