Any experienced scuba diver knows how important a proper weight system is to achieving neutral buoyancy and having an enjoyable dive. But determining this can be challenging for new divers. Perhaps you don’t know how to distribute your dive weights properly or you fail to adjust the weight system as conditions change. In this guide, we’ll take you through the various choices available when it comes to scuba diving weights and how to determine optimal for you. 

It is essential to consider the different types of dive weight systems. While most divers are familiar with scuba weight belts from their Open Water dive training, there are different weight systems available. Before you make a purchase, it’s a good idea to weigh up the pros and cons of each to determine what’s right for you.

Diving weight belts are generally two inches, or 5 cm, wide and are designed to thread through slotted lead weights. Most come with a quick-release buckle (making them easily removeable in emergencies) and are secure comfortably around your hips. The buckles are usually made from plastic, aluminum, or stainless steel, steel being most durable and wear-resistant. 

Types of weight belts

If you decide that a scuba weight belt is for you, then you’ll need to select the type of belt you prefer:

  • Nylon belts tend to be strong and long-lasting, as well as an affordable option. 
  • Rubber is good for keeping your weights firmly in position and are popular with freedivers and spearfishermen. However, they are less robust than nylon weight belts. 
  • Marseille features holes and a standard belt-style buckle that should only be used by experienced divers as they are tricky to release. 
  • Lead shot belts consist of pockets or pouches into which lead shots can be filled, based on your scuba diving weight belt calculation. While they are more comfortable to wear than those with hard lead weights, they can be more difficult to adjust underwater.
  • Pocket belts feature individual pockets to hold the scuba dive weights and can easily be adjusted to fit comfortably around your hips.

Weight Increments

Weights generally come in increments of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 pounds or 0.5, 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0 kilograms. When determining your scuba diving weight belt calculation, it’s a good idea to have a variety of different weight increments. This will allow you to fine-tune your neutral buoyancy, which can be difficult if you only have heavier weights at your disposal. You can redistribute the weights on your scuba diving belt and BCD, as well as make minor corrections to your center of buoyancy as conditions change.

Different Types of Dive Weights

When it comes to buying the weights themselves, you also have a few different options;

Hard lead weights made from either lead or plastic-coated lead (which is more comfortable and less abrasive).

  • they more are durable and environmentally-friendly.
  • Weight ingots are designed to be slipped into the integrated weight pockets of your BCD or the pouches of independent weight pockets. 
  • Slotted weights are designed so they can be slid on and off a weight belt as needed. 

The advantage of a hard lead weight-based system is that you can easily adjust the amount of weight you are carrying between dives or in changing conditions. But on the flip side, they can be uncomfortable due to their rigid form and may dig into the side of your body. 

Soft lead weights also known as shot weights, are designed to mold around the shape of your body within a mesh pocket. They generally move with the diver’s body, making them more comfortable than hard lead weights. However, some aren’t as easily adjustable underwater as hard lead weights.

Best Soft Lead Weights

General Impression

Made from reclaimed car batteries, these environmentally-friendly soft lead weights are contained within heavy-duty nylon mesh bags. The quick draining and drying design make them a convenient option, whether you’re placing them in weight pockets or inside your quick-release integrated BCD system.

Standout Features
  • Lead shot conforms to body shape for enhanced comfort
  • Quick draining and drying for traveling divers
  • Available in eight weight sizes between 1 and 10 pounds (0.45 and 4.55 kilograms)

Integrated weight systems are built into your buoyancy control device (BCD) with removable weight pockets on either side. A weight integrated BCD allows you to divide your weights evenly across both sides of your body, as well as quickly dump your diving weights using the quick release buckles if an emergency arises. Many integrated BCDs will also have “trim pockets” where you can place smaller weights if you need to fine-tune your buoyancy in the water or with changing conditions. 

Best integrated weights

General Impression

These quick release integrated weight pockets fit comfortably on your waist and are compatible with all Mares BCDs. They also feature a zippered opening for easy insertion of the BCD weights and the maximum capacity is 13 pounds (6 kilograms).

Standout Features
  • Made of durable polyester for a long life
  • Compatible with a variety of Mares BCDs
  • A one-pull movement to release weights.

Weight pockets are an alternative to integrated weights and are attached to the exterior of the BCD. However, it’s important to keep in mind that pocket weights can’t always be released quickly in an emergency, so they should never carry the majority of your weight. They’re a good option for fine-tuning your buoyancy while keeping the majority of your weight on a quick ditch weight belt or in removable, integrated weight pockets.

Best Weight Pocket Belts

General Impression

Constructed from strong nylon fabric, this comfortable pocket weight belt comes with soft padding and an anti-slip inner belt. It features large, self-draining pockets that fit standard lead weights or they can be utilized with ScubaPro’s eco-weights.

Standout Features
  • Durable and long-lasting nylon fabric
  • Various lengths available with 3, 4 or 5 pocket options
  • Weights easily slide in and out with velcro pocket openings

Weight vests allow you to move some of your the weights from your waist to your upper torso. They’re favored by freedivers and spearfishers who aren’t wearing a BCD (which makes duck diving easier). They’re also a good option for avoiding sore hips or lower back due to lead dive weights.

Best Weight Vest

General Impression

SeaSoft is one of the most trusted names in scuba diving weight belts, and they’ve put their expertise into this freediving vest. The one-size-fits-all design distributes weight across the entire torso, with a back-zippered compartment and adjustable shoulder straps. 

Standout Features
  • Can easily drop your weights with the easy-to-access ripcord
  • Can hold up to 40 pounds of weight
  • One-size-fits-all means it’s a long-term investment

You can also redistribute weight by wearing ankle weights. Usually made from neoprene or nylon filled with lead, they’re designed to contour around your ankle. Featuring a quick-release buckle they can be dumped if needed. Ankle weights are usually worn in conjunction with another weight system (a weight belt or integrated weights) and can be useful in reducing leg and fin buoyancy. If you find that your legs are floating upwards (something particularly common when wearing a drysuit), ankle weights may help. They’ll reduce both drag and fatigue from trying to constantly keep your legs level with your body. 

Ankle weights are also popular with divers who require a lot of weight and experience discomfort or back issues when it’s all carried around their waist. 

Best Ankle Weights

General Impression

With a form-fitting, rugged design these ankle weights help to reduce leg and fin buoyancy. The easy-release buckle can be accessed with one hand and they offer a total weight capacity of around 3.5 pounds per pair.

Standout Features
  • Easy release Delrin buckles
  • Can fit ankles sized between 10 and 14 inches
  • Comes with a storage bag

Brace Systems

Another option for those with back problems is a brace system, which has a harness belt and a backplate onto which weights can be attached. Weights can be evenly distributed across the back and easily released in case of an emergency. 

V-Weights

V-weights are commonly used by divers who carry twin tanks. They are designed to sit between the two cylinders and are comfortable to carry. The benefit of this is weight is distributed onto the back, but a downside is they cannot be easily dumped for an emergency ascent.

The weight you will need while scuba diving will depend on several factors, including your weight and body mass index. It will also depend on the equipment you are using (wetsuit thickness, type of cylinder) and the water you are diving in. 

Saltwater diving will require more weight than freshwater diving. Thicker wetsuits will make you more positively buoyant than thinner wetsuits and will require more weights to keep you down. Steel cylinders are less buoyant compared to aluminum cylinders. As you dive and your cylinder empties, it will also become more buoyant and want to float to the surface. 

Figuring out your scuba weight calculation and neutral buoyancy is something that is covered in Open Water training. But it can take many more dives before you perfect them. Your dive instructor will probably suggest the amount of weight you should be carrying (based on your size and weight) on your first few dives, then it’s up to you to monitor it over successive dives. 

Most divers will be taught that if you are at the water’s surface in a vertical position (with no air in your BCD), the surface of the water should come halfway up your mask. At this point, you are neutrally buoyant. If the water is higher up your mask, then you are negatively buoyant. If it is below your mask, then you are positively buoyant. 

You can also check your buoyancy at your five-meter safety stop. If you have just 50 bar of air left in your cylinder and are neutrally buoyant, then your weighting is spot on. For more about scuba diving and the buoyancy factor, check out this video

When logging each dive, write down the amount of weight and equipment you were using, the thickness of your wetsuit and your body weight. Also, note down whether you felt too “heavy” or “light” at your safety stop and adjust accordingly on your next dive. 

As you become more comfortable with your weighting and the principle of flotation, you can also play with distributing the weights over your body. This might mean adding ankle weights so your legs don’t float (or sink) or trying out an integrated weight system rather than weight belt diving. 

Whatever systems you use, you must know how to drop your weights quickly if an emergency ascent is required. Know exactly where the release mechanisms are located on your weight integrated BCD or where the buckle is on your scuba diver weight belt.

Many divers are shy to experiment with their weighting and will continue using the weights they were recommended on their very first dive, even if it means being overweight. So don’t be afraid to ask your dive guide to do a weight check before the descent.

Freediving Weight Calculations

If you’re freediving, the amount of weight you need will be influenced by the same factors as scuba diving (your weight, water type, and equipment). But it will also be impacted by how deep you plan on diving, which will probably be quite shallow for beginners and much deeper for experienced freedivers. 

To find your neutral buoyancy, descend along a dive line to the ten-meter mark and let go of the rope. If you float up, then you need more weight. If you sink, you’re dealing with negative buoyancy and need less weight. If you remain in the same position, then you’ve found neutral buoyancy and your correct weighting. 

For beginner freedivers, simply put on your weight setup and get into the water. When vertically upright (and without finning), you should be able to exhale and the water should reach somewhere between your chin and lower lip. If you sink below this, then take some weight off. If the water reaches below your chin, you might need to add some weight. 

Spearfishing Weight Calculations

The weight required for spearfishing can be calculated similarly to freediving. However, it will differ depending on the hunting technique you are using. If you want to lie still in shallow water while sneaking up on prey, then you will need more weight than if you’re diving deeper and swimming after fish. 

Neutral buoyancy refers to when an object’s average density is equal to the density of the fluid in which it is immersed. The result is that the force of gravity is balanced by the buoyant force that’s preventing the object from sinking. So a neutrally buoyant object will neither float to the surface nor sink.

In scuba diving, it’s not only the amount of weight you are carrying that will impact your ability to maintain neutral buoyancy. Accurately managing your buoyancy compensator and understanding how controlled breathing impacts your position in the water are other important skills to master. Achieving neutral buoyancy is not something that you can “set and forget”. It requires continuous correction as the air in your tank decreases and conditions change. 

1. Why do things float?

Objects that are less dense than water will float while those that are more dense will sink. Objects with tightly packed molecules are more dense than those where the molecules are spread out. Generally speaking, an object with a greater surface area will be more buoyant, as water will push up against and help it to float. 

2. If an object floats in water what is its density?

If an object floats in water, then its density is less than that of the water and it has positive buoyancy. The density of water is the weight of the water per its unit volume, which depends on the temperature of the water. The density of pure water is less than 1 g/cm3, so any object that floats will have a density less than this. 

3. Why is neutral buoyancy important for divers?

Finding neutral buoyancy when diving is important so that you aren’t sinking below your desired depth or constantly floating up to the surface. Not only will these situations cause fatigue but you’ll probably consume a lot of air while fighting against them. 

Diving incident reports often cite overweight-ing and/or poor buoyancy control as contributing factors. Bad buoyancy control can also destroy fragile marine environments. Achieving neutral buoyancy will make diving much more enjoyable for both yourself and those around you. 

4. How do scuba divers control their buoyancy?

Managing your buoyancy while scuba diving can be achieved multiple ways: by accurate scuba diving weight calculation, inflation/deflation of the BCD, and controlled breathing. The thickness of your wetsuit and the scuba diving gear you are using will also impact your buoyancy, as will the amount of air in your tank.

Controlling your buoyancy is a careful balance between all of these elements but begins with accurate weighting. The amount of weight you carry will depend on the thickness of your wetsuit and the gear you are using, which may change from dive to dive. Once you are underwater, you can manage your buoyancy by inflating/deflating your BCD, controlling the amount of air in your lungs, or the removal/addition of weights with the help of your dive buddy.

5. How much does a 7 mm wetsuit weigh?

A standard 7 mm wetsuit weighs about 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms) and will be more positively buoyant than a 5 mm or 3 mm wetsuit. This means that you will need to wear more weights to achieve neutral buoyancy, provided all other factors are the same. 

6. How much does a scuba tank weigh?

A standard aluminum 80 tank weighs 35 pounds (15.8 kilograms) while similar capacity steel tanks weigh in at about 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms). So a steel tank will be more positively buoyant than an aluminum tank of the same capacity and you will need to wear more weights to achieve neutral buoyancy. 

7. How much does scuba gear weigh all together?

The weight of an entire scuba tank setup will vary from diver to diver, depending on what equipment they are using and the thickness of their wetsuit. Generally speaking, a basic scuba gear setup (BCD, regulator and octopus, wetsuit, fins, and mask) will weigh around 22 pounds (10 kilograms). But this can increase sharply once you add in weights and accessories, such as surface markers, torches, dive knives, and computers.

8. What are diving weights made of?

Diving weights are made from lead, which is a high-density material that can be transformed into a compact form. Most lead weights are coated in plastic that protects them from corrosion and makes them less abrasive on wetsuits.

Aside from cheap dive weights made from hard lead, you can also find soft lead (or “shot”) weights that are housed within a mesh pocket. They are designed to mold around the shape of the body and are also coated to prevent them from eroding in saltwater. 

9. Where to buy scuba diving weights?

You can buy scuba diving weights from your local dive shop or online at places such as Amazon. The benefit of purchasing weights at a dive shop is being able to chat with a professional and test out different weight systems. But purchasing online may offer a greater variety and with a little independent research, you can make an informed decision about what type of weights you prefer.

REACH OUT

As always, we create our content with you, fellow adventurers, in mind. So, how’d we do? Did you find this informative? Did it help you make a decision? Did we miss anything? We’d love to hear from you below. Thanks for reading and we hope your next adventure is a great one!

Pippa Strickland

Pip is a product expert, a degreed environmental scientist, and an adventure-style traveler originally from Australia. Pip has been an SSI-certified Divemaster for over 5 years, during which time she’s worked with hundreds of certified divers. She’s dived widely throughout Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines and the Middle East, with a particular passion for night diving. When she’s not diving, her key interests include surfing, trekking and gardening in her ever-growing veggie patch.

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