Our ScubaLab test team put eight new jacket-style BCs through their paces.
Atomic Aquatics BC1
Price: $1,399.95 | Contact: atomicaquatics.com
Atomic says it “rethought every material and component” when designing its first BC, and it shows: ratcheting tank-band lock, self-sealing zippers, a rugged waterproof fabric that dries almost before you get it off, integrated-weight latches that look like they were sourced from the space program. The compulsive attention to detail — the corrugated inflator hose is secured not with zip ties but by tiny clamps with stainless hardware — and, frankly, the price, seemed to verge on overkill. But test divers gave it top scores in nearly every category and overwhelmingly selected it as their favorite of the test, not because of titanium-coated stainless D-rings and the like, but because the BC1 excels in the qualities a BC needs: stability, comfort, control, convenience and durability. Some shorter scuba divers found that the side panels extended a little too high, and some found it hefty topside (just over 10 pounds, but neutral in the water). That its design spared no cost shows in its price. But what impressed was its level of performance. The BC1 is our Testers Choice for jacket BCs.
Cressi Start Pro 2.0
Price: $329.95 | Contact: cressiusa.com
A popular rental BC, the Start received some upgrades this year, including an ergonomic inflator and streamlined harness. The weight system has bifold pockets attached to the BC that secure with a buckle. Cinching down hard on the adjustable strap limits weights shifting in the pocket when your attitude changes, and while weights are secure, they drop cleanly when you release the buckles. One downside is it’s not really practical to pull weights at the boat ladder and hand them up; but it’s also impossible to lose the pockets, a plus for new scuba divers. The Start Pro was rated very good for comfort, adjustability, attitude and stability, valve operation, ascent control, and surface floating position. Stoutly made, it has decent cargo pockets, octo pockets (but no trim pockets) and a half-dozen plastic D-rings. The least expensive BC in our test, it nevertheless made its way onto the top three list of more than half our test divers.
Dacor Nautica XVI
Price: $369 | Contact: westmarine.com
As the price suggests, this new jacket-style BC from Dacor is a no-frills design, but in the water the Nautica turned out to be a real gem, with very good scores for comfort and stability and one of the highest scores for surface floating position. It has excellent trim pockets placed just right, and the integrated weights load securely and ditch reliably with a pinch of the buckles. It has just 1½ pounds of inherent buoyancy despite the cushioned back pad that works well with the rest of the harness to create a secure, comfortable fit. The zippered cargo pockets are big enough to be useful and you can access them without double-jointed elbows, and the octo pockets are well-placed. Test divers would have liked a right shoulder exhaust, more and better D-rings, and a less abrupt inflator. But they praised the Nautica’s stable comfort, and several picked it as one of their favorites of the test.
Price: $499 | Contact: scubapro.com
One of the things we liked best about the new Equalizer was the inflator system, which helped it earn very good scores for valve operation and ascent control. The distinctly shaped and colored control buttons let you add and release air with precision, and — unlike most BCs — the inflator hose swings freely, while at the connection to the bladder there’s a self-locking ring that prevents it from working loose. Divers also liked the large, easily identifiable exhaust-valve pulls. The pinch-to-release integrated weights were rated very good for loading and ditching, but some divers didn’t like the D-rings on the weight-pouch straps, which they thought a scuba diver might be tempted to clip an octo or SPG to. Some divers also wished there were rear trim pockets. While this didn’t figure in our scoring, divers also liked the cool look of the Equalizer, with the contrast of textured and smooth, coated fabric and the silvery highlights.
Price: $489 | Contact: seacusa.com
The Seac Trip is aimed at traveling scuba divers who want a full-featured jacket-style BC. On the feature side are weight integration, a depth-compensating cummerbund, big zippered cargo pockets, right shoulder exhaust, six well-placed D-rings, and a two-position sternum strap. As for travel, it weighs about 6½ pounds in size medium and folds surprisingly fl at, thanks to a short back plate and flexible bladder. The integrated weights use fixed pockets that load from the top and ditch by unclipping the buckle and pulling the hook-and-loop on the bottom flap; an internal divider keeps the weights from shifting. The design saves the bulk and weight of separate pockets and was rated very good for loading, but some divers found the multistep release cumbersome. Its compact design proved quite cozy, with divers rating the Trip very good for comfort and for attitude and stability, and giving it the highest score for adjustability.
Tusa BC0102 Soverin-Alpha
Price: $499 | Contact: tusa.com
In a test where the comfort of all the entries was notable, the Tusa Soverin-Alpha managed to capture by a hair the highest score for comfort. That’s partly due to the cushioned back plate and lumbar support, but credit also goes to the clever harness. The bottoms of the shoulder straps form an inverted Y, and the lower straps’ forward ends, which connect to loops holding the cummerbund, are adjustable, allowing you to line up the straps so they’re just right. The comfort didn’t carry a performance penalty; despite the cushioning, the BC was dead neutral in our objective testing. The new integrated-weight system also was rated very good, loading easily and ditching smoothly. The large cargo pockets get a little snug when inflated, and some scuba divers thought the zippered rear trim pockets should be located a bit higher, but the BC ended up on most divers’ top three list, earning the Soverin-Alpha our Best Buy.
XS Scuba Triton
Price: $330 | Contact: xsscuba.com
The Triton was the only jacket-style BC in our test not equipped with integrated weights, which sometimes makes us wonder what other amenities we’ll be giving up. But while it’s not long on frills (there are just three plastic D-rings), the Triton delivered performance above its pay grade. The rigid, thickly cushioned back plate provides good support, and the harness has a wide range of adjustability, including cummerbund straps that can be shifted a couple of inches. There are extras: a right shoulder dump, octo/gauge pockets, and a pair of sizable cargo pockets. While we’ve sometimes griped about pockets with too little hook-and-loop fastening, the Triton’s were the opposite: The 8-by-1½-inch fasteners are so grabby, they’re hard to open with one hand. In the water, the Triton was rated good for attitude and stability, adjustability and comfort (although some divers wished the shoulder straps had a bit more padding).
Price: $399.95 | Contact: zeagle.com
Ruggedly made and rich with features, the Zeagle Resort looks like it should cost more than it does. It took very good scores for comfort, adjustability, attitude and stability, and ascent control. The highly adjustable harness, with two-position sternum strap and double-adjustable cummerbund, allowed divers to dial in the fit (although some found it sized slightly large, opting for a smaller size than usual). The trim pockets are perfectly placed, and the integrated weights are secure but can be ditched in an instant. However, some divers found the weights tricky to load while wearing the BC. With a half-dozen stainless D-rings and roomy zippered cargo pockets, the Resort took the high score for gear stowage. It was rated very good for valve operation, although some divers didn’t like the hard mouthpiece on the otherwise ergonomic inflator. More than half of test divers ranked the Resort among their top three of the test.
More BCs Coming Check out the July issue of Scuba Diving for Part 2 of our BC test, where we’ll evaluate the latest in back-inflation models.