NOTHING IS BETTER CALCULATED to start a diving holiday off on the wrong foot than incurring unexpected costs at the airport because your bags are overweight. Profits in decline, airlines are trying to claw back as much revenue as they can - and theyre red hot at charging for extras.
Airlines have different definitions of sports equipment, but there is an internationally agreed rate for excess baggage which they have the right to charge. This is 1% of the first-class fare for every kilogram in excess of the individual checked-baggage allowance.
Paying more than 600 in excess-baggage charges on a journey to Singapore certainly left me in a bad humour. A couple of extra kilos on a flight to the Maldives cost me 60. I have been known to donate weightier, cheaper items of kit, such as a wetsuit and fins, to local dive guides rather than pay a second set of excess charges on the way home.
If charm doesnt work on check-in staff, howls of protest will have even less effect. Stuffing heavy items into your carry-on bag wont always work, either, as many charter airline check-in staff are wise to this.
And wearing your dive gear can cause havoc at passenger security checks. Youll be asked to remove more than just your shoes!
A better solution is to be weight-aware when youre packing. Choose a light dive-bag, then consider the weight of individual items.
You cant do much about your suit. A big person will always have to carry more neoprene than a smaller one. Clearly a 3mm shortie weighs far less than a full 7mm wetsuit, but you need to take appropriate thermal protection.
Mask-weight seems fairly standard, as is that of simple webbing weightbelts with plastic buckles. Teutonic diving lamps with enormous battery-packs are almost always disqualified from long-haul routes.
hspace=5 Get a little lamp with a high-output LED that runs on a few AA batteries (like this Frogman Lenser, right).
Abandon the idea of taking a pony cylinder. Twinning-blocks and bands weigh a lot less and enable you to twin two locally sourced full-size cylinders that offer more effective redundancy, if thats what you demand.
You can save the weight of a high-pressure hose and gauge by using a gas-integrated computer. A combined inflator and alternative air source such as a Scubapro Air II or Buddy AutoAir saves weight, too.
But what about the major items of kit, such as BC, regulator and fins Rental means taking pot-luck on condition and quality, so this is where investing in lightweight travelling gear may not be a false economy.
We asked all the major UK importers of diving equipment to supply us with their choice of a set of BC, regulator and fins to make the smallest hole in a checked-baggage weight-allowance.
Nine responded, with 11 brand groupings. We weighed each item, then found out how well it performed. The sets weighed between 4.5kg and 6kg. Swapping between brands might allow you to reduce this all-up weight.
BCs must work well. Manufacturers often derive their figures for maximum buoyancy by measuring the volume of the fully inflated BC in litres and translating this into kilograms of lift, but these figures can be irrelevant. So we took the fully inflated BC off the test diver and, with no tank attached, added weights to determine the actual effective maximum buoyancy.
This must give adequate ride-height (distance between the waters surface and the divers mouth). Our figures, derived from the same diver wearing the same kit, are for direct comparison between the BCs tested only.
Apart from all that, the BC must be comfortable, and it should be easy to get air in and out again.

YOU CAN SAVE WEIGHT by packing full-foot fins rather than those requiring boots, and they usually perform better, too. Those of us with tender feet will, however, always prefer to use boots, so add a couple of kilos for the extra neoprene.
We compared fins by measuring maximum speed attained in still water by the same diver over the same course using a speedometer. The results are for direct comparison on the day only.
A regulator can add a lot of weight to your packed bag. Naturally you will be taking an alternative air source (octopus rig) too, but for simplicity of comparison we weighed first-stage and single second-stage rigs.
A-clamps tend to be heavier than DIN fittings, but be aware that tanks for A-clamp regulators might be all that is available in a tropical diving location, especially if it falls under the US sphere
of influence. A DIN-to-A-clamp converter can add another kg to your all-up weight.
Destinations dominated by European divers usually supply tanks that are both DIN and A-clamp, converted by removable slug.
Simple unbalanced piston-type regulators tend to weigh less than their diaphragm-style counterparts, and we have found that a simple piston regulator can often give more expensive diaphragm regs a good run for their money on deepwater breathing comparisons.
However, as tank pressure decreases, so does
the performance of an unbalanced regulator. So you should be at shallower depths when down to the last quarter of your remaining air supply - a sensible practice when diving with a single tank!
Finally, we had independent ANSTI tests carried out on all the test regulators. The ANSTI breathing machine replicates a diver breathing from a tank with a pressure of 50bar at 50m, with a lung ventilation rate of 62 litres/min. To meet CE EN1250 criteria, each regulator should need a total work-of-breathing of less than 3j/litre.
The kit collections are ranged in descending order according to overall weight.

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SWAN & CO COLLECTION
(5.9KG) 546

AERIS REEF RIDER BC (3KG) 325

A US brand associated with Oceanic, this BC is in a wing-style, the buoyancy cell restrained by an elastic cord threaded through it. It has a simple integrated-weight system. This employs small pouches retained inside pockets that are held closed by big, vertically sited pinch-clips, supplemented by trim-weight pockets at the back.
There are two useful pockets. The corrugated hose is long enough to tuck nicely under the sternum strap and the lower dump-valve toggle is easy to locate. Unfortunately, the valve faces downwards when the diver lies horizontally in the water, so not all the buoyancy air can be released this way. Unusually, this lower valve was at the left side of the diver.
The BC provided a maximum buoyancy of 14kg and a good ride-height of 18cm.

AERIS MAKO FINS (1.7KG) 35
Not the best performers but nothing to be ashamed of, these purposeful-looking fins have an effective scooping-style blade and we wouldnt be surprised if they came from the same factory as those sent to us by Oceanic. With a top speed achieved of 5.1kmph, they were a little less impressive than some of the others but top performers nonetheless.

SEEMANN-SUB SL350 REGULATOR (1.2KG) 186
We dont know who makes this product for the German brand but it looks very familiar. It has a European-looking environmentally dry-sealed balanced diaphragm-type first stage with four medium-pressure and two high-pressure ports positioned around a fixed barrel. The neat little second stage with its Venturi plus/minus switch and breathing resistance adjustment knob looks superficially like a product made by Oceanic in the USA, but the long mouthpiece is similar to those fitted to Sherwood regulators. Perhaps the designers have tried to get the best of everything!

ANSTI TEST: A very low work of breathing was revealed to involve some flutter and positive-pressure effects.

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CPS PARTNERSHIP COLLECTION
(5.7KG) 534


TUSA PASSAGE BC (2.9KG) 298
The Japanese know about travelling. You will meet Japanese divers all over the Pacific region. This Japanese brand BC proved to be very comfortable and it has a well-designed tank camband augmented by a second strap that prevents the tank twisting out of true from vertical when on the divers back. It has useful zipped pockets.
A top dump-valve, operated by pulling on the long corrugated hose, is supplemented by a bottom dump-valve too. A uniquely designed integrated-weight system requires quite a tug diagonally upwards to free the weight pouches.
This BC provided a maximum buoyancy of 15kg and an adequate ride-height of 16cm.

IMPREX TRI-X FINS (1.7KG) 67
The Imprex Tri-X were among the best-performing fins in the group, with a maximum speed achieved by our test diver of 5.8kmph.
It was a stunning performance from a very inauspicious-looking fin design, especially when you consider that these fins were used in conjunction with wetsuit boots, yet compared well with some full-foot examples.

TUSA RS520E REGULATOR (1.1KG) 169
Trust the Japanese to come up with something small and compact - but looks can be deceiving. The little balanced piston-type first stage looks as if it has a turret but it doesnt revolve. The four medium-pressure ports are located in pairs around its rim while two high-pressure ports are sited either side of the main barrel.
The little second stage has an effective purge button but no other controls to fiddle with, and its mouthpiece is remarkable in that it suits only the smallest mouth.

ANSTI TEST: The TUSA regulators performance was what we would expect from an entry-level regulator.

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MARES COLLECTION
(5.6KG) 670


MARES ORIGIN SPORT BC (2.8KG) 180
Mares BCs always seem a little over-engineered, with the consequent weight penalty, but this one offers stupendous value for money. It gave lots of frontal support low down when it was fully inflated at the surface, though it didnt seem that comfortable. In fact we thought it felt a bit knobbly, because of the absence of any back cushion.
With excellent balance under water, the BCs two top dump-valves and single lower back dump fell easily to hand. It provided a maximum buoyancy of 15.5kg and a ride-height of 17cm.

MARES VOLO POWER FINS (1.7KG) 90
Mares is always on the front line of the grid when it comes to high-performance fins and these lightweight examples were no exception.
Our test diver stormed away at 5.6kmph and might have gone faster had the pool we were using been larger!
These fins have a complex blade design that could only have been the result of extensive research. The patented ABS (Advanced Buckle System) makes for a convenient way to don a fin with the strap tightened down. Theyre good, but they cost quite a lot, too.

MARES PROTON 42 METAL REGULATOR (1.1KG) 400
With probably the most compact high-performance diaphragm first stage on the market, this little regulator is one of the best reviewed here. Its first stage has its four medium-pressure and two high-pressure ports cleverly arranged so that there is never
a problem with hose-routeing. Dynamic airflow is aided by an oversized port and inter-stage hose diameter.
The second stage has all the heat-sink qualities associated with metal, and that means it is just as suitable for use in cold fresh water as at some far-off tropical destination. The cleverly designed exhaust-T works like a dream.
Mares regulators are designed without resort to knobs and switches because they use a patented by-pass tube that avoids pressure-drops behind the front diaphragm and resultant free-flows. Once again, of course, all this comes at a price.

ANSTI TEST: Regulator performance was excellent.

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EUPHORIA LEISURE ZEAGLE COLLECTION
(5.55KG) 827


ZEAGLE STILETTO BC (3.15KG) 389
Made in America, this is a proper wing-style BC from a respected range. It uses two cambands in tandem to secure the tank and employs the unique single-action Zeagle ripcord system for its integrated weight pockets, plus trim-weight pockets high up at the back. It comes with small stainless-steel D-rings as well as two small zipped pockets.
The buoyancy cell, restrained by an elastic cord threaded around it, has a bottom dump on each side at the back and gives most of its lift low-down when the diver is upright at the surface. The upper dump, operated by pulling on the long corrugated hose, is ideally positioned at the centre of the highest point of the buoyancy cell.
The Stiletto provided a maximum buoyancy of 14kg and a good ride-height of 19cm. A good BC at a premium price.

ZEAGLE TELEOZ FINS (1KG) 49
These fins look novel in that what looks like a fabric ski-binding is attached to an otherwise flat blade. The effect was alarming. You can use them with or without boots and our test diver chose the latter. However he managed to achieve a maximum speed of only 4.6kmph, indicating that these fins might be a triumph of innovation over effectiveness.

ZEAGLE FLATHEAD VI REGULATOR (1.4KG) 389
Zeagle used to sell Apeks regulators under its own brand in the USA, so when it came to making its own it had a hard act to follow. This one makes no concessions to size in its quest for a top performance. Its a monster! However its environmentally dry-sealed, balanced-diaphragm first stage with its full complement of well-spaced ports sends a massive supply of air to the equally massive second stage.
Its all about performance rather than appearance and the purge button is huge, as is the exhaust-T. Even the mouthpiece will suit the greediest maw. The second stage is big but quite light. Most of the weight is that of the first stage.

ANSTI TEST: The test showed that the Zeagles low work of breathing, despite some effort to pull open the valve, was achieved with a positive pressure for inhalation.


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BEAVER TIGULLIO COLLECTION
(5.55KG) 435


TIGULLIO SEA RIDER BC (2.35KG) 179
This good-value BC felt a little dinky in comparison to some of the others. It has three dump-valves, two at the shoulders and one at the lower right back.
The two zipped pockets are handy but the Sea Rider gave some uncomfortable torso squeeze when fully inflated at the surface. It had a good-length corrugated hose that tucked nicely away under the sternum strap but otherwise it gives you everything you need and nothing more.
The Sea Rider provided a maximum buoyancy of 13.5kg and an uninspiring ride height of 13cm.

BEAVER VELOCITY FINS (1.8KG) 37
These fins look what they are- a cheap and simple design that puts price before efficacy. However, they work, and the 4.8kmph achieved by our test diver is a lot better than he could have achieved without any fins at all!

TIGULLIO AIRTRAK PLUS REGULATOR (1.4KG) 219
A bit of a beast to look at, the Airtrak Plus regulator is made by a French company on behalf of an Italian one. It has a balanced-diaphragm first stage with two high-pressure ports and four medium-pressure ports arranged around a separate revolving turret.
The enormous second stage has all the bells and whistles you would expect to find on a top-of-the-range regulator, including a breathing-resistance adjustment knob and a venturi plus/minus switch.
Its enormous exhaust-T has the advantage of directing bubbles well past the divers eye-line. Overall, however, we thought it rattled too much and felt a little cheap.

ANSTI TEST: The machine revealed some flutter on inhalation with the Tigullio Airtrak.

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CRESSI-SUB COLLECTION
(5.4KG) 548


CRESSI-SUB AQUALIGHT R (2.7KG) 257
This BC is easy to pack because you can actually roll it up. It has no rigid backpack. It proved very comfortable to wear both in and out of the water, and there was no torso squeeze when it was fully inflated. The two alternative top dump-valves worked well, and the toggle of the bottom dump is easily located because its cord is threaded through to the front of the BC.
A simple integrated-weight system uses folding pouches that are held closed by big pinch-clips. The two pockets are quite hard to access when the BC is inflated. The tank is held securely by tandem cambands.
The Aqualight R provided a maximum buoyancy of 13.5kg and a good ride-height of 18cm.

CRESSI-SUB REACTION PRO FINS (1.7KG) 37
These fins are available in either full-foot or a strap version for use with boots. Cressi wisely sent us the full-foot versions, which turned out to be the big performers of the test.
They were the only ones that allowed our test diver to break the 6kmph barrier. They may not weigh much but their huge blades will take up a lot of space in your bag. Pack them if its the big kick you want.

CRESSI-SUB ELLIPSE PISTON REGULATOR (1KG) 254
When used by us in the past we decided that this delightful little balanced piston-type regulator performed even better than its more expensive diaphragm-type sibling. It has four mp ports arranged in pairs around its first-stage barrel and a single hp port spaced suitably far from them to allow a computer transmitter to be fitted without problems.
The oval-shaped second stage is pleasant to use, although perhaps its exhaust-T could have been a little larger so that bubbles were less intrusive. It has a venturi plus/minus switch and the front folds out ingeniously, with the help of a hexagonal wrench, to allow access for the removal of any sand that might find its way inside.

ANSTI TEST: The regulators air delivery was not totally smooth, but it delivered an excellently low work-of-breathing result.

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OCEANIC COLLECTION
(5.3KG) 446


OCEANIC REEF PRO BC (2.5KG) 195
This is the type of BC typically favoured by dive-centres. It is perfect for inexperienced divers because it has masses of frontal buoyancy when fully inflated and puts you firmly
on your back.
There was some unpleasant torso-squeeze at this time. The sternum strap seems very close to the throat.
There are two ways to dump air when the diver is shoulder up - pulling on the corrugated hose or the opposite pull-cord. It has no bottom dump, merely a drain plug.
The Reef Pro is a big, tough, simple product and its price reflects that fact. It provided maximum buoyancy of 17kg and a comfortable ride-height of 19cm.

OCEANIC VIPER FINS (1.6KG) 40
Oceanic sent us a vast selection of fins for this review but we chose the Vipers because they looked as if they would be the most effective and were very attractive in appearance.
We werent far wrong and our test diver accelerated to 5.3kmph with them. Thats up with some of the best - and these fins represent very good value, too!

OCEANIC CDX5 ALPHA8 REGULATOR (1.2KG) 211
Oceanic knows about travel. It even owns its own dive centre in Papua New Guinea. Its regulators are well known for their light weight combined with high performance and this one
is no exception. Its balanced diaphragm-type first stage has a full complement of four mp and two hp ports, well spaced to avoid problems with fitting hoses with fat coverings.
The second stage is simple yet effective, and has no knobs or switches. The soft front hides an effective purge button, but we thought the exhaust-T could have done with being a little wider for the better dispersal of exhaled bubbles.

ANSTI TEST: We were disappointed by the Oceanics performance on the ANSTI machine because we have seen better results from other examples of this regulator in the past.

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AQUA LUNG COLLECTION
(5KG) 440


SEAQUEST PASSPORT BC (2.9KG) 260
This BC uses a rather old-fashioned integrated-weight system that employs toggles and slabs of Velcro to keep the weight-pouches in place. It proved not to be terribly comfortable, which we ascribed to the absence of any sternum strap, allowing the shoulder straps to slip.
The Passport has two upper dump-valves but nothing but a drain plug at the lower back. Its back-cushion doubles as a fold-out carrying bag. It wasnt our favourite BC, providing a maximum buoyancy of 12kg and a ride-height of just 13cm.

US DIVERS TREK3 FINS (1.1KG) 20
Well, we had a hearty laugh when we first saw these funny stumpy-looking fins, but Im afraid the laugh was on us.
With a maximum speed achieved by our test diver of a creditable 5.25kmph, it goes to show what you can do with fins that have only half-size blades.
They certainly win out when it comes to packing for a trip away, and they are used in conjunction with wetsuit boots.

AQUA LUNG CALYPSO REGULATOR (1KG) 160
Another regulator popular with dive schools throughout the world, the Calypsos unbalanced piston-style first stage is both a neat little unit and a tough customer when it comes to hard use. Its ports are spaced around its barrel with a bit of extra space either side of the single high-pressure outlet to avoid problems fitting a computer transmitter.
The neat, compact second stage has a full-front purge button for easy access, a venturi plus/minus switch to use to avoid free-flows at the surface, a usefully sized exhaust-T and a Comfobite mouthpiece that helps to prevent jaw ache.

ANSTI TEST: The Aqua Lung Calypsos performance was nothing short of stupendous!

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BEAVER SEAC SUB COLLECTION
(4.9KG) 447


SEAC SUB COMFORT PLUS BC (2.5KG) 229
We found the camband of this BC hard to tighten securely. However, once in the water it came into its own, with masses of frontal buoyancy when fully inflated putting the diver onto his back.
The Comfort Plus has two shoulder-height dump-valves with the cord for the toggle on the right side, threaded neatly through a conduit pipe.
There are two useful zipped pockets, a couple of proper stainless-steel D-rings, and the pull-to-dump corrugated hose lies neatly under the sternum strap.
The Comfort Plus provided a maximum buoyancy of 18kg and an impressive ride-height of 21cm.

SEAC SUB MANTA FINS (1.4KG) 59
These fins are unusual in that they are rigid down the centre of the blade and the edges flex, a direct opposite to conventional wisdom when it comes to fin design.
We wish we could say that this was a brilliant rethink but we cant. These proved to be among the least-effective fins, with our test diver achieving only a modest 4.7kmph best.

SEAC SUB SYNCHRO P REGULATOR (1KG) 159
Simple and effective, this regulator has a piston-type first stage with four medium-pressure ports arranged around its barrel and with plenty of space between them and the single high-pressure port. The second stage has a front cover that doubles as a purge control, and that is easily unscrewed to give access for cleaning out any sand or detritus inside.
A venturi plus/minus switch allows detuning and the prevention of exponential free-flows at the surface, and the exhaust port is wider than that of some similar compact second stages.

ANSTI TEST: The test revealed some ingress of water and vibration on inhalation.

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EUPHORIA LEISURE SOPRAS-SUB COLLECTION
(4.8KG) 283


SOPRAS-SUB PX420 BC (2.6KG) 142
The PX420 is an inexpensive BC and it looks it, but it works. When fully inflated there is a certain amount of uncomfortable torso squeeze, but the BC has masses of frontal buoyancy, equating to a diver being most comfortable lying on his back. Big pockets are held shut by large flaps secured by Velcro.
The toggles of the right shoulder dump and the rear bottom dump are supplied on exceptionally long cords that could prove a hazard with entanglement. Its no big deal to shorten them, although that would put the upper one very high up at the shoulder.
The BC provided a maximum buoyancy of 16kg and a good ride-height of 19cm.

SOPRAS-SUB TRAINING FINS (1.2KG) 13
These slightly unusual-looking short fins were supplied with straps for use with boots, but the foot pocket was so shallow that there was no way our test diver could get his boot in, so he went barefooted. Uncomfortable as he was, he still achieved a very creditable maximum speed of 5.5kmph, though at the expense of some skin. These fins may suit only those with slim feet, but you cant argue with a 13 price tag!

SOPRAS-SUB JUPITER REGULATOR (1KG) 128
Its lightweight and compact, but this brand has little in the way of a track record in the UK, so its regulator might encounter an uphill struggle taking on the competition with shop-counter appeal. The old-fashioned-looking balanced-diaphragm first stage is a weighty lump of chromed brass with a full complement of six ports but no environmental sealing.
The second stage unscrews in a satisfying way to allow access for the removal of any sand that might find its way in, and its exhaust-T is a sensible size for uninterrupted vision.
It has a venturi plus/minus switch masquerading as a breathing resistance adjustment knob.

ANSTI TEST: The machine revealed the sort of performance we have come to expect from an inexpensive regulator.

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SCUBAPRO COLLECTION
(4.57KG) 438


SCUBAPRO T-SPORT BC (2.6KG) 249
(WITH AIR II 110 EXTRA)

Scubapro invented the modern-style BC and its no surprise that the company makes some very effective ones. This example gives the diver a very sleek streamlined profile in the water, with little resistance to forward motion.
The two zipped pockets proved convenient, and rotating shoulder buckles add comfort via a good fit.
The improved design of the Scubapro patent cinch-strap secures the tank well, unlike earlier versions, and there are two upper dump-valves, plus one at the lower back.
The T-Sport provided maximum buoyancy of 17kg and an excellent ride-height of 20cm, with plenty of frontal support for a good attitude at the surface.

SCUBAPRO TWIN SPEED FF FINS (1.2KG) 40
(85 WITH STRAPS)

We were sent the full-foot version of these split-fins with the distinctive curved blade, but unfortunately they were sent in a rather small size. Our test diver managed to get them onto his feet, but we suspect that the poor performance achieved (max 4.4kmph) was a reflection of the fact that a small fin has a less effective blade.

SCUBAPRO MK2 PLUS R295 REGULATOR (0.77KG) 149
If you hire a regulator at your destination, it may well be one of these. The workhorse of many schools and dive centres, the MK2 first stage has a reputation for being unbreakable through its simple and tough construction.
A solitary hp port is spaced far enough from the four mp ports to allow fitting of a computer transmitter. The first stage is paired with a neat little second stage that, though knob-free, is reminiscent of far more expensive Scubapro products. It is also one of the lightest regulators reviewed here.

ANSTI TEST: No surprises - the Scubapro regulator performed very much as we expected.

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MANUFACTURERS/SUPPLIERS
Aqua Lung/Seaquest - Aqua Lung UK, www.aqualung.co.uk; Atomic - Typhoon International, www.typhoon-int.co.uk; Cressi-sub - Cressi UK, www.cressi-sub.net; Mares - Mares, www.mares.com; Oceanic -Oceanic SW, www.oceanicuk.com; Scubapro - Scubapro, www.scubapro.co.uk; Seac-sub/Tigullio/Beaver - Beaver Sports www.beaversports.co.uk; Seemann-sub/Aeris -Swanborough, 01964 532202; TUSA- CPS Partnership, www.cpspartnership.com; Zeagle/Sopras-sub - Euphoria Leisure, www.euphorialeisure.com