Underwater, you will have only seconds to react, readjust, and regain your composure before the extreme risks of freediving compound around you. A diver’s ability to descend and ascend without problems is the most important part of freediving and spearfishing.
How do you counteract your body’s mass underwater without compromising your safety? A diving belt weighted for your needs, body, and gear will be necessary. Purchasing a belt isn’t enough to erase underwater dangers. Too little or too much weight on your belt can compromise your safety, but the belt itself must be strong enough to hold your weights in place without slipping, shifting, or falling off your body.
What is Buoyancy?
Buoyancy is basic physics. When you dive down in the ocean, the water around you creates an upward thrust. It’s the same scientific principle that allows you to float in water too. However, by adding more weight to your body, your density increases to an amount greater than the seawater. This allows you to sink to different depths.
The idea behind a weighted diving belt is to add just enough extra weight to allow you to descend to your required depth without over exerting your body on the descent or ascent. There is no magic number. Your actual weight, body shape, and the depth you want to dive will determine how much weight to add or subtract, and this number can vary from dive location to water’s salinity (or lack thereof if you’re diving in freshwater).
Buoyancy and Your Diving Belt
It might seem counterproductive, but your buoyancy can be a major factor in purchasing your belt despite weights being sold separately. Belt manufacturers and designs hold varied weight amounts. If you need 25lbs of additional weight, a belt that can only hold 20lbs won’t be a good fit for you.
Keep in mind that many factors can affect how buoyant you are from dive spot to dive spot. A belt that’s capable of holding a large amount or range of weight is ideal, but that range is individual to you.
High quality materials are necessary, but plastic versus metal or nylon versus rubber isn’t enough to make a decision on product superiority.
Common Diving Belt Materials
- Nylon—not the greatest for freediving
- Rubber—best for safety, comfort, and functionality
- Silicone—same as rubber but more flexible and less common
Many seasoned freedivers prefer rubber construction for its flex and ability to stay put and properly compress against their wetsuit. However, for every freediver that uses a rubber belt, you’ll find one or two freedivers that prefer nylon. They’re better suited and safer for tank/scuba diving.
Rubber or silicone belts are necessary if you’re spearfishing. You can’t make quick adjustments underwater, and a nylon belt will likely loosen and wind up around your chest. Rubber styles conform to your body, but they offer more stretch than nylon for twisting and turning without moving. They also compress again to their normal state.
The rubber styles are also better for holding more weight for freediving without compromising your comfort. Don’t use a nylon belt no matter how highly it’s rated for spearfishing. It’s an unnecessary safety hazard.
Coated nylon belts can hold light loads without needing a lot of readjustment, but they’re prone to pinching skin because of how much tighter you’ll need to pull them. Still, a good quality nylon belt will last through multiple dives as well as a rubber belt. Cheaply made nylon belts can fray or wear out, so look for rigid high-grade Denier nylon if you must use them. Some flex is okay, but the material should be stiff.
Another upside to a nylon freediving belt is if you also scuba dive since you can use it for both.
The best belt material will be the one that doesn’t pinch or chafe, and it stays put no matter your depth or the twisting and turning of your body.
Adjustable Belt Styles
- With traditional holes
- Without holes
Many belts will be adjustable in some way. This is personal taste, but you should note that several hole-less designs will require you to cut them to your size. If you’re going to cut your belt, you should always leave a few inches extra. This stops you from cutting away too much and allows you to use it should you wear a thicker wetsuit.
Nylon belts require extra steps after cutting or else they will fray. Trimming your belt to size could be a pro or a con, depending on who will use the belt and if you’ll be willing to replace it should you measure wrong or gain/lose weight.
If a belt has predrilled holes, but you find you need to make it smaller, you could attempt to add a hole. Doing so will be at your own risk, and it isn’t recommended over purchasing a smaller belt.
Some belts come with adjustable, removable, or stitched on pockets to hold weights. Others require you to purchase them separately. Again, depending on your needs, this can be a pro or a con.
Pay attention to zippered pouch designs. A few models have one zipper for enclosing four to seven pouches. This can make it difficult to ditch weight without ditching the actual belt. It’s near impossible to drop the back located weights in an emergency without expending needed energy with twisting and reaching behind yourself. It can also cause further panic when you try.
Another downside to zippered and stitched on pockets is that you can’t adjust them to where you need them on the belt. You might need more weight on the front of your body, for example, and you can’t simply wear the belt backward without compromising your safety.
The upside to purchasing a model without pockets is that 2-inch diving belt widths are mostly standard, so you can easily choose the weight style and pockets of your preference. Plus, as mentioned above, you can adjust your weights to where you require them to be. If you need to ditch some weight, you might be able to do so without compromising your entire belt.
Types of buckles
- Stainless steel quick release
- Stainless steel traditional buckle
- Nylon plastic quick release or buckle
Quick release buckles offer another layer of safety in emergencies. While not necessary, it’s a feature you shouldn’t overlook as a traditional buckle can be cumbersome in an emergency. This is mostly a concern with beginners and novices who aren’t used to removing the belt with gloves on.
I Heard I Don’t Need a Belt to Freedive.
This is true to an extent, but you’re weighing the risk of personal safety. Your dives will be harder on descent and ascent, and maintaining your dive depth might be harder. These risks might be negligible for those who require little to no added weight, specifically sea dwelling nomads, but those people aren’t the majority of freedivers and spearfishermen.
How Much Weight Do I Need?
The weight you need to add to your belt depends on a few factors: the depth you wish to achieve, your weight, your gear, and your natural buoyancy.
Ultimate Spearfishing Magazine recommends a dry run in a pool to test your calculations before you attempt your outing. The outlined process also applies to freediving.
My Belt is too Long. Should I Wrap it Around Twice?
No. Wrapping the belt around you more than once cancels out safety features like quick release buckles. You can tuck in excess and allow it to dangle between your legs. Another option is to cut it to size or purchase a smaller belt.
If you choose to cut a nylon belt, you’ll need to heat seal the edges and apply another protective treatment to prevent fraying. Rubber belts don’t require additional treatments.
How Do I Measure for My Belt?
Most measurements might seem overly large for your waist size, but you’ll actually wear your belt on your hips. This provides better weight distribution without compromising flexibility and mobility beneath the water.
Measuring works best if you have someone else who can assist you so that your body doesn’t move or shift. Remember, you want a snug fit so being a few inches off can throw off your number.
Put on your wetsuit. Wrap a soft tape measure (or long length of string if you only have a standard measuring tape) around your top hip area; this is about 2-inches below your navel but above your hip bone. You shouldn’t bend over, and you should hold your breath as if you were underwater. Repeat if you own more than one wetsuit. Pick a belt larger than your measurement or highest measurement if you measured more than one wetsuit.
How Many Weight Pockets Do I Need?
This will depend on how much weight you need to hold and the capacity of the pockets. Some divers reference their body weight and dive depth online, but you must calculate your own based on your needs. Using someone else’s numbers won’t be accurate.
How Do I Attach Other Items to a Belt?
The upside to using a belt is having the ease of attaching or storing gear and accessories, like cameras, shoes, pocket knives, and such. Of course, you don’t want to carry too much, and you should determine your buoyancy with these additional items on your person since they add weight and mass.
D-rings are the most convenient and inexpensive way to tote extra items on your belt. Do remember that if you must remove your belt, these extra items will go down with your belt. Leave valuables ashore.
Can I Fly with a Weighted Diving Belt?
If you’ve previously traveled with a weighted diving belt, you might be familiar with the delays a weighted belt can create at airport security. This is due to the lead weights showing up on scanners and throwing off the weight of your luggage. Working through standard security checks might add more time to your boarding process.
Also, keep in mind that your weights add pounds to your luggage and surprise you with additional fees. A luggage scale can help prepare you beforehand, or some divers will elect to rent their weights if it’s cheaper than airline bag fees.
How Do I Remove the Weights in an Emergency?
You might have to make a split-second decision in the ocean between discarding weights or the belt itself. Ditching weight mid dive will depend on the type of belt, weights, and how you’ve attached them. Before attempting a dive, you should test different scenarios in a pool. While it won’t replicate a real-life situation, it offers you practice in a safer environment.
Can My Child Freedive or Spearfish?
The world’s youngest freediver is three years old.
Children can typically enjoy freediving at lower depths. They’ll still need proper equipment, including a weighted belt, and you should consider additional age appropriate safety classes too.
Check local laws about spearfishing regulations. Some require special licensing and those might carry age restrictions. As with freediving, your child will still need the right equipment to safely dive.
I heard That I Shouldn’t Freedive After Scuba Diving. Is This True?
Freediving and spearfishing both introduce new risks compared to scuba diving. Most notably there’s no air tank. Some experts persuade scuba divers from attempting free dives in between or after scuba diving. Opinions go as far to claim you can freedive prior to scuba diving, but you shouldn’t attempt it after.
No scientific evidence supports their theories. Any risks that arise during scuba diving and free diving remain the same no matter which you perform first. Just remember to wear the proper gear regardless of which sport you’re enjoying.
Health and Freediving
If you have certain preexisting conditions, including a history of heavy smoking, vertigo, and breathing problems, your risks do increase during a free dive. This doesn’t mean you can’t freedive. Be mindful of your body and listen to it. You might wish to begin at lower depths before performing deeper dives, but your risk factors won’t decrease.
Using a weighted diving belt calibrated to your needs and the location of the dive reduces dangers beneath the waves. However, it’s not a crutch or a replacement for common sense. If you begin to notice any signs of hyperventilating, dizziness, or loss of hearing or vision, ditch your belt immediately and head for the surface.
There is no safe diving depth for pregnant women.
Always have a partner when you dive. Watch one another for signs of exhaustion, blackout, or other issues. Be honest with how you’re feeling. Plus diving with a partner allows you to share your experience and excitement.
Agree before you arrive on your diving depth. It’s imperative that you’re both capable of reaching the same depth. For example, if your belt and ability allow you to dive deeper than your buddy, they won’t be able to rescue you in an emergency without compromising their safety.
Use a Universal Buoy or Flag
This alerts other divers, boats, and swimmers to your location should there be an issue. Use one even if you have a buddy.
Track Your Depth
Using a diver’s watch to track and alert you to your depth and time underwater. This can help you see if you’ve descended too far and determine whether you need to start ditching weight or make other adjustments.
Top 6 Weighted Diving Belts
1. Riffe Rubber Weight Belt with Buckle for Freediving and Spearfishing — for Heavy Weights and All Around Use
Riffe has provided well-designed products to the diving world for ages. The Rubber Belt with Buckle for Freediving and Spearfishing doesn’t disappoint and will be useful for beginners and experts alike.
The most notable feature is the capability this belt holds when compared to similar products. The inner rubber ribbing grips well enough and doesn’t slip. The glass filled nylon buckle releases quickly in case you need to ditch your weight.
2. XS Scuba Eight Pocket Weight Belt — for a Custom Fit
XS Scuba delivers their comfort award winning dive belt, but it is its full adjustability without losing safety features that makes it shine despite being a nylon belt.
Overall, it’s easy to adjust and use for any skill level. It answers issues divers have with nylon belts and weight systems sliding around or pulling the belt too tight/loose. If you’ve had issues with pocketed nylon belts in the past, the XS Scuba might be a good choice.
3. Scuba Diving 60″ Long 2″ Webbing Weight Belt Plastic Buckle — Best Value
Scuba Diving offers their branded products at surplus prices. You might not find extra bells and whistles, but you’ll find their styles do their job.
This durable nylon model is longer than other belts are, but you might find it best suited for holding small amounts of weight before you’re forced to sacrifice your comfort. The value in this belt is its cost, and it does still manage to be useful because of the stiffer nylon coating. You might have issues with weights shifting and need to readjust it frequently.
4. SEAC Nylon Buckle Rubber Belt — Best for Spearfishing
An industry leader since 1971, SEAC delivers high quality products designed to last dive after dive. This belt certainly lives up to the manufacturer’s reputation with its innovative, sleek design that does what more expensive models accomplish for less.
You can use this belt for freediving too, but its design has the spearfisherman in mind since it’s meant twisting, turning, and it can flex and resume its normal state without ever needing adjusting.
5. Scuba Choice Spearfishing Free Dive Heavy Duty Rubber Weight Belt w/SS Buckle — for 10’-15’ Dives
Scuba Choice’s branded line shows promise as becoming an industry leader with every product they design and present to the diving world. The standard width provides stability and the high-quality rubber will last through multiple dives.
The stainless-steel buckle mimics a standard belt design, but it might be cumbersome if you’re inexperienced working one with gloves on. Overall, the rubber belt doesn’t shift or ride up, and the compression stretch offers enough freedom of movement without pinching or loosening.
6. Scuba Max Nylon Zippered Weight Belt — for Travel
Scuba Max is one of many diving gear companies that provide good quality gear. However, they really missed their mark with their zippered weight belt.
This model falls short on what appears to be a promising design. It can be hard for some to achieve a perfect fit, and if you need more pockets without a larger size, you’re out of luck. With that said, for those who find it fits, it can be a decent belt for traveling. The pouches will hold any style of weight.
New designs continue to flood the marketplace, but the standards we’ve shared here have continued to provide usefulness and increased safety. Silicone based models should be on your radar, especially if you’ve been unhappy with rubber and nylon materials. The silicone offers a lot of promise because its flexible like rubber, but it’s also more resistant to harsh environmental factors like UV rays, salt water, and heat. We look forward to covering those for you in the future.