Scuba Diving Weight and Lead FAQ

1. What are diving weights used for?

Diving weights are used to balance buoyancy when you are diving underwater.  This provides you with a way to offset the buoyancy of the gases in your own body, your wetsuit and your air tank.  Weights are also used to provide effective positioning in the water.  This helps you to stay in the right position to move around easily.  Weights can be placed on the ankles and air tank to help adjust buoyancy.

2. What are diving weights made from?

Diving weights are made from lead.  This is a high density material that provides a heavy weight in a compact, easy to carry form.   To protect the lead from corrosion often lead weights are coated with plastic and this can make them less abrasive on wetsuits.  This is also kinder to the environment as lead can flake off and contaminate the water.

3.  How are weights worn whilst diving?

Weights can be worn in a number of places when diving.  The weight belt is fastened around the waist on the outside of the weight suit.  This can be easily removed in emergencies.  Weights can also be placed around the ankles, in the BCD (buoyancy compensator device) and on the air tanks.  Experienced divers will have their own personal weight distribution set up which provides them with the best balance when diving underwater.

4.  What are shot weights?

Diving weights can be made from solid lead weights or from lead shot.  Shot weights are softer and provide a more flexible weight.  Each lead shot pellet is individually coated to protect it from erosion. Without this coating the lead shot would erode in salt water and form a powdery lead chloride.  This can be harmful to marine life so you do need to make sure you only use coated lead shot in your diving weights.  Shot weights are also known as soft weights, because they mould around the divers body much more easily than solid lead weights.

5.  What type of diving weight should I choose?

The type of diving weight you choose will depend on the weight belt you have.  There are several different types of weight belt and you will need to try on a few to find out which one is the most comfortable for you.  The two main dive weight belts are:

  • Lead Block Belts – this standard weight belt is the cheapest and most common.  It consists of a tough nylon belt with pockets along the length.  Solid lead blocks are then placed in these pockets according to what weight the diver needs.  The lead block belt has a quick release buckle which ensures the belt can be removed fast in an emergency.  Most rental scuba equipment uses a lead block weight belt.
  • Lead Shot Belts – lead shot belts can be more comfortable than lead block belts.  This is a similar design to lead block belts and the lead shot will be contained in mesh pockets along the belt length.  You can easily add and subtract lead shot as you need to adjust your weight.  The main problem with lead shot belts is that the buoyancy can change over time so you will need to check and adjust the weights with each dive. 

6.  What are brace systems?

This type of harness weight belt is much more suitable for divers that have back problems.  They distribute the weight more evenly around the upper torso and prevent strain in any specific areas of the body.  These may come with a back plate and many people find them much more comfortable to wear than hip belts.  The harness weight belt can also help distribute the weight of the air tanks more easily as well for additional back support.

7.  Do I need v-weights?

V-weights are typically used by divers that carry twin tanks.  They are v-shaped lumps of lead that can be placed between the two tanks.  There is no need to wear a weight belt with v-weights, however these weight cannot easily be released in the event of an emergency and so are not suitable for beginner divers.

8. What are integrated weights?

Integrated weights are built straight into your BCD.  This means that you do not have to wear a weight belt whilst you are diving.  This will however make your BCD heavier to move around before and after you get into the water.  You may prefer to get a BCD with detachable weights as these can be removed before you get out of the water and handed over to your boat support crew.

9. Are ankle weights suitable for beginners?

When you are first learning to dive you will probably stick to just weight belts and BCDs at first.  When you are getting a bit more confident you may find ankle weights helpful for balance in the water.  Ankle weights will help to prevent your legs from floating upwards as you dive.  Ankle weights also have easy release buckles in case of emergencies.  Make sure ankle weights are tight enough to stay on securely but not too tight otherwise they can inhibit the circulation in your legs and feet.

10.  What sizes are weights available in?

Diving lead weights are available in a number of different sizes to help you get an accurate balance of weight.  Typically weights are available in 1 to 5 pound sizes and the weight will be stamped on the side.  Soft weights are generally sold in colour coded packets and will also have tags stating the weight (although these can easily get lost).  Experienced divers will get used to judging the size of lead dive weights and this is helpful as many lead weights lose their tags or the stamp gets worn off over time.