I’m taking a scuba diving certification course and need to buy myself a mask, fins, and snorkel before the course begins. I see the split-fins are popular, but expensive. Can anyone make a good recommendation?

The first thing to consider is fit and comfort. If you put the mask on to your face, then inhale (without the strap on your head), the mask should stay tightly plastered to your face, even when you breath through your mouth. If it doesn’t, reject it.

Next, look for visibility – can you see well to the sides? Does anything on the mask bother you? If it’s not the best of the bunch, reject it.

For the fins, if you have very strong legs, go for the split fins if you can afford them, otherwise, go for more traditional ones. Extra long fins are awful if you are going to be boat diving, or if you have to walk out of surf. I prefer a middle ground with straps that can be replaced if they break.

For the snorkle, usually they come with the mask, but be sure yours fits in your mouth comfortably, doesn’t cause your teeth to clench, and that when it’s on the mask the nozzle rides above your ear or the back of your head. You want it to be out of the water when you are swimming on the surface. I prefer one’s without a ‘drain’ at the bottom, but I’ve been diving a long time. I tend to go for simple, since I want to enjoy my dive, not spend my time repairing my gear.