Scuba Diving BC Review 2018 7 to 14Simon Vetterli
Aqua Lung Rogue
The Rogue shares a modular design with Aqua Lung’s Outlaw, but without the Outlaw’s über-minimalist approach. The Rogue’s harness (rated very good for comfort) uses the same quick-release connectors that allow up to 27 size configurations of back plate and straps. But it has more lift — with a 35-pound air cell — four stainless D-rings, a right-shoulder exhaust, and drop-down cargo pockets big enough for an SMB. The integrated weights mount vertically, which lets them dump in a flash but makes them a pain to load.
With its bigger air cell (compared with just 12- or 25-pound for the Outlaw) and larger harness, the Rogue can’t quite compete with the “diving without a BC” feel of the Outlaw. But it was chosen among the favorites of multiple divers and is worth a look from those who want more lift and extras than the Outlaw offers.
The only BC in its category with a full back plate, the Commander also had the largest air cell, with several pounds more lift, and big cargo pockets. That makes the Commander larger than the others but didn’t hurt it in performance. The well-padded harness earned very good scores for comfort, and the big air cell is well-contained with a wraparound bungee system that keeps it streamlined. While the back plate makes it less compact than the others, it doesn’t carry a weight penalty, with the Commander weighing within a few ounces of the average in its category.
The zippered cargo pockets are easy to access and, along with the Commander’s eight metal D-rings, earned the top score for stowage. Some divers found the weight pockets digging into their hips, but the no-fuss Flat Lock latches were rated very good for loading and ditching.
Riptide has reintroduced its BC line, now distributed in the U.S. through IST Sports. Lightweight (under 6 pounds in our test size) and with a soft back plate, the Mutineer packs up tight for travel. The harness, with a cummerbund and wide back pad, doesn’t have much cushioning but has some cool details such as sliding sternum strap mounts and shoulder straps that swivel on D-rings. That helped it tie the top score for comfort, and the wide adjustment range was especially welcome considering we had a single size to test
The integrated weights load easily from the top through wide zippers and are rated for 12 pounds each. Secured by Velcro with flaps protecting the pocket corners, they were secure but simple to release with the web loops, though divers with heavier weight loads had to finagle them out of the pockets after ditching.
Zeagle Covert XT
When we tried the original Covert, we joked that its fit reminded us of a corset. With an overhaul of the harness, air cell and integrated weights, it’s less like an undergarment and more like a tactical vest. Despite minimal padding, it received top scores for comfort and stability and diver comments like “snug and comfortable” and “precise attitude control.” The Covert XT has picked up a few ounces, but it’s still under 6 pounds in medium. And all the changes have made it better, with more-rugged materials (especially in the air-cell cover), more lift and more options for storage, including web loops to secure accessory pockets.
The redesigned integrated-weight pockets load easily from the top and take 14 pounds, while rear trim pockets hold 10. Even better than the original, the Covert is our Testers Choice for back-inflation BCs.
The Mira appears virtually identical to Riptide’s Mutineer, with a cummerbund, soft back plate and a pair of tank bands, as well as swiveling shoulder straps and a sternum strap that can be quickly moved up or down about 3 inches. That helped the Mira tie the top score for adjustability, and earn a very good score for comfort. For stowage, it suffered competing against jackets with big cargo pockets. But while the Mira comes with just two D-rings, it has sleeves to add up to nine more.
Some test divers noted more inherent buoyancy than they liked, and wished there were rear trim pockets to distribute the weight. But divers found the Mira travel-friendly, and rated it very good for surface floating position and overall assembly, singling out features such as the unobtrusive but useful carry strap and mesh rear pocket for a strobe.
The graphics on this redesigned jacket are an eye-catcher, but there are also lots of new details, including a quick-connect tank buckle and a new shoulder-strap design with triangular stainless connectors. The result? The Bella was rated excellent for setup, with one tester calling it the “best tank band in the test.” Women divers praised the Bella’s fit, giving it the top score for comfort and for stability and attitude control. “Perfect buoyancy,” one diver commented. It took top scores for ascent control, valve operation and surface floating.
The integrated weights, which secure with a buckle, were rated good for ditching and very good for loading — “Couldn’t be easier,” one tester said. Some divers found the pink accents a bit much, but when it came to performance, the Bella was a standout. The Bella is our Testers Choice for women’s BCs.
Like the Bravo, the Marina’s back plate is made of heavy webbing with generous padding. But the two are quite different, with the Marina’s back pad, waist section and air cell tailored for women. Female test divers judged the effort successful, giving the Marina very good scores for comfort and stability. The integrated weights, which handle 10 pounds each, were rated very good for loading and took top score for ease of ditching. A pair of rear trim pockets are well-placed but pretty tight, with the max 3 pounds each.
The BC was rated very good for ascent control and valve operation, though more than one diver noted the rock-hard inflator mouthpiece. Zippered pockets are large and accessible though snug on the surface; with functional octo pockets and six stainless D-rings, the Marina took top score for stowage in its category.