Freediving, like most sports, requires specialized gear to perform at a high level. Standard snorkeling gear can be used to attain moderate depths (30 feet), or if you’re in a pinch. But if you’re looking to freedive to any substantial depth, or stay underwater for any significant period of time – you’ll find specialized freediving gear to be a worthwhile purchase. Here’s a list of the items I discuss, click on one to move directly to it:
As I’ve gotten older (but probably not wiser) I’ve come to the conclusion that buying quality freediving gear, once, is a better option than buying and replacing cheap freediving gear. That said, I do understand being on a budget – the majority of my life I’ve been one paycheck away from total disaster. So, some of the gear selections will seem expensive – but I’ve tried to keep the gear quality and budget conscious (which is hard). Finally, some of the pictures below are affiliate links.
If you’re looking for spearfishing gear – click here.
Let’s start at the top – the freediving mask. When freediving, it’s preferable to have a low-volume freediving mask. The low-volume freediving mask is completely different than the traditional SCUBA diving mask or snorkeling mask, as it is designed to have (as the name suggests) a low internal volume. This low-volume requires less air equalize the mask (especially at depth), which means you have more air left in your lungs for your body to use – leaving you with the ability to dive deeper or stay down longer.
The right mask for you depends entirely on: a) your use, b) the shape of your face, and c) your budget. A freediving mask for someone only interested in freediving is an entirely different set of criteria than a freediving mask for a freediving spearfisherman. It’s possible that your face won’t fit your first choice in masks.
If you’re a freediving spearfisherman, you’ll probably find the MicroMask Freediving Mask to a great option. It’s my favorite:
The purist freediver would do well to look at the AquaSphera Freediving Mask. It’s been the choice of many world-record holding freedivers.
The freediving snorkel is all about simplicity and streamlining. SCUBA snorkels tend to have more features and be significantly larger, while freediving snorkels tend to be a simple J-shaped snorkel, that’s flexible and streamlined. Click the pictures above to find the snorkels on Amazon.
There are a ton of them on the market, and I doubt if you’ll find any significant performance benefit by choosing one freediving snorkel over the the other – so pick a flexible, comfortable one that fits your mouth. For comfort – make sure there are no ridges or protrusions in the mouth area and use a flexible snorkel-keeper rather than a rigid one. You’ll be using the snorkel for extended periods – anything that rubs, scrapes, or pokes you will quickly become very uncomfortable.
A final word on snorkels – a bright-tipped snorkel makes it infinitely easier to find you (or other divers) in choppy conditions. If you buy one without a bright tip – no worries, you can simply add some bright colored tape to the end of your snorkel.
A good freediving watch is an essential piece of freediving gear (and spearfishing gear). For the freediving purist/enthusiast you’ll be able to set surface interval alarms, dive depth alarms, and analyze your diving via computer (with most models). When I’m freediving and spearfishing I set alarms for depth, time at depth, and surface intervals – it helps me keep track of how deep I am and for how long. Often times, in cold, sharky, or murky water 30 feet seems like 100 and in clear, warm, tropical water 100 feet seems like 30. So, in my opinion, it’s imperative to have a freediving watch to, minimally, let you know if you’re diving dangerously and how deep you are. Right now there are two solid options on the market for freediving watches. They aren’t cheap, but they are nice.
Suunto D4 (and D4I)
The Suunto D4i is the newest, most expensive, and best freediving watch out of the two. It’s also (arguably) the most popular freediving watch for most enthusiast to pro-level freedivers and spearfishermen. It has both SCUBA and freedive modes, has all of the required functionality (the right alarms and ability to analyze your diving via computer), and has the easiest user-interface.
The Aeris F10* is the cheaper option, and some people (but not me) have trouble with them. There have been issues with flooding, batteries, and even the watch software – but I have owned one for 5 years, and never had an issue. The Aeris F10 is a little harder to operate and doesn’t have SCUBA functionality – making it a good watch for those wanting a strictly freediving dive computer on a budget.
*Update – there’s a newer version, the Aeris F11, that deserves your consideration – here’s a link to it on Amazon.
There is another option for those on a very strict budget – the Pyle Snorkelmaster. They’re about $100, so they’re a steal – but they lack most functionality of the freediving and spearfishing watches above. If you only need the time and depth of your dives, this may be an option for you. Word to the wise – you may have trouble with the strap being too small and you will need to replace the battery as soon as you get it.
A true freediving wetsuit is dramatically different from the SCUBA wetsuit. The major difference is that a true freediving wetsuit will be “open-cell” neoprene – and generally be two pieces, without zippers. The “open-cell” neoprene is technically a misnomer, used to describe an unlined wetsuit made from closed-cell neoprene. The differences are “open-cell” wetsuits are stretchier, warmer, more comfortable, less durable, and harder to get on. But when freediving, being warmer and stretchier (than a “closed-cell” of similar thickness) allows you to stay in the water longer and increase your lung capacity (over “closed-cell”). When you’re diving deep, slowing your heart rate, and in the water all day – “open-cell” (or unlined) neoprene is the only way to go.
Looking at the above, you’ll see some differences in the construction of the wetsuits (and yes, the colors too).
- The SCUBA/Surf Wetsuit is a lined, one-piece wetsuit that you use a zipper to get in and out of. It will typically be: easier to get on/off, more durable, less warm, less flexible, and cheaper in price.
- The Freediving Wetsuit is a unlined (“open-cell”), hooded, two-piece wetsuit that you’ll need to apply lube to get into. It will be harder to get on/off, less durable, more warm, more flexible, and more expensive.
- The Spearfishing Wetsuit should be an unlined (open-cell), hooded, two-piece wetsuit that also needs lube to get into – and should have all of the characteristics of the Freediving Wetsuit. Typical differences between a “spearfishing” wetsuit and a “freediving” wetsuit include a chest-loading pad for spearguns and (often) a camo pattern. In my opinion – camo makes absolutely no difference in spearfishing, but it does make for way cooler pictures ;)
There are many, many wetsuit manufacturers. I’ve used many of them and don’t have a huge personal preference. The name brands that I think make the best freediving/spearfishing wetsuits include: Yazbeck, Dessault, Omer, and Picasso. Some of the spearfishing manufacturers have wetsuits – but in my experience they are neither as flexible or comfortable as the brands above. If you’re a freediving purist you may be interested in the Oceaner wetsuits – they’re arguably the best freediving wetsuits, but they’re expensive and not very durable. Other high-end freediving suits include: Elios, Diveskin, Teknodiver, Orca, and Camaro.
A quick note on “open-cell”/unlined wetsuits – they require special care, especially getting in and out of them. The easiest way to get into them is to wet them and then use some form of lube to slide them on. I use a cheap conditioner and water mixture (when I remember it).
Freediving Wetsuit Thicknesses
|“I’m part Eskimo”||“I get cold easily”|
|Tropics – 85 degrees +||Rash Guards, Lycra, or 1mm Wetsuits||1-1.5mm Wetsuits|
|Cool water – 75-85 degrees||3mm Wetsuits||3mm Wetsuits with Hood, Socks and Gloves|
|Cold water – 65-75 degrees||5mm Wetsuits with Hood, Socks, and Gloves||5-7mm with Hood, Socks, and Gloves|
|Really cold water –|
|7mm with Hood, Socks, and Gloves||Why the Hell are you diving?|
Please keep in mind that the above is only for a very rough guess on what thickness of wetsuit you may need. For instance, when I’m diving in 75 degree water, I’ve used up to a 7mm wetsuit (top) when the air temperature was 30 degrees. Body fat also plays a role in wetsuit selection – if you’re relatively low bodyfat, you will get a chill more quickly than someone with a bit more insulation. There are a ton of other factors that go into wetsuit thickness selection – and the best way to find out what wetsuit thickness you’ll need is to ask other divers that dive in similar conditions.
It’s been suggested that I’m recommending too thick of a wetsuit. The truth is that I get cold in the water easily, but I spend all day in the water. So – again, this only a guide – and you need to ask around a bit yourself.
A freediving weight belt differs from a traditional SCUBA diving weight belt – a freediving weight belt should be made out of rubber while a SCUBA diving belt can be made out of a variety of materials (most commonly nylon weave). The rubber weight belt has a few advantages – it’s flexible, it’s easier to handle, and it grips other things. I’ve used rubber weight belts to change fuel filters offshore (who’da thunk it?). The biggest advantage is their flexibility, as they’ll expand/retract with your body/wetsuit as it changes in response to the change in atmospheric pressure which occurs when you’re freediving. Here’s a visual of the difference:
SCUBA weight belt
Freediving weight belt
There are a variety of rubber freediving weight belts out there and I’ve only had two that didn’t work for me. One was a no-name one that I purchased online, and I had trouble with the buckle. The other was Rob Allen weight belt. The Rob Allen rubber weight belt had two issues: a) it wasn’t very flexible/stretchy and b) I had trouble getting some weights on it as it was thicker than other belts. Overall, you should be safe buying a name-brand rubber weight belt, but stay away from Rob Allen. Of all that I’ve used, I prefer the Cressi – pictured above.
There is very little difference between “freediving weights” and traditional SCUBA diving weights. The freediver, though, may want a few smaller weights (1 pound increments) to more accurately weight themselves. Proper freediving weighting should make the diver neutrally buoyant at 30 feet.
*Note – most freedivers that freedive competitively choose to go with a neck weight. It helps to balance the weight distribution and reduce drag. Here’s an excellent article on how to make a neck weight. Other freedivers (usually spearfishermen) like the weight vest – it’s not my favorite (and I think it can be dangerous) so I don’t discuss it here. Finally – there are ankle weights, that are designed to keep your fins from splashing above the surface – but I think they’re more trouble than they’re worth.
A true freediving fin is different than a SCUBA diving fin in both stiffness and length. SCUBA divers don’t have to worry as much about oxygen consumption or energy used to move underwater – but freedivers need to minimize oxygen consumption and maximize movement. Therefore, freediving fins tend to be longer and (often) stiffer. Here’s a quick visual comparison between the two types of fins:
The material used for freediving fins is also a major factor in what freediving fins are right for you. Freediving fin materials include plastic, fiberglass, and carbon fiber. I’ve used all three – starting with the plastic fins (they’re cheapest), then fiberglass, then carbon, and finally to the carbon fiber/fiberglass weave that I use most often. Here’s a breakdown of the materials:
Plastic – A good choice for beginners through intermediate levels. I’ve known very experienced spearfishermen that only use stiff plastic fins. The benefits of plastic include – price (<$200), simplicity in design, and durability. Generally, plastic is also the least efficient freediving fin material though. There are three great options for plastic freediving fins - all made by Cressi. The Cressi Gara 2000 ‘s are the stiffest blade of the three – which results in more effort to push the fin, but more movement through the water as well. The Cressi Gara 3000’s are a medium-stiff blade, and probably the best choice if you’re not completely sure on stiffness. Finally, the softest blades of the family are the Cressi Gara 3000 LD.
Fiberglass – My personal, all-around favorite fin material. It’s more expensive than plastic, but far less expensive (and tougher) than carbon fiber. It is moderately efficient – more-so than plastic and less than carbon fiber. Breaking a carbon fiber fin is fairly easy and very expensive – not so with the fiberglass fins. There are a variety of options for fiberglass fins, but I use Captain Nemo fins. Another very popular brand is DiveR – if I were to need new fins, these are the fins I would go with.
Carbon Fiber – The most expensive, most fragile, and most efficient choice of fin material. C4 fins probably make the most popular carbon fiber fins on the market but I’ve seen several brands. I do love them, but they’re too fragile and too expensive for my tastes. I don’t like babying my gear.
A quick note on fiberglass and carbon fiber fin blades – you’ll probably have to buy these with separate foot pockets and then install the blades into the footpockets. That’s another step to go through, but it is nice to be able to pick footpockets that suit you. I use Omer Stingray footpockets and love them.
The Freediving Monofin
I don’t have much to say about monofins because I don’t have a use for them, and therefore I’ve never used them. They are more efficient than traditional freediving fins (2),but you lose maneuverability and general ease of use. People who get the most use out of them are traditionally freediving purists that just dive up and down. I freedive to spearfish, and need the maneuverability and the general ease of use that come with traditional freediving fins. Some of the top brands are: Leaderfins, Starfins, and Waterway. Here’s a picture of the monofin in action:
Just kidding. Here’s a monofin in action:
That about sums up the Freediving Gear section, and I’m surprised you made it this far. Ton of info, right? Well, thanks for visiting and check out the Spearfishing Gear section for more gear with a spearfishing orientation!