This is a question I get all the time…about diving! Over the years I’ve really honed in on my personal freediving gear preferences, from various brands to little homemade tweaks to the gear. So here’s a little peek into my freediving life and into my gear bag as it sits right now.
My bag: Dessault long-blade fin bag
I’ve used this bag for a couple years now and LOVE it. I’ve never had a bag that could take the abuse I put them through like this one. I still have to replace these ones about once a year, but that’s after being checked on about 40+ flights per year, so fair enough!
Best features: Large enough for 2 sets of gear, solid bottom to reduce ripping/rotting out
Drawbacks: They can rip when horribly abused. Honestly though, not many drawbacks in my opinion.
Other good alternatives: I like some of Omer’s bags, though they’re not backpack style like this one.
My mask: Aquasphere Sphera
This is a really common mask in most competitive-style diving and most instructors in the sports are using these ones for good reason. They’re not only extremely low-volume at around 75mL, but they’re also compressible, reducing the likelihood of mask squeeze and making it easier to equalize at deeper depths.
Best features: compressibility, low overall volume
Drawbacks: plastic lenses that aren’t as durable as glass
Good alternatives: Aqualung Micro Mask, Omer’s Alien, Cressi Minima, and anything else that’s very low volume. These are all glass lens masks too, so you’re looking at losing the compressibility but adding durability.
My snorkel: Omer Zoom Pro
Really…simple snorkels are best, regardless of the brand. I like the zoom pro just because shape is ergonomic and fits my head well, but any simple snorkel will work. You probably can’t see it in the photo but I’m using a hair tie as a snorkel keeper. It’s cheap, works well and is pretty easy to acquire if you have any female dive buddies.
Best features: Comfortable shape, soft material
Drawbacks: Soft enough that I often bite through the bite tabs (but if you’re not a teeth grinder you don’t need to worry about that)
Good alternatives: Anything simple, not too large with a large enough bore to allow easy breathing
My fins: Omer C4 VGR 40’s with Mustang Footpockets
These are the ONLY long blade fins I’ll use for teaching. I use the 40’s (the stiffest option) for teaching as I need the most propulsion possible for classes from time to time, but for recreational use a much softer fin would be better (30’s or even 25’s). They have huge rails, which are great for depth diving, but aren’t always the best option if you scull often. They’re also carbon fiber so they are the most responsive, efficient fin material on the market. They also have the new mustang footpocket, which is molded in the shape of a foot, more like a shoe, making it the most comfortable footpocket out there.
Best features: Carbon fiber material, rails, comfortable footpocket
Drawbacks: Expensive (though well worth it)
Good alternatives: In carbon: Omer Stingrays (less expensive carbon fins), Dessault Performance carbon fins (no rails), Waterway Nemo fins (fiberglass); Some good plastic blade brands: Cressi, Riffe, Beauchat, Mares, and more.
My wetsuit: Oceaner Rec 45 or Comp 45
The reason I’m so partial to Oceaner suits is that they’re made with Yamamoto 45 neoprene- the most flexible material available to manufacturers of wetsuits. This maximizes your final breath and makes the suit fit better, making it warmer. They can be more delicate for this reason but they’re the best suit for performance. I wouldn’t use a competitive suit (no protective outer nylon layer) for spearfishing, but I even use the Rec 45 for spearing. If you really abuse gear though, I’d recommend a spearfishing-specific suit, which will have less flexible material but will hold up against more abrasions/abuse.
Best features: Flexibility!
Drawbacks: Tears easier than other suits (though it’s easily fixable with neoprene glue)
Good alternatives: Yazbeck, Omer, Dessault, Elios
My computer: Suunto D4
This is the only computer I use these days, though there are lots of companies coming out with very competitive versions (Aeris F11…I HEAR Omer is coming out with and awesome one, but I haven’t used it yet). The great thing with the D4 is that it’s incredibly user-friendly. I can teach you to use it in about 5 min. It has a very fast sample-rate, so you’ll never miss recording your deepest depth, has two alarms to alert you to your depth, measures your surface interval and graphs your dive profile. Very cool. It’s also a scuba computer for those of you who straddle the scuba-freedive line.
Best features: sample-rate, ease of use
Drawbacks: Expense (The old F10 is half the cost)
Good alternatives: Aeris F11, Omer??, Suunto D3 (if you can find it on eBay)
My weightbelt: Cressi rubber belt with 1-lb weights and crotch strap
I’ve had the same belt for years, but as long as you use rubber, you’ll be in good shape. Your wetsuit compresses as you dive and if you use a nylon belt, it’ll start to slip as you descend. You can stretch rubber to keep it in place better. If you’re like me and have hips that are bigger than your waist you can add a crotch strap to really avoid slipping. You can make one of these at home with nylon webbing or thick line. I use a normal buckle, but lots of spearos have moved to the Marseilles buckle (more like a belt buckle). Honestly, I think they’re both equally good- I’m just used to the regular buckle style- so try them both and see what you think.
Best features: Rubber!
Drawbacks: A little more expensive than nylon, but definitely worth the expense.
Good alternatives: None! Go with rubber! Other brands include: Riffe, Omer, and more.
So, there’s your peek into my gear bag! Even though there’s no right piece of gear that will work for everyone, this is my favorite gear so far. That being said, I haven’t tried everything that’s out there. If your’e looking for gear I’d encourage you to get as many opinions as possible, then go try everything on and consider what’s going to work best for the kinds of diving you’re doing.
Well, I’m heading out to Honaunau to use this gear, so I’ll post more with you all later! Check back to hear how the course in Kona is going- advanced course starts next week so we’ll be reaching for some deep depths!