I’VE TESTED QUITE A FEW BCS over the past two years, and they’ve all done the job, keeping my buoyancy neutral when I needed them to do so, and holding me safely on the surface when the dive was over.
The real eye-opener is just how differently these BCs have behaved in regard to trim under water, but I’ve found that those with a wing-style bladder have mostly kept the trim ideal for my personal style of diving.
So I was excited to receive Apeks Marine’s Black Ice to take and test where perfect buoyancy and trim is critical – penetrating Red Sea wrecks.

The Air-cell
The Black Ice is a wing-style BC that Apeks says is designed with the advanced diver in mind. Built using rugged 840-denier nylon, the air-cell is a horseshoe shape but with links in the middle that allow air to migrate from left to right.
Air can be dumped from four locations, two on the shoulders and one on either side at kidney level. The left shoulder-dump is activated by pulling on the power inflator, while the others are low-profile flat valves with pull-cords.
A neat dual-bladder retraction system using bungees and straps pulls in the sides of the cell during deflation, dumping air faster and keeping everything compact and streamlined when diving.

The Harness
Apeks has incorporated its “Wrapture Harness System” in the Black Ice. This uses swivel shoulder-buckles and a thin backplate with the tank cam-band positioned low down.
Combined with a retaining strap at the top, this holds the tank closer to the user’s body and centre of gravity. The backplate has a removable pad.
Five large stainless-steel D-rings are fitted to the harness: two on the right shoulder-strap, one on the left and two on the waist-belt.
The cylinder is retained using Apeks’ “Griplock” system, a clever combination of cam-band and synch-clip that’s easily adjustable and holds everything securely in place.
The sternum-strap has adjustments that keep it clear of a drysuit inflation valve.
A medium-sized zip-pocket is located on the right-hand side and there is a dropdown utility pocket on the left, the latter with two grommets for attaching a knife-sheath.
The harness is modular and has multiple size settings. It can be adjusted at the top of the shoulders and at the waist-belt and, held by stainless-steel nuts and bolts, allows the user to customise the fit for both dry- or wetsuit use.

Integrated Weights
Dual-channel weight-pockets at the waist and non-ditch trim-weight pockets tucked neatly at the front of the wing provide a maximum capacity of 19kg.
The ditchable weights are held firmly in place within a zipped pouch and secured with the maker’s own SureLock system, which provides click-and-lock insertion and a single pull release.

In Use
I took the Black Ice on a week’s Red Sea wreck itinerary. My first impression was that this was a robust bit of kit. It took me a little time to adjust and customise the fit for my oddly shaped physique, but I found this to be time well spent, the end result being a BC that felt part of me.
With two kilos in each hip pocket and a single kilo in each of the trim-pockets I took the plunge on our check-out dive. I would normally have to fiddle about, adjusting the weight-loading and configuration at this time, but surprisingly I found I had it right first time.
This BC held me faultlessly – my trim was exactly as I like it, slightly heads-up but almost horizontal. Air was easy to dump in whichever position I found myself, and the pass-through channels in the air-cell helped in this respect, also ensuring that there was never any trapped air to fight.
I normally struggle with integrated weights that sit on the soft side of the pockets because they dig into my hips, affecting my comfort and in some instances causing bruising.
This wasn’t the case with this model. In fact, I couldn’t even feel them.
The weights were easy to release with a single pull. Inserted just as easily with a satisfying click, they also felt supremely secure.
At the surface, more than 23kg of lift held my head high and well out of harm’s way, and the Black Ice didn’t try to push my face forward.

Conclusion
This BC is built to an extremely high standard and was a joy to use. I found it very comfortable, and it felt as if I’d been diving with it forever.
In fact it became so natural to use that I forgot all about it, leaving me to concentrate on wreck penetration and the need not to kick up the silt inside the wrecks.
The Black Ice can be rigged for single or twin tanks (with an optional mounting kit), which makes it an extremely versatile system that can grow with your experience and qualifications.
Its build quality suggests that it could last a lifetime too. In my humble opinion, those guys from up north have got this BC spot-on.

PRICE £524
SIZES SM/MD, ML/LG, XL/XXL
INTEGRATED WEIGHTS SureLock ll
WEIGHT CAPACITY Max 19kg
MAXIMUM LIFT 823.5kg
COLOUR Black
D-RINGS 5 stainless-steel
POCKETS 1 fold-down, 1 zipped
KNIFE ATTACHMENT Yes
WARRANTY Limited lifetime
CONTACT www.apeks.co.uk
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