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Dive Weights: What Are They & What Are They Used For?

Last updated: October 14, 2021
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vector graphic showing various forms of dive weights

You’ve heard people throw around different terms for various scuba gear and materials you’ll need.

From a regulator to harness to buoyancy compensator, it can all be a bit overwhelming.

But, one of the more critical pieces of gear is dive or divers weights.

Dive weights refer to the weights scuba divers use to counteract their buoyancy.

They are a critical piece of your gear equipment, and it’s essential that you buy the right ones to make your diving experience a success.

What are Divers Weights?

Diver weights are added weights that divers use to make sure they stay submerged in the water.

To counteract buoyancy, divers can also use weights on their equipment.

Divers can place weights on diving bells or camera housing to keep them grounded.

diver stringing dive weights into a weight belt

Diver’s weights are incredibly significant.

Humans naturally buoyant (because of the gasses and air in our bodies).

Additionally, our air tanks and other gear are, too.

When you dive without weights, remaining horizontal is next to impossible.

It is important to stay horizontal when you dive.

This makes it more enjoyable and it also makes it more comfortable.

When you are uncomfortable, you’ll lose your positioning more easily.

As a result, keeping a horizontal position is critical.

By weighing yourself down during your dive, you can maintain a horizontal position.

Without proper weights, divers end up vertical.

Not only do weights keep you grounded, but they also help with proper air consumption.

They also help you to maintain control of your body and help you make smooth descents and ascents.

A safe ascension is crucial in preventing you from getting sick from rising too high too fast.

In rare cases, ascending too fast can cause permanent damage to your body.

As such, divers weights are one of the most important pieces of gear you can have.

How do Dive Weights Work?

Weight belts are a simple tool that doesn’t take too long to master.

First, you calculate how much weight you will need to bring on your trip based on several factors (that we will further detail later).

Then, you must make sure the weights are distributed evenly.

You can choose between a wide variety of means – between weight belts, weight pockets, vests, and so forth.

During your dive, you can release more weight.

It takes time, calculations, and in most cases, a lot of help along the way to master using dive weights.

Types of Dive Weights

There are two main dive weights: BC Integrated Weights (where weights are integrated into your gear) and weight belts.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and it’s essential to know the drawbacks and pros before deciding which is the best fit for you.

vector graphic showing various forms of dive weights

BC Integrated Weights (Weight Pockets)

You can also integrate weights into your scuba gear and equipment, and BC integrated weights are a more recent trend in diving weights.

Their sophisticated systems improve weight distribution, which creates a more comfortable diving experience.

It also drastically reduces the risk of dropping your weights.

As many divers know, inadvertently ditching your weights leads to an uncontrolled ascent; in this regard, BC weights are much safer.

Because the weights are built right into your BCD (buoyancy control device), you can take weight off from the waist.

Normally, so much weight resting on your hips can be uncomfortable – especially for longer dives.

Two weight pockets on either side of the BC allow you to divide your weight.

Additionally, many BCDs have trim pockets to place small weights and fine-tune your balance in the water.

So, if you choose a weight integrated BCD, you will only need to get the appropriate weight increments and amount.

The downside is that it can make your equipment a lot heavier.

But, this is minor, and more and more divers’ are opting for integrated weight systems.

Weight Belts (Old School)

Weight belts are an older method that divers used when they first began exploring the ocean.

They are so simple that people still use them to this day.

The weight belt is like a normal belt that you wear around your waist.

You slide different weights onto the belt and let the weights sit on your hips.

You can add as many or as few weights as you want, but you want to make sure that you distribute the weight evenly.

The biggest drawback is that it is tricky to achieve proper weight distribution.

Additionally, it can put a strain on your lower back and hips.

Plus, divers or other materials can knock these belts off during your dive.

This could lead to a hazardous, uncontrolled ascent.

There are three types of weight belts:

1. Nylon Weight Belt

The nylon belt is the most affordable (and common) choice available.

They are easy to use as you thread the lead weights right onto the belt to keep you at the proper weight and keep you in proper depth.

These belts are around three inches long and always have a quick-release buckle.

2. Rubber Weight Belt

The Rubber Weight Belt is the next step up from the Nylon.

It functions the same way, except that it is built of rubber instead of Nylon.

Thus, the belt contracts and compresses based on whether you are ascending or descending.

This means that it always gives you a snug fit.

Also, the weight is always correctly positioned with minimal need for change or without causing discomfort.

3. Pocket Weight Belt

The Pocket Weight Belt has (you guessed it) pockets along the length of the belt.

Because of this high-quality feature, divers can add weights into the diving suit pockets.

By doing this, the gear is more comfortable since the weights aren’t digging into your hips.

Weight Vests

Divers can choose to use weight vests; a vest built the weights into the vest.

By distributing the weight across your chest (rather than your hips), you can help reduce back pain since it reduces the stress on your lower back.

Weight vests can also help give users a more even weight distribution in general.

But, some vests do not have a quick-release system. A quick-release is a significant feature in dives should you need to shed weight fast.

Make sure to always look for this feature to make sure you get a weight vest that can properly function.

Soft Weights

Some divers prefer to use soft weights.

These are small pouches that you can insert in your gear pockets or vest or even use as ankle weights.

Soft weights usually come in smaller weight levels.

This way, you can fine-tune how much weight you add to your body.

Most divers use hard weights as their primary weights.

This way, you can pinpoint exactly how much scuba weight you want to add.

Softer weights are also more comfortable because of the meshy material.

This allows the weights to conform to your body shape and wetsuit.

Because of this, divers don’t get as many bruises on their hips where the weights are resting.

Plus, soft weights won’t damage feet or gear if you accidentally drop them.

Hard Weights

Hard weights are lead weights that you can wear on a belt or put in a pocket.

These weights are excellent choices.

They’re smaller, they dry quickly, and they attach directly to a belt or cam strap.

This way, divers don’t have to attach extra pockets.

Uses for Dive Weights

Diving weights are used to balance neutral buoyancy when you are underwater.

With weights, divers offset their natural buoyancy.

By doing this, divers remain grounded in the water.

Divers can also attach durable, stainless steel weights to their equipment.

By doing this, the weights are much easier to manage.

You can attach the right amount of weights to an underwater camera if you plan on filming.

This prevents the camera from floating away.

image showing dive weights and dive weight belts drying on a rack

What are Dive Weights Made Of?

For the most part, dive weights are made of lead and plastic.

Lead is a high-density material.

This means it is a heavyweight in a compact, easy-to-carry form.

Lead weights are usually coated in plastic.

This way, they contaminate the environment less.

The plastic coating also makes the exterior less abrasive on suits and gear.

Softer weights can be made of mesh and Nylon materials.

Are Lead Dive Weights Safe?

Yes, lead dive weights are safe.

Some divers are concerned because when lead interacts with water, its chemical makeup changes.

But, studies report that there is a minimal risk with handling lead weights.

But there is still reason to be cautious.

Those who handle weights often should wash their hands after handling.

How Heavy are Dive Weights?

Dive weights can come in a variety of sizes and heavinesses.

Hard dive weights typically range from 15 to 30 pounds.

Soft weights are much smaller at about 1-5 pound ranges.

Most divers use a combination of both heavy and soft weights.

Sometimes divers must use precise measurements in their dives.

When divers use both, they can make very specific measurements.

How Much Dive Weight do I Need?

The amount of dive weight you need depends on many different factors.

Body weight, water temperature, and water type all play a large role in how much weight you’ll need.

Before your dive, you’ll need to calculate it with a scuba diving weight calculator.

This can be a confusing process.

Make sure to speak to a dive store if you have any questions.

How to Calculate How Much Weight You Need

Calculating how much weight you need can get rather tricky.

In general, women should add 5 pounds of saltwater and subtract 5 pounds for freshwater.

Men are about the same, but instead of 5 pounds, it’s 7 pounds.

But that’s a rough estimate.

You need to calculate how much you weigh, as well as calculate how much your gear weighs, too.

One element to be especially aware of is your BC, as they are incredibly buoyant.

While it used to be common that you needed 4 pounds to counteract your BCs.

Now that the gear has become more sophisticated, you need around 2 pounds to offset a modern BC.

Besides your BC, you must also consider what other gear you have and how much weight you need to counteract the other buoyancy.

But, there are a lot of factors.

While you can calculate it out, the best way to understand how much weight you’ll need is to practice in the water with all your gear.

Always ask for help if you need it.

Use a Scuba Diving Weight Calculator

To calculate how much weight you’ll need, weigh yourself and your equipment.

Once you know how much you plus all your gear weigh, take that total and multiply it by 0.025 for saltwater.

The total is the amount you’ll need to add in pounds.

If you are diving in freshwater, you still want to multiply the total of you and your fear by 0.025 and then subtract that amount in pounds from your belt.

Why are Dive Weights so Expensive?

While lead itself isn’t that expensive, they tend to add up when you buy dive weights at a store.

Lead typically sells for 3 dollars per pound.

Depending on how much weight you’ll need, those dollars can quickly add up.

Stores have to make a profit, and so they tend to markup their prices substantially.

If you’re looking to cut costs, a great alternative is to make your own.

Making dive weights is an alternative to buying them because, obviously, it’s much less expensive.

How to Make Dive Weights

It is possible to make your own dive weights.

But, working with lead can be dangerous.

You must pay close attention and work in a ventilated area as the fumes from melting down lead can be toxic.

First off, you need to make sure you have the proper equipment, starting with safety gear.

Wear long, thick pants (like construction pants) to protect your legs in case you spill any liquid lead.

You also should wear a long sleeve shirt, full gloves, a mask, heat-resistant welding gloves, and closed-toe shoes.

You’ll also need a tin can, a burner, a bucket of water, and a mold.

Make sure the mold is completely dry, as even small amounts of water can cause the lead to steam up and splatter on you.

Make sure you work in a ventilated area and also have a fan to spread the fumes further.

Get some lead, place it in a tin can, and place it on top of a burner so that the lead will melt.

Once it’s melted, scoop the impurities that rise to the top.

You can use a spoon for this step.

Then, pour the melted lead into your mold.

Once it has hardened, drop the mold into your bucket of water.

Wait ten minutes, then take the mold out of the bucket, and tap the mold out.

The weight should fall out easily.

Make sure to file down your weight, so you get a round edge, and your weight should be ready for use!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions on scuba diving weights.

Can you fly with dive weights?

Some dive equipment you can’t bring on your carry-on with (such as diving spears), so you’ll need to check that gear.

But dive weights you can get away with – especially if you check the weights.

Remember that flights have weight limits.

It might be better to rent the weights from the dive shop when you arrive at the destination.

But, this can also be expensive.

You can also check with the TSA on specific equipment by downloading their app.

When divers drop dive weights in an emergency, do they leave them or retrieve them later?

When divers drop weights in an emergency, they typically leave the weights at the bottom.

It’s challenging to find the exact position of the weight.

Additionally, they can be hard to find because they are usually covered in sand.

As a diver descends into the ocean, it’s critical their suits are weighted down to give them good positioning on their dive.

When divers follow proper guidelines, they can easily keep below the surface of the water and have a positive buoyancy.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the correct weight can be a daunting process. It takes a lot of trial and error.

Make sure to not become frustrated with yourself if you don’t get it on the first try.

Never be afraid to ask for help from a more experienced diver.

Visit your nearest dive store today to calculate your weight before your next dive.

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