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

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.