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.

Zeagle F8 Regulator Review

Zeagle is not a name in diving that is synonymous with regulators while they are betterRegulatorF8GREYCutoutDIN1 copy known for their BCD’s they do produce a small line of rugged hard working regulators.  These regulators range in price from $329.95 for the Envoy 2 at their entry level, $484.95 for the Onyx 2 for the middle ground, and $629.95 for the F8 as their high end regulator.  This is going to focus on the F8 regulator from Zeagle and my experience with this lesser known regulator.

The F8 regulator is made to be rugged and able to withstand the harshest conditions. The F8 colorssimple classic design takes advantage of the classic look of regulators and the simplistic no extra bells and whistles of the first stage.  Zeagle does like to set their regulators apart by having 5 low pressure and 2 high pressure ports on their first stages, 4 of the low pressure ports are traditionally placed with the fifth facing directly forward I assume for more tech/sidemount applications.  Zeagle like other companies has adopted the usage of color kits to personalize the regulator with an assortment of colors from standard blue, and pink to purple and red.  These kits are in my opinion a little over priced but will make the regulator stand out replacing the purge cover, adjustment knob and exhaust cover.

First Stage Features:F8 first stage

  • Balanced diaphragm design and the environmentally sealed ambient chamber ensure top performance in any condition.
  • Redesigned environmental seal cap and yoke knob enhance ergonomics & design aesthetics.
  • Percision machined neoflon seat harder more reliable material, keeping you diving longer.
First Stage Materials:
Body: Brass
O-rings: Nitrile
Seat: Neoflon (PCTFE)
HP Valve: Stainless Steel

Second Stage Features:F8 second stage

  • New inhalation diaphragm provides superior tear strength and improved response time to breathing (super soft silicone molded over a low friction disk).
  • Improved exhaust valve ensures dryness and a lower exhalation effort.
  • Seat-saving orifice, compliments of Atomic Aquatics, retracts when not in use – extending the life of the breathing tube seat.
  • Seat comprised of soft silicone molded over a metal insert to deliver the firmness required for an airtight seal while maintaining the necessary elasticity to prevent leaking.
  • Redesigned front cover and inhalation effort control knob use co-molded components that provide the necessary grip, soft touch and ease of use. Available in several color kits
  • Zirconium-plated inlet tube and heat sink for superior corrosion resistance.
  • Redesigned heat sink dramatically increases surface area, aiding in the heat exchange necessary to avoid freeze-up.
  • Co-molded silicone mouthpiece for better fit and less jaw fatigue
Second Stage Materials:
Cover: TPU
Case: Nylon 12
Poppet Seat: 316 SS insert with silicone overmold
O-rings: Nitrile
Diaphragm: Elastomeric Polymer
Exhaust Valve: Silicone

My experience with the F8:
This is a very well performing regulator that I would easily put in the same running as other high end regulators.  It has a clean simple look, breaths well, and venturi switch and air flow adjustment are easy to use even when wearing heavy gloves for cold water. It is surprisingly light for the size of the second stage, I did add a swivel to my second stage for added comfort which is a strong recomendation for anyone who experiences jaw fatigue while diving.  The only issue this has presented is the lp hose for the second stage is very long much longer than I am used to for standard regulators and the addition of a swivel added an extra 2 inches to this making it at times seem a bit excessive.  Another issue that I have experienced is use of the regulator inverted can cause water to get into the second stage, by inverted i mean head down feet above the head, not lying on the back.  This being a very uncommon position only affected me while playing with students while teaching in the pool.

Over all this is a good regulator that should be considered if you are looking to upgrade, it is very hardy and reliable.  At a price of $629.95 this is one reg that should be thrown into the mix with other high end regulators like the Oceanic Zeo, Hollis 200LX, Aqualung Legend, and Scubapro MK25/S600. Zeagle may not be the brand you think of when regulators come to mind but they are a sleeper in this category with tough regs that are inexpensive to service, and can easily last a lifetime.

I hope this was helpful and feel free to share your own experience with the Zeagle F8 in the comments.

 

Oceanic Jetpack BCD Review

The Oceanic Jetpack BCD is a bit of an anomaly, it is a one size fits all travel BCD that strives to slim down all of our favorite aspects of back inflate BCD’s into one convenient package.  The Jetpack BCD comes in two different packages one thats just the BCD and the complete package which includes a detachable backpack.  The gimmick of the Jetpack is that this BCD transforms from a bag able to fit all of your personal gear, to a light weight travel style bcd with a large amount of personal adjustment.

In terms of what this bcd is designed for it does function well, everything about it makes sense and performs the way it should.  With that being said i’m just not in love with this bcd.  I am a fan of all of the features, many of them are clever and makes sense in their purpose, but it just doesn’t feel the way I want a travel bcd to feel.  Lets start by covering the features of this bcd.  The Jetpack is designed as a travel bcd, but not the traditional travel bcd.  Instead of purely going for the most light weight and basic design to cut weight for checked baggage, the Jetpack does cut weight but doesn’t cut as much retaining some of the many comforts of a standard bcd.

The breakdown/set up

jetpack diagramThe jet pack is made as a one size fits all bcd that almost completely comes apart, removing the cumber bun weight pockets and storing them in the zip away rear panel that contains the bladder, inflator, tank straps, cumber bun and weight pockets when in the travel mode.  In this configuration there is a backpack that can attach to the broken down bcd and can be used as a carry on bag for airline travel.  This system does work pretty we’ll and the detachable backpack is very large and has a great amount of storage space.  The set up is fairly simple, the rear panel unzips and rolls up secured with a few pieces of velcro the bladder extends beyond the edges, the cumber bun, weight pockets are attached and the shoulder straps are unclipped from the base of the bag and attached to the weight pockets.  The most difficult part is threading the cumber bun through the hidden loops and adjusting the shoulder straps for personal comfort lengthening and shortening the nylon webbing.  The cumber bun does attach using velcro attaching to itself appears to be surprisingly secure but I can only assume that over time the velcro will give out.  But for the time being it appears to be working just fine.

What I like:

The truth is this BCD does really work well, the modular pieces feel secure when attached and provide an abundance of adjustability.  One feature that I am very happy to be included is the  cumber bun, most travel bcd’s this is the first feature to be eliminated in order to cut weight.  For me it provides an additional level of security and makes the bcd feel like it is wrapping around me more.  They also employ a different stomach strap jetpack bcd 2system from other Oceanic BCD’s instead of the traditional pull from the center out the straps are laced back and use a pul from the sides to center, This is a feature i have seen on many Aqualung bcd’s.  The back inflation style makes it a very comfortable dive and uses high quality durable materials that dry relatively quickly.  The materials never felt over saturated with water leaving me wondering if it had dried fully before packing.  The last thing I am very fond of is the backpack, this thing is great.  Weather it is attached or detached this thing has a ton of space, pocket for laptop, many interior mesh pockets for storage of small items, two exterior pockets, straps on the sides great for sandals or beach towels, and zips completely open which can be nice when you are unpacking or looking for something in the bag.

What I don’t like:

For the most part I am pretty happy with the Jetpack, it functions how a bcd should and has many features that I wish a traditional travel bcd would have, but it is not perfect at least not for me.  I am not a tall person and the length of this bcd is a little too much, I jetpack 3feel like no matter how much i play with the adjustments that I cannot get it to sit perfectly for me because I have a short torso.  I have also found that the placement of the deflator is just not right for me I find my self having to adjust my body positioning more while diving to deflate.  This could be because of the length of the bcd and how it fits my body or just that I am so used to my primary bcd I need more time to adjust.  Another small issue I have is the weight, for a travel bcd the jetpack is a little heavy, about 6.25 lbs which is lighter than a traditional bcd but also heavier than most lightweight travel bcd’s sitting somewhere in the middle.  The salvation for this issue is that it packs into a backpack and can be used as a carry on so weight is not as much as a factor in the long run.  My final issue is with the placement of the tank strap, I understand that for the length of the bcd it has been set low to prevent swing of the tank but I wouldn’t mind an additional strap a little higher for a more secure hold, it does have a valve strap that can aid in some stability but I personally prefer a double strap system.

In the end it is going to depend on what you are looking for in a travel bcd, if you are looking for something that is very adjustable, and can be used as a carry on this is a perfect option.  If you are looking to cut as much weight as possible then it may not be the best option.  It does function as a high quality bcd with durable materials and I experienced no technical issues.  The price is a little high for a travel bcd with the Jetpack Complete (includes backpack) coming in at $599 while most travel bcd’s are around the $450 price range.  The one size fits all feature may be a bit exaggerated not the most ideal for those who are on the shorter side but as a bcd that could be an extra for a friend not needing to worry if it fits is a very nice option.  Over all I do like the Jetpack, it functions well as a bcd and has many clever features but I am not in love with it.

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