If you are coming to Thailand for a dive holiday you may be wondering if it’s better to bring your own gear or rent it here. There are several considerations with no clear cut best answer.
May be you haven’t bought your own gear yet and are considering buying. This will depend on how often you dive and where you dive. If you are a regular diver in your home country, or have plans to be, it will be financially beneficial to own your own gear, even when you factor in the cost of servicing. But even if you have your own dive gear you still have to decide whether to travel with it or not. Some airlines, especially the budget carriers, charge extra for scuba gear. You also have to consider if you want to carry a big dive bag around on your holiday when you are not diving, or where you can leave it while you go on, for example, a jungle trek.
Thailand equipment rental prices
The typical cost of renting a set of diving equipment (BCD, Regulator, Mask, Snorkel, Fins, Wetsuit) is cheap in Thailand. Prices range from 500 – 800 baht per set per day so on a typical 4 day 4 night Similan liveaboard equipment rental will only cost an extra 2,000 – 3,200 baht. That’s not much to save you the hassle of traveling with your own gear.
Here is an example of the breakdown of rental costs:
Mask and snorkel: 100 baht
Fins: 150 baht
Regulator: 200 baht
BCD: 200 baht
Wetsuit: 100 baht
Full set: 500 baht
Dive computer rental is usually 400-500 baht extra per day so it’s definitely worth bringing your own if you have one. More and more boats are now making it mandatory to dive with computers.
But price is not the only consideration, safety and comfort are also important.
We should never forget that dive equipment is life support equipment so you need to know that your rental gear is new and/or well serviced. A dive shop offering free dive equipment rental may not be the deal that it first appears.
From a safety point of view having your own gear is definitely better. In an emergency it helps to know where everything is quickly. If you are a buddy pair who always dive together and have own equipment you will each know how to find your buddy’s alternate air source quickly, how to release your buddy’s weights in an emergency and so on.
You also need gear that fits. Putting on unfamiliar rental gear will not be as nice to dive in as your own equipment that you know inside out. You’ll probably spend your first dive in rental gear adjusting buoyancy and trim. If you wear different equipment each time you go diving you’ll never tune in to what it’s like to be really perfectly set up on a dive so that you are neutrally buoyant and perfectly at ease in the water.
Rental fins are nearly always the closed heel variety so if you prefer open heels with straps and booties you should invest in your own.
Rental wetsuits are 3mm shorties. If you need a long suit you will need to bring your own or buy one here (wetsuits are cheap in Thailand).
If you need a prescription mask you should bring your own. Even if you don’t need a prescription mask the benefits of diving with your own mask that you are comfortable with cannot be ignored, a leaking or fogging mask can ruin the enjoyment of a dive, waste air and be a safety risk.
Rental BCD’s do not have integrated weights and are not gender specific. They also tend to be lacking D rings and decent pockets.
How well is that rental dive gear really cleaned. Are you sure you want to use a rental snorkel or regulator mouthpiece? Did the previous renter have a throat infection or a cold sore? How do you feel about wearing a wetsuit that someone else has peed in?
Travel dive gear
In recent years dive equipment manufacturers have addressed the issues of travelling with dive gear and introduced equipment that is lighter and packs smaller. A travel BCD can fit in your suitcase and a regulator in your hand luggage. How to pack your gear is a subject for another day.
Many divers travel with basic gear and rent the big items. A mask and snorkel should always be in your bag, especially here in Asia where there are so many great places to go snorkeling. A rash vest is often good enough for exposure protection, the water temperature here is around 27°C.
Small accessories that won’t be included in a rental gear set include things like tank bangers, delayed smbs, reels, slates and surface signalling devices like whistles. If you have these they are worth bringing, just don’t forget them on tanks and in BCD pockets.
Buy dive gear in Thailand
You may also like to check out the price of buying dive gear here in Thailand, differences in the exchange rate can often make it cheaper to buy here and all the top brands are available with international warranties. Wetsuits which are manufactured in Thailand often work out cheaper here, you can even have your own custom fitted suit made at Hotwave in Phuket.
What not to bring
We have seen divers arrive on the boat with their own lead weights (and expect the staff to carry their bag). While we’ve never seen anyone bring a drysuit to Thailand there are plenty of cold water divers who leave their drysuit hose attached to their first stage. Why not remove it and leave it at home? Pony bottles and dive knives are also pretty troublesome to travel with.