It would appear that there exists a rather large demographic within the diving population that believes in such farcical ideas regarding how a decent dive should be… All too often in my line of work I hear whimsical phrases such as ‘warm water’, ‘good visibility’ and my favourite all…’a feeling of freedom in the water’. No idea what they are talking about personally but I assume it’s something to do with them there tropics…..
Now diving manufacturing companies are latching on to this ‘money rich, baggage allowance poor’ group of society in releasing a torrent of dive equipment for travel….characterised by lightweight materials, packing ability and smooth, sleek looks. Although in my past this went against everything I ever believed in, at the end of last season I was myself jetting off to a tropical locale with my 2 backpacks and a limited budget for dive gear and so decided to purchase myself one of these travel BCD’s from my friendly local dive centre operator…
This came in the form of the SCUBAPRO Equator BCD. SCUBAPRO has long been a firm favourite of dive professionals in that it is like the VW of the diving world in that they are bombproof, reliable and can take some abuse. They may not have the Italian sexiness of Mares, or the pedigree of Aqualung but they do what you want them to do, when you want it. Any SCUBAPRO product can be serviced anywhere no matter how backwater and this was very important to me about to go spend 6 months on a desert beach….
So the BCD comes in red and black, or grey and black and has a timeless appeal with its simple, no flair looks. They haven’t added tribal patterns, or fancy writing, or funky ‘shoot from the hip’ inflation systems. It is just a simple, effective BCD. But unusually for a travel jacket it actually comes loaded with features but it just doesn’t make a song and dance about them.
As well as the tank band it also has a tank stabilising strap allowing you to ‘ride’ an aluminium cylinder a little higher which prevents the bottom of it getting a little floaty as you breath down it’s sweet contents…
It has integrated weight pockets which although were perfect for me when diving in thin wetsuits as I only carried 2-4kg, but I have noticed that when you load them up with anything more than about 6kg for drysuit dives, they tend to suffer due to a little less space than a traditional BCD. You have to literally deflate the BC all the way before ramming the pockets in. However this rings true with most travel BC’s and certainly it carries its weights far more effectively than the Cressi Travelight I used for my first 50 dives….
It still has the full complement of dump valves in the normal places and the material of the jacket is rather hardwearing and mine is still showing very little signs of wear even after doing 150 dives, and that’s not including the countless hours it has spent in the pool. The balanced inflator valve typical of SCUBAPRO BC’s is a really nice feature and what is really nice is the neoprene lined collar which reduces neck rubbing, and the semi rigid back pad is felt lined for comfort when diving without wetsuit or rash guard and also means the BC folds really small for travel.
This BC is literally perfect for a travelling diver who wants something a little more substantial and hardwearing than the rest of the herd of travel jackets, and in fact I have been using is this summer in the UK teaching and I am still extremely happy with it. As mentioned the weight pockets don’t quite hold up to the anvil’s required for drysuit diving but in real terms this has actually proved a very minor problem.
If you are someone that wants a BCD that won’t scare the scales at airline check in, but also don’t want it to baulk at a little cold UK action then come see us to try one on! I can personally vouch it will last a long time with good care and I reckon I can still get another few more seasons out of mine yet….
By James Snelgrove
PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer