Welcome to part five of The Beginner’s Guide to Freediving, the best place to start your freediving journey.  If you’re planning to start freediving, this chapter talks you through the essential equipment for freediving, everything from masks to fins to lanyards.

Equipment for Freediving – the basics

In this article we’ll look at all the important equipment for freediving you need as you get started and then progress as you learn more sophisticated techniques. We’ll cover the basic equipment for freediving, such as your mask, snorkel and fins, to advanced equipment for freediving such as specialist suits and dive computers.

If you’re concerned about the amount of stuff you’ll need, don’t be – freediving equipment is simpler than SCUBA equipment, less likely to go wrong, doesn’t need filling and rarely needs servicing. It’s usually less expensive, too, and if you look after it, will last indefinitely.

One top tip before we continue: After using your kit, always make sure you rinse or wash your kit in clean, fresh water, before drying it and storing it somewhere dark. Saltwater and strong sunlight are your kit’s enemy.

Equipment for Freediving – Mask

Beginners Guide to Freediving - equipment for freediving - Salvimar – Noah Mask

Salvimar – Noah Mask

There are a bewildering array of freediving masks on the market and it can be difficult to decide which one’s best for you. Taking a course, where you can chat to an instructor about what mask might suit the shape of your face and your needs is the best option – you’ll be able to try out different masks, too. You can also go to your local dive store to try masks on, or borrow one from a friend. All masks are adjustable and having two, keeping one as a backup in case you lose the other. Here are some of the things you should be looking out for:

  • Low volume – A lower volume of air inside the mask means less air from your lungs is required to equalize.
  • Clear lenses – Some masks (often aimed at spearfishers) have mirrored or tinted lenses. You need clear lenses when freediving so your buddy can see your eyes and assess your condition during the last part of your dive. Most lenses are tempered glass and mounted on a single plane. These are the most durable and will give you perfect vision. There are also masks with plastic lenses, which have been used by very deep freedivers who like the way the mask bends around their face at depth, although these are not as solidly built and can distort your vision.
  • Nose pocket – The nose pocket enables you to equalise the air in the mask, countering the risk of mask squeeze in which the capillaries in the eyes rupture, making the whites of your eyes red. Don’t worry if you think your nose may be too big. Nose pockets fit almost every sized nose.
  • Soft silicone skirt – You want your mask to be comfortable and form a good seal around your face. Men often find that water leaks in because they have stubble or a moustache. This can be prevented by shaving, improving the seal using Vaseline, or having a perfectly fitted mask. You can get clear, black or coloured silicone skirts; a clear skirt lets in more light but this can be distracting and cause ‘ghosting’ in your vision. In the end it comes down to style and personal preference.

When you buy your first mask, unless it says otherwise, you will need to remove a protective film from the lenses that was added during the manufacturing process, as it will cause your mask to fog. This can be done with washing up liquid, toothpaste, lighter fluid or a purpose made product. Before you dive, apply a mask defogger or some saliva to the lenses before lightly rinsing in water. This should ensure your mask doesn’t fog up during the dive.

Equipment for Freediving – Snorkel

There are many snorkels on the market with fancy features like purge valves, splash guards, and other modifications. These are expensive and needlessly complicated. Freediving snorkels should be as simple as possible for ease of use and hydrodynamics under the water. This is what you should look for:

  • Soft silicone mouthpiece that is comfortable so you don’t notice it in your mouth
  • Simple, straight or slightly curved bore (this is the pipe that sticks up out of the water)
  • Means of attaching it to your mask or a flotation device

It’s always advisable to have a spare and many snorkels are so soft and flexible that they can be stored in a pocket or even tied in a knot. Snorkels should always be taken out of your mouth before you dive for safety reasons. When freediving recreationally, you can attach the snorkel to your mask. When training for depth, you should leave it floating at the surface as it can create drag. Just make sure that your buddy grabs it when you dive or it’s attached to a buoy so you can retrieve it later!

Equipment for Freediving – Fins

These are your motor and are one of the most important parts of your equipment for freediving. You can either use bi-fins or a monofin. Bi-fins are best for recreational diving, buddying and teaching and are similar to what you might have called flippers as a child. A monofin, in which both your feet are inserted into a single, fishtail-like fin, is best for depth and distance. Both can be made from different materials, with the most expensive being carbon fiber. Fins also come in different stiffness’s, which suit different physiques and different kinds of freediving. If you’re coming to freediving after trying Scuba diving, you can start with scuba fins and move to freediving fins when you’re confident with your technique as scuba gear is very different from equipment for freediving. Here are some things to look out for: