There are many different kinds of Buoyancy Control Devices (BCD). There are jacket type BCDs, back-inflated BCDs and backplate-harness type systems used for technical diving. Then there are the most often used and abused BCDs of all – the resort rental BCD.
Day in and day out these BCDs take the daily pounding of diving guests with varying degrees of proficiency, from student-diver to more advanced users. They have to be able to provide stability for a diverse number of body types. At the same time they have to be durable enough to last a long time under not-so-ideal conditions, like getting dragged through sand and rocks, over-inflation, scraping against corals, long exposure to the hot sun and being left without being rinsed for long periods of time.
I may have found the closest to an ideal in Aquamundo’s Spartan III BCD.
The first thing I noticed was that it was comfortable. It’s generously padded in the lower lumbar area and in the neck area, providing soft support to your neck and back (a feature more typically found in higher-end bcds). It is also blessed with a robust, easy to handle inflator / deflator mechanism that fits well in the hand – even with gloves on. It provides quick access for inflation or deflation, the wide oral inflation port makes it easy to manually inflate the bcd.
What truly sets this bcd apart are three key features:
2 levels of shoulder adjustment – In most jacket style bcds, you would find adjustable shoulder straps attached to a quick release buckle at one point. The Spartan III has two quick release attachment points at the shoulder for an even greater range of adjustability
making this bcd comfortable for different body types. For a resort owner, this means less worry about sizing differentials and not having enough bcds of the right size. For a dive professional conducting resort courses, there’s less worry about ill-fitting bcds that are either too large or too small.
Octopus hose loop pocket- I found this feature really neat – literally. It’s a custom-shaped pocket on the side of the bcd that holds a loop of the alternate air source hose that keeps it secure but allows instant access with one gentle pull. It beats trying to wrestle the hose out of a hose clip any day. Did I say hose clip? You’ll never lose one again, because you’ll never have to buy one again.
Console sleeve – Another reason you won’t need a hose clip. The gauges slide through this built in sleeve and emerges in front of the bcd just below chest level. All you have to do to check your air is look down. It prevents your gauges from dragging on coral too.
In case you’re wondering about durability, most resorts in the Philippines already use Aquamundo gear, and they have been for quite some time now. They know it can take years of abuse. I’m inclined to agree.