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
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.
- 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)
- 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
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.
The 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 an 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.