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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 F-Light BCD Review

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

A travel-friendly jacket-style BCD, the Mares F-Light is exactly what the name implies: a BCD meant for flying, possibly even in your carry-on bag. As checked baggage becomes ever more expensive, super-light travel BCDs like the F-Light are set to become more popular.

The BCD scores high in the travel-light category. It weighs only 5 lbs, 3 oz. dry (2.3 kg), making it very light indeed. Unlike some travel BCDs in the same low-weight category, the F-Light doesn’t feel flimsy. It is made from 420 Cordura, making it fairly durable for a BCD of its type.

In other pluses, the BCD has two zippered pockets with grommets, plus five D-rings. Most importantly, the air cells on this BCD are much bigger than those of the typical travel BCD, giving it very high lift capacity. The large size has 45 lbs of lift, and the XL has 53 lbs of lift. With buoyancy like that, the F-Light can serve as your travel BCD for even cold water destinations.

However, like most truly ultralight BCDs, the F-Light is somewhat lacking in frills. The rig has a pair of no-ditch trim pockets for weights, but no integrated weight system. Also, Scuba Diving found the tank strap unsteady, while Dive didn’t care for the positioning of the trim pockets very much.

Overall, the F-Light delivers in the departments that matter most for a true travel BCD – it has low volume and low weight. This piece of scuba gear won’t over-stuff your luggage. The important thing to keep in mind is that true travel BCDs always have a problem or a missing feature or two, and this one is no exception. A BCD with lots of features always weighs a few pounds more, and has a larger profile, making it almost a normal BCD in terms of packing it away for your dive vacation flight. Scuba Diving and Dive both gave the BCD good marks, despite the complaints, and the consumer commentary has been mostly positive.

Average Price: The Mares F-Light is listed at $390, but discounts are so generally available that the average price is only $315, and sometimes the BCD is available on sale for much less.


Best Dive Masks

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Best Dive Masks Posted in: Dive Gear Tips, Dive Masks, Scuba Product Guides
dive mask reviews

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Updated July 1, 2013

Dive masks are at least as essential to diving as a regulator and an air tank, yet they might very well be the most overlooked piece of gear in the kit of many a scuba diver. Without the mask, you can’t see much of anything underwater. However, few divers invest much money in their mask, and the sole requirements for many a diver are “does it fit?” and “is it cheap?”

Thriftiness is a virtue, but since most people dive to see things, it only follows that a better mask translates into a better dive. Divers who neglect their mask usually think that the small pluses of a slightly more expensive mask fail to translate into improved range of vision. Sometimes it is true that the price tag of a dive mask is grossly disproportionate to the mask’s capabilities, but that doesn’t mean frills like three-window viewing are worthless. What is more, a mask can have those frills and not break the bank at the same time.

— To see all our dive mask reviews, click here.

Top 5 Dive Masks

  1. Sherwood Rona Dive Mask: A few years back, the Sherwood Rona was listed as a Scuba Diving Tester’s Choice, but at that time it was listed at a somewhat pricey $70. What a difference those few years make. The mask is now widely available for less than $50, putting it in the same price range as most middling masks. This frameless dive mask has a huge field of vision. We found a commenter on a forum who had worn both the Rona and the Atomic Aquatics Venom (see below), who said “the [Sherwood Rona] provides 3/4s the features of the Venom, but at 1/3 the price.” It’s a good mask and a real steal. *
  2. Mares I3 Dive Mask Review: If you are looking for a framed rather than a frameless mask, the Mares I3 is a good balance of capability and price. The 3-window lens provides solid all-around view, and the mask is both comfortable and well-made. Thus far, virtually everyone who has come into contact with the mask has given it the thumbs up. While the Mares I3 retails for around $90 most of the time, discounts are common, and sometimes the mask is priced as low as $35. *
  3. Atomic Aquatics Venom Dive Mask: This is hands down the best mask on the market today. It looks great, shows incomparable engineering in its manufacture, and offers a stupendous field of vision. Yet here is a downside to all that: the Venom is also the most expensive in-production mask out there. Most divers simply do not have the budget to spend $200 on a dive mask. *
  4. IST Pro Ear 2000 Dive Mask: The IST Pro Ear 2000 is a winner on the basis of innovation. What this mask does is enclose the ears in pockets, and then connect those pockets to the air cavity of the dive mask, thereby eliminating the need to equalize. There are some drawbacks to the design: you need short hair to use it properly (or at least short around the ears); it isn’t compatible with most hoods, unless you retrofit the hood; using the mask requires some tinkering and experience to get the fit just right. That said, if you have touchy ears and equalization problems, this mask just might make diving easy for you. *
  5. ScubaMax Spider Eye Dive Mask: The main feature of this mask is its price tag: $35. Most masks priced at that level should set off the crappy gear alarm, but not this one. The Spider Eye has a decent field of vision, and consumers report it durable and comfy to wear. The mask offers no frills, but it works and it’s cheap. *

* Held over from 2012’s list.


Magicshine MJ-810E LED Dive Light Review

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Magicshine MJ-810E LED Dive Light Review Posted in: Below $100, Dive Lights

If you aren’t familiar with Magicshine (and you probably aren’t), they are a Chinese company that specializes in durable light systems for diving and cycling. In the MJ-810E, the company has produced a flashlight-style dive light that resembles nothing so much as a lightsaber, and performs like one underwater.

The MJ-810E is about 8 1/2 inches long (22 cm) and 2 inches (5.5 cm) wide at the crown. The dive light is about the size of a typical robust, but not heavy-duty flashlight, and therefore not very compact. However, for its size the MJ-810E has an enormous power output, cranking a floodlight beam with a maximum brightness of 1,000 lumens!

With an aluminum housing, a scratch resistant lens, and a shock-absorbing design, this Magicshine dive light is a tough piece of gear, and rated for 328 feet (100 m) of depth. It has four settings — hi, medium, low, strobe — controlled by a magnetic ring collar on the flashlight’s upper tube.

That makes it easy to operate, but leaves open the slight possibility of accidentally turning the dive light on in mid-dive or storage. Also, some owners report overheating problems with the powerful LED bulb. The crown of the dive light is designed to function as a radiator, but this only reaches its full potential when the light is underwater. In the open air, using the dive light at full power for prolonged periods might cause some of its parts to burn out.

With so much power output, the MJ-810E needs more than conventional alkaline batteries to work. Instead, the dive light uses 18650 Li-ion Batteries. These batteries are sometimes confused with the lithium ion version of the AA battery, but they are in fact somewhat larger. Magicshine’s MJ-810E comes with a pair of batteries and a recharging kit, as well as a wrist lanyard.

Excepting the overheating problem, which from all reports is only even a potential issue if you try to use the dive light as a normal flashlight and on its highest power setting, the consumer feedback for the MJ-810E has been overwhelmingly positive. While almost $100 might seem like a steep price tag for a dive light, it’s actually quite a bargain when you consider the high light output, something that becomes obvious when you compare it to other 1,000 lumen dive lights.

Average Price: $100


Scubapro Meridian Dive Computer Review

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Scubapro Meridian Dive Computer Review Posted in: Dive Computers, Over $500

The Meridian is the latest and much-hyped dive computer from Scubapro. An advanced, high-end number cruncher in the wristwatch design, the Meridian has a brushed housing made from 316-L stainless steel, giving it a somewhat classier look than the typical wristwatch dive computer.

Scubapro bills it as a computer that looks like a sports watch on land, but Dive Gear Reviews thinks such claims are always overblown. Real sports watches are pieces of pseudo-jewelery, and next to them almost all dive computers look nerdy and somewhat cheap. The stainless steel look of the Meridian does better than most, but keep an image of the Meridian tucked away for the next time you are at the mall and compare it to the watches on display – what we mean should be obvious. Divernet agrees with us, describing the Meridian as something they might “issue to a tank commander.” The bottom line here is never buy a dive computer because you want to wear it around on a daily basis, not even this one.

As a computer, though, the Meridian is a real winner. The algorithm is the same as that used on the Scubapro Galileo or the Aladin Tec 2G, and reviewers and owners say that if you are already familiar with those previous designs, programming the Meridian should be a snap. The computer offers all the features one might expect from a multiple, mixed gas data cruncher of this type, with three display modes: Scuba, Apnea and Gauge. Data comes up in easy to read digital text, with attractive reverse backlighting (the screen goes black and the digits light up) for night dives and dark places. The unit can double as a heart monitor, and can download data to your PC or laptop.

The one critique for this computer that stands above the level of ordinary nitpicking is a complaint from Divernet. Their tester reported that gas switching problematic because the display makes no distinctions between gas profiles. He said he had to switch back and forth to make sure he had the right profile running for his deco mix, an obviously annoying chore. However, increased familiarity with the computer might mitigate that problem.

Average Price: $600