The other day, I was taking a couple of customers to the pool for a Scuba Tune-up and I thought I would throw on my old pink BC for old times’ sake. This BC served me well for many years, but I now know
why I love my Diva LX so much. When I bought my first BC, I admit that I really didn’t know much about BC’s or what features I would like or dislike. I only knew for sure that I looked great in bright pink!! So, in the interest of public service, I thought I would share some information about BC’s and how to pick a good one.
The first thing you may look at in a BC is the weight system. When I learned to dive, almost no one used integrated weights, but integrated weight BC’s now dominate the market. However, do not be swayed to buy a weight integrated BC just because “everybody’s doing it!” A BC without integrated weights will likely have more pocket room and boat crew usually prefer to have you carry your weights around your waist than have to lug your gear with the weights in the pockets. The weight pockets of an integrated weight BC may not be able to hold enough weight if you are doing a lot of diving in a 7mm suit, this is especially the case with weight pockets with Velcro closure that may not seal as well after years of use. Integrated weights have their good points, too. You don’t have to set up a weight belt. You will never do a dive with a weight smack in the small of your back, or struggle to stop yourself from listing to one side because your weights shifted on the belt. Lastly, if you are one of those guys with no butt, you don’t have to worry about your weight belt slipping off as soon as you get to 60ft. and your neoprene suit is compressed. There are two main styles of weight pockets, Velcro and clip. The Velcro styles are great because they are secure yet easily dumped. The drawback to them is that the in order to keep the Velcro working like new, you must do a little maintenance. Inspect the loops and keep them free of lint stuff that will decrease their “stickiness”. Before putting your weights in the pockets “fluff” the loop a few times by touching the hook to it and ripping it off a quickly. The clip style of weight pouch certainly secures the weights better, but how easy are they to deploy? Some BC manufacturers made weight pockets with traditionally clips you squeeze together to release, but will you be able to release them in an emergency with gloves on? Or if your fingers are cold? Seaquest solved that with their “SureLock” weight system. The pockets clip in with a comforting “snap” and they are easily dumped with a quick pull.
Next, you may be wondering which is better, wrap or back inflation. Again, this is a matter of personal choice. My old BC had wrap inflation, but the really annoying part is that if I tilted up at all during a dive, the air all shifted to the shoulders and I was vertical in the water. Modern wrap inflation BC’s, like the Pro QD do not have this problem, and the inflation stays around the diver’s waist and along the sides of the tank. When upright in the water, you feel secure and comfortable, as if you have a life vest on. Back inflation is great for keeping you horizontal during the dive. Most divers feel much more stable and can maneuver without the hassle of shifting air bubbles in their vests. Some divers, however, don’t want to be forced face down with a back inflation BC when they are at the surface. This is really not the problem you may imagine. First of all, make use of the trim weight pockets. Some manufactures recommend putting 1/3 of your weight in these pockets. It won’t mess up your posture under water, and it will help you maintain yourself upright at the surface. In addition, if you tip yourself back at the surface and allow the air to find the highest point on either side of you, you will feel more stable. Some BC’s, like the Seaquest Diva LX, give the diver the best of both worlds with a design that is both back and wrap inflation.
Check the BC for clips and pockets. Imagine where (and how) you will attach your Octo, console, flashlight and whatever you like to carry along when you dive. Look at the shoulder straps. Are they adjustable and easily unfastened? Is the waist band a Velcro cummerbund, a clip, or both? Do you like the traditional vest, or a minimal style like the Seaquest Malibu and Balance? Consider whether you want an Air Source or Safe Second alternate air incorporated into your set-up.
When trying on the BC, be sure to have on the type of exposure suit you normally wear. You would be surprised at how much bigger around you are with a 3mm suit on! Make sure the BC is still comfortable when inflated and it doesn’t restrict your breathing. Make sure that it fits, but still can be adjusted a little looser or tighter. (Some of us have been known to change sizes!)
Finally, after you buy your new BC, DIVE, DIVE, DIVE! Even though you have researched your choice, you are still going to need to get acquainted with its features and practice in it. A buoyancy class is a great way to get to know your new BC! Hopefully you and your BC will have many years of happy diving together!