Let's Talk About BCs (part 1)

Yes that's right folks I'm back. After a summer of diving my...ahhh fins off I am rested and ready to continue dispensing more diving wisdom. Now I had a few gripes over the summer about not updating the "tip of the week" every week. Well I can honestly say I was swamped, but I'm happy that so many folks are taking the time to read our advice. Okay all that being said we are going to do the tip of the week a little different. What I am planning on doing is picking a topic and then writing a short piece about it for a couple of weeks. This way I have the time to get it done and you get to learn new stuff. So without any further adieu...

This week's tip is part one about Buoyancy Compensators.

First let's all agree why we wear a BC to begin with.

  1. Hold Your Tank On
  2. Surface Floatation
  3. Control Loss of Buoyancy at Depth

Now I made this list in the order of importance. I know most of you think that "Controlling Loss of Buoyancy at Depth" is the most important thing but I will show you why that is not so. Not today but soon…ah the suspense is killing you isn't it. :-)

So we've all been to popular dive sites and we've all seen it, someone straps their tank on their BC and heads into the water only to have the tank become dislodged and fall out 3 minutes into the dive. At that point our diver is now holding 6-11 pounds of tank on by their teeth. If you have never had it happen to you then chances are you are just lucky. This week we are going to examine straps and how they work and why some do and why some don't

First let's examine the most common tank band the Nylon Band with Plastic Buckle (wow that's catchy). If you take a look at the picture below you will see an example of this style of strap.

For years the scuba manufacturers have been using this buckle and have made it an industry standard. There is only one problem with that... it doesn't work! Sure a lot of people have gone into the depths of the ocean with this system and had it perform just fine, however a lot of folks have had problems with it just as well. This system will hold your tank on until you begin to bounce up and down, for instance walking down a stairway to the ocean or jumping off a dive boat. Now like I said above it won't always happen but is that really the guarantee you are looking for? Do you want your dealer to tell you that your regulator "should" be okay?

So what is wrong with it? Well for starters the nylon that is used in making that strap will expand when it gets wet. So you can tighten it up as much as possible then go in the water and poof out comes the tank. This can be avoided by walking down to the water and thoroughly soaking your BC (mainly your tank strap) so that when you put your tank on it, it is in the expanded state.

Secondly the way the webbing is woven into the buckle poses a problem. It makes it very difficult at best to pull the buckle/webbing tight enough to flip the buckle back over and cinch up the tank.

Once you get it where you want it you then Velcro down the extra piece that is hanging out.

Anyone of us who has ever had a piece of scuba gear with Velcro on it, gloves, BC pockets, whatever quickly learns that if you don't keep that Velcro clean then it doesn't stick. The last place I want to find out my Velcro isn't clean is at depth.

The next band that we will examine is the "Super Cinch" band. If you take a look at the picture below you will see an example of this style of strap.

As of the writing of this tip there is only one company that uses this style of buckle on their BC. That company is Scubapro. I have no desire to turn tip of the week into a sales presentation but I also believe in giving credit where credit is due. This buckle is the best tank holding buckle on the market. Here's Why:

For starters they use high quality nylon webbing. This webbing does not expand when it gets wet. Once you set the tank on your BC you won't get any surprises underwater. Secondly the cinching system is very simple. By easily adjusting the Velcro strap for size you are able to get the band incredibly tight. How tight??? Tight enough to dent the tank! Okay so that's not true but tight enough so that you have to put every ounce of your strength into closing the buckle. So you think the tank will fall out now? Nope.

Wait a minute you said that Velcro when it gets dirty doesn't hold well. That's true, the beauty of the design of this buckle is that the actual Velcro connection is placed under the tank so by tightening the tank down you put a lot of pressure on the Velcro connection and ensure it stays closed.

Now that I have given the facts let me add one more, as a person that teaches scuba diving for a living I have met a lot of folks who have lost their tanks when they dove one time or another. Every time I see it I recommend the Super Cinch band. Some take my advice some don't but I can assure you the ones that did have told me that they have never had a problem again. The good news is for you folks that may have been misinformed when you bought your BC and have the old style buckles, you can order just the super cinch band.

Until next week stay warm, stay wet and hang on to that dang tank!!!!!

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