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ScubaLab 2014: Best Diving Gear of the Year

By Roger Roy | Updated On January 30, 2017
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ScubaLab 2014: Best Diving Gear of the Year

2014 Gear of the Year

Over the past 12 months, ScubaLab has tested scores of new products, from regs and computers to wetsuits and dive lights. Here is the gear we rated the best.

By Roger Roy
Portrait by Zach Stovall
Still Photography by Michael Kraus

Dive Computers

This year we tested a dozen new computers — in wristwatch, wrist-mount and console styles. These four took top honors.

Oceanic OCI - Despite an impressive list of features (including four-gas air integration and dual algorithms) squeezed into a wristwatch-size platform, the OCi is easy to navigate, set and read. The dive displays are sharply presented, the four-button navigation is extremely intuitive, and it all comes in a compact computer that’s stylish enough to actually use as a watch. The OCI was our Testers’ Choice for wristwatch computers. $1,199.95;

CRESSI LEONARDO - You might not expect a one-gas computer with basic features to distin- guish itself in a shootout with feature-rich models costing several times as much. But test divers found that the Leonardo delivers on its promise of easy-to-use fundamentals aimed at new divers, or those who “just want to dive”—anditdoessoata very reasonable price. The Leonardo was our Best Buy in its category. Watch the 60:Second ScubaLab Video. $269;

MARES ICON HD - The newest version of the Icon brings lots of changes, but it still has the big LCD screen and effortless four- button navigation that test divers loved — along with new and upgraded features that make the HD both a fun toy and a seriously capable dive computer. Test divers gave it the nearest-to-perfect ergo scores we’ve seen. The Icon HD was our Testers’ Choice in its category. $1,200 ($600 for transmitter);

MARES SMART - The Smart won’t impress you with all the features it has (there’s no air integra- tion or compass), but you’ll love how well its features work. The dive display is well thought-out and easy to see and understand, the two-button system is logical and simple to navigate, and the visual and audible alarms are very good. Despite its modest price, the Smart has a refined look, with its stain- less-steel bezel ring and buttons. The Smart was our Best Buy in its category. $450;

Testers said...

“Heaps of useful info"(OCEANIC OCI) “Straightforward and user friendly" (CRESSI LEONARDO) “Easy to see and understand all info" (MARES ICON HD) “Nice data presentation" (MARES SMART)

View the full ScubaLab 2014: Dive Computers Review


In our July issue, ScubaLab tested the performance and comfort of 14 new regs on an ANSTI breathing machine and in the water. These three let us breathe easy.

BEUCHAT VR200 SOFT TOUCH HF - Easy breathing, dry, comfortable, lightweight — that’s what our test divers had to say about the VR200 Soft Touch, which racked up the best ergo scores in its class. On the breathing machine, the reg demonstrated very good performance well beyond recreational depths and breathing demands. The VR200 Soft Touch was our Testers’ Choice in the Over $500 category. $899 (includes octo and reg bag);

SCUBAPRO MK21/S560 - In ergo tests, this reg was a pussycat, delivering smooth, effortless comfort that earned raves from test divers. It became a lion on the breathing machine, where it racked up excellent scores and performed within test parameters, even at torturous breathing rates down to 220 feet. Its performance was unmatched by any other reg in the test despite a midrange price. The MK21/S560 was our Best Buy. Watch the 60:Second ScubaLab Video. $499;

HOG ZENITH - On the breathing machine, the Zenith was rated excellent at max rec depth, and very good well beyond — not surprising, giving the company’s stated tec orientation. But in real-world conditions, our test divers also found the Zenith an exceptionally comfortable, smooth dry-breathing reg, awarding it the highest ergo scores in our test. The HOG Zenith was our Testers’ Choice in the Under $500 category. $124.95 Zenith second stage, $209.95 D3 first stage (hose not included);

Testers said...

“This is a solid reg - easy breathing and dry" (BEUCHAT VR200 SOFT TOUCH HF) “Really smooth breather; zero bubble interference" (SCUBAPRO MK21/S560) “Great user controls; the knurled knob is super easy to grab" (HOG ZENITH)

View the full ScubaLab 2014: Regulator Gallery Review


In June, ScubaLab tested 16 new BCs, from feather-weight travel models to TEC wings. Here are the three that floated to the top.

MARES PRESTIGE 2 MRS+ - Competition was tough among this year’s jacket BCs, but after crunching the scores, the Prestige 2 won by a nose. Testers praised its stability, no-fuss integrated weights, excellent inflation and exhaust valving, and large pockets. The Prestige 2 was our Testers’ Choice for jacket BCs. $510;

APEKS WTX - This lightweight rig assembled from Apeks’ tec-oriented WTX components seemed a little unlikely as a travel BC — until we got it in the water. Divers raved about its stability, comfort, precise valving and secure tank straps, and rated its integrated-weight system “excellent.” The WTX was our Testers’ Choice for travel BCs. $750;

CRESSI TRAVELIGHT - Upgraded with a new inflator and integrated-weight system, the Travelight offers full-feature performance in a 6-pound package that stows easily in a suitcase. Test divers loved its stable comfort, and appreciated features rare to travel BCs: roomy pockets, a right-shoulder exhaust and 10 alloy D-rings. The Travelight earned our Best Buy award. Watch the 60:Second ScubaLab Video. $449.95;

Testers said...

"Nice all-purpose, full-featured bc" (MARES PRESTIGE 2 MRS+) "Snug and comfy; provides a stable and wobble-free ride" (APEKS WTX ) “Good stability, nice weight system, comfy surface-floating position" (CRESSI TRAVELIGHT)

View the full ScubaLab 2014: BC Review.

Dive Lights

In our May issue, we tested 15 new dive lights for brightness, beam dimensions and ergonomics. Three torches had performance that shined.

IKELITE GAMMA - Weighing just 5 ounces and measuring less than .75 inches in diameter at its narrowest, Ikelite’s Gamma fits easily into a small BC pocket. But it pumps out an impressively bright, wide beam for its size. Its machined-aluminum body, robust tail switch and 400-foot depth rating are nice bonuses, considering its modest price. We named the Gamma our Best Buy. Watch the 60:Second ScubaLab Video. $120;

IST SPORTS DOLPHIN TECH T-24040 - This wrist-mount canister light’s white beam recorded the highest meter reading in our test; the dual-light head is so bright, we were grateful the push-button switch offers three power levels. The battery is compact and rated for 1.9 hours on high power. The T-24040 was our Testers’ Choice among primary and canister lights. Watch the 60:Second ScubaLab Video on the 2000 Lumen model. $855;

UK VIVID ELED - Despite its compact size, the Vivid strikes a nice balance between bright- ness and beam diameter to produce a light pattern that’s intense and broad enough to be really effective. The push-button tail switch is easy to use, and the Vivid has screw mounts for use as a video or camera light. The Vivid eLED was our Testers’ Choice for pocket lights. $155.99;

Testers said...

"Performs and feels like it should cost a lot more" (IKELITE GAMMA) "Blazingly bright - good thing it has three power levels" (IST SPORTS DOLPHIN TECH) "Delivers a lot of performance in a small package" (UK VIVID ELED)

View the full ScubaLab 2014: Dive Lights Review

Cold-Water Wetsuits

In the March/April issue, ScubaLab rated 16 wetsuits designed for cold water. Here are three that warmed our hearts.

BARE 8/7 MM VELOCITY SEMIDRY - The Velocity puts its thickest insulation in the right areas for comfort and warmth. A wide flap on the water-resistant, horizontal chest zip combines with excellent hood venting and effective seals at the wrists, ankles and face to keep water entry to a minimum. Made for durability, the whole suit is double glued and lock stitched, and the kneepads are abrasion resistant. The Velocity was our Testers’ Choice for horizontal zip suits. $499.95;

AQUA LUNG 7 MM AQUAFLEX - Aqua Lung’s new smooth, seamless X-Tend cuffs provide an excellent seal at the wrists and ankles — and also make the AquaFlex very easy to get on and off. The blubberlike, rubbery double seal along the vertical rear zipper is comfort- able and does a great job blocking water entry, and the plush full lining and thick padding along the spine and kidneys work well to block water movement inside the suit. The AquaFlex was our Testers’ Choice for vertical zip suits. Watch the 60:Second ScubaLab Video. $430;

AKONA 7 MM QUANTUM STRETCH - We found Akona’s Quantum Stretch lives up to its name, being perhaps the stretchiest, most flexible suit we evaluated. Its second-skin fit, combined with great smooth-skin O-ring seals at the wrists and ankles, and a nicely padded, leak-free vertical rear zipper, made the Quantum Stretch a warm, comfortable suit. That high performance came at a pleasingly low price — in fact, it was the lowest among the suits we tested — earning the Quantum Stretch our Best Buy. $325;

Testers said...

"Puts the heaviest materials in the right places" (BARE SPORTS VELOCITY SEMIDRY) "Cuff design sealed perfectly" (AQUA LUNG AQUAFLEX) “Superstretch material gives it a true second-skin fit" (AKONA QUANTUM STRETCH)

View the full ScubaLab 2014: Cold Wetsuit Review

Dive Bags

In our August issue, ScubaLab evaluated 14 full-size and carry-on roller travel bags. These three were our winning choices.

STAHLSAC RANGI ROLLER - The Rangi Roller provides the kind of protection we want in a carry-on, with rigid sides and back, and a padded front fap that unzips fully for easy packing. Handles at top, side and bottom make it easy to carry, and it rolls like a dream. It’s built to last, with lots of reinforcements. The Rangi was our Testers’ Choice for roller carry-ons. $219.95 (includes octo and reg bag);

CRESSI CARGO 145L - Though it was the largest bag in our test, the Cargo 145L has a clever internal folding frame and hinged bottom so it collapses for storage — a convenient feature in such a big bag. Good compression straps, rugged construction and protective padding — and a relatively modest price — made the Cargo 145L our choice for Best Buy. Watch the 60:Second ScubaLab Video. $249.95;

ARMOR API-3R - This is a go-anywhere bag, with large all-terrain wheels and well-designed, zip-away backpack straps that make it surprisingly easy to tote — even with a 50-pound load. It’s ruggedly built with heavy-duty materials and big enough to hold everything for an extended dive trip. The Armor API-3R was our Testers’ Choice for full-size bags. $350;

View the full ScubaLab 2014 Dive Bag Review

First Look

Each issue ScubaLab introduces brand-new gear to our readers. These are our picks for the best of the year — products that are designed to make your dives easier, safer and more fun.

• NAUTILUS LIFELINE - Waterproof to 425 feet when closed, the Lifeline can send a digital distress message with your GPS location with the press of a button. It also functions as a radio that lets you chat with your boat crew or dive buddies on marine VHF frequencies. $299;

• SEALIFE SEA DRAGON 2000 WITH FLEX-CONNECT HANDLE - Pumping out 2,000 lumens, this new LED photo/video/dive light has three power levels and is rated to 200 feet. The rechargeable Li-ion battery has a 60-minute burn time on its highest setting. $449.95;

• SCUBAPRO X-CUT TITANIUM - Made from a single piece of hardened titanium, the X-Cut is corrosion resistant, and comes with a soft sheath that will attach to BC straps or fit in a pocket. The 2.5-inch blade has smooth and serrated edges, as well as a line cutter. $79;

• BACKSCATTER MACROMATE MINI FOR GOPRO - To capture close-up action, this new macro lens for GoPro threads into Backscatter’s 55mm FLIP 3.1 adapter. The Macromate Mini has an aluminum frame and a lens of precision optical glass. The design allows you to easily change lenses and filters, even underwater. $89;

• SHERWOOD SCUBA AMPHOS AIR - Sherwood’s newest version of its Amphos wristwatch computer now offers air integration. Using an algorithm shared with Sherwood’s Wisdom 3 console computer, the Amphos Air has easy four-button navigation and a stylish design with a stainless-steel bezel. $1,150 (with transmitter and download cable);

• SUUNTO EON STEEL - This new computer has a vibrant color display with a wide-angle view, intuitive three-button navigation, a customizable screen, 3-D compass, air integration, and up to 30 hours of dive time per charge. The cover is brushed stainless steel, the case is made of advanced composites, and the screen is high-durability glass. $1,440 ($440 for optional transmitter POD);

• SEALIFE MICRO HD - The new, permanently sealed Micro HD eliminates O-rings and openings, and is waterproof to 200 feet. It has one-button recording for 1080p HD video and 13 mp images, and you can capture stills while shooting video. The Micro has built-in 140-degree wide angle and is compatible with SeaLife accessories. You can choose between the standard 16 GB version or the HD+ 32 GB version with Wi-Fi. $399.95 (HD+ $499.95);

View other First Look galleries here:

The Newest Gear for Underwater Photographers The Best New Dry Bags The Newest Dive Knives The Newest Dive Watches Underwater Hunting Gear

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