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.

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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.

 

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 condensation 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.

Oceanic VTX Review

IMG_0149I have recently purchased the Oceanic VTX with the transmitter in order to upgrade my current wrist computer a SubGear XP-10.  Although the SubGear XP-10 as a computer worked fine it was an entry level computer and it was time to upgrade and take advantage of the many features of a high end computer.  I have only managed to use the VTX for about 10 dives but as a computer it works great.  The OLED screen is easy to read even during night dives with no need to press a button to get the back light to turn on, I have been keeping the brightness at 40% and it was still easy to read during a night dive.  The menus are easy to navigate and a very simple learning curve for operating the computer.

Features:

  • Air integrated
  • OLED Color Screen
  • Digital Compass
  • Bluetooth integration
  • Dual algorithm
  • Nitrox compatible
  • 3 button navigation
  • Automatic altitude compensation

There are many more features, including multiple deep stop settings, and alarms, safety stop countdown timer.

This is the first air integrated computer that I have used, it appears to work very well but compared to my SPG it reads a slightly lower pressure.  I would be interested to find out if there is a way to calibrate it.  Overall this computer works beautifully, the screen is easy to read, the navigation is simple and it is a great choice for an upgrade if you are looking to switch to a high end computer.

Pros:

  • Easy to read screen
  • Simple navigation
  • Bright screen great for night dives
  • 3 axis digital compass
  • Air integrated
  • Bluetooth compatible

Cons:

  • Downloading to computer can be a little difficult
  • Battery life, depending on settings
  • strap a little short if you are warring a dry-suit

Overall if you are looking for a bright colorful wrist computer with the air integration option the VTX is a great option that i suggest everyone checks out.

Check out the new video review.