Scubapro Hydros BCD Review

hydros 4The Scubapro Hydros BCD is a step in a new direction in terms of what a BCD can be.  The scuba pro Hydros has been designed from the ground up using a new material to BCD’s Monoprene.  This monoprene material similar to rubber/silicone gives the bcd a grip and flexibility that is unheard of in any other BCD.  In addition to the new material the Hydros is made to be a versatile cold water and travel bcd, with removable weight pockets and a simple harness system for travel.  This is truly a unique approach to a bcd that will likely have copycats in the near future.

Features:

  • Monoprene Material
  • Travel harness
  • 12 lb quick release weight pockets X2
  • 5 lb trim pockets X2
  • Scubapro Air 2 integrated octo (BPI optional)
  • 40 lb lift bladder
  • Multiple color kits
  • Pocket accessory options
  • Carry backpack

The Material: Monoprene is a material that is not new to the diving industry, for a long time it has been used in diving fins as a durable rubber material, with plenty of flex.  This material is also very grippy, and being used in a bcd solves the problem of the shift.  The shift is a common problem divers have when at depth or at the surface when the material of the bcd does not grip to the user and shifts requiring the user to adjust and shimmy the bcd back into place.  With this new material the monoprene of the hydros sticks to the user and eliminates the possibility of the bcd shifting.  Another added benefit of the material is its lack of water retention, the only material on the bcd that may hold water is the webbing and the bladder, the bcd will usually dry out completely 15-20 min after exiting the water making it ideal for travel and packing up into a car after a dive.

All around BCD:  The hydros is a true chameleon of the bcd world made to be tough and rugged with plenty of lift and weight capacity, and capable of transforming into a lightweight bcd ideal for travel.  Now don’t get me wrong when this bcd has some weight to it, the monoprene material makes it one of the heavier bcd’s in my opinion coming in hydros 3at a almost 11 lbs with the pockets attached.  But if you are planning on traveling with the hydros it also comes with a harness system that quickly replaces the pockets with a little practice.  Now this harness system is very simple no pockets just webbing a couple D rings and clips, don’t forget you still have the trim pockets on the back of the bladder for weight integration, although it will not be quick release.  Despite that this is an easy way to cut significant weight from the bcd when traveling.  So for divers looking for a bcd that is ideal for cold water diving and travel the hydros bcd checks all the boxes.

The accessories: There are many additional features that come standard with the Hydros BCD, travel harness system, and a carry backpack large enough to fit the bcd, regulator, mask snorkel inside and a pair of the Scubapro Go fins on the outside of the bag.  While these are welcome additions to any standard bcd package i would like to discuss the additional accessory mounts for the Hydros.  The first and most notable accessory are the color kits: Blue, yellow, pink, orange, and purple  The men’s bcd comes standard with black and the women’s bcd comes standard with white.  These kits that replace the weight pocket coverings are a nice way to accessorize and personalize a bcd.  In addition

hydros accessories
Top: Color kits, Ninja Pocket, Thigh Pocket                   Bottom: Bungee mount, D-ring mount, Knife mount

to these color kits there are also attachable accessories for knife mount (specific to scubapro knifes), D-ring mount, bungee mount (large and small), ninja pocket, and thigh pocket.  I find most of these additions as cash grabs from Scubapro for not intentionally adding useful accessories.  While the look of the weight pockets are slick and clean looking there are only functional for carrying weights without additional accessories, no pockets for storage, necessary additional hardware to mount a knife, and D-ring mount is largely underwhelming.  There are 4 possible mounting locations on the weight pockets for these additional accessories, but there are no mounting options available for the travel harness for these or any accessory mounts.  My least favorite of these accessories are by far the pockets, I have never been a fan of a roll up pocket like the ninja pocket, to have something flapping by my leg when I need to store something away.  While the hidden pocket of the traditional bcd design is my least favorite pocket type, the thigh pocket has now taken the lead.  While it is secured and not flopping about to have to secure it around the leg and have it attach to the bcd using a clip makes me wonder why someone wouldn’t just have a pocket attached to their wetsuit instead.  But then again that is my personal opinion of this style of pocket.

Pros:

  • Quick drying Monoprene material
  • removable weight pockets & travel harness
  • Travel backpack
  • 40 lb lift capacity
  • Optional BPI or Air 2 alternate

Cons:

  • Accessories
  • Not to be worn without Wetsuit/ rash guard

For a bcd that starting price is $916 with standard BPI or $1049 with Air 2, it is a little frustrating that simple convenience accessories are add ons and not standard.  While personally i find many if not all of these accessories useless in my style of diving, I see where some divers could find use in them.  The knife mount I find annoying because it is only useful for proprietary use with their own brand of knife, which i understand, but also believe there should be a standard mount distance with all knife and bcd brands, but that is just a distant dream.  My other frustration comes from the pockets while the ninja pocket is not my personal ideal, it is the thigh pocket that I truly have distaste for.  To consider donning and doffing this bcd that is well known for its comfort and fit and hydros bcd 1taking an additional step to clip a pocket around my leg so it does not flap about during the dive for the sole purpose of having additional storage space seems ridiculous to me as a purchase and an optional accessory.

In conclusion the Hydros is still a high quality BCD, that with its new Monoprene material provides a comfortable, quick drying bcd that sticks to the user with no shifting, for a truly secure fit.  Although it sits at the higher end of the price spectrum for most BCD’s it proves its value with its versatility and quality.

 

Oceanic Pro Plus X Review

With the drastic strides in technology of dive computers and the growing efforts by every major brand to put out the latest and greatest Oceanic has managed for at least the moment to edge out the competition.  For years the iconic Pro Plus line has been a staple of the Oceanic brand there is no surprise that they have managed to put out a dive pro plus x 1computer that is the complete package.  The Pro Plus series has always been a favorite of many divers despite brand devotion because of the large easy to read display popular with aging divers looking to ease the stress of the traditional tiny displays of most computers.

Like many of the other newest computers on the market the Pro Plus X has all of the standard features of an air integrated console, air and nitrox compatibility, water activation mode, alarm settings for safety stop, deep stop, gas time remaining, and many more.  Standard to the Oceanic line of computers it uses a dual algorithm that can be changed between DSAT & Pelagic Z+.  For Full Specs on the Pro Plus X visit Oceanic’s website with this Link.

What Makes the Pro Plus X Special?

The Pro Plus X was one the first computer to use TFT (Thin Film Transistor) to allow for apro plus x menu vibrant full color display that is readable in direct sunlight and glare.  It is one of the first computers from oceanic to use a Lithium Ion rechargeable batteries.  Bluetooth capable and able to download directly to the diver log app with no chords.   Finally in my opinion one of the easiest and intuitive menus with 4 button navigation for complete control.  Now at this point in time it is standard for high end dive computers with full color screens to have TFT, rechargeable batteries and bluetooth capability.  In terms of air integrated console computers the Oceanic Pro Plus X is clearly a trend setter, and the beginning of a new wave of high quality dive computers for divers that want bright easy to read dive computers.

Pros:

  • Large easy to read display
  • TFT (thin film transistor) screen
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Bluetooth capability
  • 4 button navigation
  • Intuitive menue system
  • Quick disconnect on hose
  • Digital Compass

Cons:

  • Price $1449.95
  • Console design

With the current movement of the dive industry the price is not totally uncalled for it does provide a high quality product that is very easy to use and progresses the brand of pro plus x 4the Pro Plus computer.  While it is launching oceanic into the high quality dive computer the Pro Plus X is priced a little high compared to comparable computers on the current market, it would be a much better selling computer if it were priced around $1000 dollars and would be an absolutely worth while purchase at that price especially as an upgrade for the Pro Plus 3.

As technology continues to advance more and more divers are adopting a more simplified regulator and total diving system ideal for travel and cutting weight and reducing hoses when applicable.  Because this is a console mounted computer it is being left in the dust by computers like the Scubapro G2 a wireless air integrated wrist computer.  I believe if the Pro Plus X were adapted to a wireless air integrated wrist computer it would be a the computer to have.

In conclusion if you are looking for a bright bold console computer the Oceanic Pro Plus X hits the nail on the head.  Everything functions just the way it should, the menus are simple and easy to navigate, the screen is bright and legible even in direct sunlight (i keep mine at 10% brightness)  and underwater is a dream to use and get all the information I need at a quick glance.  This computer may not be for everyone largely because of the price but is still a very high quality computer worth considering if your looking to upgrade.

Zeagle Stiletto BCD Review

Zeagle is a brand that is well known for its high end equipment, especially the BCD’s.  Up until recently Zeagle has been known for BCD’s being exclusively back inflate, recently Zeagle has released their first vest inflation bcd the Halo. Most of the time when divers hear the name Zeagle they think of the Ranger, and Zena a women’s specific bcd,  but this review looks to evaluate one of the lesser known classics from Zeagle the Stiletto.

The Zeagle Stiletto is a back inflation BCD that has the Zeagle patented rip chord weight system.  Most people are more familiar with Zeagle’s ranger BCD and the Stiletto is a slimmed down version of the standard ranger, with a less heavy duty bladder.  The general Specs for the Stiletto are as follows:

Dry Weight: 7.4 lbs
Lift: 35lbIMG_3637
Weight capacity:
24lb Ripcord System
16lb Rear weight pockets

Like many of the Zeagle BCD lines the stiletto has interchangeable and replaceable parts including cummerbund, shoulders and back pad.  The double tank straps are moveable to accommodate shorter tanks and the rear weight pockets can be removed and replaced if deemed necessary.  I found these adjustable options on the Stiletto to allow me to customize a standard bcd to fit my personal preferences.

There are Two key features that in my opinion put the Zeagle line of BCD’s above others.  The first is the iconic rip chord weight system that allows for the quick release of integrated weights with a single hand pull.  Many other bcd designs use a dual pocket release system requiring the user to have both hands free to release all integrated weights.  The other unique feature for Zeagle bcd’s are the quick screw inflator with standard hose attachment.  This feature allows for the user to unscrew the bcd inflator and attach a hose in order to flush salt and grime out of the bcd bladder more easily, and replace the bcd inflator when repairs are needed.

Pros:

  • Easily adjustable parts for custom fit
  • Adequate amounts of D-rings
  • Rip chord weight systems
  • Easily replaceable inflator
  • Inflator hose attachment
  • Double tank strap
  • Removable rear weight pouches
  • Custom color options (also available for Ranger and Zena)

Cons:

  • Smaller Lift Capacity (35 lbs) Adequate for warm water diving but might not be enough for some instances of cold water diving.
  • Mesh weight Pouches (sold separately from BCD)
  • Re-lacing the weight pocket system is not intuitive
    ZGLWP10.jpg

My larges problem comes down to the mesh weight pouches not being included with the BCD.  Although they are not absolutely necessary they do come in handy with using smaller increment weights mostly 1 lb weights, especially bullet weights because they can fall through the rip chord pockets without the mesh pouch.  the pouches do come in handy when carrying weights especially if you are using the same amount of weight and transporting them often.

The weight pocket system despite being very convenient and reliable, is not very intuitive when re-lacing the rip chord system.  There have been numerous encounters with divers that unfamiliar with the system laced the rip chord system improperly making the system ineffective and dangerous to use.  But because dropping ones weights is not a common occurrence so I do not see this as a big issue as long as proper instruction is given when the BCD is purchased.

Overall this is a great mid to high quality bcd compared to those on the current market.  Retail price starts around $630.

 

 

Zeagle Scope Mono Review

The Scope line of mask from Zeagle is their first ever release of any masks.  While Zeagle is most well known for their high quality rugged BCD’s and along with the recent release of the Zeagle Recon Fins they have broken ground into the soft gear market.

The Scope line of dive masks includes the Dual and Mono masks.  The obvious difference between the two is the number of lenses, the dual is a two lens mask while the mono is a single lens mask.  Some of the features of each mask include:

Scope Dual:Zeagle Scope Mono

  • Replaceable lenses
  • Color lens frame kit options
  • Standard silicone straps

Scope Mono:

  • Frameless mask design
  • Low volume
  • Elastic soft ski goggle style strap standard

The straps for the masks can be interchangeable using a Allen screw design similar to the Zeagle recon fin straps.

Now while I have been fortunate enough to test both mask I have much more experience with the Scope Mono Mask.  While mask are a personal fit everything said is subject to my opinion and personal experience with the mask and may be different for another person.

What I like about the Zeagle Scope Mono mask,  because of the single lens design this mask provides a very wide field of view giving the person waring it a very open feeling for a black silicone mask.  There is a very wide set nose pocket on the mask providing extra space for those with larger noses despite the single lens design, I have a moderately large nose and found only making contact from the bridge when I excessively suck air from the mask or am unable to equalize the airspace.  For those with excessively large noses i would recommend the Scope Dual.  I was skeptical of the mask strap but found it fairly easy to adjust and with the amount of stretch never felt excessively tight.

Problems I have with the Zeagle Scope mono, the first issue i noticed with the mask was that it was relatively narrow for my face.  I was still able to get the mask to seal on my face but did feel narrow at least compared to my goto mask the Oceanic Shadow.  I also found that with the Scope Mono if i had neglected to shave for a couple of days the mask would begin to leak excessively, this was a annoying problem during a dive but easy to avoid once i figured out the cause.  Another issue that was easily remedied was the attached snorkel keeper on the mask strap.  Fortunately the snorkel keeper is removable unlike some other ones on similarly designed mask straps.  I found all of these problem to be minor issues and easily dealt with.

Overall I very much enjoyed using the Zeagle Scope Mono mask, it is a comfortable low volume mask with a wide field of view that had a surprisingly comfortable strap for diving with and without a hood.  This is definitely a mask that I will be adding to my active rotation of mask.

 

Check out the Video Review on Youtube Click Here

Oceanic Omega 3 Review

OceanicOmega3
Oceanic Omega 3 2nd stage, & FDXi 1st stage

The Oceanic Omega 3 regulator paired with the new FDXi first stage is a bit of the black sheep in the current market.  The first thing many people will notice is that it is a side exhaust regulator, but it is so much more than that.  The Omega 3 is the 3rd generation of the Omega family, earlier generations the 1 and 2 are still coveted by divers and their simple design makes for easy upkeep and an assortment of customizable options.  My first experience with the omega line was a few years ago after my scuba pro second stage fell apart during a dive, in dire need of a replacement and low on funds I found an old Omega 1 at the shop I was working at.  The side exhaust was a breath of fresh air, no more bubbles all over my face when I am looking around.  The metal servo valve also allowed contestation to build which eliminated dry mouth.  So when I heard that Oceanic was preparing to release the new Omega three I began to save up.

With the Omega 3’s sleek design that brings the classic Omega shape into the 21st century.  Along with the new design Oceanic also added a pre-dive switch, and pivot to the second stage, reducing free flow that omegas were notorious for, and improving comfort for the user.

Oceanic Omega 3 2nd stage
Oceanic Omega 3

The Pros:  With the design of this regulator and the use of a servo valve instead of the standard on demand valve, the effort needed to breath is almost non-existent.  the side exhaust design reduces the sound underwater because bubbles are no longer rushing past both ears, only one ear.   This can take a little getting use to but overall it is a quick transition.  The metal servo valve allows for condensation to build inside the housing reducing dry mouth, and the issue of being a wet breather found in the 1st and 2nd generations of the Omega’s has been solved.  The pivot on the second stage makes for comfortable position of the regulator, no longer being pulled or torqued  when looking around.  The pre dive switch is a happy addition to deal with the finicky free flow of the previous generations, a quick twist of the base and you are ready to dive, easy to use wearing even the thickest gloves.  The FDXi first stage provides the simplicity and sturdiness of the FDX10 but in a smaller sleeker design.  In terms of upkeep, the simplicity of both the first and second stage make for quick turn around times during services, and require minimal parts specific to Omega 3 and FDXi.

FDXi
Oceanic FDXi

The Cons: Even though this regulator is a very easy breather, there is still a bit of adjustment that is needed to make perfect for each individual diver.  There is an adjustment port at the center of the exhaust that with a screwdriver can be adjusted to increase or decrease the inhalation effort, this can take a little bit of time to get it to your own personal setting for comfort but once it is set you don’t have to worry about it.  My only real issue with the regulator is the first stage, it works very well but the ports are placed a little to close together so in order to remove one hose you might have to remove them all.  If you use a transmitter for your computer it is very difficult to fit a crescent wrench in to secure.  My last issue with the FDXi first stage is the yoke frame, it is very broad and makes it so the first stage does not fit all tank valves which can be a little inconvenient.

Me:Omega 3
Diving in Cozumel with the Omega 3 and FDXi

Overall this is an amazing regulator, it breaths well, it is very comfortable to use and the side exhaust makes for in my opinion a much more enjoyable dive.  The Oceanic Omega 3 may not be for everyone but  I do Strongly encourage every diver to give this side exhaust regulator a chance because it may just change the way you dive.

Unfortunately through industry connections I have been informed that the Omega 3 has been discontinued, because of diver complaints of it being a wet breather and finicky.  These characteristics that divers complained about were staples of the Omega design and what made it so unique.  Although this may not be ideal for all divers for some these qualities can be seen as an advantage along with its ambidextrous nature, and welcome the out of the box innovation that the Omega and all generations have incurred.  As a diver I will sorely miss this marvel of design and am sorry that other divers misunderstanding of this piece of equipment will call for its discontinuation of production.

Oceanic Omega 3 video review.

Scubapro Knighthawk BC Review

PIC_0075The Scubapro Knighthawk has been my go to BCD many years, I purchased it before I started my IDC in 2011 and it has accompanied me for many dives.  The Knighthawk was the first back in flat ion BCD that I have owned, and it was responsible for a complete change in my perception of BCD’s.  The Knighthawk had many features that I think made it a very great BCD, but over time and with exposure to other brands I began to see some of its shortcomings.

The Good: One of the features that I really enjoyed about the Knighthawk was that all of the straps and fast tech buckles tightened from one side making it easy to synch down everything at the beginning of the dive. It also had a metal cam buckle for the tank strap that if you were consistently diving the same size tank made set up fast and easy.  The bladder on this BCD was huge, I had a medium and the lift capacity was 44 lbs.  It had a padded neck and plenty of D-rings for accessories.  I enjoyed this BC a lot and I found it suitable for cold water diving and warm water diving.

The Bad: There were a few things that I began to realize over time with this BCD that I wish could be a little different.  The quick release weight pockets felt overly secure and difficult to remove in knighthawk-300x300an emergency, (obviously I wanted them to be secure, but in training new students on how to remove weights I always had to cheat a bit and actually unclip the buckles instead of just pulling the pockets out).  Another issue I ran into was the deflator purge valve getting stuck open on giant stride entries, because it is a little switch that can be manipulated with the hand I could quickly fix it after i was aware of the situation, but not ideal.  The auxiliary shoulder dump would often get stuck under the shoulder strap and was rather uncomfortable when it did happen.  One of my last gripes with the Knighthawk was that the bladder while large was not well secured, it has elastic lashing around the edges to keep the air distribution even but it is a single piece of elastic for both sides so it also shifts and I found it prone to collecting air on one side.  The pockets at the base of the weight pockets are also worthless, hard to fit a pocket mask or anything for that matter and very inconvenient to access during a dive especially in gloves.

Things I’m not sure about: The Scubapro lifetime warranty.  When I bought this bcd in 2011 before I started my IDC program one of the selling points was that there was a lifetime warrantee.  Over the years with an abundance of use teaching in the pool and ocean the BCD had begun to deteriorate, despite regular washing and rinsing.  When one of the velcro pieces broke at the base of the base plate and the pad had begun to swing when I dove, I decided to take advantage of the lifetime warrantee.  I jumped through the hoops of finding my receipt 3 years later and sent it in for repair.  When the BCD had returned it came with a $25 dollar fee, not huge but shouldn’t the warrantee have covered that, or did I just miss understand the guidelines of a lifetime warrantee.

Overall this bcd served it purpose, but like any piece of equipment its hard to get every feature you want in one.  Would I buy another Knighthawk, maybe in the future when the design changes a little, but I believe there are better BCD’s out there at the moment. That are a little less expensive and have more features.

The Knighthawk bcd is to be discontinued, scubapro is currently in the process of phasing out the nighthawk and plans to replace it with the Seahawk bcd.  The Seahawk has many similar features of the nighthawk but also has larger pockets for storage.