Contrary to what the stainless-steel-backplate-and-wing brigade might tell you, I went with what Nigel recommended because when you’re diving somewhere very remote, such as Coiba or Malpelo islands off the Pacific coast of Central America, there is always the risk that you might have to spend some time waiting at the surface in a big sea.
I always take my surface marker flag with me. It’s tall enough to fly high above the waves. However, while you’re waiting, it’s nice to sit comfortably in something that floats you upright, with no tendency to push you forwards onto your face. A conventional BC is exactly right for the job when using a single tank.
I have visited the Beuchat factory in Marseilles and was impressed that the company manufactures so many of its products on site, rather than badge-engineering something made further to the east.
I also noticed products being assembled that bore the hallowed brands of other companies, some American. Beuchat has its own dedicated dive centre on the coast nearby, and that is equally impressive. I also enjoyed the South of France lunch!
Beuchat has been making diving equipment since those two French guys invented the sport. It’s a traditional company and has a traditional approach to its designs. For example, it still calls its BCs “stabilising jackets”.

The Masterlift Pro is not a lightweight item. At nearly 4kg, it took up a lot of my checked-baggage allowance.
However it is loaded with features such as trim-weight pockets that ride on the camband. These are essential when using a big aluminium tank that displaces a lot of water.
It also has big integrated-weight pouches that stow securely, and these were going to be essential where I was diving because the waters of the Humboldt and Panama currents collude to make the water quite cold despite the tropical latitude, and I was going to be wearing a very thick wetsuit.
Between front and rear they take up to 15kg of lead.
A word about the camband: apart from being tightened in the normal manner, it has a useful hook and D-ring break that makes it easy to remove the BC from a cylinder in a crowded tank-rack. It dispenses with that problematic lifting of a BC that is loaded with lead, sliding it up a tank to get it free.
It has the traditional inverted T-shaped buoyancy cell, with a maximum lift capacity of 19kg. This is mounted onto the harness so that it expands outwards, and there is no horrible body-squeeze to experience.
The harness can be adjusted to fit at the shoulders, where it features swivelling buckles, and the waist. The usual cummerbund arrangement keeps everything comfortable.

In The Water
When fully submerged, the buoyancy-compensating air moves to the highest point in the buoyancy cell, as with any other BC or wing, and that is at your back behind your head for a normal horizontal swimming position. It is only when you fully inflate it at the surface that the lower front sections come into play.
The dump-valves, one operated by pulling on the corrugated hose and the other by a toggle at the end of a cord, are positioned to suit this convenient arrangement.
There is also a bottom dump for the fast head-down descents for which I am noted, and for dumping any gas required when otherwise bottom-up.
I tucked the corrugated hose away under the sternum-strap so that I always knew where it was, and wasn’t guilty of looking to be flapping.
I needed the oral inflation valve only if I came up with no air in my tank. That rarely happens – but never rule out the possibility.
There are no sparkly D-rings, but the double-zipped and expandable side-pockets proved useful for storing peripheral kit, yet gave easy access under water.
Provided too is a nice secure way to stow additional hoses, such as a pressure gauge or an octopus hose, via purpose-designed retainers.
I like to look neat under water, even if I do look as untidy as Boris Johnson on the boat.
As expected, when I needed to I was able to float high above the waves and generally out of range of the multitude of Portuguese men-of-war with which we shared the surface waters. Others were not so lucky.
The weight-pockets proved secure and perfect, even though I was using a 15-litre aluminium tank that displaced a lot of water.
The MasterLift Pro took a lot of heavy use, especially as it stayed with my tank in the panga that we used to go from the main vessel to the dive-site for more than a week.
Even when it was tied to the main vessel, the little boat danced and crashed about on the waves, giving its contents a rough ride.
Overall, this is a strongly made BC that ticks all the boxes for those who dive with a single tank and don’t mind an extra bit of weight in their dive-bag when travelling.

Cressi S300, £366
Mares Hybrid, £430
Sherwood Avid, £399

PRICE £400
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