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18 Expert-loved Scuba Diving and Snorkel Gear Buys



“The ocean is calling and I must go” has been my mantra for pretty much as long as I can remember. I first got certified to scuba dive when I spontaneously signed up for a course as one of my college electives while a student at the University of Florida. I completed my open water course in the crystal clear waters of the beautiful Florida springs, then immediately booked a ticket to Australia to go scuba diving along the Great Barrier Reef.

That was almost 30 years ago now, and my dive adventures and world travels since (they usually go hand-in-hand) have taken me everywhere from my backyard in Florida and all over the Caribbean to Papua New Guinea, Palau, French Polynesia and even Arctic Norway, where I dived under ice floes in the realm of the polar bear. 

While there’s some pretty heavy equipment required to go scuba diving — including aluminum or steel air tanks, wet suits (or dry suits, when the water is frigid), buoyancy control devices (BCDs), regulators for breathing and even boots, hoodies and gloves when it’s cold, I usually just rent all of that gear where I land — especially if I’m traveling for longer stints and don’t want to lug everything along.  

Being comfortable in the water and with your gear is key to making the most of your next dive, however. So much of my luggage space on a dive trip gets taken up by smaller accessories and must-haves that make being out on the water and in it all the nicer.

Read on for some items to consider bringing along on your next scuba diving trip.  

Riffe Mantis 5 Mask

Amazon


Finding a mask that fits your face perfectly, doesn’t fog up and has a look you love is pretty personal. Do you prefer a clear skirt around the mask or a black one? Do you want a colorful frame that pops in photos or do you prefer something more neutral? For more than 15 years, I’ve been using this mask for all of my scuba diving adventures. And if I can only bring one piece of gear with me on a dive trip, it’s my Riffe Mantis 5. A favorite among free divers since it has a low volume compared to many other scuba masks, I especially like this mask because it fits particularly well with my wider face frame. The mask’s frame is made of a durable nylon that has never chipped or cracked on me despite countless times being tossed about on a dive boat. And while rental masks I’ve had to use on occasion usually cause me nothing but fogging-up trouble, this mask is made with heat-treated silicon rubber that helps banish that particular problem. When friends ask me what mask they should buy, this is always the first one out of my mouth. 

Scubapro Semi-dry Snorkel 

Amazon


Whether or not to wear a snorkel when you dive is another personal choice you’ll have to make as a diver. While you’ll never need it underwater when you’re breathing from a regulator, snorkels can come in handy at the surface while waiting for the boat and when you don’t want to be breathing air from the tank anymore. One common problem for snorkelers is that water sometimes enters the tube — and it’s never a pleasant sensation when you suck it in while breathing. That’s when a semi-dry snorkel like this one from Scubapro can save the day, since it prevents water from entering the tube from above while you’re face down and enjoying the view. The ergonomic mouthpiece fits comfortably in your bite and there’s even a purge valve you can push to expel any water you might have accidentally sucked inside. The snorkel can be attached to the head strap of any mask, too. 

Neo Sport Front Zipper Wetsuit Vest 

Amazon


Nothing kills the vibe on a dive like feeling cold. Even in tropical waters, chills can set in when you’ve been underwater for a while. When I fear whatever rental wetsuit I’ve been handed might not be enough to keep me toasty, I like having a little extra heat insurance in the form of this stretchy zip-up neoprene vest that packs down tiny. NeoSport by Henderson Diving has been a favorite wetsuit brand of mine for several years because of how comfortable its products are, with the perfect amount of stretch. This vest gives me an extra 2.5mm of warmth that layers perfectly over a bikini, rash guard or full body skin. 

Nanogrip Sunny Tide Bikini Top 

Patagonia


Patagonia is my go-to for bikinis that let you stay active underwater with no wardrobe malfunctions in the mix. Made in a Fair Trade Certified factory, this bikini might look delicate with its pretty backstraps, but it stays snug on your skin, whether you’re squeezing into a wetsuit on a bouncing boat or headed out for a post-dive surf on the beach. It comes in some great mix and match colors and patterns, too (I love the tropical look of Islands Seedlings: Milkweed Mauve). 

Nanogrip Bikini Bottoms

Patagonia


What fits snug up top should do the same job on your lower half. So you’ll want these Nanogrip bikini bottoms by Patagonia on your next dive trip, too. They fit true-to-size with a classic, mid-rise cut and plenty of coverage on the back side. And they come in a range of solids and prints you can mix and match with the Nanogrip Sunny Side bikini tops. 

Spacefish Army Scuba Head Band 

Space Fish Army


You’d think keeping your hair tied back with a hair tie would suffice underwater. But the longer your locks, the more likely they are to surface from a dive all tangled from your mask and currents. That’s why keeping your hair confined closer to your head with a headband like this fun manta-embellished one by Spacefish Army is a good idea. You put the headband on first, then place your mask over it (the headband keeps stray hairs from getting under your mask, which can lead to leaks). This head band offers UPF 50+ sun protection and is made from recycled plastics, making it eco-friendly, too. 

Willit UPF 50+ Sun Protection Hoodie 

Amazon


When the dive day is done but I’m still in the sun, I’m the first to slip out of wet stuff in favor of dry clothes that still offer up sun protection. And while the light yet cozy  Venture Performance Hoody from Costa del Mar has been my favorite for several years now (without ever fading in the sun), Amazon has a solid option, too. This hoodie by Willit has UPF 50+ sun protection, seams that won’t chafe, and thumb holes to keep the sleeves pulled down to your wrists for maximum coverage. It comes in a slew of fun candy-hued colors ranging from teal and tangerine to bright purple that pop against the backdrop of a gorgeous blue ocean. 

ScubaPro Comfort Dive Mask Strap

Amazon


Besides being pretty uncomfortable against your head and ears, those plastic head straps on your dive mask can do a doozy on your hair, leaving it tangled up and knotty after a dive. Even if you’re renting a mask on your next dive trip, you’ll want to have one of these handy neoprene strap covers on hand to slide over the plastic strap and make for a far more comfortable dive. The stretchy fabric also makes it easier to slide your mask over your head and take it off once you surface, too. 

Sun Bum Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen

Amazon


It goes without saying that if you’re out in the sun you should be protecting your skin from damaging rays. But when you’re spending time in the ocean, it’s also important to make sure the sun protection you’re using doesn’t harm the fragile marine environment you’ve come to enjoy, and this applies whether you’re scuba diving, snorkeling or simply going for a swim. Chemical sunscreens can damage aquatic life, including corals, due to the UV filters in them. For a strong sunscreen for my face, I always reach for this one by Sun Bum. Mineral-based and made with Zinc, it’s free of oxybenzone and octinoxate — ingredients that have been shown to be detrimental to the health of corals. The cream feels lightweight and has a matte look yet offers SPF 50 protection from UVA and UVB rays. 

PackTowl Changing Poncho

REI


Once I’m done diving for the day, I’m ready to towel off and slip into a sundress for happy hour — and sometimes that starts on the boat ride back to land. Having a roomy changing poncho like this colorful PackTowl version from REI makes it easy to both dry off and slip out of your bikini into dry clothes, even when you hardly have the boat to yourself for privacy. It comes in colorful retro-inspired designs, is made from 85 percent recycled fabric and absorbs three times its weight in water.  I love the poncho’s large kangaroo-style front pocket for keeping my hands cozy when the wind is cranking on the boat ride back to shore. 

SeaLife Sport Diver Scuba Case

Amazon


Since I’m often on assignment during my dive trips as a travel writer who’s also an expert diver, I sometimes get lucky and have a professional underwater photographer along with me to capture all the fish-filled moments. When I don’t, however, I try my hand at capturing all the colors and corals myself with my iPhone tucked safely inside this waterproof housing from trusted brand SeaLife. It’s important that you’re a competent diver and can control your buoyancy before you start trying to take photos underwater. But when you’re ready, this housing is compact and compatible with most Android phones and iPhone 7 and up. The best part? It lets you take your phone and camera down to depths of up to 130 feet (with an open water certification, however, you’ll stay much shallower).

Seiko Prospex Automatic Dive Watch

Macy’s


The more you dive —and particularly if you’re a watch person to begin with, like I am — the more you’re going to want your own dive watch at some point. Enter the Seiko Prospex, a PADI special edition automatic diver’s watch that’s based on the brand’s iconic design. I like this one because it has a stainless steel case that’s rugged but stylish and follows ISO standards of scuba diving for depths of up to 200 meters (which you’ll never get anywhere close to, unless you’re in a submarine, of course). 

Seea Palomar Crop Top Rashguard 

Backcountry


Even if the water is warm enough to forgo a wetsuit entirely — and when you don’t want full body coverage in the form of a hydro suit — you’re still going to want to wear a rashguard under your BCD to keep the straps from irritating your bare skin. I love this slim cut crop top rashguard by California swimwear brand Seea for its bright colors and fun prints, as well as the long-sleeve sun protection it offers. It looks great with a low-rise bikini bottom or boardshorts and is made from recycled fishing nets, plastic bottles, and clothing. 

Costa Panga Sunglasses 

Amazon


Living year-round in the Sunshine State, I don’t leave my house without a top quality pair of sunglasses in tow to protect my eyes from the punishing UV rays. On land as out on the water, Florida brand Costa del Mar is my go-to for quality eye protection that’s both fashionable and functional. Polarized lenses are a must when out on the water, both to protect your eyes from sun glare and for spotting fish or shipwrecks just under the water’s surface, too, when you’re scouting a dive site from the boat. For me, it’s always a toss up whether I’ll be wearing my Costa Waterwoman sunglasses, with the signature blue and tortoiseshell frame, or these great Costa Panga sunglasses with green mirror lenses that look particularly great in photos — especially when turquoise waters are reflected in them. 

Pearl Necklace by Tula Blue 

Tula Blue


Jewelry might seem like an odd thing to put on a scuba diving packing list, but hear me out. I love pretty things. And just because I’m clad in neoprene and lugging a scuba tank doesn’t mean I can’t channel my inner mermaid with some ocean-inspired bling on my body. The woman-owned, Texas-based jewelry brand, Tula Blue, makes waterproof and adventure-ready pieces with a minimalist look I love. Sustainably sourced shells, freshwater pearls and semi-precious stones are strung on handspun nautical-grade rope in Tula Blue’s line of bracelets, anklets, necklaces and pendants, including this classic necklace with a single freshwater pearl and puka shell closure. Sales of some of the baubles even benefit environmental non-profit organization PADI AWARE Foundation’s ocean conservation causes. This simple necklace hasn’t come off my neck in months and has weathered scores of dives — and it still looks as pretty as the day I got it, both underwater and at the surface.

Stream2Sea Leave-in Conditioner 

Amazon


Salt water is my favorite kind. But it can be harsh on your hair, leaving it feeling dry, brittle and sun-worn from all the fun. I learned from diver friends with far finer tresses than mine that the secret to keeping dive hair looking better is to apply a leave-in conditioner to your locks as soon as you surface. As with sunscreen, however, you don’t want to wear anything damaging to the ocean when you’re out enjoying it. So I reach for this biodegradable, sulfate and paraben-free leave-in conditioner by Stream2Sea that’s made with olive oil, wakame, and green tea. It’s reef-safe and has keratin proteins that leave my hair feeling soft and shiny — even after a full week in the salt water, wind and sun. 

PADI Gear Trshbg Ocean Cleanup Bag

Padi Gear


Unfortunately, the more you dive, the more trash you’ll also see in the ocean. Plastic bottles, toothpaste tubes and more plastic bags than I can count are among the many pieces of rubbish I’ve sadly collected on dives all around the world. I make sure to have this bag that attaches at the hip and leg along with me to help dive masters gather trash when I dive. The PADI Gear Trshbg is handmade in Indonesia of upcycled materials and is designed to keep you free from actually holding a bag while collecting any trash you might spot on a dive. It dries quickly and packs down light, so there’s really no reason not to add it to your packing list. 

Fourth Element Hydro Suit 

Fourth Element


Since wetsuits are heavy and take up a lot of space in luggage, I tend to just rent them on dive trips (water temperatures also dictate the wetsuit thickness you’ll need, which is another reason I prefer to rent). But even in tropical waters where a wetsuit isn’t really necessary, I always like to dive with a thin “skin” like this Lycra version from Fourth Element that offers UPF 50+ protection from the sun while also keeping you safe from stinging jellyfish, fire coral, and other marine nuisances. The elasticized thumb loops make it easy to pull on. And the tight fit makes for a sleek underwater profile that looks great in diving photos and when you’re just snorkeling at the surface, too. 

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