The advantages of owning your own equipment include the following:
- Safety: Becoming familiar with the operation of varous pieces of equipment
- Convenience: Able to dive at a moment's notice and don't have to be concerned with making a trip to the Local Diving Store (LDS) to pick rental gear
- Cost effective: Owners of equipment tend dive more regularly (thus making the initial investment in training more cost effective)
There is not really a good answer to which piece of gear to buy first. One could argue in favor of either a BCD or regulator. It really is a personal choice. The key thing to bear in mind when buying gear is buying something that will enable you to dive safely and that you will not outgrow within the next 3 to 5 years.
A work colleague is a brand junkie. He ONLY uses Scubapro equipment. Fins, wetsuit, BCD, regulator etc. Not only does he insist on using only Scubapro he also insists that everything has to be color matched as well. Although I appreciate his brand loyality, I think one should be selective about the gear you buy based on the kind of diving that you will be doing.
I know of an instructor who shall remain nameless who went online and bought the cheapest possible BCD that he could find. His reasoning was that it would get ruined in the pool anyway so why use a decent BCD in the pool? He has used the cheap BCD on all kinds of training, wreck diving and so on. I noticed that he in fact does own a very nice OMS setup, but he never uses it. I guess he is keeping the OMS BCD for a "special dive". As far as I know, his OMS BCD has never been in the pool. Now that I think about it, it is probably huge overkill using an OMS BCD in the pool.
This is a topic that I will be writing about for the next few days since there is much to talk about.