Zeagle Express Tech Deluxe BCD Review

This is probably one of the most difficult bcd’s to categorize, it is a back inflate, soft backplate style, travel bcd. It is lightweight, customizable, and one size fits all, the only downside to this bcd is its minimal lift capacity. Zeagle is well known for their durable and reliable bcd’s that are used for both recreation and a favorite of the military. The most recognized bcd from eagle is the Ranger, and the least recognized is probably the Express Tech. This bcd can come in multiple forms depending on how many bells and whistles you want it to have. The most basic is the Express Tech and then you also have the complete package with the Express Tech Deluxe. Depending on what you are looking for in a bcd this may be the perfect fit.

The Basic stats of this BCD are as follows:

  • Dry weight is 6.5 lbs
  • Lift capacity 24 lbs
  • Rear Weight pockets (16lbs)
  • Soft back plate
  • Twin tank straps
  • Optional shoulder and back pads
  • Optional quick release pockets (2 options: Zip Touch 20 lb, and rip chord 30 lb)
  • 5 d-rings
  • One size fits all
  • Zeagle’s quick unscrew inflator hose (compatible with garden hose for flushing bladder)
  • Starting Price $394.95
  • Replaceable Bladder
  • Can be set up for twin tanks

What I like about this BCD:

In my mind this is almost a perfect BCD it has pretty much everything I want for an all around BCD and nothing I don’t. Especially for my personal style of diving. It is one size fits all using webbing that can be trimmed, and a stomach strap that is connected to the shoulders with slide so it easily adjust unlike some backplates where the shoulders are almost static. This means I can dive with this bcd in a 3mm suit for warm water or a Drysuit for cold water without having to make any major adjustments to the BCD. The optional quick release pockets and pads let the user decide if the extra comforts are worth the cost. And by far the cost of the BCD may be its most attractive coming in under $400 for a travel bcd is hard to find, and though it may be a tad heavier than others on the market 6 lbs is nothing to shake a stick at.

What I don’t like about this BCD:

There isn’t much that really is a deal breaker for this bcd in my opinion, the only things that I can understand might be undesirable would be the minimal lift capacity and the additional cost of add-ons. The lift only being 24 lbs really dose make this BCD best suited for warm water divers, I do find it silly that with only 24lbs of lift they give the option to accommodate 46 lbs of lead in the front and rear weight pockets. I it is probably possible to attach a larger bladder but have not looked into the difficulty of doing so, and of course the larger bladder would be sold separately. I would prefer the bladder to have a little more lift 30+ lbs would make me much happier than the 24 lbs but it wouldn’t deter me. The added cost of extras on this bcd i wouldn’t categorize as a bad thing obviously more features cost more but I think some will get the basic Express Tech and be put off that it doesn’t have quick release pockets on the front or padding for the shoulders or back. The price is very desirable for what you are getting $394.95 for the basic and the price jumps from there with the weight pockets and pads pushing the price over $500.

Overall if you are looking for a lightweight durable BCD, that you want to customize to fit you and your diving style the Express Tech may be the perfect fit. I have only dove this bcd a few times borrowing from a friend, I enjoyed the fit, it was easy to put on and take off with the stomach strap connected to the shoulders. Diving it with my drysuit the lift wasn’t an issue I usually only use the BCD at at the surface anyways. It will definitely be my next purchase and become my dedicated travel bcd because although my Stiletto is great shedding a few pounds for other gear can make a big difference.

Oceanic Oceanpro BCD Review

The Oceanic Ocean Pro BCD is what would generally be considered as an entry level BCD. This BCD has been in the Oceanic line for quite a while although it may have gone by a few different names, it has largely stayed the same with each new generation adding convenient features. Now the true name of the BCD is the Oceanpro 1000D previous generations also went by just the Oceanpro, and although it was an attempt to break from this mold I also believe that the Cruise BCD was also the same. If you are on a budget or a new diver looking to get your first BCD the Oceanic Oceanpro bcd is a great starting point if your not ready to make the jump to back inflate.

Lets talk about features:

  • This is a jacket style BCD made of denier nylon, which is very common in BCD materials, the great part about this is that if the bcd is punctured it can be patched quite easily with some aqua seal (I have had to do this a few times).
  • It has the standard Oceanic Inflator, right shoulder dump and rear dump, all of these additional dumps have pull strings with balls on the end making them very easy to find even with gloves. The attachments for the dumps are also easy to clean with no tools required to remove them which is something I am always grateful for, especially when a student gets sand in theirs.
  • Oceanic QLR4 Pocket system. This is one the largest differences from other brands which is the quick release weight pocket system. They use a hidden buckle that is behind the pocket to help avoid debris, and a handle that i believe is silicone/plastic to pull and release the system. In my experience with Oceanic BCD’s this is a very reliable system if they are locked in properly and not over loaded beyond their capacity. Because the handles do stick out slightly they can get caught on things like kelp but the buckle system is sturdy enough not to pull free too easily. These pockets can hold up to 10 lbs each for a total of 20 lbs of dumpable weight.
  • Storage pockets: as is common with jacket style BCD’s it has two large zipper pockets with moderate pull tabs that make it fairly accessible, a little harder to access with gloves, but like any other jacket BCD how inflated the bcd is will affect the access and storage in the pockets so be careful putting fragile things in the pockets. But plenty of space for a light, slate, reel, or SMB for those that want to have them but not have them dangling off them.
  • D-rings, the Oceanpro sports 8 plastic d-rings strategically placed for the most convenient use. I have not encountered any broken d-rings they seem to be sturdy, comparing my much older Oceanpro BCD it has much fewer and I find at times not able to clip things were I want, but the new design has plenty of options.
  • Trim Pockets, this bcd like more and more has trim pockets attached to the bladder on the back of the bcd on either side of the tank strap. They each can accommodate 5 lbs for a total of 10 lbs of trim. They are velcro pockets and non dumpable so I suggest being very conservative with the amount of weight you are placing in them, they should not be holding the majority of your weight.
  • Adjustable Cumber bun and stomach strap. One of the things that most divers don’t realize is that the cumber bun and stomach straps on most Oceanic BCD’s are adjustable. This is great for bcd’s in rentals that may need to fit a variety of sized divers. It also allows a new diver to easily customize the fit to their personal needs and avoid overly tight or loose straps. The adjustment is behind the divers back so it is best adjusted before the tank is attached.
  • Adequate lift capacity. So like many jacket style bcd’s and bcd’s in general the lift capacity is going to depend on the size of the bcd. Smaller bcd’s will have less than larger bcd’s, for the Oceanpro this range from xs to xxl is about 20 lbs of lift to 48 lbs of lift. This could be an important factor playing into your choice of diving, I have seen many times that divers do not take into account the lift of their bcd’s and over load them with weight in their integrated pockets, also forgetting the buoyancy of the tank and finding it impossible to stay afloat at the surface. Keep in mind your exposure suit will add buoyancy but if you take your bcd off at the surface it might not stay there. Be sure to check your weight when diving and avoid overweighting yourself.
  • Molded tank cradle/backpack, Most bcd’s will often have some sort of plastic backplate of sorts to give the bcd rigidity and structure for the tank to press up against for securing it. these are light weight usually and often have a handle to make it easier to carry the bcd. On the Oceanpro bcd there is a pad for diver comfort and on the back above the tank strap what I like to call a cheater strap which is used to help set the tank hight when setting it up and an additional strap around the tank valve incase the primary strap comes loose. This is more common in newer bcd’s and a very handy feature for keeping the bcd height on the tank consistent. The base of this cradle is also where the cumber bun and stomach strap are adjusted from.
  • The most important feature of course of any bcd and the one that I believe many care most about is the price the Oceanic Oceanpro BCD comes in at $479.95.

Overall I believe that this is a great starting BCD for any diver, it is a reasonable price, has plenty of features, storage and very durable. It can be easily repaired and does not need any special tools to clean in all of those nooks and crannies that might build up salt or sand over time. I have been dealing with these BCD’s for 10 years and wouldn’t have any other BCD as a rental. I can fix almost any issue, at a dive site, the weight pockets are reliable and don’t come loose like some other brands (I find a lot of lost weight pockets almost never Oceanic). So if you are looking for a starter BCD consider the Oceanic Oceanpro it may surprise you.

BCD Buyers Guide

The BCD (buoyancy compensator device) is usually one of the first big purchases that a diver will make when committing to owning all of their own gear. This will hopefully be a helpful guide into identifying features and making a decision on which BCD will best fit your needs as a diver. The first part will be understanding the differences between different styles of BCD’s, then we will focus on features. One thing we want to realize is that not all BCD’s are created equally and although almost all brands will produce bcd’s that function properly what they are being used for will greatly affect their usefulness.

Lets first get familiar with the different styles of BCD’s, I am going to break them down into 4 main categories that most shops will carry some assortment of. These four BCD styles are Jacket, Back Inflate, Travel, Backplate/ wing & harness. The two styles jacket and back inflate are what would be considered general or all around recreational BCD’s while the travel and Backplate are considered more specialized having a much narrower usage generally.

Jacket Style BCD:

The Jacket style is usually the first BCD that most divers encounter almost universally being used in rentals for dive shops. The get their name because they wrap around you like a jacket and the entirety of the bcd is a bladder. So air will fill the full bcd around the back and front. This is almost always the best budget option (which is why it is used for rentals) simple design and functioning in all environments. The downside to this style of BCD is when in flawed the Jacket tends to squeeze the user, which if adjusted to tightly or sized wrong can be very uncomfortable for the diver. The benefit of this style of BCD is when inflated at the surface it easily keeps the diver head up. This is a great option for divers on a budget or divers that will not be diving as often because they are generally not the most comfortable.

Back Inflate Style BCD:

The back inflate style BCD generally offers all of the same features of the jacket style bcd with a different style of bladder system. This one is exactly what it sounds like the bladder instead of being wrapped around the diver is attached to the back of the harness. This means that there is no squeeze when inflating the BCD. It also will give the diver better positioning in the water while diving because the bladder is oriented on the back around the heaviest object the tank. Divers that are new to the back inflate often complain that at the surface it tends to push you face down, this is true but can be easily remedied by leaning back on the bcd like a recliner. These tend to be more expensive than the jacket style BCD’s and in my opinion worth the money for the increased comfort and fit that is gained with the back inflate style.

Travel Style BCD:

The travel style BCD more often than not will closely resemble a back inflate style but with smaller features. These BCD’s are meant to be light weight for travel, so reduced weight and lift capacity. This is great for warm water destinations where the user is not wearing a thick wetsuit and does not need a great deal of weight. Most of these travel BCD’s will generally weigh from about 4-6 lbs while the standard jacket or back inflate will weigh from 7-10 lbs. So the Travel BCD’s are not well suited for cold water diving. If you are a diver that will only be doing diving while traveling these are great options. Much better quality and comfort than the BCD’s that you might rent while on a trip. They tend to be in-between the prices of a jacket and back inflate style bcd despite being far less material than either.

Backplate/wing & harness style BCD:

The Backplate style BCD is generally focused more towards technical diving but can obviously be used for recreational. They use either a steel or aluminum backplate with nylon webbing for a harness and some kind of rear mounted bladder attached. These types of BCD’s are very customizable usually set up very simply with few bells and whistles for the diver to add on later if they choose. They can be set up for single or double tanks (usually technical divers), with or without weight pockets and the size of the bladder can be exchanged for a larger or smaller one. The benefit of the backplate is the weight, most steel backplates weight about 5-6 lbs meaning divers can remove that much weight from their weight belt or pockets. If you are looking to get into technical diving this is definitely the best option.

Features: This is something that is hard to cover thoroughly because while most BCD’s will have all of these features each company will have their own take on them, the largest differentiators will be the Quick release weight system and the inflator. Beyond those two they are all fairly similar with a few outliers.

Quick Release Weight system: This in my opinion is one of the most important features to be aware of when purchasing a BCD with the exception of the backplate because they will be an optional add on. Almost all new BCD’s will have their own version of this feature and the reliability of these pockets are paramount. the difficult part of this is that the pockets need to be very secure when the diver is diving, the pockets should not come out unprompted, the locking mechanism holding the pockets in place should be secure (thank god they stopped using velcro it wore out so quickly). But the pockets should also not be so secure that they are impossible to release the weights in an emergency. It is a very fine line that I think few brands get right. In my years of diving I have found that there are a few brands that i find their pockets lost on the bottom much more frequently than others, while this could be user error I personally believe it is an inferior quick release mechanism.

Inflator: This is something all modern BCD’s will have and they all function the same there is a corrugated hose attached to the bladder and on the other end there is an inflator that the LP hose attaches to. There are two buttons one to inflate the BCD usually the one closest to the corrugated hose and a second button to release the air usually on or near the end. Each company will have their own little flair to the inflator with colored buttons or different shapes but for the most part they are interchangeable, you can even get generic ones that fit most corrugated hoses. For the most part this should not be a major factor in deciding which BCD to get each brand will have the same inflator on all of their BCD’s no matter the style. With the exception of Aqualung and their i3 system which integrates the inflator into the bcd and uses a switch on the left side to inflate and deflate, personally I am not a fan, to many moving parts to trust and not easily serviced but some divers do like them.

Tank Straps: These are what attach the Tank to the diver and usually use a standard cam buckle system with the exception of a few brands that have a metal pin latch system. BCD’s will usually have 1 or 2 tank straps depending on the brand, the ones with 2 straps generally secure the tank more efficiently preventing it from feeling like its swinging around. The BCD’s that have a single strap will usually have some sort of plastic backplate that the strap grips the tank to reduce this swinging feeling. Oftentimes with travel BCD’s to reduce weight they minimize this plastic plate with a single strap and add a second lightweight velcro strap to secure the tank slightly more. All of these are functional options that serve their purpose if the user secures the tank properly, which the sales staff should assist with if you are unsure.

Trim weight pockets: these are pockets usually on the back of the BCD located on or near the tank straps. They are not quick release pockets so only a small portion of weight should be placed in these to help adjust the divers trim while underwater. these are very popular for back in late BCD’s because all of the buoyancy is on the divers back. Personally I don’t find them useful, some can be removed if attached to the tank strap webbing which is what I generally do. But if you are a diver and you need to add more weight and have maxed out your quick release pockets and refuse to wear a weight belt this may help pack on those last few pounds. With that being said if you are diving maxing out all of your pockets with weights you should either dive a larger bcd with more lift or a weight belt/harness.

D-rings: these are attachment points for accessories they will vary from BCD to BCD and the number you may want or need could vary. The more technical style BCD’s will generally have more or the ability to add more while travel BCDs will be very minimal with only a few. Once again this is not a feature that i would choose a BCD on but to some divers like photographers it is handy to have more places to clip essential items.

The cumber bun: This is where you tend to see a divide between divers, the comber bun is a velcro strap that wraps the bcd around the waist of the user, there is usually a clip around the outside of the bcd as well that keeps the front pockets from dragging or swinging out when inflated (jacket style BCD’s) I personally find that the cumber bun secures the BCD comfortably to my body, while some divers find it unnecessary, it is a personal preference. Most Travel bcd’s and Backplates will not have a cumber bun, while most jackets and back inflates will.

Dump valves: There are multiple dumps on most BCD’s to release air from the bladder, in addition to the dump on the inflator there is also one at the top of the corrugated hose that is attached by a wire to the base and can be pulled on to use. Most non technical BCD’s will have rear dumps near the base of the bladder for when a diver is inverted needing to release air. Some will also have a dump on the right shoulder with a string to release air, if you are looking for option on where to release air depending on your body position pay attention to the dumps. Personally I find the inflator dumps the most useful and rarely use any other unless I am assisting a student that has not released sufficient amount of air.

I hope this has been helpful in guiding any diver to make an informed choice on their BCD.

Which Scuba Brand Makes the Best Equipment?

This may be one of the difficult answers to truly answer in the dive industry because it is subjective and always going to to be driven by personal opinion.  Each dive shop will likely claim that the brand they carry has the most reliable, highest quality equipment that puts others to shame, and they will say this to sell the equipment.  Some dive shops are unfortunately just like used car lots saying whatever they can to up sell you to the next item.  Now most dive shops are not massive and it is impossible for any one shop to carry every brand, so most pick one, two or even three primary brands.  The other dilemma is the actual number of brands I am going to focus on a few of the largest names including, Scubapro, Aqualung, Mares, and Huish Outdoors (Oceanic, Zeagle, Suunto, Atomic, Hollis).  You should be able to find at least one of these brands at any dive shop that you may visit, there are others like Sherwood, Seac, and Tusa but are probably not going to be the primary brand especially for BCD’s, regulators, and Computers.  Here is a brief overview of what to expect from each brand.

imagesScubaPro

Scubapro is probably one of the most recognizable names in the industry right now and has some equipment that stands out.  The first thing to know about Scubapro is that it is most likely going to be the most expensive option.  They make a very high quality product but they have little to offer in terms of middle of the road pricing.  Scubapro equipment is either the more expensive low end, or the most expensive high end.  Now they do produce a very high quality product that is rigorously tested and reliable but you will pay a premium.  Now in terms of equipment BCD’s are really where Scubapro shines in my opinion they have many options with multiple styles and prices ranging from about $450 on the low end to over $1000 on their high end bcd. Bcd’s are also were there is going to be the largest variation between these brands. While Scubapro does make a quality computer and regulator I feel you only have two choices for each very high end or low end no middle ground, and while this is true for the bcd’s there are enough options to minimize that gap.

imagesAqualung

Aqualung is a company that has been around since the beginning and may be one of the most recognizable brands.  In terms of over all pricing Aqualung is a little more spread evenly with very budget friendly options especially with regulators and computers, and high end regs that don’t knock the wind out of you when you hear the price.  In terms of their BCD’s they have the I3 inflator system that I am not personally sold on but have met  a number of people that are very happy with it.  The regulators are what really stand out for me, the dive computers are actually almost identical to oceanic dive computers because they purchase from the same company oceanic does.  The regulators provide a large variety of options for divers on a budget and divers looking for a high quality versatile regulator.

maresMares

Mares is a very large brand that most don’t realize is as big as it is.  Owned by the Head company and this partnership also owns SSI the training agency.  Now this is where i find it hard to hide my opinion because in terms of dive equipment I am not overly impressed with anything from Mares.  I am not a fan of the quick disconnect pockets on their bcd’s, their regulators are underwhelming, they function but I would  prefer another brand first, and their computers are functional. I would have to say that of everything Mares I would  have one of their low budget computers as a starter or backup.  Mares in general is a great starter equipment company but I have not seen the value in their equipment beyond that.  Its not that I think that they make bad gear I just believe that these other brands make better gear.

huish outdoorsHuish Outdoors (Oceanic, Suunto, Zeagle, Atomic, Hollis)

Huish Outdoors is a Unique situation and in a dive shop you are not going to see the Huish logo most likely but they do own all of these brands, (at least an exclusive distributor for Suunto).  One of the reasons I wanted to include Huish is because I like the fact that they have accumulated brands that specialize.  Now for the most part each of these brands has a primary focus, most of them do dabble in other areas but are known for one primary thing.  Zeagle is known for BCD’s, Suunto for Computers, Hollis for Regulators, Atomic for Regulators, and Oceanic dabbles evenly in all three but has been known as an innovator for computers for many years.  Unlike the other three brands above that are distributing R&D among all aspects of equipment Huish has brands that they have acquired that have a particular focus.  Most of their equipment is reasonably priced With the exception of Atomic they make very high end regulators on par with Scubapro.  If you get something from one of these brands especially in their wheelhouse you know it will be very high quality for the cost.

In the end it is a personal choice which brand is best it may be situational, when picking a brand it is important to consider the long term, how easily can I service this equipment, is there a shop that I can take this equipment to if I have an issue.  I this equipment going to fit the style of diving that I intend to do and fit my personal budget.  The key to all of this is to determine your needs, figure out what features you want and then talk to your local dive shop professional because in all honesty no matter which brand you ultimately decide on you will have quality gear.  You just want to make sure you are comfortable in that equipment and are how to properly use and care for the equipment.

So in order to avoid giving a BS answer that there is no best equipment I am going to break it down into tiers High, middle, and low, in terms of price and among those name brands for my preferred for BCD, Regulator, and computer.  Now keep in mind that all of these brands make quality equipment and the ultimate choice comes down to personal preference in features and access, talk with your local dive shop cause they will likely be the ones servicing your equipment.

High:
BCD: Scubapro
Reg: Atomic
Computer: Suunto/Scubapro (the G2 is a pretty amazing computer)

Middle:
BCD: Zeagle
Reg: Aqualung/Oceanic
Computer: Oceanic/Aqualung

Low:
BCD: Oceanic/Mares
Reg: Oceanic/Aqualung
Computer: Mares/Aqualung/Oceanic

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.

 

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
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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.

 

 

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.