Looking for light-weight BCD that is ideal for travel?[TABLE=width: 95%]
My wife Karen has been diving one of the original lightweights - the Zeagle Zena - since the day it was first introduced nearly a decade ago, and has always found it as close to perfect for travel as it is for comfort. Over the course of hundreds of dives, we have changed out her original only once, (and that was purely for cosmic reasons in pictures) proving there's no reason to sacrifice durability for weight savings and size reduction when designing a lightweight travel BCD.
Recently, I had a look at Zeagle Systems newest back inflation, weight-integrated BCD designed specifically for travel and warm water use. Named the Wicked Lite. after the trademark stone-washed Denim style Cordura Nylon fabric featured in their current “Wicked” model Ranger BCD, the exterior of the Wicked Lite is constructed from the same 1000 denier material found in Zeagle’s heavy-duty recreational BCD’s, along with a reinforcing fabric that is tap-stitched to reinforce seams and edging. For more than 11 years I have been diving the Ranger, and am quite familiar with the extreme durability this type of fabrication.
Designed specifically as a travel BCD, the Wicked Lite gets off to a great start, as it is certainly both compact and lightweight. The size medium I received, equipped with a standard power inflator weighed 3.9 lbs (1.8 kg) dry; nearly half a pound less than Aqualung’s equal-sized, travel-friendly Zuma BCD.[img300]https://www.scubaboard.com/images/wicked.jpg[/img300][img250]https://www.scubaboard.com/images/DSC4345.jpg[/img250]
Although I am still partial to Zeagle’s component-style BCDs, which allow you to change out the shoulder sections or bladder from the vest, the unitized approach of having the shoulder sections, wing and vest sewn together as one integral system works fine in the Wicked Lite’s case.
The BCD’s harness is basic in design with a slightly sculpted pattern to the shoulders, a single strap across the chest, and a quick-release, adjustable 1-1/2 inch wide waist coming off the panels - which also severe as foundations for the BCD’s integrated weight system. The upper portions of the shoulder straps are 2 ¾ inches wide, providing good load-bearing ability in the regions most tasked when negotiating a boat ladder or performing a surf entry. My one minor disappointment was the shoulder strap’s adjustment point hardware, which should have been at least 1-1/2 inch wide webbing and buckle system to connect it to the waist portion of the harness. Instead, what you have is a section of 1-inch webbing that looks like something more appropriate on a kid’s backpack, with small quick-release buckles of the same size used on the adjustable chest strap. In test dives using a standard aluminum 80 with 4 lbs. of lead in the BCD’s weight pockets, the downsized buckles held fine, but when I switched over to heavier load – a single 100 cu ft. high-pressure steel tank and 8 lbs. of lead in the weight pockets - the 1-inch webbing buckles slipped significantly on several occasions. Thicker straps would be a fine addition, and wouldn’t add significant weight.
I would have also preferred seeing 2 inch webbing on the waist strap instead of the supplied 1-1/2 inch webbing, as it would have been easier to purely attach accessories like line cutters and D-rings that are typically designed for placement on 2-inch webbing. In addition, a wider belt would provide more surface area to dissipate the pressure of the harness around the waist. Again, such changes would result increase weight by grams, not pounds.