If I sum up all the fees I’ve paid for excess baggage charges on airlines for bringing my scuba gear, I could buy another set, or afford a dive trip to the Maldives! I’ve been aware of this challenge since my first inter-island dive trip, but it was made more pronounced after our near-mishap-dive in Boracay in May 2012 (something I’ll write about it in my next instalment of Disaster Proofing Your Trip). For now, I am so happy to have discovered and tried out the lighter side of diving with the Aqualung Zuma!
The Buoyancy Control Device, or BCD, is one of the essential pieces of scuba gear that every diver needs to eventually own. I say eventually since not all newbie scuba divers have the thick wad of cash or a deep credit or a benefactor to purchase all gear and accessories at the first intake of compressed air. It’s also one of the more expensive pieces of equipment, not to mention using up to 40% of a diver’s baggage weight and space allocation, so choosing the right one depends on your medium to long-term diving plans. Having said this, I wish I had gotten this advice before I bought my first set and had looked at my options more closely.
My first BCD – the Aqualung Pro LT, which I bought because it has integrated weights system and looks really nice with silver and red embellishments (alright, I bought it because it looked really nice!), set me back almost USD 500. But, don’t get me wrong, this BCD worked perfectly and I had the best time with it. It made me feel very secure and provided me with the required mobility during the first few years of diving. I don’t want to think that I have outgrown it, rather I have discovered the need for a lighter and more travel-friendly alternative.
Enter Aqualung Zuma! At 2kg (dry weight) it made a lot of difference on the weight and space I am packing. The weight of my gear is 30% lighter and I have 50% more space in my crate (which means I could probably get a more compact dive bag than my current Pro Blue crate system). That’s the immediate benefit and certainly fits in my long-term diving intention as I plan to do more international dive trips in the next 2 to 3 years.
Second benefit, I wanted a BCD that will feel lighter underwater and could give me better mobility when I take photos and videos. While the Pro LT gives a great feeling of security as the jacket type BCD hugs my body snuggly, it also restricts some movements especially in tight spaces. The Aqualung Zuma’s back-inflate design allows freedom underwater since it doesn’t have the feeling of wearing a heavy vest, no crotch strap and no metal back plate. My first experience with the Aqualung Zuma pitted it against a strong current and combined with my Aqualung Slingshot fins I found myself able to go through with less effort and still managed to stop and take a few shots.
Third benefit, the Aqualung Zuma has the same integrated weight, release, locking and purge systems as the Pro LT making the switch a lot easier and intuitive. I am so used to the Pro LT system and found the similarities in the Zuma’s control a welcomed relief as I got comfortable setting up and using it in a matter of seconds.
I was only able to do one dive with the Aqualung Zuma, but it was quite a challenging one with strong current while photographing fantastic creatures. I am certainly looking forward to taking it on my next trip for a longer, more challenging spin. Thanks, Aqualung for a fantastic product!