Newbie questions about gear

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greenacarina
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Newbie questions about gear

Post by greenacarina » Thu Oct 04, 2012 7:30 pm

So, I am keeping my eyes open for some decent used gear to get me started.
Drysuit might be nice someday, but wetsuit should suffice for a while. I know what fits me, so this one is pretty easy to figure out.
The questions I have are mainly about BCD's and tanks.
Tanks first- Size is pretty self-explanatory, but what about material? Aluminum seems attractive in that it's lightweight and tanks are cheaper than steel. I realize that aluminum can't hold quite the pressure that steel can, but what are some other drawbacks? As a beginner who is fine being limited to 60ft for quite some time...would aluminum be a good choice?

BCD's- Dive class had me in a Scubapro "Classic 2", size large. Seemed OK, but had no adjustability between shoulders and waist. Trying to remove it in the water for various skills was difficult. I see some advertised with the size listed, and some without. Are some BCD's "one size fits all"?? Are there certain aspects to a BCD that I should try to avoid? My only experience has been with the rental one I used in class.


Thanks!
Chris

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Jeremy
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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by Jeremy » Thu Oct 04, 2012 7:41 pm

If I could go back and do it again I would buy a couple of steel 100's for my tanks. They have enough gas to keep you happy for a long time and they trim out nicely. You probably don't want a steel tank bigger than that if you are diving a wetsuit.

And I would buy a steel backplate and wing setup. Halcyon makes one of the best, Hollis is good too. I bought a Zeagle Ranger and outgrew it in a year.

The nice thing about the above approach is that it will work great and you will not have to buy new setups if you decide to take your diving further.

Also, consider buying a light from Dusty here on the board. It will make you a much easier buddy for the rest of us to communicate with and keep track of. :)

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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by Nwcid » Thu Oct 04, 2012 7:55 pm

We just started diving a year ago so I understand how you feel. Nice thing is where you live there are lots of great people to help you out and let you try lots of different gear.

Tanks. Go steel especially in the PNW. AL tanks are not lighter. A HP-100 and an AL80 are the same weight. The HP-100 is a couple inches shorter and hold 20% more air. AL tanks end up about 4lbs positive at the end of the dive where steel remains negative. Yes they cost more but if you plan on diving much it will be worth it in the long run. Keep an eye out for used tanks, HP-100's can be had for about $200 most of the time.

Exposure protection. Again keep an eye out for good used dry suits. You can easily find them for under $700 and if you find the right deal about $500. Good thick wetsuits that you will need for here are going to cost half of that. If you plan on diving lots soon you will be wanting a dry suit anyhow.

Look up BP/W for your BC. There are tons of threads on them on here.

+1 on Dusty light.

There is a reason the people in the PNW that dive lots dive the gear they do. It is not because it looks cool but because it works in the conditions we have here. You dont have to go out and throw down $$$$ on new gear but asking questions here can make the most of your $$ on used gear that will work and you can grow with.
John

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Magoi
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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by Magoi » Thu Oct 04, 2012 8:52 pm

If you are free Saturday you should come to the club dive (check it out under Dive Planning). There will be lots of people with different gear you can check out and maybe even try out. If you rent gear you will definitely be able to find an experienced buddy that can show you around a great dive site.

For BCDs, most people in the NW use a back inflate style. The BP/W give you lots of flexibility, as you can get the plate, wing, and harness separately and decide if you want weight pockets, a belt, both, or a system like the DUI. The flexibility and choices makes it harder to choose everything, especially if you are new. You see lots of Zeagles and Scubapro Knighthawks out there for those who do not do BP/W. I used a DUI BCD for several years before switching to a BP/W. The DUI is adjustable from S to XL, but works best for L to XL, I think. If you go with a BP/W, a SS plate is probably best for NW diving, but it is fairly heavy (5-6 lb). You can travel with a BP/W, but some of the other BCDs are lighter and easier for packing if you plan on dive trips.

Agree on the steel. 100s are plenty large after you have enough experience to go easy on air and are a good length. I started with 120s and still use them, but don't need such a large tank anymore. You probably need to be at least 6 ft to use the 120s, as they are tall tanks.

Good luck choosing your gear.
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greenacarina
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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by greenacarina » Thu Oct 04, 2012 9:19 pm

Great info everyone! Sounds like the 100's will be what I want tank-wise. Will start saving up for a drysuit (I've seen some pretty good deals, but none in my size....yet).
So, I saw an ad with a "semi-dry" suit. Is that when it springs a leak? :)
I had never considered the backplate/wing setup, so will look into that as well.
Found a pretty good deal on an older, but recently serviced reg set today...so that's handled.
Already have boots, gloves, snorkel, fins, and mask (but may need to revisit mask shopping...mine leaks a little up the sides of my nose). An interesting quote I heard from someone in my class- "You don't choose your mask, your mask chooses you" :)

Thanks again everyone! You guys are a wealth of information!
Chris

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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by Nwcid » Thu Oct 04, 2012 9:32 pm

Also a good time to buy is Black Friday. HOG has a wonderful sale that is worth the wait.
John

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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by Nwbrewer » Fri Oct 05, 2012 6:43 am

greenacarina wrote:Great info everyone! Sounds like the 100's will be what I want tank-wise.


100's are nice, but go with PST or Worthington. Fabers are ridiculously negative. There are some good deals on some HP119's on CL right now too.


greenacarina wrote:So, I saw an ad with a "semi-dry" suit. Is that when it springs a leak? :)


Is Pauli finally selling his drysuit? A "semi dry" is like a wetsuit with seals.

greenacarina wrote:I had never considered the backplate/wing setup, so will look into that as well.


Come up to an MMM dive sometime and you can try one out.

greenacarina wrote:Found a pretty good deal on an older, but recently serviced reg set today...so that's handled.


What brand? Some older regs are very difficult (or just expensive) to get serviced. Factor that in when buying used.
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fmerkel
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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by fmerkel » Fri Oct 05, 2012 7:32 am

greenacarina wrote:"You don't choose your mask, your mask chooses you" :)
Chris


Suggest you read this. Most mask fitting, even in the shops (especially in the shops?), is not particularly good.
http://www.caribinn.com/maskfitting.html

Do look at the backplate setup. Around here the BC almost has an entirely different function than the tropics.
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LCF
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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by LCF » Fri Oct 05, 2012 8:13 am

Just to tie a bunch of information together: One of the big issues in cold water diving is how heavy the equipment is. When you are like me, and the stuff you're carrying to the water weighs as much as you do, you start counting every pound. Anything I take in the water that I have to wear weight to sink has to be carefully considered.

An empty aluminum tank floats, whereas an empty steel tank sinks. That means that you have to carry additional lead to use an aluminum tank. Therefore, for me, aluminum is off the table.

Standard BCs can have quite a bit of padding. Padding works because it holds air, so it takes lead to sink it. BCs can be up to 3 lbs positive, so they're off the table, too.

A backplate system has no padding at all (which you might think would be uncomfortable -- but remember, YOU'RE wearing a bunch of padding :) ) so requires no extra weight to sink. In addition, a steel plate comprises some of your ballast, reducing the amount of weight you have to wear around your waist or in some kind of weight pockets. Some systems, like the DSS one, allow you to mount additional weight easily right to the plate, further reducing the size of a belt. In addition, except for the extremely tall and very short, backplates are one-size-fits-all, because the webbing can be adjusted to fit anybody -- and to fit both thick exposure protection, and thin wetsuits (although it's a bit of a pain).

In addition to buying used, there are several good buys on new dry suits out there right now. The ScubaPro EverDry, although it is a neoprene suit (which has its downsides) is very well priced, at $999 with undergarment -- if one fits you, it's a good buy. Whites has also just come out with a back-zip version of their Fusion dry suit, also priced at $999. This is an incredibly good purchase, because the Whites suit is very forgiving in fit, so if you gain or lose weight, you aren't going to be looking at replacing your dry suit.

As everybody said, come down to the club dive, even if you aren't going to dive, and walk around and look at gear and ask people how they settled on what they are using. You'll see a remarkable uniformity in some things, simply because they work. As a good friend of mine says, "If you dive long enough and hard enough, all your buddies are going to look like us." :)
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greenacarina
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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by greenacarina » Sat Oct 06, 2012 2:17 am

I will try to make it down to a couple dives when my work schedule allows. I know it would be a good education in gear and also seeing how experienced divers do things (procedures, buddy checks, etc...)
All stuff I learned in class, but sometimes that stuff is different in the real world. I still have much to learn!
As far as the reg set that I picked up....it's US Divers (both the primary reg and the octo), hoses all look nice, gauge console has pressure, depth, and compass. Recent service. Seller is an avid diver who I believe owns one of the local shops. Had it hooked up to a full tank for me and it breathes perfectly. Haven't tried it in the water yet, but I have a feeling it will do fine.
One of my (many) other hobbies is photography, so naturally I am dying to take some pics underwater!
Figured that anything of that sort was waaaay down the list until I get my basic dive gear covered, but just happened to stumble across a housing for my little Canon A80 for $30! :)
I'll practice taking macro shots of my hot tub jets until I get the rest of my gear. Ha ha!

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Dusty2
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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by Dusty2 » Sat Oct 06, 2012 8:49 am

Though it may be tough as a new diver I would advise stowing the camera for awhile. It is another item of gear to handle and extra task loading that you don't need till you get other things squared away. If you are thinking photography give special emphasis to buoyancy as it will be a key factor to making good photos.

There are 2 steel 100's for sale on the board right now if some one hasn't already grabbed them. One thing no one has yet mentioned is to look for Hydro and viz dates on the tanks before you consider buying. What may seem to be a good price can be bad if you need to have a hydro done to use them. Viz is not a big deal but hydros run $40 and up and if there is a problem you could be out your money.

Drysuits are the way to go if you plan to keep diving. Everyone tries the wetsuit route but everyone ends up in a drysuit if they are going to dive regularly in the NW. We are coming into the cold season so pool your dollars and go for a drysuit. Just consider striping down to buck naked soaking wet in 30 degree weather. Sound like fun? NOT! No sense wasting money on a wetsuit that you will soon no longer use it.

Best piece of advice I can give you is don't just go out and start buying gear, especially used, without a mentor (experianced diver) to help or at least ask here before purchase. There is a lot of used gear out there that is outdated or ill fitted for NW diving and you will inevitability waste money if you try on your own. The people on the this board are more than willing to help and can save you lots of expensive mistakes.

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greenacarina
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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by greenacarina » Sat Oct 06, 2012 1:01 pm

Good advice on the camera. That's pretty much where my head was at, too. I am all about mastering the basics before I start adding "accessories" (but the camera housing was a pretty cheap and easy decision. I know I will use it later)
Drysuit is definitely on my shopping list and I'm keeping my eyes open for the right deal.
I am definitely aware of watching for out of date tanks, but haven't really been focused on that purchase yet. I figure my BCD (or possible bp/w) and drysuit should come first.
I picked up my rental gear for a pool session tomorrow (to practice my last remaining troublesome skill!), so will get a chance to try out my new (used) reg set in the water.
I greatly appreciate all the good wisdom! I try to be a cautious and well-informed shopper as money is definitely tight.
I don't mind waiting for the right deal to come along.
Dusty, at some point I will be hitting you up for a light I'm sure!

Thanks!
Chris

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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by Nwbrewer » Sat Oct 06, 2012 3:24 pm

Dusty2 wrote: Viz is not a big deal but hydros run $40 and up and if there is a problem you could be out your money.


:eek: :eek: :eek: :eek:

Everett carbonics, is $25/tank for hydro, Fireking is a few bucks less. I can't remember the exact number, but western fire and safety in ballard is in that ballpark also.
"Screw "annual" service,... I get them serviced when they break." - CaptnJack (paraphrased)


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Dusty2
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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by Dusty2 » Sat Oct 06, 2012 5:17 pm

Yeh but you have to fugure the viz and valve service with that too

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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by greenacarina » Sat Oct 06, 2012 5:27 pm

I've noticed a few sellers that state in their ads that they will refund if the tank is no good.
I am keeping my eyes open for tanks that are "ready to dive". I know the right deal will come my way when the time is right :)

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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by coulterboy » Sat Oct 06, 2012 7:58 pm

Nwbrewer wrote:
Dusty2 wrote: Viz is not a big deal but hydros run $40 and up and if there is a problem you could be out your money.


:eek: :eek: :eek: :eek:

Everett carbonics, is $25/tank for hydro, Fireking is a few bucks less. I can't remember the exact number, but western fire and safety in ballard is in that ballpark also.


Another place to go to in Everett is "AAA of Everett Fire Ext Co." by Broadway. I got my tank worked by them, and I got 1 tank soon to be worked by them by next month. As a matter of fact, at least 2 of the local north end LDS send their tanks to this business for viz and hydros. So cut the middleman, and go straight to the source.
When was the last time you did something for the first time?

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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by Nwbrewer » Sat Oct 06, 2012 8:27 pm

coulterboy wrote:
Nwbrewer wrote:
Dusty2 wrote: Viz is not a big deal but hydros run $40 and up and if there is a problem you could be out your money.


:eek: :eek: :eek: :eek:

Everett carbonics, is $25/tank for hydro, Fireking is a few bucks less. I can't remember the exact number, but western fire and safety in ballard is in that ballpark also.


Another place to go to in Everett is "AAA of Everett Fire Ext Co." by Broadway. I got my tank worked by them, and I got 1 tank soon to be worked by them by next month. As a matter of fact, at least 2 of the local north end LDS send their tanks to this business for viz and hydros. So cut the middleman, and go straight to the source.


That's Everett carbonics.
"Screw "annual" service,... I get them serviced when they break." - CaptnJack (paraphrased)


"you do realize you're supposed to mix the :koolaid: with water and drink it, not snort the powder directly from the packet, right? :smt064 " - Spatman

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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by RoxnDox » Sat Oct 06, 2012 9:33 pm

greenacarina wrote:I will try to make it down to a couple dives when my work schedule allows. I know it would be a good education in gear and also seeing how experienced divers do things (procedures, buddy checks, etc...)
All stuff I learned in class, but sometimes that stuff is different in the real world. I still have much to learn!
As far as the reg set that I picked up....it's US Divers (both the primary reg and the octo), hoses all look nice, gauge console has pressure, depth, and compass. Recent service. Seller is an avid diver who I believe owns one of the local shops. Had it hooked up to a full tank for me and it breathes perfectly. Haven't tried it in the water yet, but I have a feeling it will do fine.
One of my (many) other hobbies is photography, so naturally I am dying to take some pics underwater!
Figured that anything of that sort was waaaay down the list until I get my basic dive gear covered, but just happened to stumble across a housing for my little Canon A80 for $30! :)
I'll practice taking macro shots of my hot tub jets until I get the rest of my gear. Ha ha!


Wow, you have an A80 still working? Nice - mine lasted a long time but finally gave up the ghost... Great little camera.

I'll add another echo to those saying hold off on adding the camera to the mix too soon. Speaking from experience, you can get way too engrossed in taking pics and ignore your guages - with potentially lethal results.

Jim
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greenacarina
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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by greenacarina » Sat Oct 06, 2012 9:52 pm

Oh, absolutely. As a *brand new* diver my first order of business is to get accustomed to diving, practice the skills that I've learned, focus on being a good dive buddy, and work on my buoyancy control.
4 short open-water dives and some pool time are virtually nothing experience-wise. I feel like I have the most basic skill set at this point and really want to work on having these things become second-nature.
It's like that feeling when you first learned how to drive. You more or less know what you're doing (passed the tests and all), but it takes some time and experience to get comfortable. I have an idea what I would like to eventually do, but for now it's all about building a solid foundation. I'm going to be sticking to the shallower dives and asking lots of questions!
(and loving it!!) :)


Chris

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Clay
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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by Clay » Tue Oct 09, 2012 1:47 pm

WoW! this is some of the best advice I've heard for new NW divers, can I +1 entire thread?

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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by Gdog » Tue Oct 09, 2012 4:21 pm

Looks like you just did...

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greenacarina
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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by greenacarina » Sun Oct 14, 2012 10:30 pm

As I am slowly starting to acquire gear (as my budget allows) I am left with a question about tanks.
At some point I will be buying some tanks (hp100's most likely), but until then I am hoping there is a dive shop that will rent just the tanks? And if so, what is the approximate going rate?

I got the feeling from my LDS that they would rather rent out the whole setup (BCD, regs, suit, weights, tank)

Thanks,
Chris

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Jeremy
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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by Jeremy » Sun Oct 14, 2012 10:40 pm

Evergreen Dive shop in Everett rents out HP100's for about $10 or $15 per tank.

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greenacarina
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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by greenacarina » Sun Oct 14, 2012 10:49 pm

Perfect! Exactly what I was hoping for. :)

Thanks!

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Re: Newbie questions about gear

Post by KneeDeep » Sun Oct 14, 2012 11:51 pm

Great questions... I went straight to 130's, and glad I did. I suck alot of air starting out as a new diver, but the size helps me be close to others that breath like a bunch of girls.

I also started with with a TransPak style... not a real BP/W but basically the same concept. I just got back from the caribbean, and I was able to easily put all my gear (minus fins and wet suit) in a carry on. Not sure I could do that with a regular BCD. I have a Backplate and harness webbing I will be replacing this week, so I can take some weight off my weight harness. I like the idea of backplate as the foundation, and then I can change my gear by pieces to fit what I plan to dive, and not having to buy a complete setup.
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