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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.
18
June

Sherwood Avid CQR-3 BCD Review

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Sherwood Avid CQR-3 BCD Review Posted in: BCDs, Between $251-$500

The CQR-3 is the latest evolution in the Sherwood Avid BCD, the company’s top-end jacket BCD, so don’t confuse it with the CQR-2. Also don’t be alarmed by blog posts and internet threads about recalls for Sherwood Avids. The recall dates to 2004, and therefore is completely irrelevant to a model introduced in 2012.

The main changes for the Avid CQR-3 are an improved integrated weight system and altered styling. The improvements for the weight system make installing and dumping the weight pockets easier, while adding security through the addition of a toggle. Each pocket intended to hold between 8 and 13 lbs (3.6 to 5.8 kg), depending on the size of the BCD. Divernet described the system as easy to use, so the improvements had their intended effect. A pair of trim pockets can hold an additional 5 lbs (2.2 kg) each. The BCD’s lift capacity is between 22 and 40 lbs (10 to 18 kg), once again depending on the size. The BCD is made from tough, 1000-denier nylon.

For cargo-carrying, the Avid CQR-3 has six stainless steel D-rings and a pair of big pockets. The integrated weights fit into those pockets, causing a potential problem common in many BCDS: when you use the integrated weight system, it fills up part of the pocket volume. Divernet  reported these pockets were awkward to access due to the zipper position, which zips open from back to front. In addition to the standard pair of jacket pockets, however, the Avid CQR-3 has a utility tool pocket secured by a velcro flap mounted on the outside. This sort of thing is ideal for a folding knife, back-up dive light or similar item, providing as it does an easily accessed, compact third pocket for the one or two items a diver needs to keep handy.

Sherwood’s Avid CQR-3 BCD is a tough, stable and comfy jacket BCD that covers all the basics. For divers who are looking for a jacket BCD in the Scubapro Knighthawk class, this latest installment of the Avid offers similar features at a lower price.

Average Price: $375

 

15
June

Aluminum vs. Carbon vs. Steel Scuba Tanks

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Aluminum vs. Carbon vs. Steel Scuba Tanks Posted in: Dive Gear Tips, Other Accessories, Scuba Product Guides
Scuba tanks

A mix of scuba tanks (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

For decades, divers shopping for their own air cylinder(s) have had two basic choices: aluminum or steel. Carbon fiber is a relative newcomer to scuba tanks, despite the fact that material has been used in high performance manufacturing sectors for many years. The old aluminum vs. steel debate is already out of date, and will only become more irrelevant as carbon fiber tanks become more widespread. The new issue for air tanks is whether to go aluminum, carbon or steel.

Aluminum Scuba Tanks: Most tanks on the market or encountered at dive shops are made of aluminum. On the plus side, aluminum tanks are the cheapest tanks out there, and they are more resistant corrosion than steel.

The drawbacks about aluminum all stem from the simple fact that aluminum is a relatively soft metal. In many applications, aluminum is chosen because it is lighter than steel, but in such applications the softness of aluminum is not an important issue. A scuba tank must withstand over a ton of pressure per square inch, however, so an aluminum cylinder must be thicker to compensate for its softness. Despite its reputation for lightness, this makes an aluminum tank heavier than its steel counterpart.

Paradoxically, aluminum tanks are also more buoyant than steel tanks, because aluminum is less dense. As a result, the typical aluminum tank becomes more buoyant over the course of a dive, as the specific density of the tank and its contents drops. This is neither a positive or a negative, especially since most divers are used to that shift, because aluminum tanks are so commonplace in the diving industry.

The softness of aluminum also makes it prone to stress failures, in basically the same way stress cracks form in airplane fuselages and panels. Aluminum tanks therefore typically last for only about 15 years under regular use, and overfilling will rapidly increase the wear and tear on these tanks.

Carbon Fiber Scuba Tanks: Carbon fiber is chosen for high performance manufacturing because it is incredibly strong, yet also very light at the same time. For scuba tanks, carbon fiber wins in every category except cost. At any given volume, carbon fiber air cylinders will be the most expensive option out there. For that high cost, you get a tank that is corrosion-proof, lighter than steel, and stronger than steel. As a rule, a given carbon fiber tank will have a higher psi rating than its equivalent in steel, and weigh about a third as much. If you can afford it, carbon fiber is the way to go.

Steel Scuba Tanks: Steel air cylinders are tougher and lighter than aluminum. You can overfill steel to a certain extent without seriously degrading the integrity of the tank, and on average a regularly used steel scuba tank lasts for 40 years. They are negatively buoyant in the water, and become less so as the gas in the tank is expended and the specific density changes. Like aluminum, that is neither a pro or a con, but merely a factor to be compensated for.

The main drawback of steel tanks is the rust. Caring for a steel tank is just like caring for any other part of your kit that is made from steel, in that a simple freshwater rinse after the dive is not enough to fight off corrosion. The tank must retain a solid, complete coat of enamel if it is to be adequately protected. Over the lifetime of a tank, that means repainting it several times.

14
June

Tusa FF-19 X-Pert Evolution Scuba Fins

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Tusa FF-19 X-Pert Evolution Scuba Fins Posted in: Below $100, Fins

Tusa’s FF-19 Evolution fins offer an interesting package for divers shopping for gear in the bargain basement. What makes the fins so interesting is that they are split fins, even today a somewhat exotic creature in diving, yet at the same time they are very cheap.

The FF-19 X-Pert Evolution is pretty basic as split fins go. They are full-foot instead of open-heel fins, which probably contributes to the low price tag. The FF-19s use Tusa’s angled design approach, and have stiffening rims to partially negate the floppiness that sometimes poses a problem for the split fin design. Other than that, there isn’t much to fins themselves.

The staggering part is the price tag. Tusa set the recommended price of the FF-19s at $56, and they often retail for under $50. That puts them in the same price category as crappy, generic paddle fins! Scuba Diving was so wow’ed by these fins and their low, low price tag that they gave it both a Best Buy and a Tester’s Choice for 2012. It should be pointed out that double whammy from Scuba Diving isn’t quite as meaningful in this instance as it sometimes is, because of the way the magazine parses its categories. Just how many new full-foot, split fins are there this year? Even so, the Tusa FF-19 X-Pert Evolution is the fin to choose if you are looking for a split fin and working on a tight budget.

Average Price: $50

30
May

Best Dive Knives

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Best Dive Knives Posted in: Dive Knives, Scuba Product Guides

Dive Knife For most recreational divers, a knife is just an accessory, since the odds of such a diver needing to cut fishing line (or anything else) are minimal. Carrying a knife is a nice safety hedge, but in almost invariably such divers never need to pull the knife from its sheath. In this circumstance, the best dive knives are of the small and unobtrusive variety.

Divers who need to do real work underwater, however, need something with more heft. Many big knives are designed as de facto underwater multi-tools, doubling as pry bars and hammers as the need arises. If you need a heavy tool like that, you need it, but most divers don’t.

The final criteria for judging the Top 5 dive knives is maintenance. Basic stainless steel rusts if it comes into regular contact with salt water and isn’t cleaned and oiled. If you actually use your knife, then how well it holds an edge, and therefore how often you must sharpen it, comes into play. The bottom line is that since a knife is a safety back-up for most divers, most divers want a knife that is compact and low maintenance.

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

Top 5 Dive Knives

1. Promate Diving and Snorkeling Titanium: This Promate blade garnered a lot of attention because of its appearance on Man vs. Wild (Ultimate Survival in the UK). It is a mid-sized knife with the complete set of frills: standard edge, serrated edge, line cutter notch and pommel knob for lanyards and hammering. The titanium construction makes it tough, enables it to hold an edge well, and guarantees corrosion-resistance. The real reason why this is the best dive knife around, however, is the cost. You’ll be hard pressed to find a new titanium knife for a mere $60. *

2. Mares Force Bat Titanium: The Bat Titanium is the folding dive knife on this list, and it beat out the Spyderco Atlantic/Pacific Salt for two reasons. First, the Spyderco cutters are either standard or serrated, not both. The Bat Titanium is. Second, this Mares knife comes with a tether for more storage options. The Mares is also made of titanium, whereas the Spyderco knives are H-1 stainless steel. Both are equally rust-proof, but titanium is harder. As for why this is #2 and not #1, folding knives aren’t quite as durable as a knife with a full tang (i.e. the metal spine of the blade extends into the handle). *

 3. Oceanic Scorpion: The Oceanic Scorpion is the cheap choice for the Top 5 dive knives. In a modest $30 package, it offers a simple knife with all the frills: standard edge, serrated edge, line-cutting notch and a hammer stud on the pommel. The only drawback is the plain stainless steel construction, so it will require cleaning and oiling to keep the rust away. *

4. Cressi Orca: This is the winner in the hefty tool category. It is big, has a pommel that was actually meant for hammering, and comes with a standard edge on one side and a serrated edge on the other. Some will consider it heresy that the Orca beats out the Aqua Lung Master in this category, but the problem with the Master is all the inferior copies parading around under the same name. If you buy an Orca, you know you are getting a quality dive tool and not some knocked-off piece of crap. *

5. XS Scuba Beta Titanium: This mid-sized blade has all the frills, plus solid titanium construction. It is just a magnificent performer, and its only drawback is the relatively hefty price tag. *

* Entry carried over from 2012