This past April, I was introduced to the Zeagle Express Tech BC. It was worn by an instructor candidate (Walt Stearns) during his ITC and I was intrigued. I had seen a similar BC at Oxychek's booth at DEMA and pretty much thought the concept was the best in show. No, I don't know which one came first and I have never gotten an Oxychek to try out. However, Scott Zeagle invited me over for lunch in Zephyr Hills about a month ago, and gave me one of his to try out. To date I have only about 30 dives on my Zeagle Express tech, and I have to say that I have but one reaction to it:
Here is my take on it...
Fit: I have always been amazed by Zeagle's ability to fit a "wide" variety of people (pardon the pun) by moving the cumber bund in and out. My student gear consists of 4 Stilettos and one Brigade. I have an S, two M, an X and an XL. Yes, it takes me a few minutes to get these BCs to fit a class, but they are rock solid and I have only had to borrow an XS once. NO MORE! The Express Tech will fit from the smallest to the largest in mere moments. It's a true one size fits everyone and I know, cuz I tried it on an entire dive boat! Instructors and Charters are you reading this? Carry six BCs in just one size and they will fit EVERYONE. You don't have to worry about bracketing your BCs anymore and having extras so you can fit everyone. Carry a single inventory to meet your needs and no more. I think my Stilettos are headed for our Classifieds section in the not too distant future and I will replace them with Express Techs.
Ease: I worked in automotive for thirty years and I have a weight problem. Bending for me is a chore, and while I LOVE my DSS back plate and wing, it's tough sometimes to get in and out of it. With the Express Tech, I simply push the strap away from my chest and it loosens it up CONSIDERABLY with very little effort! Whoa! It's decidedly the easiest BC to doff and don, especially when you have limited mobility. To don it, you simply slide your arms in, reach down and simply pull on the waist straps. The arm straps tighten right up and you simply buckle the waist strap right where you like it! It fits like a glove! I added 3 DSS SS cut plate d-rings (item #40001) to my harness. I have one on each strap at chest level, and I have a third that is just above where the belt goes through it's waist guide. Having it ON the waist belt hinders it's ability to loosen up those straps so the downward strap is best. I will get some pictures up in the next day or so. BTW, the permanent angle of Tobin's cut plate d-rings makes clipping and unclipping snap bolts very easy.
In the water: It's got all of the advantages of a BP & Wing. My trim was excellent and it did great at the surface. The 44 pounds of lift was more than enough and I even recovered a couple of anchors as well as caught some delicious bugs. The only thing I would change is the length of the corrugated hose. I like them WAY shorter than this. I wonder if they have them available?
Packability: This is my new travel BC. It's incredibly light and packs so very thin. It dries quickly and does not have a bunch of extra stuff to get in my way. They also come with Zeagle's way cool detachable inflator valve. You can attach it to a garden hose to rinse it out. I love it!
Accessories: Get the weight pockets for it. Four plastic screws hold them on and they are a wonderful addition for those of us who like to use integrated weights. They appear to be able to accommodate at least 20 pounds of lead. You can also buy padding, but why bother? These straps are SO MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE than any BP (back plate) I have worn, and I dive with an HP 120 or 130. It handles the heavy tanks with alacrity and I can dive in a thin t-shirt without the straps digging in.
Price: Fully loaded it's about $300 bucks or so (help me out here Scott!). That's not a typo. I saw one in a shop with the pockets for $250! ZOIIKS! That's one un-stinking-believable BC at an un-stinking-believable price!!! 😀
Customer Service: I probably will never need it, but Zeagle's customer service is legendary! You won't find them copping a bad attitude if you tear or break something. They have ALWAYS been professional in their demeanor and often bend way over backwards to service their gear even years after the warranty has run out. Maybe they should try building cars??? 😀
Need to improve: It needs to come with a crotch strap and I will be adding one to mine very soon. The corrugated hose is too long as I mentioned before, but I like the shoulder pull dump. I would also love to see D rings on the bottom of each of the weight pockets. Finally, I don't see a handy way to clip in my canister light battery. I don't like it on my belt. Perhaps more grommets on the "back plate" would handle this nicely. Two are already being used by my weight pockets.
One more idea. This looks like a wonderful start for a side mount harness. Maybe Tobin's butt plate would be all that I need?
Final thought: This BC effectively bridges the gap between a BP & Wing and a traditional BC. No, you won't be doing doubles with it, but it's not intended to be a tech BC. Bill Hogarth Main would surely approve this for any Hogarthian or modified Hogarthian rig. It's way easy to learn how to Scuba in, and yet it's all you need for single tank diving. As I stated in the title, I see this as the FIRST and probably the LAST BC anyone would ever want or need.
Thread on mods I made to this BC: https://www.scubaboard.com/forums/side-mount-divers/313428-side-mounting-mods-my-zeagle-express-tech.html?highlight=express