Gear of The Year: The Best Dive Gear & Equipment | Scuba Diving

Gear of The Year: The Best Dive Gear & Equipment

It’s been a busy year for our team: With our ScubaLab Reviews, We’ve evaluated more than 170 pIeces of dive equIpment, from travel gear to regs to fIns. WIth Lab tests and team dives behInd us, and all the data collectIng and number crunchIng completed, here are our picks for the best gear of the year.

SealIfe DC1400 Maxx Duo

The Maxx Duo combines a diver- friendly design with still-shot and high-definition-video capability. The system is ready to use straight out of the box, and offers six underwater modes accessed by large “piano key” controls. Included is a 14-megapixel cam- era, fisheyewide-anglelens, strobe, and video light for stills or video, and a tray and arms.

$1,700; sealife-cameras .com

Cressi SprIng 3.5 Wetsuit

Cressi’s Spring 3.5 wetsuit was one of our favorite new exposure suits. Made from Ultraspan neoprene, the suit comes with preshaped legs, is easy to don, and provides lots of freedom of movement. Its glued and blind-stitched seams minimize water seepage, keeping body heat inside the suit where it belongs. Wrist and ankle seals are made with a new Aquastop smooth- skin cuff. The adjustable neck seal is also smooth-skin — very comfy, very effective.

$259.95; cressi.com

Nikon Photo Package by Ikelite

Perfect for new underwater photographers, this system includes a Nikon Coolpix L28 camera and Ikelite ultracompact housing. It delivers high-quality 20-mega-pixel still shots as well as 720p HD video. Depth rated to 200 feet, the housing is compatible with wide-angle lenses. Adding an external strobe or video lightallowsforgreatresultsatall depths and light levels.

$400; ikelite.com

Mares Nemo Wide Dive Computer

For 2013, Mares ramped up the computing power of its stalwart Nemo Wide wrist-mount DC, elevating it from the “basic dive computer” category. It can now monitor three gas mixes up to 99 percent nitrox, plus it features a bottom-timer mode with a stopwatch function for technical diving. Its screen layout has also been redesigned to better organize data, and it has a more intuitive interface, so now it’s even easier to use.

$580; mares.com

Scubapro X-Tek Pure Back Plate/ Wing System

This tec-diving system includes a stainless-steel back plate and a doughnut wing with 30 pounds of lift for single-tank systems, or 60 pounds of lift for double-tank systems. Also included are big D-rings, crotch strap, and corrugated hose with power inflator. The single-tank system comes with an adapter and two Super-Cinch tank buckles with straps. All components are compatible with other X-Tek systems.

scubapro.com

Sherwood Scuba Amphos Wristwatch-Style Dive Computer

Sherwood has taken the algorithm and basic screen design of its Wisdom3 console computer, added watch and advanced diving features, then downsized the package so it fits on your wrist. The result is a very cool wristwatch-style DC at a pretty good price. Along with full time- keeping functions, the Amphos offers four operating modes: air, nitrox, gauge and free diving. You can also program two gas mixes, one to 100 percent O2.

$470; sherwoodscuba.com

Cressi Air Travel & Mares Prime MRS (Left to Right)

Cressi Air Travel

When it comes to a lightweight bc designed for vacationing divers seeking to reduce their baggage weight, it’s hard to outshine the air travel. able to be folded into a small bundle for easy packing, at the dive site it is a full-featured BC that’s stable and comfortable, offering a great integrated-weight system and an efficient valve system that includes a right-shoulder exhaust. No surprise, it earned this year’s Testers’ Choice in the travel category.

$425.95; cressi.com

Mares Prime MRS

The Prime MRS was this year’s Best Buy BC, and for good reason. It’s a solid, no-nonsense rig that nails all the important stuff. it comes in a good range of sizes; the corresponding buoyant lift is sufficient for virtually any recreational-diving scenario; and when you’re all strapped in, you can expect a comfortable, controlled ride. It’s designed for divers just getting started, but it delivers a level of in-water performance that will satisfy veterans.

$370; mares.com

Sherwood Scuba Axis & Aqua Lung Axiom (Left to Right)

Sherwood Scuba Axis

The Axis delivers the functions, features and performance that divers like in a streamlined, general-purpose back-buoyancy BC, without bogging it down with unnecessary bells and whistles. Test divers awarded it high marks in virtually every ergo test category. In particular, they appreciated its snug and comfortable fit, stability in the water, and responsive power inflator. A Testers’ Choice, the axis proved to have some of the best exhaust-valve performance of this year’s test group.

$588; sherwoodscuba.com

Aqua Lung Axiom

The Axiom proved to be a comfortable and stable jacket-style BC, with a good weight system, efficient valves and a long list of convenience features. It comes in a wide range of sizes, and offers a swivel-buckle harness and adjustable sternum strap, excellent padding, and the wrapture harness system. Put it all together, and you get an incredibly form-fitting BC — the only BC this year to earn perfect scores for comfort and stability.

$575; aqualung.com

Bare Trilam Pro Dry & Whites Fusion One (Left to Right)

Bare Trilam Pro Dry

Racking up the most points for this year’s favorite, the rear- entry Trilam Pro drysuit earned points from the ScubaLab test team for its features and overall feel. The suit is lightweight and pliable yet offers rugged construction, including its large, protective kneepads. However, the really big selling point was its superior comfort and range of motion, both in and out of the water, due in large part to its high-flex T-Zip zipper.

$1,399.95; baresports.com

Whites Fusion One

For casual recreational diving, the Fusion One proved to be a winner. But with a watertight shell covered by a protective 1 mm neoprene skin, the Fusion One fits surprisingly snugly and is feather light. The suit excelled in range of mation and valve positioning scoring, and you can't beat the price. If the outer skin ever wears out, a replacement costs only about $200 and can be installed quickly and easily. That equals a Best Buy in our book.

$999; whitesdiving.com

Atomic Aquatics Blade Fin, Aqua Lung Stratos ADJ, ScubaPro Seawing Nova FF, Mares Avanti Quattro+ (CLOCKWISE)

Atomic Aquatics Blade Fin

Test divers loved this sleek new kicker. Earning the top spot on their Favorites list and the Testers’ Choice in its category, the 1 Blade Fin racked up some of the best scores for handling in this year’s competition — and then tossed in some snappy accel- eration for good measure. You can actually feel the propulsive thrust of each kick, yet virtually no ankle or leg strain results from the experience, even when kicking in turbo mode.

$169; atomicaquatics.com

Aqua Lung Stratos ADJ

The Stratos ADJ is marketed as an entry-level fin, but test div- ers of all skill levels loved its performance. Its big blade offers stiffness to maintain stability and some flexibility to dampen leg and ankle stress. Testers agreed that it provides decent thrust when needed. It’s pretty maneuverable too. Solid performance plus a budget price earned it a Best Buy award.

$95; aqualung.com

ScubaPro Seawing Nova FF

The full-foot version of Scubapro’s popular Seawing Nova, this new fin is fast, stable on the straightaways, and highly maneuverable. The blade offers a near-perfect balance of stiffness and flex, producing excellent accel- eration when needed, without a hint of leg pain or ankle strain. This Testers’ Choice hit its performance notes with near-perfect pitch.

$139; scubapro.com

Mares Avanti Quattro+

The new Avanti Quattro+ turned in the fast- est speeds of all the fins in this year’s test; in real-world diving scenarios, test divers rated it very stable, highly maneuverable, and effec- tive using all kicking styles. The blade’s flexy tip produces a propulsive snap that really gets this fin rocketing through the water column. It earned the Testers’ Choice in its category.

$144; mares.com

Mares i3 Liquid Skin, Sherwood Scuba Onyx, Atomic Aquatics Venom, ScubaPro Spectra Trufit (Clockwise from Left)

Mares i3 Liquid Skin

The i3 LiquidSkin uses a single front lens plus a pair of side lenses to increase its horizontal field of view to 140 degrees. This year’s Testers’ Choice winner in the three-or-more-lenses category, the i3 has a skirt made of two types of sili- cone: firmer near the frame for structural support, ultrasoft where it comes in contact with the skin. A Sunrise version with a smaller nose pocket and wider skirt is also available.

$94; mares.com

Sherwood Scuba Onyx

With its black-matte finish, the Onyx looks all business, but its soft skirt and near-custom fit reveal a comfortable, lightweight, low-volume mask with good field of view. It comes with effective push-button buckles and an ultranarrow strap that incorporates a stretchy split headband. It’s a versatile mask well suited for both scuba and free diving — at a pretty good price, making it the Best Buy in this year’s new-mask evaluation.

$70; sherwoodscuba.com

Atomic Aquatics Venom

The Testers’ Choice in the single-lens category, the Venom has a reinforced internal frame and double- layer, dual-color silicone skirt. It is really comfortable on the face, and offers excellent horizontal view. The lens is made from a high-quality glass imported from Germany that allows more light in to brighten the underwater view. The squeeze-button buckles are soft-mounted to the mask skirt for both strap positioning and packing.

$199; atomicaquatics.com

ScubaPro Spectra Trufit

It’s hard to find a mask as soft, sealable and just plain comfortable as the Trufit. A series of ribs molded into the silicone skirt creates the perfect balance of softness, and shape that lies like a sec- ond skin on facial contours. Test divers rated the view as excellent, and the frame fea- tures a unique paint process that creates a cool powder-coat effect. In the dual-lens category, the Trufit was the undisputed Testers’ Choice.

$99; scubapro.com

Atomic Aquatics Z3, Edge Epic 2012, Atomic Aquatics T3, Zeagle Onyx CW (Counter Clockwise)

Atomic Aquatics Z3

With less exotic metal in its construction and offering fewer convenience features, Atomic’s Z3 sells for about a third the cost of the company’s T3, yet it holds up quite well compared with its pricier cousin — both on the breathing machine and in the ocean. Test divers found the Z3 to be comfortable, dry and an easy breather. The combination of performance and price earned it this year’s Best Buy in the Over $500 category.

$529; atomicaquatics.com

Edge Epic 2012

An easy breather in all positions, the Epic 2012 delivers gas on demand, dry and effortlessly. Testers really liked its cool-looking gun-metal-tinted, environmentally sealed first stage, as well as its simple second stage with a powerful purge and efficient user controls. In fact, test divers were pleasantly surprised about virtually every- thing this inexpensive reg had to offer. Its combination of features, performance and price earned it this year’s Best Buy in the $500 and Under category.

$299; edge-gear.com

Atomic Aquatics T3

When divers talk about their dream reg, the T3 is often mentioned. Ultralight and über-cool, the T3 is a sleek, full-size reg packed with ground-breaking features and func- tions, and virtually unbeatable when it comes to breathing performance. Made for divers who want the best, the T3 topped every tester’s Favor- ites list, making it the undisputed Testers’ Choice in this year’s Over $500 category.

$1,699; atomicaquatics.com

Zeagle Onyx CW

The Onyx CW (for cold water) — with its dry-sealed first stage and heat- sinked second stage — was the only reg in this year’s test to end up on every test diver’s Favorites list. The reg is a giant-killer on the breathing machine; out in the ocean, test divers lauded it for its effortless, bone-dry breathing and excellent user controls. It was the unanimous pick for Testers’ Choice in the $500 and Under category.

$499.95; zeagle.com

Aqua Lung Mikron & Backscatter GoPro Package

Aqua Lung Mikron

Traveling divers like their regs small and light; the Mikron delivers on both counts. Its balanced-diaphragm first stage isn’t much bigger than a golf ball, yet it supplies a lot of air to the compact second stage with minimal breathing effort in all diving positions, even at extreme depths. It comes with a super-flexy, easy-to-coil braided LP hose.

$499; aqualung.com

Backscatter GoPro Package

Part of the joy of traveling is bringing back digital memories. This full-featured yet micro-size camera system comes with a GoPro Hero3 Black Edition camera, a housing, and a new double handle and tray system that helps stabilize the shot while allowing for the easy mounting of light systems. Add the new Flip 3.1 side and top mechanisms with three filters for shooting at different depths, and get ready to have fun.

$592.99; backscatter.com

Akona AKB611 Collapsing Duffel

Packing space is always at a premium, and divers often improvise. That's why Akona's Collapsing Duffel is such a cool bag for divers who travel a lot. In transit, when all you need is a padded reg bag, that's what it is. At your dive destination, when you need a full-size mesh bag for hauling gear from your resort room or dive locker to the dive boat, it does the job. When expanded, it offers double duffel handles for easy hauling.

$58, akona.com

Bare Velocity 5 MM Wetsuit

The Velocity uses three different materials to maximize comfort, range of motion and durability. The suit has a full-stretch fabric in areas where unrestricted movement is most critical, while the full-stretch material covering the chest, back, and legs offers more compression resistance and durability. The suit is built with double-glued Secure-Lock seams and excellent Glideskin seals.

$249.95; baresports.com

Scubapro Jet Sport Adjustable

The Jet Sport is a fast, nimble fin, and it doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes of kicking to realize that. Whether your taste runs to the flutter, frog or dolphin kick, the Jet Sport will propel you efficiently without leg strain. In turbo mode, the fin can crank out impressive speeds; in cruising mode, it is stable and maneuver- able. Its compact size makes it a good choice for travel.

$81; scubapro.com

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