For many divers owning your own equipment is something that is built up over a period of time and it can be a major investment at the time. Many have personal preferences, are advised by more experienced individuals or try a range of equipment before deciding. Many may only purchase a few items such as a mask, fins and a computer. Either way it is important to select the right equipment for the individual and the environment they will be diving in. However it is even more important for divers to then look after, maintain and care for their dive equipment.
Good equipment care is important for two main reasons, to ensure the equipment is maintained properly so giving the highest reliability and also so that the equipment lasts as long as it should. Every divers equipment should not only look after you in the water but also last you a long time so it saves you in the pocket too.
How many dive centres do you visit where the equipment looks worn, old and not fit for purpose ? How many divers do you see badly treating a centres kit ? How many divers do you see not able to look after their own kit ? The answer is far too many. The dive centres and their staff should know better and bad looking and poor equipment is the result of them not looking after their equipment and not ensuring their divers do the same. For the divers to do the same this shows a lack of knowledge or experience. A part of a divers first qualifying course includes pre and post dive equipment care, how much of this an Instructor may cover can vary and sometimes in certain resorts may just not happen. Divers should be made aware of this very important part of being a diver.
As we all should know all dive kit has to be serviced on a regular basis. Regulators and tanks must have an annual service and inspection. BCD's should also have an annual service and ongoing care throughout the year.
Just as important is what we do with our dive equipment throughout the year. At a dive site equipment should be kept out of the sun and on a protection mat while kitting up. If it is hot and sunny use towels to cover the equipment if there is no shade. A good mat will help prevent any ingress of dirt into regulators and BCD inflator hoses, will keep kit off potentially damaging sharp stones or grit and generally keep your kit free of getting covered in muck especially when wet. Another good habit is to clip everything on before you kit up to prevent reg and guage hoses swinging around and bashing into things.
Giving your tank valve a blast of air before putting the regulators on is very important to release any particles or moisture and so protecting the first stage from potential ingress. Also hold your inflator button in for 2 or 3 turns of the tank valve when switching your gas on, this will reduce the wear in your regulators first stage by diverting the initial hit of high pressure. These are 2 very good habits to have when looking after your kit on an ongoing basis.
Obviously then while diving being streamlined and good buoyancy control will prevent your equipment being knocked, worn or damaged in any way.
Post dive care is most important for your equipment care. First of all carefully pack your kit and watch what you put on top of each other, also remember to keep an eye on your more delicate equipment. Empty your BCD of water by fully inflating a couple of times to free up any trapped water before releasing. To stop your boots getting out of shape store them flat in your kit bag. Don't shove your fins in tip first, this will cause your fins to bend and distort, lie them flat on the top.
Back at the wash area do not underestimate the benefits of rinsing your kit thoroughly especially after pool diving or diving in salt water. Using good clean fresh water give your mask, computer, fins and especially your regs a good rinse, leave the regulators to soak for as long as possible while protecting the first stage from any ingress. Your boots and suit should be thoroughly washed and hung up correctly to dry with a proper diving suit hanger to keep the shape. Always wash your weight system too and never overlook anything. Bcd's should be rinsed inside and out with a good flush through the dump valves and inflator hose as instructed by the manufacturer. From time to time depending on use a BCD solution should be used to cleanse the inside and this helps to remove harmful salts and bacteria. Always fully inflate the BCD at least twice to ensure all the water has been released and then inflate to help it dry inside. Never store a BCD flat.
Dry the equipment in a cool, shaded area and only store it when fully dry. Use a mask box for your mask, computers, compasses and so on. Store your suit flat or hung on a good hanger and try to keep your boots stored in the shape they were as new with the ankle part upright. Store your fins flat to keep their shape and hang your Bcd with a dive hanger or on the loop at the back. Keep all the equipment out of the sun and harmful ozone, a cool dark area is always best.
Look after your dive equipment and it will look after you both in the water and in your pocket. Maintain it over the year and don't allow small issues to escalate, deal with anything like a small leak or a dodgy dump valve immediately. Service in line with local rules and laws or the manufacturers instructions. Your kit should look good and give you many years of excellent service if you treat it and look after it correctly. By doing that you will soon see that it is not such an expensive sport after all !
Enjoy and great diving !