Freediving weight belts are a great tool to help you to stay under water at the depth you want to maintain and to help you go through the different phases while your diving down to your depth. They can, however, create a major safety hazard.
Most freedivers that are lacking sufficient training use far too much weight than they should. Too much weight can create safety problems.
When you’re in the water, you should be able to float even at a relaxed exhalation. What that means is if you exhale as though you are sighing, you should still be at the surface or just slightly sinking. You should not continuously sink to the bottom.
The reason why there is this rule is because when someone has a blackout, they empty their lungs to a relaxed volume. You never blackout with a full volume of air in your lungs. So it is important to do a test it in the water to make sure that you stay near the surface when you exhale just in case you blackout. That alone will not save your life, but it will make it easier for your buddy to come over and help you.
When you pick out a weight belt, one thing you want to look for is a rubber belt like the one that Erin shows you in the video. The reason for this is because when you go down to depth, everything compresses. Your wetsuit compresses and if you happen to have a nylon belt it will become too loose. Now imagine that you’re inverted. The belt is going to slide and hit you in the armpits and chin. This is a major issue in women who have hips bigger than their waists. So a rubber belt will enable you to really cinch it down snug.
You want to wear your belt down around your hips, below your hip bone. This will allow you to breath with your diaphragm and your chest so that you can maximize your breath.
You also want to use smaller weights. Instead of using one big block of say a five pound weight, it is better to get five 1 pound weights. It allows you to fine tune your bouyancy for the kind of diving you’re going to be doing and it allows you to move them around on your belt. This will also enable you to be more streamlined instead of one large weight. You also want to move more of your weight forward in front of your hips instead of loading them all towards the back of your body.
Some belts have a crotch strap. This is a useful feature for women because when they go inverted it is easy for the belt to slide even if it is rubber. The crotch strap will stop the belt from sliding up around the armpits.
Crotch straps can create a safety hazard. If you try to release your belt in an emergency situation it can catch. It is important to make sure that the end of the belt is on the outside of all of the weights so that it doesn’t get stuck on the weights.
It is nice to have a quick release on the crotch strap so just in case the belt does get stuck on the weights there is a quick release for backup.
You also want to always have a right hand release when you wear your belt. This way if there is an emergency and your buddy needs to release your belt, they can do so with a right hand release. The way you know you have a right hand release is if you hold it away from your body, the side that has the buckle should be in your right hand before you put the belt on as shown in the video.
So the key features of a weight belt: rubber, small denominations of weight, a small overall amount of weight and a crotch strap especially for women that is equipped with a quick release.