Charles Hood weighs up the benefits of this lightweight BC
As the airline industry continues to bump up luggage weight levies on divers and other international travellers, the scuba industry has responded by launching new ranges of lightweight equipment.
This year in particular, DIVE's Test Centre has received a steady stream of super-light BCs, with the most recent delivery being this natty little number from Mares. I've always admired the marketing department at Mares – whoever named this BC the F-Light knew that its principal market would be divers on the move.
We've been diving with it in a number of different conditions for the past three months and think it fits the bill perfectly. There are a few minor tweaks that we would like to have seen - more of which later – but on the whole, this is a super jacket with an above-average build quality.
In the first instance, it is very light, weighing in at 2.35kg for a large – only a touch heaver than one of the lead blocks on my weight belt. Secondly, its 420 Cordura fabric gives it a tough, high-quality feel – it certainly appears to be up to the job.
We appreciated the super-light alloy material used in the manufacture of the D-rings, which are perfectly placed to carry all the accessories a sports diver is ever likely to use. There are two on each shoulder strap, one at the bottom of each of the two pockets and two smaller ones, ideal for clipping gauges to, at the top and front of the pockets.
Disappointingly, you don't get integrated weights, but there are two whopping side pockets complete with large, easy-to-use zips – we liked these a lot. Let's face it, if you're on the move, it is best to use the dive centre's weight belt as these are usually included in the dive package anyway.
So large are the pockets that they easily accommodated my AP Valves delayed SMB with a small supply cylinder attached. Assembling the BC on a 12-litre cylinder is straightforward - there is easily enough webbing to go around a 15-litre cylinder should it be required. As there is no backpack, there is a secondary strap that runs around the upper section of the cylinder, which is designed to hold the BC and trim weight pockets securely in place.
This was the only aspect of the BC that caused me concern. There's nothing inherently wrong with the secondary strap, but the trim weight pockets are positioned too high, with the result that the weight is distributed across your shoulders. I firmly believe that such trim weights should be positioned lower down, especially if you are using aluminium cylinders, which are prone to buoyancy. Look at the other BCs in the Mares stable, and you'll notice that these pockets are lower down than on the F-Light. That said, they could prove useful for carrying a strobe, electric personal locator beacon or other locating devices.
The elastic cummerbund works well and takes up any slack that may creep in during the dive due to suit compression. On the surface, the power inflator does a good job of quickly stuffing the F-Light full of gas and it appeared to give a generous amount of support. When fully pumped up, the chest inflation valve on my drysuit was breaking the surface of the water. This apparent high lift capacity was confirmed back at the Test Centre to be a generous 200 newtons – equivalent to a weight of about 20kg.
There are three dump valves in the usual places – one on the top of the corrugated hose, one top right and the other bottom left – that all let the air out efficiently.
High quality lightweight BC
Value 7 Performance 9
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