I noticed a young lady half my size wearing the same-size Mares BC. No doubt she thought it was a bag of bolts. It certainly looked like it in the water, but mine became part of me as soon as I put it on, because it fitted perfectly.
So, as youve guessed, this is a BC in a conventional format. It has a dump valve at both shoulders, one operated by pulling on the corrugated hose and the other by pulling on a toggle and cord threaded through a bit of piping, so that its always where you expect to find it.
There is also a dump valve at the lower back, operated by an over-sized toggle and cord.
The Prestige MRS has an effective integrated-weight system that employs the patented Mares MRS weight pouches and clips. These are easily installed, snapping securely into their retaining clips. There are also trim-weight pockets high up at the rear, held closed with pinch-clips. The whole lot has a capacity of 12kg, but
I needed to use only eight - two at the rear to counterbalance a very light aluminium tank, and six at the front.

Comfort
A wide cummerbund pulls around the waist, and is closed with a webbing band and pinch-clips over it. It gave me the feeling that I was wearing a stomach-muscle support.
I tucked my high-pressure hose out of the way under this - I hate things dangling.
A quick tug on either shoulder-strap D-ring to pull everything in tightly, and the BC and tank were part of me.
The weight of my rig was borne mainly on my hips, so I was able to endure both the long hikes to the water and the climbs over volcanic rocks polished into smooth bowling balls by the action of a powerful surf.
In fact, I was able to climb out of the sea through that surf while wearing my set and doing a balancing act on the boulders, where others were seen to flounder.

Efficacy
Under water, I was able to feel the air I injected inflate that part of the BC directly behind my shoulders. It felt very satisfying.
I could always stay perfectly horizontal when I wanted to do so and, as a photographer,
I found that I could take up any attitude with my body as required without fighting the effects of the small amount of air in the BC.
Because the Prestige MRS fitted so snugly, there was no question of me swimming inside it.
Two big zipped pockets with locating tags are easily accessed. I kept my current hook and a torch in one, and used the other to stow the neoprene cover of my cameras big lens port.
I prefer to take this off only once I am safely under water, and replace it before I hand the camera up to any crew-member who may not know how easily damaged these items are.

Control of Ascent
I threaded my corrugated hose and direct-feed control through the sternum strap. This too was always where I expected to find it. By pulling on the hose to dump air, rather than raising it, there was not a drop of water inside the BC, even after two weeks of intensive diving.
Until, that is, a helpful Balinese boy decided to rinse out the inside of the BC for me at the end of the trip. He was used to other peoples BCs being full of seawater.
Of course, the direct-feed control, stashed where it was, always fell to hand. During the period of an ascent I could release a burp of air by a short tug on either of the three dump valve releases as and when required. I never had to give it any more thought than that.

Surface Support
This was phenomenal. Ive used so many inferior styles recently that I had quite forgotten the armchair support provided by this type of BC. Fully inflated, its 20kg or more of maximum lift got my head well clear of the waves - and I had to contend with some mighty seas at times.

Ease of Removal
The MRS quick-release pouches easily pull away when its time to pass them up to the boat. With plenty of maximum lift, there was never any danger of my rig sinking once Id taken it off. Sternum strap, waist-strap and cummerbund undone, it was simply a matter of unclipping the buckle at my left shoulder and swinging it off my right, regulator still in my mouth, before passing it to the boat crew.
If you get a conventional BC, make sure its the right fit for you.

COMPARABLE BCS TO CONSIDER:
Scubapro T-Sport Plus, £299
Beuchat Masterlift Voyager, £290
Oceanic Probe XL, £331

SPECS
PRICE £290
DRY WEIGHT 4.25kg
D-RINGS Four
INTEGRATED WEIGHTS Yes, with trim-weight pockets
MAX LIFT IN SIZE M 20.5kg
SIZES XXS to XL
CONTACT www.mares.com
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