How Much Lead?, Buoyancy for Beginners

okMany new divers ask this question just before they pack their bags for that tropical vacation, how much lead will I need for buoyancy? There are many ways to answer that basic question, but if you have taken your PADI advanced open water class with us, then you already know that there is a basic weighting chart in your adventures in diving manual and you also know that there is a small little typo in that same chart.

Let’s take a look at the normal diver and how I might weight you for your tropical island dives.  First, what type of wetsuit are you using?  A dive skin or a 2 mil shorty or maybe a full 3 mil.  Maybe you run cold and are using a 5 mil full suit.  They all add buoyancy to us and they all have very different buoyancy issues to overcome.  For an average person in salt water let’s start with

  • Dive skin or swim suit, since neither of these have any buoyancy start with 4 to 6 pounds
  • 2 or 3 mil Shorty or full suit – 5% of your body weight plus approximately 4 pounds for the added buoyancy of the tank as it empties
  • 5 mil full suit – 10% of your body weight plus the extra for the tank

These are not hard and fast rules, but a basic starting point.  A person that carries a lower percentage of body fat, such as a weight lifter might use less weight that a person that is carrying a few extra pounds around their middle.  I have seen very thin and in shape divers that needed extra weight and very large people who needed all most no lead.  Every diver is different and every diver has different gear.  If you have been diving with a heavy jacket style BCD and you then start diving with the Zuma travel BCD you will need to adjust your weight up to counter the lighter weight of the travel BCD.  The same goes for a new wetsuit, add a few extra pounds of lead to counter the added buoyancy of the wetsuit as they are more buoyant when they are new.scuba joe