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'How To... Buy and Maintain the Right Kit' Page

The information expressed herein should be treated as opinion. No guarantee is given or implied that any advice on the web-site is necessarily correct. Nor might it best suit other divers and clubs due to regional and personal differences. Diving is a risk sport - all advice herein should be validated with advice from your own diving club, governing body, or approved published material before being adopted.

How To...

… Get Kit at Lower Cost & Cashflow

… Understand 'lifetime costs'

Initial price only part of kit costs. Think about wear & tear and depreciation. Decide if you'll kit it until it's scrap or upgrade later. If so, resale value better with tough well respected brands rather than "fashionable" ones. Allow for servicing needs. BCDs and regulators should be serviced fairly frequently. Can cost a lot for exotic foreign kit. Buying UK made kit can have advantages. For BCDs particularly, AP Valves (Buddy) service is second to none: lightning turn-round, highly professional, fairly priced, and no quibble about failures - often even outside warranty period. Apeks valves have respectable reputation these days too. Non-UK kit may be fine for some makes though. Before buying foreign kit, see how many dealers there are and see if can find other divers with same kit to see how long/expensive servicing is. When looking at drysuits, don't forget that seals need replacing typically every 2-3 years. Zips expensive to replace and may last from 2-5 years depending on care and use. Beware when going Nitrox as some rip-off shops insist on yearly cylinder testing for Nitrox fills and charge a fortune for O2 cleaning, blasting, stickers & testing Nitrox cylinders. Bit of a game. O2 clean regs can be just as bad. Note that IANTD say standard air kit can be used for up to 40% Nitrox as long as cylinders filled by continuous blending. Find a shop with continuous blend fills or at least sensible approach to cylinders before committing to Nitrox else will cost you a bomb.

… Find second hand equipment

New divers often fall into three camps. First lot try it on hired/borrowed kit, decide not for them & give up. Second get hooked immediately buy own kit and use it till it drops apart. Third lot are best - jiff-boy types who love the latest toys, do things in fads for a year then move on to next hobby (jet skis, snowboarding, motorbikes…). They spend a fortune on all the best gear, do ten dives, then sell it second hand for half the price they paid or less. Lots of these types around. Track them down and save a packet. Look in "Freeads" type papers, place want-ads yourself. Keep ear to ground among friends. Some dive shops do second hand kit but probably not such good value. Also look out for serious divers who are upgrading. Can be good buys there too. Look on the World Wide Web: useful sites include:

… Get kit given to you

Be brazen here. Spend some time making a prioritised kit list with prices and pass out to friends & relatives (co-ordinate it like a wedding list) so they can get you what you want for Christmas, birthdays, graduation, passing driving tests etc. Don't forget to hint about using the list as reward for passing diving qualifications too!

… Get discounts at dive shops

Dive shops often give discounts if you ask. Rarely offer one if you don't! Negotiate. Ring round for prices and use that to bring price down at local shop. Easier to get bigger discounts if buying more kit. Buy several big items at once if you can and negotiate harder. Get several friends together and do a "bulk buy" deal. Be prepared to walk out of shop if you don't get sort of discount you can get elsewhere - often results in "oh alright then" anyway, and if not go elsewhere (or buy mail order). If hard to get price down, often easier to get extra item of kit thrown in - cheaper for shop than discount and just as good for you. Try the "need a knife - if I buy a reg too now, will you throw knife in?" approach. Good suppliers to ring for low price reference or mail order are:-

… Buy equipment from dive shows

Dilemma. Get lowest prices by far at shows. On other hand, bad news buying from dive shows in principle. Big suppliers make small margins on huge volumes and saturate market. Rest of year sales slow for all so everyday items high margin. If money tight, reign in the conscience and buy from shows to get more kit for budget. If you've plenty of cash, more ethical to just buy from dive shops normally.

… Borrow/hire equipment short term

Club has stabs, regs, cylinders for hire at small fee (currently £5 a day for stab/reg and £2 for cylinder use - airfill at own expense). Hire this as needed at first until own kit built up. Don't be afraid to ask other divers if you can borrow their kit if they're not diving when you are. Some not happy to do that but many ok about it. Second cylinders good to borrow as always spare ones around. Obviously, have to think about possibility of damage/loss. Goes without saying that borrowed kit must be replaced/made good in this case. Consider insurance. Also, return all loaned/hired kit thoroughly washed and in same condition you borrowed it or better. Dive shops hire kit out too. More choice and worth it if club/friends not got what you need, but more expensive.

… Sell off of unwanted kit

As you do more diving, kit needs change. Will want to upgrade some stuff. Often old kit just sits in cupboards unused. Sell it to other divers: helps them and gives you more cash for upgrades. Put ad on club notice board, place ads in "FreeAds" type papers, mail ad to web sites (see "… Find second hand equipment").

… Keep Kit Safe, Cared for, & Legal

… Get cylinders tested

Cylinder testing is a legal requirement. Won't get a fill unless cylinder in test. Two types of test: hydraulic and visual. Law says must have hydraulic every 4 years, and visual 2 years from last hydraulic.

Cylinder Note: this means if you don't use/visual-test cylinder for a while after visual was due, still need a test within 4 years of last hydraulic even if less than two years since visual done. To check test date, look for die-stamps on shoulder of cylinder. Will have things like V4(2T)94. Means visually tested by IDEST station code 2T in April 94. If no "V" in front, test will have been hydraulic. Find stamp with latest date and apply rules above to find when test next due and what type. Some shops add sticker to say when next due. Helpful, but die-stamp is definitive mark. Many testing stations around, not all associated with dive shops. Prices vary so shop around. Don't just go on headline price - in particular, check before leaving cylinder whether they charge for a fail. Some will charge low price or nothing, others charge full price! If an aluminium cylinder fails, bear in mind ally scrap value alone is £10 or so. Negotiate before you leave it for test.

Make sure you insist they phone you before doing any 'extra' work like shot blasting inside. No way for you to prove it wasn't needed and very easy for shops to add it to the cost as a pure scam - having to phone you may discourage them a bit. Beware when going Nitrox as some rip-off shops insist on yearly cylinder testing for Nitrox fills and charge a fortune for O2 cleaning, blasting, stickers & testing Nitrox cylinders. Bit of a game (O2 clean regs can be just as bad). Note that IANTD say standard air kit can be used for up to 40% Nitrox as long as cylinders filled by continuous blending. Find a shop with continuous blend fills or at least sensible approach to cylinders before committing to Nitrox else will cost you a bomb.

… Reduce cylinder valve damage

Be sure not to drop cylinder onto valves. Lie cylinder down whenever unattended and make sure can't roll. If cylinders carried a lot by gripping under cross-flow valve knob, can sometimes lead to bent valve shaft, thus leaks and expensive repair. Carrying on shoulder is highly dangerous if you fall, so best is to fit carry handles round cylinder neck. Comfortable & convenient to carry, stops shaft wear problem, and avoids accidental valve opening. Also, after salt-water dive, jet fresh water up back of valve knob to flush out salt, else accumulates here and eventually attacks shaft and makes threads stuff.

… Wash regulators thoroughly

Most important place to remove salt from is inside second stage. No good hosing through exhaust vents for this (blocked by non-return valves), or into gaps on front housing (no way through diaphragm). Only way to get fresh water inside valve where needed is by pumping into mouthpiece. Insert hosepipe/tap and flush through and out of exhaust vents for minute or two. Shake thoroughly & dry before storage.

… Prevent dry suit seals perishing

Latex seals perish easily. Main causes are skin oils, perfumed talcs, exposure to sun and leaving salty during storage. If stored for long periods, latex can weld to itself and be ruined. Good practice to thoroughly clean and coat latex before any period of storage. Wash thoroughly inside and out with mild detergent. Rinse with plenty clean water. Dry carefully then treat surfaces ideally with special silicone treatment (the Aquasure one seems good), or at least with unperfumed talc to reduce welding.

… Prevent bacteria inside a BCD

BCDs always damp, often warm & soon collect organic matter - ideal for bacterial growth. Main risk is if used for breathing in drills or emergency. Can lead to lung infections. Can also deteriorate inner bag material. Always empty all sea/lake/river water out after every dive trip. Regularly flush through with clean with fresh water. Occasionally disinfect inner bag. Beware using ordinary disinfectants (including the often recommended 'Milton' sterilising fluid) as can discolour and stiffen some inner bag material. Safest to use manufacturer's proprietary fluid - tiny addition to overall cost, no risk of causing problems, and ensures warranties secure.

… Avoid theft of kit

Difficult to do. Luckily most UK divers are an honourable bunch. Often true abroad but some places are very risky. Try not to leave your kit unattended in clear view. Small valuable/desirable items like computers, good torches, knifes etc. are at special risk; keep these with you. Mark your equipment clearly with your name/phone number - this will discourage casual theft slightly as it increases the risk of being caught in possession.

… Increase chances of getting lost kit back

If unmarked kit is lost on a dive (especially everyday items: small torches, knives, mundane watches, reels, goody bags, weight belts …), some divers will take trouble to place a 'found' ad but most will just add it to their kit bag. However, if your name and phone number are marked on the kit, many divers will be good about contacting you. May be that lost kit still not returned if it is marked, but almost no chance of return if it isn't. Write on kit with permanent felt tip or enamel paint etc., and keep it touched up as writing wears. Use international style phone number (+44 (0) 171 …) in case lost abroad.

… Get kit insured properly

Obvious statement, but often not done. Check what your house insurance covers: many policies include sports equipment up to certain values. Find what restrictions there are (UK use only? Limited number of days holiday cover? Maximum single item value?). Decide if acceptable and consider additional insurance if needed. Trend to bundle holiday insurance with package may cover you automatically, but check terms carefully to see.


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