For divers, there is always the issue of what we should own, and what we should just rent once we get to the shop. Every diver is different of course, but there are certain items you should try and purchase on your own and have with you for every dive. Other components might not be necessary, and could be troublesome to travel with. Here I will highlight my thoughts on five items, and whether or not you should purchase or rent them.
1) Regulator - Own
Having your own regulator is important for many reasons. First and foremost, you are in charge of cleaning it, and only your saliva is going in and out. One of the weirdest things was using regulators at the shops that had been breathed in by a hundred people, spitting and drooling all the way, yuck. You also don't know the cleaning procedures of the shops, although I would say most follow proper techniques, its still strange putting your mouth on something hundreds of others have. With your own regulator, only you are breathing out of it, and you can clean it any way you please. They roll up nice as well, and if you have a decent case they can be incredibly easy to transport, fitting in a backpack, or taking up a small space in your suitcase. They aren't cheap, but they are totally worth it if you dive often, or if you just don't want to share a breathing tube with a hundred people.
2) BCD - Rent
Having your own BCD for some is an accomplishment, and it proves that you are a seasoned diver and in turn know what you are doing. Some are quite particular and want their own custom BCD with their own clips, and get comfortable knowing everything about it. That is completely understandable, but if you are traveling to dive you might want to consider renting. Most shops carry the same one you will purchase, and it's not very expensive to rent equipment typically. While having your own is great, it can be bulky and laborious in your luggage, taking up valuable space while flying. If you have a preference I would just contact the shop and ask if they carry that style or maker, and if not ask what is similar. Most of them are engineered the same way, and the companies stick to a similar design plan so you won't be terribly uncomfortable.
3) Mask - Own
Having your own mask is imperative. Every shop has an assortment of masks available, but you don't know which one isn't going to leak, or fog up. With your own mask, you can work out the kinks and break it in and know exactly whats's going to happen once you are down below. Vision is kind of important down there as you can imagine or have experienced, and there is nothing more annoying than a fogged-up and leaky mask. With your own you can burn it, rub toothpaste on it, and make sure it won't fog or leak. It's also very easy to travel with, but keep it in the case as much as possible as it can get scratched easily.
4) Fins - Rent
I actually went back and forth on this, and this one is kind of a combination of the two. If you are able to dive locally, I would absolutely own your own pair, or even if you aren't traveling far to dive I would own my own. Fins don't take up a ton of space, but they can be damaged in transit, and the shop might have the exact same pair available upon arrival. Again, I would ask the shop if they have that make or a pair that is similar. Shops usually have an assortment of fins, but if they have many customers there is a chance that your pick is taken out for the day. I would own your own booties however because they are as small as socks, and then you can take out rental fins but have your own socks which solves any issue. So for lengthier trips just rent and save the space.
5) Wetsuit - Own
This is a no-brainer, in fact I will double down and say that you should NEVER use a wetsuit from the shop. Not everyone shares the same etiquette as you might, and as you know it is very hard to get certain "fluids" out of a wetsuit. Even if you own your own I would highly suggest that you hold it during the dive and never relieve yourself in your suit. Not only will it fade faster, it will smell and is just not good overall for the suit or you. Rental suits can carry a lot of bacteria, and have strong odors, especially if they aren't cleaned properly. So buy your own and keep it clean.
Did you know? Hypothermia can happen in warm waters, even Caribbean seas that have water temperatures in the eighties. If the water is cooler than your body temperature (which we all know is 98.6) then your body temperature is lowered and hypothermia can occur. Wearing a wetsuit is beneficial for a couple of reasons, keeping your body temperature at a stable rate, and skin protection. In warmer waters a "shorty" suit is more than sufficient.
These are just suggestions and based on my personal experiences talking with many divers and traveling for dives. Dive equipment can be bulky and cumbersome, so that played a large role in what I suggested for rentals, but everybody is different. The two most important pieces of equipment for me are your regulator and mask because breathing and seeing are essential. Those also happen to be the smallest and easiest to store while abroad, so it just seems automatic that you would own them, along with a wetsuit that is also easy to bring along. So to recap, spit in your own mask, drool in your own regulator, and don't pee in any wetsuit (especially your own).