Don't Weight Up

Too much weight?

“This is your weight belt; it will help you descend.”

I remember those words spoken from my PADI Open Water Instructor very well, and he was absolutely right, it did help me descend; very quickly indeed.

Every new diver is over-weighted to begin with. It is impossible to judge what quantity of weight a diver will need by simply looking at them, but you have to start somewhere; and that somewhere is usually too much.

30lb weight belt - really?

Combined with the issue of a beginners breathing becoming erratic, making it difficult to descend even if correctly weighted, on the first dive excessive lead is added; my first weight belt had 30lbs of rubber coated lead threaded onto it.

My BCD was fully inflated as I conducted a giant stride off the back of the boat. I hit the water, sank a meter, and finally bobbed back to the surface. My eyes sat just above the water line as my fully inflated BCD enjoyed molesting and squeezing every spare litre of air from my lungs.

It wasn’t very comfortable. It wasn’t very enjoyable. It didn’t feel right at all.

I was instructed to press the deflate button and make my way to the sea bed, along with my instructor. Dutifully, I did as I was told. I held the inflator as high above my head as humanly possible, and gripped the deflate button with all my strength; in the hope I would manage to get underwater.

An anvil couldn't have got to the bottom before me. 

All I remember was seeing sun, water line, a blur; concluding with a cloud of silt as I buried myself to the waist in the sea floor.

It was fair to say I was especially over weighted.

The Process of Becoming Correctly Weighted 

Once I became a fabulous diver it was clear my weight belt needed to be addressed, and I conducted the painful process of correctly weighting myself for diving in the sea.

Why weight correctly?


It is safer to dive with the correct amount of lead. If a diver is overweighted and was to experience a BCD failure; they would plummet to the bottom of the sea, most likely being unable to fin to the surface. In a shallow site this would be manageable, but over a shelf or drop off - the results could be fatal. 


Too much lead causes a diver to swim in a more vertical position, rather than the desired horizontal. Weight around the hips drags them down, and a diver can respond by constantly ‘kicking up’ to counteract the negative buoyancy.


Carrying huge amounts of extra weight is uncomfortable. Wifebuddy found her initial dives so uncomfortable she wasn’t convinced scuba was an enjoyable past time at all; even considering quitting all together. That would have been tragic.

I always found a belt with lots of blocks prodded and poked me; and not in a pleasant way. This resulted in my dives being a constant battle to find a comfortable position. 


Lead is expensive, so the less you have to buy the better. It is also inevitable that a diver will lose a weight belt at some point when handing it up to the boat; the less lead on the belt: the less money you just lost. 


Weight can be placed at strategic points on a diver to aid even distribution, thus leading to splendid trim in the water. Once the correct amount of weight is calculated, ankle weights, trim weights, tank weights and/or steel back plates can all be used as part of a divers weighting system.


Carrying stuff makes me tired. Lead is heavy. 

The less weight you have to carry about on land, or in water, makes you less tired. Less tired is good. 

How to weight correctly? 

At a recreational level a simple procedure is recommended:

  • Empty a cylinder to 50 bar 
  • On the surface take a huge lungful of air 
  • Dump all the air from the BCD and drysuit (if worn) 
  • The result should be the diver floating at eye level on the surface. 

At a technical level:

  • Empty twinset to 30 bar 
  • Dump air from wing and drysuit (if worn) 
  • Decend to 3m and hold at that depth 
  • Maintain neutral buoyancy breathing in the middle of the lungs 

When to conduct a weight check?

A weight check should be conducted every time something changes:


Any change in gear, BCD, canister light, back plate, cylinders all affect a diver’s buoyancy.

Thermal protection

Under garments when wearing a dry suit can have massive impacts on weight required. It is important to remember this in the winter months when layering up.

Dry or wet suit

A new wet suit is more buoyant than the old knackered one with all the holes in it; even if the same model as previous.

A dry suit required different weighting than a wetsuit. If you swap between the two you may require different quantities for each.

Body weight

Changes in body fat and muscle mass can affect the weight belt. If you notice your suit “shrinking” over the Christmas period, if may be worth doing a quick weight check on your first dive of the New Year.

The new season

If you take a break over the colder months, a check is advised when returning to the salty stuff.


Salt water requires more lead than fresh water. That said, all salty bits aren’t created equally. My local lough has a lower salinity level than the Red Sea; I always find I need an extra pound or two when diving in Egypt.

Even though I dive pretty much every week in the same kit, I try and conduct a proper weight check every couple of months to allow for physical changes to both me and my gear. A sensible technical instructor fellow advised me to do a check every 6 weeks.

I have worked out over the years that weighting is unique to every diver. You cannot compare like for like; you need what you need to get down, and that’s all there is to it.

I have had dive centres look bewildered when I explain i only need 2 lbs of weight to compliment my 3mm wet suit; but they hadn’t noticed the steel backplate on my BCD.

Women seem to hate me regularly, as they need more weight than I do; this somehow translates to me calling them fat.


There you have it; a guide to the dreaded weight check.

On the conclusion of your next dive conduct a quick weight check; you may be surprised to learn you could shed a few pounds.

Safe diving folks.


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Safe diving buddy.