LAST TIME I WROTE ABOUT AN ITALIAN Mares wing-style BC, the Pegasus, I compared it with another wing made in Florida.
The review resulted in an outpouring of hate on both the Internet and in my postbox; it seems that the US brand has some customers who are fundamentally committed to it and cannot endure such comparisons by anyone from outside their order (see Deep Breath).
So here, this time, is my experience with the Mares Icon alone, reported in an honest and factual way as usual.
The Icon packs up into a small parcel for packing, so it is obviously intended as a BC for the air-travelling diver.
There are lighter alternatives on the market, and the Mares representative in the UK was slightly apologetic about the weight, but it was still only 3.5kg in my size.
My job gets more difficult as dive gear improves. There must be some concession to longevity, but the Icon seems at first glance to be just as well made as heavier Mares BCs, and it doesnt fall short on features, either.
It has the Mares patented integrated-weight system (MRS), which works well provided you install the pockets securely into their retaining buckles, and it has trim-weight pockets closed by buckles that wrap around a single tank with the camband.
The buoyancy cell is separate from the harness, and restrained from flapping by slim elastic cord threaded through it.

Comfort
The minimal plastic backplate simply lies against the small of the back, but the tank seemed quite secure, and the harness spread the load evenly between my shoulders and hips. The waist-strap has an elastic element so it can be pulled tight while on the boat, and it stays tight as the neoprene of the suit compresses at depth.
It all looked very good before I got in the water. The sternum strap is removable, and was missing on the version I was sent.

Efficacy
With an uncluttered chest area, and all the buoyancy where it should be - at my back - the collapsed wing offered little resistance, so I was able to swim unrestricted. The inflator end of the corrugated hose was unmistakable in use, and was always where I expected to find it.
Alas, it was not long after I hit the water that I discovered a glaring design fault.
I was diving in the Maldives, where there are some extreme currents. Its necessary to leave the surface and swim down quickly to find a point in the reef topography that puts you out of the flow before you have time to get your act together, as it were.
It was at this time that I felt my tank fall off my back, and assumed that the camband had come undone. I was wrong. I battled with it, but to no avail.
It seems that the harness is attached to the little backpack by two diminutive lengths of Velcro at the lower end. These were not man enough for the job, and had given up the ghost. I was diving with the buoyancy-cell and tank attached only at the top of the shoulders.
Back on the boat, I found that there was no way to rectify matters. The BC was as good as useless, thanks to a saving in a few inches of tape.

Control of Ascent
There are the usual three dump-valves. Pulling on the corrugated hose to open the valve at its top operates one valve. Otherwise, a cord and toggle operates the one opposite, and another operates the one at the lower back.
I liked the fact that these cords were quite short, so that the toggles were not dangling but lay exactly where I expected to find them when I needed them.

Surface Support
More than 20kg of maximum lift is more than enough for any tank, even when part of the wing is above the surface of the water and contributing nothing to lift at this time.
I found that the weights installed at the front and the lift at the back did result in a forward tilt, and I had to counter this by leaning back and keeping the wayward buoyancy-cell and tank under me while I waited to be picked up at the surface.

Ease of Removal
The weight pockets pull out really easily with a good tug when you want them to. The buckles at the waist and one shoulder are easily undone, so that the whole rig can be swung off your shoulder. The fully inflated wing should support a 15-litre steel tank, so there is no danger of it being lost to Davy Jones Locker.
Luckily, I was using only a lightweight 12-litre aluminium cylinder. Im sure that Mares will rectify the problem of attaching the backplate to the harness in future production versions.

COMPARABLE WING-STYLE BCS TO CONSIDER:
Aqualung SeaQuest Balance SL, £440
Cressi Light Jac, £235

SPECS
PRICE £400
DRY WEIGHT 3.5kg
D-RINGS 5
INTEGRATED WEIGHTS Yes, plus trim-weight pockets
MAX LIFT IN SIZE M 16kg
SIZES XS, S, M, L, XL
CONTACT www.mares.com
DIVER GUIDE width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100%

Mares Icon BC UPDATE
You may have read my review of the Mares Icon BC, a lightweight wing-style BC that promised to be very suitable for the travelling diver (DIVER Tests, February). You may recall that I reported that the backpack separated from the harness during a dive, leaving me in a very embarrassing position.
Well, it seems that the guys at Mares have red faces. They sent me an early sample to try, not realising that Mares had already dealt with the problem and redesigned the way it was put together. They couldnt complain about my review, but in the meantime they sent me another example to use - in the hope that they might be vindicated.
I am pleased to report that I was not disappointed as I had been before.
I used it for a weeks diving in the Red Sea, and it functioned perfectly.
The harness left me with an uncluttered chest, just as well as I was using a drysuit. The 16kg buoyancy cell inflated well, with plenty of lift positioned low down to give me ample surface support. The elastic cord threaded through it kept it neat, when not needed,
Its a neat bit of kit that rolls up tightly when it comes to packing for a trip, and Im pleased to report that it is very well made, will not fall apart and now rates not five but 10 stars! The Mares Icon BC costs £400. www.mares.com