John Bantin has been a full-time professional diving writer and underwater photographer since 1990. He makes around 300 dives each year testing diving equipment.
BC SEAQUEST BALANCE SL WING
I STILL HAVE A SEAQUEST 3D compact wing that I bought more than 12 years ago. I regularly break it out for use whenever I am single-cylinder diving in a drysuit, or heading overseas and subject to massive airline excess-baggage charges. It is totally basic, but I added a waist-mounted pocket from a Buddy Trident. I mentioned this to Aqua Lung UK, and bemoaned the fact that the 3D was made for such a short time. They sent me the current equivalent, a Seaquest Balance SL, not realising that I had featured one in DIVER Tests almost as many years ago. All the same, I decided to write about it again. It's lightweight, weighing in at about 3kg, with a more voluminous buoyancy cell than the 3D, and it has the benefit of an integrated-weight system and a zipped self-draining pocket. The integrated-weight pouches are secured by the patented Seaquest SureLock system, and the pouches are easily inserted. You have to search for the trim-weight pockets, because they are hidden between harness and buoyancy cell. They are opened and held closed by pinch-clips. A single conventional camband holds the tank, and there is also a carrying handle. The 3D had a one-size-fits-all harness but this one is more conventional, with an adjustable sternum-strap and a waist-strap that fastens over a small cummerbund.
Comfort It was slightly difficult to get on, but I suspect that the usual size I had asked for (M) was a little too small for me, and I should have had the ML. However, I was able to stroll out manfully and with an occasional stumble across the shallows at Wadi Lahami to get to the RIB without cause to gripe about the BC, thanks to a slim yet comfortable cushion between the tank and me. The harness straps have rotating buckles, too, so the straps take the most comfortable route.
Efficacy With a single aluminium 12-litre tank and the integrated-weight system stuffed with 8kg of lead, plus trim-weight pockets loaded with 2kg of lead, the Balance SL was superbly well-balanced under water. Sadly, the single pocket was set too far back for easy access, and the zip proved impossible to close at such an angle. After I had wrestled with it on several dives, the fastener finally separated from the pocket. Of course, the pocket was then useless, as it concertina'd out and was inclined to spill its unsecured contents. I clipped my computer and console to one of three stainless-steel D-rings.
Control of Ascent I was slightly disappointed to find that I had to rotate like a Dervish to jettison all the air from the wing on ascent. This was despite there being a dump-valve at the top of the corrugated hose, another at the opposite shoulder worked by a toggle at the end of a perfectly positioned cord, and a lower dump that fell easily to hand on head-down descents. The old 3D could never be faulted in this respect, with only a single location for its dump-valve.
Surface Support At the surface, in what anyone would call explosively rough seas, I was able to bob confidently. The wing is shaped so that there is a lot of buoyancy low down, where it's needed.
Ease of Removal It took a while to get the knack of removing this wing, undoing the unusually shaped rotating buckles at the shoulder, but it supported the whole rig once I was able to slip out of it, even though I sometimes forgot to pull out the weight-pouches and hand them up first.
Comparable wings to consider: Seac Sub Icaro, £375 Mares Pegasus, £249 Halcyon Pioneer, £345
Surelock weights release
hidden trim weights pocket
rotating harness buckle
SPECS PRICE £369 STYLE Wing DRY WEIGHT 3kg INTEGRATED WEIGHTS Yes, with trim-weight pockets D-RINGS 3 stainless-steel MAX LIFT IN SIZE M 16kg SIZES S, M, ML, L, XL CONTACT www.aqualung.co.uk DIVER GUIDE