JOHN BENNETTworlds deepest open-circuit diver, Philippines
JOHN BEST LAST YEAR: Im pleased to say that the equipment in both cases is British-made. Without a doubt, my new Trilaminate drysuit (the Otter Skin) tops my happy-to-have list. Its tough and durable, yet surprisingly flexible. Its flexibility allows for easy access to crucial equipment such as valves without getting leaky wrist or neck seals.
I explained my needs to John Womack of Otter Watersports and it was quite a list. Short, very cold exposures on some deep dives, 16-21C for most, then decompressing for long periods in up to 28C. Large pockets for slates, tables and a pee-valve. The Otter Skin fits the bill perfectly, and it looks good - what more can you ask I use the 200gm undersuit for my longer or deeper dives.

BEST EVER: My Apeks regulators. When I started getting into technical diving, I knew I had to upgrade my equipment. As Tom Mount of IANTD was quoted as saying: When buying a piece of equipment you should be able to bet your life on it, because in an emergency thats exactly what you are doing.
I looked at many reports written by bodies and individual divers for an impartial view, and the Apeks regs shone. Performance-wise, I have never been disappointed. I have put my regulators in some very challenging conditions and they have never faltered.
I use the TX100 for my bottom mixes, because the first stage is perfectly configured for fluent hose-routeing. I prefer TX50s for decompression - theyre ideal because of the swivel on the first stage. This allows for the regulator second stage to be positioned for maximum comfort, which is important if breathing from it for long periods.

JACK JACKSONphoto-journalist, England
JACK BEST LAST YEAR: One of Howard Rosensteins ProEar 2000 Masks, from Safe Dive. These masks keep your ears almost 100 per cent dry, thus avoiding the ear problems that blight those of us who dive a lot.

BEST EVER: A dive computer, as these remove the need for constant calculations necessary when performing multiple dives in one day. Many years ago I bought one of the first Aladin Pros and it continues to give me great service, but its heavy on batteries and these are not user-replaceable, which is awkward in remote areas. There is a kit where a new battery can be soldered in, but I found this impossible to do on a rocking liveaboard.
Two years ago I bought a Cochran Commander Nitrox and now always dive with two computers for back-up. As I do a lot of diving in remote places, this computer downloads to a PC, but more importantly it has easily user-replaceable batteries.

MARK WEBSTERphoto-journalist, England
MARK BEST LAST YEAR: I think the only piece of kit I bought in 2001 was a Buddy Blast air horn. Its a tremendous piece of equipment, particularly for solo-diving photographers who tend to stay in the water longer than most divers and drift farther as a result. It has helped cover-boat crews locate me and speed my pick-up on several occasions already and is effective over a surprising distance.

BEST EVER: My old Scubapro Mk V demand valve. I bought one when they first came out around 1976 and used it constantly until about four years ago, when I was embarrassed by my local dive shop into buying a new G250. The Mk V is built like a tank and would suffer all sorts of abuse and still perform magnificently. The newer valves might be lighter but I bet they wont last as long, and the performance has not changed so dramatically over 20 years. It is still there in the garage as a back-up!

JEAN-MICHEL COUSTEAU ocean explorer, France and USA
JEAN-MICHEL BEST LAST YEAR AND BEST EVER: A Supermask full-face mask, designed by Bev Morgan of Kirby Morgan. I had a very frightening experience with an Interspiro AGA mask, which was made for fire-fighters and adapted for divers. I was using it in extremely cold water, answering questions from an audience on a live programme using surface-to-surface wireless communication.
I was excited about all kinds of things that were happening, wasnt paying attention and ran out of air.
What do you do when you have cold water and an AGA mask I made an emergency ascent because I determined that I hadnt been there long and was not that deep.
Otherwise I would have had to remove my mask, and not been able to see anything at all because I was under pilings, and would have had to wait for someone to get air.
If you remove your mask under water in cold water you can pass out. People have passed out in the past.
Bev Morgan had the idea a long time ago but I pushed him and finally we have this product where you can remove the entire bottom half and use an alternative air source if necessary.
With a full-face mask, half of my head will still be protected from cold, so I wont lose heat so fast. I tested it all last summer and now its on the market. Its really nice!

DARRYL LENIUK photo-journalist, Canada
DARRYL BEST LAST YEAR: The only thing I bought was a drysuit.

BEST EVER: My old Nik V - at the time underwater photography was a new challenge and got me excited about diving again. Dive sites and marine life that were boring to me looked different when seen through the viewfinder of a camera.

DAN BURTON photo-journalist, England
DAN BEST LAST YEAR: My Suunto Stinger computer does everything you want a dive computer to do and for open-circuit diving you cant go wrong with it - its a really good piece of kit. Its a watch, a computer, a D-timer for technical diving and I can also use it for free-diving, for which there really wasnt anything decent before. I wear it all the time!

BEST EVER: My Aqua-Zepp scooter (DPV) has allowed me to dive some spectacular deep wrecks around the world, and circumnavigate them in one dive. This piece of equipment proved itself when we first dived the Britannic in 1997. It has recently been useful in the latest expedition to the Prince of Wales and Repulse in Malaysia. But I could also nominate my Nikon D1 Digital, which has brought about a big change in my underwater photography. It allows me to shoot hundreds of high-res images in one dive and experiment more, using creative lighting techniques.

GRAHAM SANDS writer, England
GRAHAM BEST LAST YEAR: A Suunto wrist-mounted compass - it was the only bit of kit I bought. You dont need tons of kit for standard recreational diving, especially if you buy good stuff to begin with, and look after it. But I was overdue for this basic item.

BEST EVER: The DUI drysuit I got 15 months ago has made such a difference to my UK diving - I used to get so damned chilled in the semi-dry, even in summer. So again it was long overdue; and it absolutely looks the biz.

ANDY BYATT BBC Blue Planet diver-producer, England
BEST LAST YEAR: I bought the pony bottle and Scubapro Travtec wings set-up that we use for our open-ocean filming from the BBC. Its great gear - light, and easily transportable around the world. Its made of low-corrosive aluminium and is handy for air at overseas destinations. Its comfortable to wear during those hours of waiting, and has low resistance for quick finning. The list goes on - its my favourite cylinder-and-BC set-up.

BEST EVER: My snorkel. Nothing else in my dive kit was such good value for money, because it means you can enjoy the underwater world for just a few pounds. Its fun to use and keeps you fitter than scuba but you can still get to a good depth. You can take it anywhere. Its an item seriously undervalued by the technical enthusiasts - oh, and it has the best no-stop time performance of any breathing apparatus I know!

FRANCO BANFI photographer, Italy
FRANCO BEST LAST YEAR: Best last year: The new computer-watch from Suunto, because its very practical.

BEST EVER: A drysuit from DUI, because I can dive everywhere and whenever I want - I dont have to worry about the temperature of the water.

JACQUIE COZENS underwater film-maker, USA
JACQUIE BEST LAST YEAR: An underwater Frisbee, which was a fun way to relax on deco stops. The fish never really got the hang of it, though!

BEST EVER: Not strictly dive gear, but a steel cable and clamps which were connected to me and then to the boat. They saved my life when we were diving in the blue and those pesky Humboldt squid were trying to pull me to the bottom of the ocean!

GAVIN ANDERSON photo-journalist, Scotland
GAVIN BEST LAST YEAR: I havent bought much this year, only a pony bottle and fastening kit to act as a bail-out on deeper dives. I suppose it was a good buy - after all, it could save my life.

BEST EVER: Probably my Pro Nitrox Aladin computer, although it is a little on the conservative side compared to other computers.

MONTY HALLS photo-journalist, England
MONTY BEST LAST YEAR: Kowalski video lights or torches - they are unbelievable!
Theyre daylight-style lights, so they provide a blue-hued illumination that creates daylight conditions for photography and filming or simply lighting up a subject on a dive.
The first time I used a light was on a night dive in Lake Malawi, and as I swam I felt as if I was pushing a swimming pool ahead of me, a great arc of light marking my progress through the dark waters. When I surfaced, I found a small crowd of locals and the rest of the dive team staring stunned into the water, slack-jawed at the power of the lights. Three hours to charge, 60 minutes of burntime, quite stunning.

BEST EVER: Simple one, this. Were all on a desperate quest to stay warm and dry in the UK, and Ive lost count of the amount of times Ive had that stealthy icy trickle down my back or staggered back up the beach with swollen ankles swishing amusingly at every step.
Having finally splashed out on a decent suit, the transformation with my Northern Diver Vortex membrane drysuit was instantaneous and blissful - full range of movement, indestructible seals, easy entry and exit, warm and dry throughout.
No leaks, even during the ridiculous contortions required for filming and photography. If I was parted from my suit, I would be a broken man.

BRENDAN OBRIEN photo-journalist, England
hspace=5 BEST LAST YEAR: I bought my wife a PADI Open Water course but didnt buy any dive gear. The year before I did buy an Aladin Air integrated computer, and now I wouldnt swap it for any other.

BEST EVER: An ex-rental Scubapro BC which had several years on it when I bought it eight years ago for $20, and its still going strong.

MARK ELLYATT deep diver, Jersey
MARK BEST LAST YEAR: Doing very many accelerated deco dives/courses in a year, I needed a computer with two-mix ability. The Nitek 3 has three - a bit of overkill here, because if I needed two different deco mixes, I wouldnt be breathing air as a bottom mix!
I have used other bi-mix computers such as the Nexus (too unconservative) and most Cochran models (mine seemed to prefer being sent back to the factory for replacement, holidays etc)!
The operating methods for gas changes are not my favourite either.
The Nitek 3 is pricey but you get what you pay for - a reliable multi-mix computer that seems to work more often than not!

BEST EVER: Ive been using the same pair of Force fins, bought originally in 95, without problems. They still have the original straps and dont look too weathered after 1200 dives. The original pair were black and Ive just traded them in for a yellow pair, which are more useful for training purposes.
The fins are almost indestructible, in total contrast to all the other fins I occasionally try. I find them easiest to fin long distances with, and fastest for getting on or off. The new-style bungee straps are even faster.
You can easily walk forwards in them (if you want) and climb ladders without taking them off.
I would recommend them to anyone, but try em for 20 dives before you slag them!

JOHN LIDDIARD photo-journalist, England
JOHN BEST LAST YEAR AND BEST EVER: I dont think Ill surprise anyone by saying that my favourite bit of kit is my camera system. I made many visits to London, hesitating and fondling hardware at Ocean Optics, before splashing out on a Subal housing and Nikon 801. The quality of the optics and through-the-lens viewing resulted in an immediate improvement in my results, and I have never looked back.
I now have two 801 housings, an SB25/26 strobe housing and a selection of Sea and Sea strobes. My favourite lens is a 14mm Sigma, great for wreck photography.
Unlike many photographers, I usually jump into the water with the camera round my neck and have not found this to be a problem. The housings have survived being bashed about on boats, dropped from the back of my car and gouged against the inside of wrecks, all without leaking.
My only regret is spending so long making up my mind about the Subal housing - I should have bought it a few years earlier.

BOB ELLIOT diver-skipper, England
hspace=5 BEST LAST YEAR: A new Mares Abyss regulator which has proved to be of excellent quality in terms of both its manufacture and breathing characteristics.
Im extremely pleased with the reg and feel that it provides the unbreakable qualities that the regs of old did, but with improved performance.

BEST EVER: A pair of Typhoon Surfmaster MK2 rubber jet fins. These fins are now 30 years old and still going strong, and I use them on every dive.
When compared to modern fins that have been used for just a couple of seasons, the Surfmasters are in far better condition. Most of the new plastic fins that I use for school training are worn out, tatty and scruffy after three or four years of use, and of course now cost much more than the original purchase price of the rubber jet fins.
I find that new divers often have difficulty in keeping their feet down, especially when using a drysuit. This in some part is encouraged by modern plastic fins which are very light, and float. The old rubber fins are heavy and sink, and often help when the novice might otherwise resort to the use of ankle-weights.

INNES MCCARTNEY deep wreck-diver & submarine specialist, England
hspace=5 BEST LAST YEAR: My HID video lighting, because it gives a massive improvement in video quality.

BEST EVER: I would have to say the Poseidon Jetstream regulator - its obvious!

MARTYN FARR cave-diver, photographer & writer, Wales
hspace=5 BEST LAST YEAR: The Otter Extreme dive suit has excellent thermal qualities and is well designed and manufactured - all very important for cool British water, and especially for an instructor.

BEST EVER: I think theres a real tie for first place. If its life-supporting equipment, it would have to be my Poseidon Cyklon demand valves, which have never failed and have taken immense use. Beyond this, my Nikonos 15mm lens has been my pride and joy - its the best bit of photo-kit ever made, and mine has really been to some places!

ERLING SVENSSON photo-journalist, Norway
hspace=5 BEST LAST YEAR: A Suunto Spider computer. It weighs only 49 grams, its small, nice to operate, and lets me combine watch and computer when I go diving.

BEST EVER: That came when I changed in 1977 from wetsuit to drysuit. The wetsuit almost killed me in January that year, so I bought a drysuit and became a happy, warm diver.

MARIE DAVIES journalist, Australia
BEST LAST YEAR:Ive never spent much on fins before, assuming that they all did basically the same thing. I just thought it was another gimmick from the designer scuba gear people. I mean, whats the difference between a good pair of M & S underpants and the ones Calvin Klein offer for four times the price But a buddy assured me that with Mares Volos he moved faster under water, with ease but using less energy.
So, as a birthday treat to myself I splashed out on a pair and havent regretted paying $295 Aussie for them. Not only do they look pretty cool, theyre light, flexible, fast and super-easy to get on and off your feet, which can be quite handy in rough seas when youre hanging onto the back of the boat. As an instructor, its always important to look like youre in control in front of your students!
Theyre also really good for snorkelling, as they angle themselves at 45 into the water, rather than flapping around on the surface as my old Tusa fins used to do

BEST EVER: A seriously tough question. I could say my Apex regs, Tusa BC or Suunto dive computer, but what tops the bill is my wetsuit! Its a Mares 5mm one-piece with the zip up the back, its very cool and makes me look good (sometimes hard in a wetsuit)!
Its durable and keeps me snug in 16C if I wear the hood (thats about as cold as it gets in Sydney). It also fits me like a glove even though it wasnt specially made, and as Im only 5ft, thats a feat in itself.
The best thing is that it was a bargain. I bought it off an instructor friend who had bought it for his girlfriend, who suddenly became his ex-girlfriend after wearing it only once. I got it for the bargain price of $300 Aussie (about£105). Jealous

CHRIS BOARDMAN journalist, England
CHRIS BEST LAST YEAR: The answer has to be the Buddy Pocket reel I bought a couple of months ago, a superb piece of kit... that I subsequently dropped and lost in Egypt two weeks ago. So if anyone diving in around 45m on Tower Wall, Sharm finds one, its mine!

BEST EVER: More difficult, but it probably has to be my Mares Quattro Avanti fins. Theyre still the best and could well outlast me.

TIM ECOTTjournalist, England
TIM BEST LAST YEAR: A full-length red 5mm wetsuit made by Northern Diver. Its supremely comfortable in all the right places and keeps me snug on repetitive dives.

BEST EVER: My Mares Lyrica black mask - always comfortable, and it gives great vision!

TALLY POZZOLI photo-journalist, Italy
hspace=5 BEST LAST YEAR: A wetsuit made to my measurements. Its nice and warm and very comfortable!

BEST EVER: A dive sausage, one of those bright inflatable things. A dive doesnt feel safe unless I have one with me. Theyre light and dont take up much space.

ERIK BJURSTROM photo-journalist, Sweden
hspace=5 BEST LAST YEAR: A Halcyon HID light for tech diving on wrecks. It gives off incredible light with little use of power.

BEST EVER: Its difficult to remember all the stuff Ive bought over 35 years of diving but I guess the best must be my Poseidon Cyklon Sport regulator, which I bought about 25 years ago and used until last year - when I lost it.

JACK INGLE deep wreck-diver, England
JACK BEST LAST YEAR: I bought the Abyss Explorer Superflow regulator with adjustable second stage and its proved to be the best-breathing regulator I have ever used.

BEST EVER: My DUI drysuit. This might sound totally unimportant as a piece of diving equipment but after diving for many years in leaky drysuits of various makes the DUI has proved to be the most efficient and hard-wearing I have ever used. I spend many hours under water and need a suit that is able to keep me dry and warm.