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Welcome to Dive Gear Reviews, a comprehensive guide to scuba diving equipment. Scuba diving is an expensive pursuit, so looking up reviews for a particular article of equipment is a wise precaution before investing any hard-earned money in it. However, consumer reviews may or may not be written by an experienced diver, and magazine reviews could be suspect due to the advertising ties of the publication in question. Dive Gear Reviews provides cross-referenced reviews assembled by an expert, making it possible to see at a glance what multiple sources said about a particular piece of scuba equipment. If one magazine loved a scuba regulator or a dive computer, but the consumers hated it, that information will be found here.

Mares Prime BCD Review

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Mares Prime BCD Review Posted in: BCDs, Between $251-$500

The Prime is the new starter BCD from Mares, and is therefore the de facto successor to the old Icon BCD. The basic version is very straightforward jacket BCD, featuring a rigid backpack with a solid carrying handle on the inside, the usual cummerbund and sternum strap, and sizable pockets. It’s made from Cordura 420, giving it a good balance between heft and durability, and accordingly weighs in at just under 7 lbs unloaded (3.8 kg).

One thing about the Prime is that the lift changes between each and every size, so cold water divers intending to use the Prime should check what the exact lift is before purchasing one. Medium has 15.3kg / 33.7 lbs of lift, while Large takes a dramatic step up to 20.5 kg / 45.1 lbs. A version with the Mares MRS integrated weight system is available.

Some consumers have complained that the BCD has few D-rings, and no big D-rings at all. If the Prime was meant as a replacement for the Icon, this is actually a step backward, as the Icon offered more cargo-carrying options.

Scuba Diving rated the Mares Prime their Best Buy BCD for 2013, but the only objective reasons Dive Gear Reviews can see for giving it such an award is that it is new and it isn’t that expensive. Nothing is really wrong with the Prime, but nothing is really great about it either.

Average Price: $425 for MRS version


Big Blue AL 1X5 Dive Light Review

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Big Blue AL 1X5 Dive Light Review Posted in: Between $101-$250, Dive Lights

You’ve seen them: those cool dive lights made to fit into glove mountings, making them handier and more secure. The problem is that those lights are often along the lines of the Light & Motion Sola Dive 1200, and cost as much as a new upper-tier regulator. Look no further: the Big Blue AL1X5 offers a reasonably priced solution for getting your dive light firmly and easily secured to the back of your hand.

Powered by three AAA batteries, the light produces a 250 lumen beam with a stamina of four hours. The housing is anodized aluminum, with a double o-ring seal and tested down to 100m (328 feet). It’s a compact, powerful little thing, and can fit easily in a BCD pocket. The best thing is that the company makes a Goodman-style glove specifically for the AL 1X5, so you can mount it on the back of your hand with no fuss whatsoever.

Average Price: $120


Chums Camera Float Review

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Chums Camera Float Review Posted in: Below $100, Other Accessories

It’s an ugly scenario that has proven all too real for many divers: having the lanyard securing a dive light, camera, or other piece of gear come loose, and then watching as that gear drifts or plummets away. Some items have positive buoyancy on their own and might go to the surface, but once there they become practically invisible in the deep blue water. That’s where the Chums Camera Float (or an item like it, such as the Olympus Floating Foam Strap [Yellow]) comes in.

Both buoyant and done in a bright, contrasting color, the Chums float ensures that if your gear comes loose, it heads straight for the surface and becomes readily visible there. The downside is that the float strap makes that hand positively buoyant, and that annoys some divers who have used it. At the end of the day, an item like this is insurance. If you can’t afford to see your $3,000 camera rig lost, you had better take some sort of precaution.

Average Price: $10


Dive Book Review: Dark Descent by Kevin F. McMurray

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Dive Book Review: Dark Descent by Kevin F. McMurray Posted in: Book and Film Reviews

Dark Descent is the second major wreck diving tale from Kevin McMurray, author of Deep Descent, one of the better books about the heyday of diving on the fabled Andrea Dorea. This book is focused on the Empress of Ireland, a liner wreck in the St. Lawrence, and little known outside of Canada and hardcore wreck diving circles.

From a divers point of view, reading about the Empress of Ireland is enthralling. For most non-Canadian divers, the story will be entirely new, that of a magnificent Edwardian liner that was struck by a collier in heavy fog and went down in 14 minutes, killing hundreds. This 1914 tragedy was major news for a time, but was soon overshadowed by the apocalypse of the First World War, which is perhaps why the sinking of the Empress of Ireland is not as well-known as that of the Titanic or Luisitania.

Equally attractive are technical aspects of diving on the Empress’s. The briny, semi-salty conditions where the ship lies, at the point where the St. Lawrence River becomes the Gulf of St. Lawrence, coupled with the icy waters has acted to preserve the vessel to some extent. Divers familiar with Great Lakes wrecks know about wooden vessels remaining almost intact for a century or more, preserved by the frigid fresh water. Imagine a similar effect on a huge Edwardian cruise liner, and you have the Empress of Ireland.

Balanced against that are the clear challenges of diving in water that hovers between just below and just above freezing, in a place with the Canadian Maritime’s highly unpredictable weather, where frighteningly strong currents can rush in, and on a ship that rests on its side at at an angle, so the top hangs over the bottom like a giant, lethal lean-to. McMurray does an able job of conveying this information to the reader, along with a sidelong glance at the history of diving, but telling the tale of divers on the Empress from 1914 into the modern era.

Compared to McMurray’s Andrea Dorea book, Dark Descent is actually a better book. McMurray himself is more a part of the story of the Empress, with the last third of the book devoted to his own expeditions to dive the liner. Because of the¬†Empress’s status as a gem in the wreck diving rough, the stories of the major figures in its diving history seem cozy, those personalities soon become familiar, and McMurray’s own story an organic part of the whole. By contrast, his Dorea¬†book is filled with the big names of the Mt. Everest of wreck diving, and McMurray’s own connection to the wreck is overshadowed, seeming tenuous and sometimes even forced.

If you liked Deep Descent or want to read about a magnificent wreck you’ve probably never heard of, buy this book.