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 Express uses three dump-valves, with the over-the-shoulder low-pressure corrugated hose having an internal pull mechanism. The hose is connected to the bladder slightly more centrally than on standard models, allowing for the easy release of air at the highest point.
The inflator head is removable, allowing the bladder to be flushed using a garden hose. Two low-profile kidney-dumps are placed on either side at the base of the horseshoe, with toggles and cords for activation.
The harness incorporates a neat one-piece link with the lower shoulder-straps and waist-belt, meaning that once the waist-belt trident clip is released the shoulder-straps slide up, facilitating donning and doffing.
The harness is customisable through the use of stainless buckles and non-stitched ends on all the straps. The owner can simply cut off any excess webbing, burn the ends to stop them fraying and re-assemble.
Large stainless D-rings connect the upper and lower shoulder-straps and enable the harness to articulate to the wearer's profile, with trident-clip break-points below each ring. A sternum-strap is fitted to stop that “off-the-shoulder” look while under water.
Twin cam-bands are fitted to a semi-rigid polymer backplate, with the lower band having a choice of two positions. There is also the option to fit a banded twin-set cylinder configuration using bolts and wing-nuts.
A plethora of optional accessories such as integrated weight-pockets with either rip-cord or standard pull releases, pockets, pouches, a crotch-strap and padded shoulder-straps are available from Zeagle to help you customise the rig for your own configuration.
Low-key embroidered livery in white on either side of the wing finishes off the product.

In the Water
I took time out to configure the BC to my own requirements, and fitted D-rings to both sides of the shoulder.
I stopped short of cutting the straps to shorten them because it was, after all, a BC provided for testing, not my own property.
I also opted to use my own pouch weight-belt as opposed to any of the integrated weight systems available from the manufacturer.
The waist- and chest-straps are linked via small oval stainless rings at the rear of the wearer’s hips. This system makes getting the BC on a doddle, because the chest harness becomes loose and allows more room to get the arms and shoulders in.
A quick shrug to raise the tank and BC while pulling on the waist-belt is all that’s needed to put everything in the correct position, and connecting the trident-clip holds it all in place.
Air was easy to dump. I normally use the right-hand shoulder dump on my own BC but found that I quickly adapted to not having one on the Express.
Instead, I used the corrugated hose in the way I was taught all those years ago.
The kidney-dumps are positioned well and were easy to locate for dumping air in a heads-down position, although the horseshoe configuration meant that I had to dump air from both sides for a totally deflated bladder.
I’m becoming a fan of wing-style BCs, as they tend to hold me in my preferred position under water, head slightly up with a horizontal trim. The Express was no different to any of the wing-style BCs I have recently used, in that it felt comfortable and second-nature.
With the bladder inflated at the surface giving a massive 19kg of lift I found that the harness slipped, causing the whole BC to ride up on my body – or, as my buddy told me, it looked as if “I had slipped down through the harness”.
On the second day of diving, I fitted a crotch-strap to the buckle already fitted to the backplate. This had the effect of making the Express and me feel as if we were one, and transformed my diving experience.
With the Express set up properly and with the addition of the crotch-strap I forgot about the BC, and was able to concentrate on important matters such as photographing the marine inhabitants of Indian Ocean reefs.

Conclusion
When the first lightweight dive-kit started to emerge on the market, there seemed to be a compromise between weight and quality.
My oh my, has that changed! Dive-kit designed for the travelling diver has evolved, and this technical-style wing BC has raised the bar on already-high standards.
The Express looks invincible, and with a little time taken to get it set up for your own needs it could be used anywhere, with either single or twin tanks, integrated or belt weights and wet- or drysuits.
The “one size fits all” tag really does apply to this robust, versatile and well thought-out bit of kit.

PRICE £254.15
SIZES One size fits all
WEIGHT 2.35kg
INTEGRATED WEIGHTS Optional pouch or ripcord system.
MAXIMUM LIFT 19kg
COLOUR Black
D-RINGS Optional
POCKETS Optional
CONTACT www.Zeagle.com
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