I'd second Hugh without reservation. offers entire warm
water SCUBA packages [regulator with octopus, integrated BC, myabe fins and
mask] for under $300, which is pretty unheard of in retail scuba
shops.  You could do just as well in a swap meet [ in the Northeast USA,
the Tom's River Ocean Wreck Diver club meet is famous and coming up Mar 4th
2001] but you need to know what you're doing there.  For $300, that's the
cost of rental for a diving vacation, and if your depth <= 60 ft pretty
much any equipment works.  Leisurepro services what they sell, and package
deals are found only in their catalog or calling them.  Your first gear is
rarely your last, and there's a good chance that if you persist in this
sport, your initial experience with your own equipment will provide the
knowledge to dive into the industry and pick up the equipment that'll be
with you for your career.

As for the quality of dive equipment, consider that I've tested my $80
octopus against my $300 2nd stage and had ne'er any difficulty breathing it
for 146 dives, in strong current [winds with 5-8 ft waves], deep water [150
ft], and cold, 40F.  Its a bit strange that current SCUBA thought has a
less robust built device backup a heavy duty regulator!

At 12:00 AM 02/21/2001 -0500, Automatic digest processor wrote:
>Date:    Tue, 20 Feb 2001 10:29:38 -0500
>From:    "Huntzinger, Hugh A [AMSTA-AR-CCL-B]" <[log in to unmask]>
>Subject: Re: Renting or buying?  (Was:  Re: FYI - Cozumel Conditions)
>Strike writes:
> > Tim!  As you're already starting to appreciate, everyone
> > has their own particular thoughts about equipment.  But
> > ultimately the decision must be yours as to what best
> > suits your diving needs - and pocket!  (Although price
> > should never be an issue when buying diving gear.)
>Agreed.  The good news is that there's a lot of very good equipment that is
>pragmatically 'good enough' for most recreational divers, so its really
>pretty hard to make an extremely bad choice.
>Also, I personally don't think that one has to spend the world in order to
>get a configuration that is good enough for one's needs.  For example, while
>I'd never turn down a ScubaPro Mk20/G250, its 300+fsw depth performance
>capabilities are overkill for normal recreational diving, so the less
>expensive Mk14/R380 is probably a fair trade-off for most of us.
>Overall, budgets are a reality for nearly all of us.   Having a good idea of
>your objectives and requirements, with an eye towards how they may change is
>of very high value to making good, objective decisions.
> > When you're ready to buy - and have some brand names
> > and models in mind - ask the question and I'm sure that
> > you'll get a wealth of information to assist you.  :-)
>For example, I'm of the opinion that brand & model aren't as important as
>the question of if you can get good, reliable local service for the item.
>After all,  the best regulator design in the world becomes a piece of trash
>when it receives poor service.  Knowing what products your local shops offer
>and which of those shops you trust is a highly localized variable that none
>of us online can really answer...and a good question for your local shop's
>Technician is if they have any strong likes/dislikes of working on a
>particular regulator...and why.  Personal preferences frequently influence
>the reasons and rationale.

Warm regards,