Appeared in DIVER September 2007

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John 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 AQUATEC/CAMARO ATLAS

HOW OFTEN HAVE YOU HEARD THE EXPRESSION: Hes got more money than sense We live in a free society in which we need only about £12,000 a year to live, but we find ways of earning and consequently spending a lot more.
Those with big incomes are able to buy more expensive items than those nearer the baseline. However, when it comes to function, the expensive car gets stuck in the same traffic chaos as the cheap three-wheeler.
The Aquatec Atlas BC might be regarded as the Reliant Robin of the BC world if you were to go by its £189 price, but I can assure you that it has a full complement of wheels. I suspected that it was made in the same factory in Taiwan as some well-known-brand BCs, and this was confirmed when I received an almost-identical Atlas BC from the UK distributor for Camaro, the manufacturer of posh Austrian wetsuits.

Unique features
In deference to the beefy burgermeisters of that country who might be using drysuits, this version had a slightly different arrangement for the integrated-weight pouches, which were also bigger.
The original Aquatec BC easily took 4kg of lead each side, plus 4kg in the trim-weight pockets, closed by pinch-clips, at the rear.
The Camaro version would take perhaps an extra 4kg in total, though the 12kg capacity of the Aquatec was more than enough for a strapping lad like me.
The Camaro pouches were retained by over-sized yet conventional pinch-clips, instead of the novel original Aquatec releases.
The Aquatec Atlas uses a system similar to that used by TUSA. The toggle-ended webbing of the pouch is trapped by a quick-release snap-buckle. The Camaro has a conventional hard backpack and cushion, while the Aquatec has a terrific tank-gripper system that ensured that nothing slipped. Inside, the cushion was akin to the material from which they once made rubber hot-water bottles (ask Grandad).
The Aquatec has the cord to its bottom rear dump valve threaded round to a toggle at the front. The Camaro has a short cord on the valve, exactly where you would expect to find it on a quick head-down descent.
These differences and £146 apart, one could treat these two BCs as much the same under water. Both had Aquatec noisy whistles incorporated in their direct-feed mechanisms, and once or twice I drew the attention of other divers while trying to squirt a bit of air into the BC on descent.
I used the original Aquatec version while diving from Monsoon in the Maldives.

Comfort
The Atlas has a parachute-style harness thats separate from the conventionally shaped buoyancy cell, so that when its fully inflated it doesnt hug you in a vice-like grip. Otherwise its as comfortable as any conventional BC, and just as cluttered.

Efficacy
I sometimes had trouble finding the end of the sternum strap while kitting up. Part of the backpack cushion came unattached at some point, and I had to take it apart and clip it all back together. That may be why Camaro went for a conventional plastic backpack.
The large zipped pockets, with toggles and cord to make locating the zippers easy, could take an SMB and other paraphernalia, though not a reel. Air for buoyancy was always where
I wanted it. My only criticism is that the Atlas didnt feel particularly special.

Control of ascent
One of the two upper dumps worked by pulling on the corrugated hose, the other by use of a cord and toggle. Both functioned well.

Surface support
I was not sat that high out of the water at the surface, but I never felt I needed more lift than the Atlas could provide. However, I was lucky enough to use it in mirror-calm conditions.

Ease of removal
When the time came to hand up my weights, the Aquatec integrated-weight-pouch retainers snapped open in a moment and released them into my hand.
A shoulder buckle unclipped without fuss, although I did have trouble locating the sternum strap at times. The waist strap was no problem at all.



Divernet Divernet
Airhorn
Airhorn
Rear
Rear dump toggle - at the front

SPECS
AQUATEC CAMARO ATLAS

PRICE £189 (Camaro £335)
STYLE Conventional
DRY WEIGHT 4kg
POCKETS zipped
INTEGRATED WEIGHTS Yes, plus trim-weight pockets
D-RINGS 4 stainless steel
MAX LIFT IN SIZE M 16kg
SIZES S, M, L, XL
CONTACT Camaro - www.blandfordsubaqua. co.uk; Aquatec - Wets Best, 0117 902 7800.
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