|How much weight do you need? This is a question we hear at the shop on a weekly basis, especially as students depart the confines of the pool and venture off to an open water destination. There is no short and easy answer to the question, though many locations will just throw some lead at you in an effort to get everyone underwater as quickly as possible. Here's our take on it.|
Figuring out how much weight to wear is definitely more art than science. If you've been diving at all, you know going from a no wetsuit to a full length 3mm in the tropics, or from our pool to the ocean, has a massive impact on the weight you need. It should also be noted how much experience you have, are you diving with your own gear, and how comfortable have you become in the water. Each time you dive your confidence will increase, and hence, how much air you hold back in your lungs will decrease as you take full in and out breaths. So your weight needs can change simply based on if you are nervous or not. It’s common for people to use different amounts of weights from the start of a trip to the end as they get re-acclimated to diving (especially if they’ve had a few months or years break between dives).
So all that being said, what do I recommend? Use the weight you used in the pool and your exposure protection in the pool, or on your last dive as a starting point. For example, if you wore 8lbs in our pool with a shorty wetsuit, and assuming you will be using a 3mm full suit in the ocean, I’d recommend 12lbs. to start. I would put 2lb. in each trim pocket in the back (4lbs. total), and distribute the other 8lbs. to your front weight pockets if you are wearing a weight integrated BCD. On dive number 1, remember that your equipment is completely dry, hence buoyant, and will want to float. Flood your wetsuit by opening the neck and letting water flush into the suit to try and overcome some of that buoyancy. It’s not uncommon to need a couple extra pounds on dive one simply because our equipment is dry.
I always want to get my divers to use as little weight as possible. Not only does it make it easier to move through the water, it’s also safer. If you have too much weight in, you’ll constantly be fidgeting with your inflator, having to overfill when you are deep, and dumping air as you ascend as the air inside the jacket becomes more buoyant. This could cause an out of control ascent if you don’t keep up with the expanding air as you go up, resulting in the air expanding more . . . you get the picture. I’d rather have a diver struggling at their safety stop, and us needing to add an extra couple pounds for the next dive, than be constantly fighting with their buoyancy or plummeting to Davey Jones Locker (remember, it’s a safety stop, not a required decompression stop. If we happen to cut it short on a dive, it’s not the end of the world, just a problem we can fix for dive 2).
But beware, some in the islands are wrought to just always throw more weight at their guests, wanting to get them underwater as quickly as possible to get on with the dive. Take the time to get your weight right from the start and you’ll have a much better overall experience.