Ok, so we don't all have bundles of cash to throw at our hobbies and diving is an expensive hobby. However before you decide it is too expensive remember that learning whilst at University is the cheapest way to learn and with some shopping around you can make it even cheaper.
Also when looking at the total cost and comparing it to commercial courses remember that with UBUC the bulk of the cost is kit which you get to keep (as you bought it!). With commercial courses they either rent you the gear or make you buy some on top of the course cost.
Costs you can't avoid:
- UBUC Membership: £35 (non-student £55)
- BSAC Membership: £28 (£18 for the first year)
- Training Materials: ~£35 (Dependent on training level)
You will need some of your own kit but the club has the expensive bits. The first bits of kit you need are mask, fins, boots and a snorkel. You will need these for the start of term to start your pool training. The club will organise a kit sale where you can get the set for £80 - £120 depending upon which models you buy, or you can shop around and try and get them for less but remember you won't have long to get them before training starts.
The second round of kit you will need is for use in the sea. This is the big expense as you will need a semi-dry or a dry suit, and also need a hood and gloves (these are relatively cheap). Alternatively you can hire a drysuit or semi-dry, but you may be better off buying one outright - the hire costs soon add up!
Where to Look
Ebay is your friend, the best deals are going to be found on there but as it is an auction site you might have to wait to find something that fits so don't leave it until the last minute (this is more relevant to semi-drys than masks fins etc).
Dive Shows; there are 2 dive shows in the UK, one in Birmingham in October and the other in London in February. Some club members will be heading to them and they are probably the best place to get cheap kit. There are countless stalls all trying to sell you gear so you can shop around, try stuff on and try and barter for further discounts if you are buying a lot. Just be aware it costs £7.50 in advance or £10.50 on the door so if you just want something fairly cheap normally it might not work out cheaper!
Also there are a few online dive sites that are worth a look as they tend to have cheaper gear than normal shops, for example Divelife, Sds Watersports, Go Dive, Simply Scuba, Dive Cellar and Robin Hood Watersports. Also Seaskin (who make drysuits) sell the spare parts for near trade price so if you need to replace a dump valve, seals etc check them out.
Next online place to look is Forums! UBUC has one here where we have a for sale section, worth a look to see if someone is selling what you need. There are also a few national forums, BSAC and Yorkshire Divers but please be careful when agreeing to meet people or send money for something on these forums, most people are honest but there is always the odd scammer.
Finally in Bristol there are a couple of Dive Shops, Mikes and Extreme Marine. In Cardiff there is Bristol Channel Diving - the club has been known to get parts serviced there so you might be able to swing a lift. These shops tend to do be more expensive but you can be cheeky and try a mask on and then leave to look for it online. One of them is likely to be doing the kit sale and will have a discounted set on that night.
This is probably the hardest thing to find cheaply because you really need to try it on beforehand to check that it fits your face and you are comfortable with it. But you could pop into a local shop and try a few on to work out which styles/models you prefer and then explore the online options.
There are 2 main styles of mask, single or twin lens, both do the same job and it is personal preference to which you buy. The skirt of a mask can either be clear or black, it does't really matter which you buy and is personal preference. Black focuses your vision on what is in front of you but can give the feeling of tunnel vision. Clear doesn't have this problem but you will notice things through the skirt that can be distracting.
N.B. You need a mask that covers your nose so goggles won't do!
There are few styles of fins, the first consideration is Open or Closed heel. This refers to how it attaches to your foot, Closed encompasses your whole foot whereas open you insert your foot and use a strap to hold it in place. Closed heel is fine for the pool and generally cheaper but is no use for the sea as you can't wear a wetsuit boot or drysuit with them. You need a wetsuit boot when in the sea to keep your feet warm so you should buy an open heel fin. If however you have a closed heel fin already you could use that for the pool and buy some later in the year for when you head into the sea.
The next main consideration is split or solid fin, and this choice doesn't matter, both work well and it is personal choice as to which you prefer.
Make sure whatever you buy is suitable for diving, short fins designed for bodyboards or swimming do not provide enough power to move you once are wearing scuba gear.
Not a lot to say on this one other than they want to be made from 5mm+ neoprene and cover your ankle, most will have a zip to aid getting them on and off. Whatever you buy you will use for years with no problems and you will only replace them when they fall apart.
You need a snorkel for some of your pool training but when it comes to the sea you will barely use it and so cheapest is best. Don't spend any more than you have to.