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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.

Open-Heel vs. Full-Foot Fins

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Open-Heel vs. Full-Foot Fins Posted in: Dive Gear Tips, Fins, Scuba Product Guides
Aqualung Fins

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Open-heel vs. full-foot fins are one of those gear issues that tends to produce clear preferences among divers. Where one diver will say that once he went open heeled he never looked back, another will tell you that old fashioned full-foot fins are more reliable and produce more thrust. Since a pair of fins is often one of the first pieces of gear a novice diver collects, a look at this fundamental question is in order.

Click here to see the complete set of fin reviews from Dive Gear Reviews

Open-Heel Fins

Most divers collecting their own kit prefer open-heel (strapped) fins, and the fins offer three principal advantages. First, they are more suitable for cold water diving or taking to a variety of temperature conditions because they are adjustable. To a certain extent, a diver can wear thicker or thinner wet boots to compensate for water temperature and still wear the same set of fins. This is impossible for full-foot fins.

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In almost all instances, open-heel fins are paired with the aforementioned wet boots. Wearing those wet boots protects the heel from chafing, a common problem for occasional divers using tight full-foot fins. If you don’t wear full-foot fins on a regular basis, then you probably need to wear socks to prevent the rubber skirt from blistering and tearing the skin on your heel after just one day of use.

The third plus for open-heel fins is they are usually easier to get on and off than full-foot fins. This is doubly the case if the open-heel fins have a steel spring strap, in place of the more typical rubberized strap and buckle arrangement.

The main drawback of open-heel fins is that they invariably cost more than full-foot fins. This is especially the case for fins with steel spring straps.

Full-Foot Fins

Full-foot fins have a molded, elastic, rubberized skirt that holds the fin on the foot. These fins can be worn without wet boots, but that means the diver loses the protection from chafing and cold the wet boots afford. Hence, these fins can only be worn by divers in warm water, and infrequent divers who lack heavy callouses on their heels will probably need to wear socks.

However, full-foot fins have a few clear pluses. They are usually cheaper than open-heel fins, and if a diver wears them frequently enough to build up resistance to chafing, then the fin eliminates the need to carry around and manage one more bit of gear (the pair of wet boots).

Fans of full-foot fins also swear that the extra grip of the elastic, molded skirt gives the fin superior transfer of power from the legs to the fin, thereby giving it slightly more thrust than the equivalent open-heel fin. Dive Gear Reviews is unaware of any scientific tests regarding this claim, but it does appear frequently enough in reviews that put the open-heel and full-foot versions of the same fin model in comparison. Certainly no one makes the same claim for open-heel fins.


Mares Matrix Dive Computer Review

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

Updated September 24, 2012

The wristwatch number crunching Matrix is the latest dive computer from Mares. Loaded with new features and plenty of flexibility, the Matrix is a cut above the bulk of its class.

Data on the Matrix is very legible, thanks to its high resolution dot matrix display, complete with backlighting, and Scuba Gear Reports gave the computer high marks for clarity and information presentation. Mares put in all the usual wing dings one might expect from a high-end computer, such as timers, stopwatches, adjustable settings and alarms, but there are also a few extras that are not so common.

First off, the Matrix has a tilt-adjustable digital compass. Those are becoming more common on modern dive computers, but are very far from standard. Mares also made the Matrix with a rechargeable battery, which hooks up to computers, car sockets and whatnot. That feature is even less common than the digital compass. It easily switches back and forth between imperial and digital. Some computers have that capability, but not many, and few make it as simple to use. Finally, the Matrix has some mixed gas capability, making it a dive computer that can go technical.

The aforementioned rechargeable lithium-ion battery has a 10-hour duration, assuming no use of either the compass or backlighting. The Matrix is rated for depths of 150 m (492 feet).

Just about the only thing missing on this very high-end dive computer is air integration, so if you are interested in getting all the latest gadgets for your money or simply must have that feature, we recommend waiting a little while. Mares will probably introduce a Matrix Air next year. Otherwise, if you are looking for a wristwatch dive computer with loads of features and growth potential into tec diving, this is the one. Scuba Diving gave it their 2012 Tester’s Choice.

Average Price: $600


ScubaMax BC-7000 Integra 2 Scuba BCD Review

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on ScubaMax BC-7000 Integra 2 Scuba BCD Review Posted in: BCDs, Between $251-$500

The most recent evolution of ScubaMax’s buoyancy controller line, the Integra 2 (BC-7000) is a rugged, highly functional jacket-style BCD, with an emphasis on the “rugged” part. The Integra 2 is made from 1100 denier Nylon, a very heavy and tough grade of fabric. While that adds to the weight of the BCD (8 to 9 lbs dry weight for most models), the basic construction of the BCD will take punishment and last for a very long time.

The Integra 2 also delivers in the cargo carrying department. Whereas many BCDs have three or four stainless steel D-rings, this BCD has six: two on the shoulders, two on the upper waist/lower chest, and two on the bottom waist. The BCD also has two ample size pockets, with most of their volume resting above the integrated weight system’s pockets. This corrects a fault common in many BCDs with integrated weights and pockets, namely that the use of integrated weight system fills most of the interior volume of the pockets, making them useless. There are also two back pockets for trim weights, each capable of holding a 5 lbs/2 kg block.

The tank mounts are capable of handling single or double tanks, a plus for tec divers or divers interested in some growth potential into tec diving. High lift capacity, three dump valves, and the standard corrugated hose inflator round out the picture on this ScubaMax BCD.

Average Price: $440


Tusa RS-790 Scuba Regulator Review

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Tusa RS-790 Scuba Regulator Review Posted in: Between $251-$500, Scuba Regulators

The RS-790 is Tusa’s latest regulator, as well as the new top of the line in that department. As one might expect for such a reg, the RS-790 delivers solid performance under difficult conditions.

Like many companies, Tusa packages their regulators according to a code system that denotes both the first and second stages. In this case, the first stage is the R-700, a balanced diaphragm design with a dry pressure chamber and an exterior rib section. The latter features are specifically designed to improve performance under cold water conditions. The dry chamber also reduces the risk of corrosion for the reg’s internal moving parts. The first stage also comes equipped with two HP and four LP ports. Two of those LP ports are designated as “high flow” ports, delivering 15% more air than the normal LP port. This is a handy feature for divers with LP accessories that are a little hungrier for air.

The other half of the RS-790 is the S-90 second stage, a pneumatically balanced design. It comes with a venturi knob, but as an added plus that knob is labeled. No more guesswork for infrequent divers who can’t remember which way to turn their knob!

The Tusa RS-790 is 40% nitrox compatible.

Average Price: $450