Why Do We Need to Use Weights in Scuba Diving?

Last Updated: March 22, 2022

We need to use weights when diving because they ensure that we have zero or neutral buoyancy. Neutral buoyancy means that we expend less energy when remaining in one place, allowing us to stay in the water longer before tiring.

In the next section, I’m going to discuss how to use diving weights, the history, how much weight is necessary when diving, and whether or not it’s safe to dive without them.

How to Use Weights to Go Up and Down

Weights are, as their name suggests, designed to be heavy. In turn, this helps divers sink under the water.

When you release air from your BCD, your weights will take over and pull you down toward the seafloor. This speed can be controlled by slowly releasing the air from your BCD or by using your legs to kick and slow your body’s descent.

When ascending back to the surface at the end of a dive, your weights play an important role too. By this time, your cylinder will likely be nearly empty and have a mind of its own to float to the surface. Your weights help ensure that you don’t float up too fast and that you can make the appropriate safety stop at the 5-meter mark.

The History

At the very beginning of scuba diving as a recreational pastime in the 1950s, equipment was incredibly limited and very expensive.

People used whatever they could find and as such, they certainly didn’t use the modern BCDs that we have today.

Regulators were also a relatively new invention, meaning that the entire scuba kit was likely made up of an oxygen tank that was attached to a DIY harness and a regulator, a set of fins, and a mask. Keep in mind, also, that the oxygen tanks of the old days were quite dangerous and prone to exploding, damage, and failure.

To achieve their desired depth, divers would use stones and hold onto them, effectively using them as weights. When they reached their depth, they would let go of the stones and swim around, slowly ascending back to the top after 10 to 15 minutes.

While this way worked, it certainly wasn’t all that safe or reliable.

Can You Scuba Dive Without Weights?

So, if I’m being overly technical, yes – you can scuba dive without weights. The question is, however, should you? The answer is not if you can help it.

Although wearing a weight belt can be costly and a bit of a pain to maintain, they are crucial to ensuring your safety as you embark on your underwater adventures. And you can always make yourself one at home, if budget is an issue.

The biggest problem of diving without weights is that it can be hard to ascend to the surface at the appropriate speed. Not only can you come up too quickly, but you can also experience extreme fatigue from having to constantly kick your legs to stay at the 5-meter depth and allow for excess nitrogen to be expelled.

If you do freedive without weights, it’s important to know the risks and to tell someone where you’re diving and how long you intend to be gone – just in case something goes wrong.

How Much Weight Do You Need for Diving?

How much weight you need to dive depends on you as an individual. Your body fat vs muscle ratio, type of tank, and exposure suit all play a role in how much weight you should equip yourself with.

In general, those with more body fat will need more weight, as their bodies are naturally more buoyant. Most women should start weighting themselves at 10% of their body weight and go from there.

Taller people also need more weight, as they are considered to be positively buoyant and to have more surface area. Your exposure suit is a big factor.

In fact, I’d argue that it’s one of the biggest factors. The more neoprene your suit contains, the more weight you need.

Check out this estimated diving weight calculator to get an idea of what I mean.

In addition, someone wearing an older suit will need more weight than someone wearing a brand new suit, since the air bubbles trapped in the neoprene fabric of a new wetsuit have all been expelled in an old one.

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