When I first started SCUBA I pretty much knew what kind of basic gear I wanted and purchased it between my pool dives and open water dives. I only made one mistake and that was buying an off the shelf BC instead of a back plate and wing. I bought my BP&W two weeks later.
My dive buddy wanted to try an assortment of gear before committing to buying anything so he mostly rented for the first 50 dives we did. He bought his mask and snorkel up front, his wet suit after 5 dives his fins and boots after 10 dives, his BC after 15 dives and regulator and computer after 50 dives.
The dive shop we use has a lot of modern rentals and they take very good care of their equipment, but sometimes things happen and there is an issue with the gear that can affect a dive. When I took the Nitrox course it was drilled into us that we are responsible for validating the mix before we take the tank and we must know our mix percentage and the MOD (Maximum Operating Depth) for the mix. When renting gear we should take the same care to validate it will meet our needs.
One if the first lessons we learned was to check the VIP and Hydro dates of the tanks before we left the shop. We rented tanks from the shop and got one where the VIP had expired a week earlier. When we took it to get a refill the place we were at would not fill the tank with the expired VIP. No harm no foul, the dive shop we rented the tanks from apologized and didn’t charge us for any of the rentals for the inconvenience. Lesson learned: Always check the VIP when renting a tank.
The same shop that wouldn’t refill the tank told us one of the tanks was 19 years old. They told us their policy prohibited them from filling tanks that were 20 years or older. Apparently there were some aluminum tanks from the early 90’s that had integrity issues that caused failures. The person at this shop told us there were a few shops that had a blanket policy to not fill aluminum tanks over 20 years old even if they weren’t on the recall list. Lesson learned: Know how old the tank is and don’t accept a tank close to 20 years old if you’re getting it filled at another dive shop.
My LDS has a variety of 1st and 2nd stage regulators they rent that all are under 3 years old. For their better customers they keep some higher end regulators in the back. On one occasion my buddy got a Scubapro MK25/A700, a top of the line regulator. My buddy had rented this exact regulator 3 weeks earlier; he opened the bag and did a visual inspection. No gouges, dings or scratches. The hoses looked good and we knew the regulator had been in inventory less than 6 months. I happen to own a MK25/A700 and in the back of my mind there was something that looked off to me but I just couldn’t place what it was. We rented the regulator and took it on a trip to Balmorhea state park in the middle of nowhere in western Texas.
We arrive around 6:00pm and start getting ready for our night dive. My buddy hooked up the regulator, turned on the air and it sounds like he opened a tank without a regulator attached. We check the O-ring on the tank it looks fine. We hook the regulator up to my tank and it hisses too. I notice the top of the regulator is missing the black cap the MK25 normally has. The regulator appears to have been dropped and damaged by a previous renter. This failure of the regulator would have been a major issue if we had been going to the Gulf of Mexico for a reef, rig or wreck dive. Fortunately there is a dive shop across the street from Balmorhea we were able to rent a regulator from. Lesson learned: Always hook up a regulator to a tank and test it at the dive shop before you sign the rental agreement. If something looks off say it out loud and discuss the concern. You may discover the issue before it becomes an issue.
During the course of rentals we tried many dive computers. They all performed the same basic function and some were fancier than others. We had some that were air integrated with a direct hose connection that would monitor your breathing and let you know when it thought you weren’t getting enough air. We had others that did not adjust for Nitrox but were fine for air only. Lesson learned: Get a basic understanding of the computer before you take it from the shop. Ensure it can support the dive you are going to be doing and know how to program it for the dive.
These are the only issues I have been exposed to when renting gear. I’m sure if you are renting a mask you want to check the seal and if renting a wetsuit or fins you want to validate the fit and ensure there isn’t any excessive wear on the items. If you have any lessons you learned from renting equipment please comment.