LIFE IS ABOUT COMPROMISE. You know that depressing feeling you get at the budget airline check-in when the staff-member tells you gleefully that your bag weighs 21kg and that only 20kg is allowable You know youll have to open the bag and look for a single small, heavy item that you can carry in your jacket pocket,
or end up queuing to pay a swingeing excess-baggage charge before you can wave your bag off onto the luggage belt.
Its almost as depressing as the feeling you get when youre out on a club dive and find that your too-fragile lightweight BC, bought to avoid problems when travelling, looks to be on its last legs.
The Oceanic Islander offers a compromise between these two situations. Well-constructed and substantially made, this little back-flotation BC weighs in at around 3kg.
There are lighter BCs, but none that looks as strong as this one. I took it on a Red Sea liveaboard charter to find out how it measured up over a series of dives.

This is a feature often taken for granted, and I mention the camband only if there is something unusual about it. The single camband of the Islander looked fairly conventional in design and position, but I found the webbing so stiff that I had quite a bit of difficulty getting a tight grip on the tank until it was worn in a bit. Wetting helped, but only a little.
The trim-weight pockets are attached to this camband, which makes things doubly awkward when fitting to a commonly encountered aluminium 12-litre tank. They look as if they should slide round, but they dont.

The Islander felt very comfortable to wear, despite probably being a size too small for me (size MD). This was thanks to plenty of padding.
The harness has conventional breaks at the shoulder, where pinch-clips are positioned. There are two little zipped pockets that get positioned at the waist but are limited in their size, thanks to the integrated-weight pockets immediately to the rear of them.

Integrated Weights
I found that I could easily stow 4kg on each side, and an extra couple in each of the trim-weight pockets, had I needed that amount of lead. These pockets are opened via a zipper to make installing the weights very convenient.
Jettisoning them from the main pockets means unclipping a pinch-clip either side to allow the flap of material that secures the weights to release and for the weights to fall away - and fall away they certainly do, when you need them to. This is especially handy when returning borrowed weights after a dive trip.
Of course, you will need to brief other divers well on this feature, in case of an underwater emergency beyond your control.
These weight-pockets are positioned well round towards the back of the harness, betraying the designers intention for this BC to be used with a buoyant aluminium tank rather than a heavier steel one.
This doesnt totally stop you being tilted forward at the surface unless you have extremely long legs. With a steel tank, you are unfailingly put on your back at the surface.

Control of Ascent
The Islander has a dump-valve at the upper back, operated by pulling on the corrugated hose. This works well for meandering ascents when horizontal, as well as for vertical ascents such as you might make up a line. A quick tug liberates a satisfying burp of gas.
The bottom dump is positioned rather high up on the same side (the left), and is so placed that although it helps with a quick head-down descent, it doesnt release air as easily should you want to ascend in the horizontal position.
At this time it faces downwards, and I had to twist my body to get it to let the air that always rises to the highest point get to it.
It was not ideal, but bottom dumps are commonly fitted facing this way.

Surface Support
With only 11kg of lift available, I expected to be bobbing in the sea with my mouth below the surface. Luckily for me, the designers of the Islanders buoyancy cell have constructed it so that its gusset allows it to expand outwards towards the bottom.
In addition, it is restrained by two sets of 2.5cm-wide elastic straps when not inflated. These keep all the flotation low down, and make the most of the maximum buoyancy available when its fully inflated.
I am always suspicious of the long-term durability of elastic webbing on diving equipment. It is almost guaranteed to lose its ability to recover from a stretch, and I guess that in the long term these straps would tend to dangle.

Mares Icon, £400
Cressi Light Jac, £291
Aqua-lung Zuma, £272

PRICE £379
INTEGRATED WEIGHTS Yes, with trim weights
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