John 

BC SCUBAPRO T-BLACK

THE T-BLACK IS THE TOP MODEL in the Scubapro T-Line BC range. As such, it is the most substantially built, in a tough Cordura covered in polyurethane, and this is reflected in its significant weight.
The unit has a buoyancy cell that expands for increased lift at both back and front. One could call it a hybrid BC in that the back wing part is constricted neatly by some elastic straps, but expands when fully inflated.
This gives the benefit of a massive amount of lift, not normally associated with such a conventional-looking BC.
The advantage over a straightforward wing is that it has three very useful zipped pockets, as well as a capacious integrated-weight system. The extra pocket is ideal for stowing a delayed SMB, or other items such as a current-hook.
The integrated-weight pockets are held in place by webbing and large conventional pinch-clips.
There is no real provision for instant and immediate release, but barring total failure of the BC to hold any air, I cannot foresee any situation in which a correctly weighted and trained diver would need to drop weights, even in an emergency.
The weight pouches are closed by zips after being loaded with lead. If you intend to use the T-Black with a large aluminium cylinder, there are handy trim-weight pockets at the back. These too are held closed by pinch-clips.
The manufacturer suggests a maximum load of 5kg per main pouch in size L, the size I used.
It sounds a lot.
With a 15-litre aluminium tank, I managed with 3kg in each side, plus an extra 2kg in total in the trim-weight pockets.
These are rated for 2.5kg each, so you have a possible maximum (in size L) of 15kg. I have a big frame, and that weight should be enough for anyone!

Comfort
The T-Black is a rugged affair, but with its hard backpack and handle hidden behind a business-like cushion it proved comfortable to stroll about in before diving.
Unusually, the hard, smooth sides of the weight-pouches are positioned against the wearer, so there is never any discomfort caused by angular lumps of lead. I have never really understood why so many other manufacturers design their BCs the other way round.
The sternum strap is elastic, so it functions without being uncomfortable. I was able to tuck my direct feed and corrugated hose out of the way underneath it.

Efficacy
Like all Scubapro BCs, this one comes with a tank cinch-strap instead of the more usual ordinary cam-band. This can be very effective when properly fitted in the first place, and allows swift dismounting and mounting from one identical tank to another.
Often divers fail to fit cinch-straps properly, leading to tanks dropping out during the dive. The design of this one has been improved to make tightening up to fit a new tank much more convenient than in the past.
Even so, I paid particular attention to making sure that I was not embarrassed later.
It is essential to wet the strap before fitting it, so that when immersed its stretch doesnt spell disaster.
You either love them or hate them, but if its the latter, its no big deal to swap a cinch-strap for a conventional cam-band and buckle.
Air is fed into the buoyancy cell via a very conventional corrugated hose and direct-feed control.
Dump air either by using a top valve, or going head-down and pulling open a lower dump valve using a short cord and oversized toggle. After a weeks diving, there was precious little water inside the buoyancy cell.
I like to dive as sleekly as possible, with nothing dangling. To this end I tuck everything away, which allows me to get close to things I want to photograph.
Alas, the integrated-weight system combined with the rigging of the waistband conspired to give me a saddlebag effect that left me less streamlined than I would have liked to be.

Control of ascent
When it comes to dumping air during an ascent, youre spoilt for choice. There is a large toggle at the end of a long cord threaded through the front right-hand shoulder facing, or you can pull on the corrugated hose to operate the dump valve at its top.
Those who like to ascend while horizontal can use the back-mounted dump.
Surface support Its at the surface that this otherwise conventional-looking BC comes into its own. Fully inflating it causes the lower part of the buoyancy cell to balloon out, giving masses of lift low down, back and front, where it is really effective. It gives armchair comfort at this time.

Ease of removal
If the T-Black had two fewer D-rings, the buckles to the shoulder straps would not have been obscured and I would have been quicker to free one and slip out of my rig before handing it
up to the pick-up boat. Otherwise, it seemed quite straightforward.


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SPECS
SCUBAPRO T-BLACK

PRICE £399
STYLE Conventional
DRY WEIGHT 4.55kg
POCKETS 3
INTEGRATED WEIGHTS Yes, plus trimweights
D-RINGS 7
MAX LIFT IN SIZE M: 22kg
SIZES XS, S, M, L, XL
CONTACT scubapro.com
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