Appeared in DIVER September 2008

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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 BEUCHAT MASTERLIFT VOYAGER

PAPUA NEW GUINEA MIGHT HAVE some good diving, but its a long way from home. Not only do you have to suffer the discomfort of a couple of long plane rides, but nowadays you have to consider carefully the weight of your luggage.
Not to do so risks surprise at the airport on a scale equivalent to buying a second air ticket.
At last manufacturers are taking this concern into account, and we are beginning to see a new generation of diving equipment that reflects it. This includes BCs.
Stainless-steel backplates and loads of shiny D-rings might be de rigeur among those who dive at home, but it can turn diving anywhere abroad into a very expensive hobby.
Beuchat sent me a travel BC to review about a year ago, but it weighed almost as much as the companys regular offerings. Its designers have had another go at it, and the Masterlift Voyager is the result. It weighs about 3kg.
This does not mean its short on features. It has everything you would expect of a regular BC for single-tank leisure diving. This includes an efficient integrated-weight system with quick-release buckles protected from unintentional release by a second clip, coloured orange; and trim-weight pockets high up at the back that nicely compensate for the possible buoyancy of an aluminium tank. D-rings are of techno-polymer.
Unlike some other lightweight travel BCs, this one feels built to last.

Comfort
Swivelling buckles on the shoulder straps make strap routes very comfortable and convenient. I carried only 3kg of lead each side in the weight-pouches but I did feel that these weights tended to give me a little of that disconcerting saddle-bag effect.
I often bottomed out while using my underwater camera for close-ups, because the forward edges of the BC sides were the lowest point when I was horizontal in the water.
Adding a couple of kilos to the trim-weight pockets on each side meant that an aluminium tank could be used as comfortably as a steel one.

Efficacy
The Voyager has no hard backpack. Instead it has a double camband combined with a tank jacket. The cambands have a novel buckle design that allows them to be unhitched without sliding them over the tank. This really speeds things up when changing tanks between dives.
The waistband is the normal Velcro-covered cummerbund, combined with a strap and buckle over. A sternum-strap closed by a pinch-clip is handy for tucking the direct-feed and corrugated hose under, keeping control immediately to hand.
In addition to the integrated-weight system there are two very usable pockets, held closed by Velcro-covered flaps.
On top of these on one side is a unique-to-Beuchat snorkel-holder, and on the other a similar knife-holder.

Control of Ascent
There are three dump valves, and each can be used efficiently during an ascent. You can pull the toggle-end of the cord that operates the right shoulder dump, or the one that is threaded through to the front of the BC, low down.
Pulling on the direct-feed control operates the top dump at the left shoulder, and if that isnt enough, you can always raise the corrugated hose and let air out by way of the oral-inflation valves.

Surface Support
The Voyager has the layout of a conventional BC, in that under water the air that compensates for buoyancy lost as you go deeper tends to be high up behind your back.
There may not seem to be a lot of maximum lift available, but if you fully inflate the Voyager at the surface, the parts of the cell that are below the water and at your sides push out to give armchair comfort.
There is no torso squeeze caused by the buoyancy cell trying to straighten out at this time. This effect is resisted by the presence of the waist-strap.

Ease of Removal
Those swivelling shoulder straps take a little getting used to, but otherwise it was easy to unclip the horizontal straps and left shoulder strap and swing the rig off the right shoulder.
The novel camband buckles meant that de-rigging the tank was fast, and there was nothing flimsy about the BC once it was taken off and squeezed into a kit basket aboard a dive boat. Yet you still appreciate how compact and lightweight the Voyager is. n

OTHER BCS TO CONSIDER:
Cressi Flex, £260


Divernet
integrated
integrated weight system release and rear dump toggle
trim
trim weight pocket
direct
direct feed control and sternum strap
swivelling
swivelling harness buckle

PRICE £289
STYLE Conventional
DRY WEIGHT 3kg
POCKETS 2
INTEGRATED WEIGHTS Yes, including trim weights
D-RINGS 6
MAX LIFT IN SIZE M 12kg
SIZES XS - XL
CONTACT Alpha Distribution, www.alphad.org
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