The Scubapro Nighthawk 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 Nighthawk 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 Nighthawk 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 Nighthawk 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 Nighthawk 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 Nighthawk, 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.
A moustache or any facial hair can be a serious problem if you are a diver. The problem generally lies with the sealing of a mask to the face. Now if you are a person that believes shaving is absolutely not an option then there are a couple tips for diving with a mustache.
Divers Cut: The divers cut is a simple solution of shaving the top 8th of the mustache under the nose in order to give the mask some skin to seal agains. Because this is a way to trim the mustache unfortunately this look does not suit every diver, but it is a good solution for a leaky mask when you have a mustache.
Chapstick, Vaseline, Silicone: For those that are unwilling to trim their mustache and sport the divers cut, this is another option. All of these are viable options for getting a mask to seal, they will generally leave a residue on the mask and mustache after the dive. Some divers claim that some of these options can degrade the silicone but i have been unable to find any evidence of this. This option does work as well as the divers cut but requires a diver to remember to bring their chosen mustache sealant. Note: if you do choose to use silicone my recommendation is silicone grease used for diving related lubrication. Most divers will have some in their save a dive kit.
O Natural: This is probably the least appealing option, fortunately there is a natural way our body can help us remedy a leaky mask. Im sure all divers have experienced the accumulation of snot at the end of the dive. This is my solution for diving with a mustache. This remedy does not solve the problem immediately and your mask will leak for the first part of the dive but once the snot builds up a bit it will seal like there is no mustache at all. Some people do find this the most unappealing solution, but every diver comes up with mucus on their face so why not use it, and you never have to remember to bring it with you.
In conclusion there is no reason to sacrifice a well established mustache for diving, there are many solutions to ensure a well sealed mask when sporting a mustache.
Central California diving is coveted as some of the best cold water diving in the world. The kelp forest provide a unique environment that can only be found in California. Diving in the kelp forest should be in every divers bucket list, and while many divers will make the trip to monterey and dive Breakwater, my suggestion is to head a little further south to Carmel. Carmel is not as frequently dived and the structure that can be found on many dive sites is unparalleled. With all of this being said there are a few misconceptions people have about diving in California. First California diving is completely different from diving anywhere else in the world. If you are not familiar with Monterey or Carmel I highly recommend hiring a guide they will help with gear and help you find the little treasures that hide in all the different nooks and crannies. Second, the summer is the worst time to dive, because of plankton blooms in the summer visibility degrades in the summer, the swells tend to be much lighter in the summer but this lack of movement allows the water to become stagnant. Third, the water is cold no matter the time of year, average yearly highs in Monterey are in the mid 50’s while Lows are in the mid 40’s, average temperature is 50 degrees. The best time to dive California is in the winter and spring, winter storms wash out all the junk that collects during the fall. Cold water is also a sign of upwelling, meaning that cold very clear water is coming up from deeper waters to replace surface waters displaced by winds. Upwelling normally occurs in the winter and spring along the California coast. The divers that are well prepared (usually the drysuit divers) are able to capitalize on these cold waters and on occasion find visibility of 60-150 ft. While many divers who are used to warm water and consistent visibility this may not sound amazing, but along the coast average visibility is about 20ft and can be as bad as 2 ft at times. So when reports of 100ft visibility are heard it is not uncommon to see divers flood the waters. So when you hear that the water temp is reaching its seasonal low its time to pick up your gear and get in the water.
The mask is one of the most important pieces of equipment that any diver can have, without the mask diving would be pointless because we would not be able to enjoy all of the underwater scenery.
So here are some tips to help find the perfect mask.
- When picking a mask the first step it to ensure that you have options. Find a dive shop with a large variety of masks, the more you have to choose from the better chance you have to find the right one.
- Don’t worry about the price. I know many new divers are looking to save as much money because it does add up quickly, but don’t discard a mask because it it more expensive. If you buy the right mask the first time it will be a long term investment.
- Fit is key. Don’t worry about the strap when you are trying on mask, a good fitting mask should suction to your face without the use of the strap. If it doesn’t stick to your face without the strap then its not going to keep the water out.
- Comfort. Make sure the frame of the mask isn’t making contact on the bridge of the nose or forehead. This can be more common with single lens masks. If it is uncomfortable when you are warring it in the store its not going to be uncomfortable in the water, and will leave marks on your face.
- Test it out. If the shop your are buying your mask at has a pool ask if you can test it out in the water. Testing it out is the only way to know for sure if the mask seals on your face properly and is comfortable. If the shop doesn’t have a pool ask if you can return the mask if it doesn’t fit properly.
Because every person is different, finding the right mask is not an exact science. There are also many other secondary factors that affect choosing a mask because of the great variety of styles.
- Black silicone vs. Clear silicone: Many masks come in clear and black silicone versions but not all mask so be sure to ask your dive shop what available options there are for the masks that fit you best. Black silicone mask are more favorable for spear fisherman, and photographers because it helps our eyes adjust to lower light faster, clear silicone masks are good for avoiding feelings of claustrophobia and give a open feeling letting in more light.
- Single lens vs. Double lens: Some of these options are mask specific, single and double lens mask provide different benefits, single lens mask provide a continuous view horizontally while double lens mask tend to provide more space for larger noses and avoid contact with the nose and forehead better.
- Normal vs. Low volume: Low volume mask are great for reducing effort to clear the mask and are popular for free divers and spear fisherman.
- Clear lens vs. Amber lens vs. Mirrored lens: Type of lens can be similar to ski goggles clear lenses are standard for most mask, some mask may have yellow or amber lenses that are optimal for blue water diving/ hunting, mirrored lenses are also primarily for hunting preventing the fish from seeing your hungry eyes.
- Silicone strap vs. Neoprene Strap: Straps can be changed on any mask, but each has its own benefits. Silicone straps stay in place much better than neoprene straps, but neoprene straps don’t pull hair as much as silicone straps. If you ware a hood while diving neoprene straps have a tendency to slide around more than silicone.
- Color: Color is only a cosmetic change.
All of these option I believe are secondary. I would focus on finding the correct fitting mask before worrying about any of these options. Some of these options can vary depending on the style and brand of mask.
Keep in mind that many of these features are secondary to finding a mask that fist well.