Important Weight Considerations
The following assumptions are based on all things being equal. No wetsuit, no equipment, etc.
Structure of your body
Are you pretty muscular or like most of us could you lose a few pounds? The more muscular you are, the less weight you will need. Male or female? Typically on average men are denser and will require less weight. I know some pretty fit women, so take that with a grain of salt…everyone is different.
How deep you dive
The deeper you dive the less weight you will need.
The thickness/material of wetsuit
Typically, the thicker the wetsuit the more weight you will need. So, how warm the water also plays a factor.
Fresh or salt water
Take into consideration if you are diving in fresh or salt water. Salt water makes you more buoyant, so you will need more weight compared to diving in fresh water.
Strength of swimmer
How strong of a swimmer are you? This can be a little tricky. Some strong swimmers will use less weight because it’s easier for them to kick down, but some prefer a little more weight for an “easy” decent. The opposite also holds true. Because of being a strong swimmer it’s also easier for them to kick to the surface if they are using more weight.
If you are new to spearfishing or free diving it is always best to start off by using less weight. You might be a little more buoyant as you begin, but get comfortable with that weight and your equipment before increasing any weight. Always side on safety first.
How Much Weight Do I Need?
While the amount of weight needed is different for everyone, ideally, as mentioned, you want enough weight so you are able to dive under the water relatively easily, but not too much weight hindering your ability to surface safely and efficiently.
Before you strap on a weight belt you are positively buoyant. You want the right amount of weight to become neutrally buoyant, but not too much weight to become negatively buoyant.
For safety reasons you should be neutrally buoyant around 33′ (10 meters) if you are spearfishing deeper than 49′ (15 meters). I know what you are thinking…when I am I going to be spearfishing that deep. Well, you are right, some do, but in most cases, you will be spearfishing in less than 33′. Side note, When you are open water spearfishing you tend to be going deeper for larger fish.
This is when it can become very frustrating to be neutrally buoyant at 33′ (10 meters) and you happen to be spearfishing in 15′ (5 meters). You find your self kicking down and then being pushed back up to the surface again and again…frustrating and tiring. So the goal is to get yourself neutrally buoyant a little shallower than the sea floor. You don’t want to be suddenly pulled down to the ocean floor.
There have been many times, mostly when scuba diving when I have been too buoyant and have needed to put a few rocks in my BC to compensate for more weight needed. The nice thing about this is you can discard the weight as you make to the surface. I have used this technique many times in Carmel, California. I know there will be many rocks down there that will help out.
What’s The Right Amount of Weight?
So, How much weight do you need? Of course, this isn’t an absolute (everyone is different), but start off by using 10-12% of your body weight and then adjust accordingly. Of course, the thickness of your wetsuit becomes a consideration (even your speargun). This estimation has worked nicely for me based on a 5mm wetsuit. I’m 205 lbs (93 kg). Yes, if I’m diving in Carmel I’m putting on a 7mm wetsuit and adding weight in most cases.
Test Your Buoyancy
If you are able to hang motionless on the surface of the water using a snorkel, with a half a breath and descend when you exhale you have got it just right. When needed add or decrease the weight to get that perfect balance of buoyancy. Don’t worry your first couple of times, if you need to adjust your weight a few times. It can take some playing with to get it right. I recommend some options at the end of this article to make it easier to adjust your weight accordingly.
Weight Belt Materials
There are two main types of weight belts you can use. One is nylon and the other being rubber. Typically a nylon weight belt will be less expensive compared to a rubber weight belt. Personally, I prefer using a rubber weight belt. I started out using nylon and found that it would slip and wouldn’t conform to my body like a rubber belt. There were times in fact when using a nylon belt it slipped and hit rocks and scared fish away.
I have also used a neoprene belt where you insert weighted beam bags into pockets to get your desired weight. These belts are comfortable, but I found them not to be very durable.
In contrast, a rubber weight belt stretches nicely. It conforms to your body and sticks more to your wetsuit. the deeper you go your body will contract more.
When using a nylon weight belt scuba diving there have been times I could virtually swim out of my belt, due to my body contracting so much. You will also find that due to it being rubber, the weight will hold better to a rubber belt compared to a nylon belt (you can use stoppers (keepers), but a hassle).
Your weight belt will also have a quick release clasp/buckle. Most are made of strong plastic or metal. I mention it below, but it’s very important to get very familiar with it. Are you right or left handed? Check which direction it opens. In most cases, they can be flipped to the opposite side if needed (right or left).
Attaching The Weight
Of course, attaching the weight correctly to your belt is very important. The main thing you want to focus on is to space the weight evenly on the belt. Typically placed on your left hip and right and if needed on your back. It always nice to see someone perform the proper installation, so you can click here to see a video.
I will say it again, but if you are ever in trouble and you can’t swim up to the surface or are getting pulled down, release and DROP YOUR WEIGHT BELT IMMEDIATELY. Don’t worry about the money it cost. SAFETY, SAFETY! Always perform a dry run on how you release your weight belt. As mentioned, where is the clasp/buckle…how does it release? Always ask yourself this question, as well as your buddy’s. I’m stating the obvious, but it’s important. You could not only save your life, but also your buddy’s.
Top Spearfishing Weight Belt Recommendations
Riffe Rubber Weight Belt with Buckle (Top Recommendation)
- 54″ Long, 2″ wide
- Quick release buckle
- 20lb weight capacity
- Cam-lock buckle developed from glass-filled nylon
- Flat ribs to avert undesirable movement
- High-quality rubber weight belt
Seac Spearfishing Rubber Belt (less expensive choice)
- Belt measures 51″ (129.5 cm) long.
- The belt can be utilized with standard square loads of weight or lead shot in pockets.
- The non-destructive, sway safe buckle is made of nylon and is intended for a quick release.
- The belt will contract and pack with your wetsuit, keeping your weight belt properly situated around your hips.
Cressi Nylon Weight Belt (best nylon option)
- The buckle is extremely solid and is bolted at the two places.
- The rapid discharge tempered steel buckle for quick release.
- Solid woven nylon.
- Cressi is an Italian spearfishing company, since 1946.
Setting up your spearfishing weight belt can be a little challenging at first, but with a little practice and some guidance, it can be done quickly and correctly. Take into consideration your body makeup, how deep you’re diving, type of wetsuit, fresh/salt water conditions and the strength of swimmer you are when finding the correct amount of weight. Above all else always be safe and error on packing your spearfishing weight belt a little light. Safety is of the utmost importance. As always have fun and go get some fish for dinner!