Thanks for the info! I'm not taking any other SCUBA gear besides wetsuit, fins, boots, mask, and snorkel, so I don't really need to worry about a BC, tank, weight belt, regulators, etc. (Well, possibly a dive computer, but I'm still crunching numbers to see if I can afford it! And stuff like a dive light and knife, but I digress!) I just had my first SCUBA class through NAUI *cheers* and the instructor talked about what kind of equipment to get, so I'm going to head over to my, err, local? (2 hours away ) dive shop and check stuff out. I can't remember where I read it, but will dive shops let you rent a dive computer, and then either apply the rental price to the purchase, kind of like a rent to own? Also, when folded up, about how much space will a 3mm full wetsuit take up when rolled up? About like a thin sleeping bag or sleeping pad?
A 3mm takes up more space then you'd expect, and am suspecting (since you are little) you're not going to want/have a huge backpack. It is about the size of a sleeping bag, but not necessarily a small one. Can you leave all the stuff, dive gear etc somewhere while you do the rest of your traveling. I was working as a diver for 10 weeks this summer in Moorea (french polynesia), before going onto travel in New Zealand for 6, and I, luckily, had the opportunity to send it all home with the guy i was working for. Trust me though, you aren't going to actually want to backpack with more than your mask, snorkel and computer. As far as buying a computer, i haven't heard of a rent to buy program with any shops, but you might be lucky to find one. One thing to consider when buying one is the size/weight of it, if you plan on doing a lot of travelling scuba stuff. I had a Suunto Mosquito (recently stolen, my fault though), that I still swear by, and would highly recommend. If you have further questions with scuba and travel feel free to ask me, as have worked in the dive industry for a while (both paid and volunteering for researchers) and have tried to accomodate it into backpacking trips. One piece of advice I have to give you, as a relatively new diver, don't let the dive shop sell you gear that you don't need. ie extra clips, d-rings, integrated weights etc, on a bc that'll cost you $50 extra each, but really just get in your way. (not saying don't listen to the instructors, DMs, sales-people - just take it all with a grain of salt)
Everyone has given you great information! And, Sam is correct about the space a 3mm wetsuit will take up in your pack. Personally, I am not a fan of having to wear a wetsuit so I choose my dive spots to accordingly. But, your open water training will give you an idea of your comfort level in varying water temps. Because I am comfortable without a wetsuit in 72-75F water, I don't use them. But, I do have a lycra dive skin that I find very helpful when doing night dives and the water is cooler. It takes up very little space and actually works well as an under garment when I do have to use wetsuits. It helps the suit slide on more easily.
I also stopped taking my own BC along on dive trips. Though I love it, it is bulky. I do take my own reg and computer. I find the computer so much easier to work with for the reasons Dani pointed out. I have a wristwatch style compass that I take along in my kit, which also contains spare straps, snorkel keepers and o-rings. (I have run across tanks not having the o-rings in place.) Of course, I take our masks, fins, dive boots and snorkels. If you don't care to purchase dive boots, a pair of socks will also work for avoiding the fin blisters.
Does NAUI allow you a duplicate C-card upon completion of your training? If so, get it and keep it separate from the rest of your gear. If something should happen to one card, you still have a spare. I trained with SSI (years ago) and we were able to get SSI, NAUI and PADI cards all at one. PADI did not offer that option when we did our advanced training. Ah, don't forget your dive log either!!!! And, make sure to get it signed as some places will not accept your number of dives if your don't have another signature as verification.
Good luck and have a wonderful trip!!!