Main Menu
Join Undercurrent on Facebook

The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975 | |
For Divers since 1975
The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
Join Undercurrent on Facebook
"Best of the Web: scuba tips no other
source dares to publish" -- Forbes
June 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 28, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
What's this?

Problems with Weight Pockets

the complaints keep on coming

from the June, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

After reading our April article about a recall for Aqua Lung BCDs with SureLock II weight pocket handles made after 2008, subscriber Fred Brown (Palmdale, CA) wrote that he has an Aqualung Pro QD from around 2004, and "I have replaced at least six weight pockets because the small locking tab breaks off, and there is no way to keep the pockets in after that. Do others have these same issues?"

Actually, weight pockets have been a problem since their creation, as we have reported for many years. By putting the pockets on a BCD, the manufacturers, at least in their minds, added value and therefore could sell them at a higher price. But for many divers, BCD weights have been problematic at best, as we found out once again when asking our subscribers to tell us about their experiences. And it's not just Aqua Lung -- readers cited problems with weighted BCDs from a variety of manufacturers. Some were having so many problems that they switched back to old-style weight belts.

First, a brief background. Last fall, Aqua Lung issued a voluntary recall of 100,000 of its BCDs with SureLock II weight pocket handles because it received 236 reports of the rubber handles detaching from the plastic weight pocket assembly. Aqua Lung was quick to respond to our questions about the recall, saying that while they knew of no injuries, they believed a recall was the best bet. They're taking back the pockets, and the new ones have thickened rubber at the handle base.

Two dive shop owners wrote in to praise -- and defend -- Aqua Lung. Mike Van Hosen, who manages the Dive Shop Inc. in Marietta, GA, says "the SureLock and Surelock II weight pockets and handles honestly have been flawless. Until the recall, we had no issues with the clips or tearing of the handles themselves. We had seen some weight pocket handles beginning to fatigue, and of course, Aqua Lung has sent us replacements of the new reinforced versions. It is very simple to remove the old clip and replace with new version. Aqua Lung has always been excellent at customer service."

Laurie Hannula, who owns Pacific Water Sports in Aloha, OR, suggests that our reader, after breaking six weight pockets may be the one to blame,. "He's not being very careful with his gear; it's very possible he drops them after removing them. We have had few issues with SureLocks, and none with the new weight release handles. Yes, if you have the older-style Surelock II weight release handles, they do need to be replaced. It does surprise me how many people don't take these recalls seriously, and come in years later, demanding the problem be taken care of. People need to take more responsibility for their actions as they try to blame everybody else but themselves."

However, John Bantin, our technical editor, says,"While I've regularly witnessed integrated-weight pockets, complete with their weights, flung from dive tenders onto the aft deck of liveaboards -- an abuse which obviously does nothing for their longevity -- one of the biggest problems is that with frequent exposure to tropical sunshine, the plastic parts often become brittle and fail. This is apparent with weight pocket fasteners that rely on their flexibility to function."

"A back roll off the boat was pretty much a
guarantee that one or both weight pouches
would head for the bottom on their own."

Many readers have reported serious problems not associated with handles breaking. Leslie Thomasson (Signal Mountain, TN), who runs the travel agency Dive The Galapagos, was diving there and hit a rock during a surge, "not hard enough to hurt, but it didn't take much of an impact to cause one of my Aqua Lung Libra pockets to fall out. Galapagos is not the place to have weight pockets falling out, so I bought a Scubapro Knighthawk after that, primarily due to the secure method of pockets locking."

Bill Gleason (Kentfield, CA) was waiting his turn by the boarding ladder during an Indonesia dive trip when another diver accidentally snagged his SureLock's weight pocket's handle. The pocket plummeted into the depths. He too bought a new Scubapro BCD with an integrated weight system because he liked the weight pocket security.

For Ron Bowers (Rowlett, TX), the problem with his Axiom BCD, which he bought in March, was that the SureLock pockets would come out with the slightest pull on the handle. "You could push it in and hear the click, but it had almost no residence. On my first dive during a trip to San Clemente Island, I was in a horizontal position when one pocket fell out and almost hit the diver below. I returned the BCD to the dive shop, and they could not believe how easy the pockets came out. We tried others in their stock, and they were all the same. A salesperson from Aqualung check out the problem, agreed the pockets were not working correctly, and told me he would have a fix in a month. But the pockets I had the problem with were the large pockets (the small pockets stayed in just fine) and I need those when diving in my drysuit. I returned the BCD and bought a Scubapro Glide X with a buckle-type pocket, which totally eliminates the possibility of the weight pocket falling out."

Dave White (Arcata, CA) had continual problems with his Aqua Lung Passport integrated BCD. "A back roll off a boat was pretty much a guarantee that one or both pouches would head for the bottom on their own. When I had a pouch fall on my foot on the boat, I gave up and went to a belt. I returned the BCD and pouches to Aqua Lung twice, and they said there was nothing wrong. When I insisted there was a problem, they offered to sell me a Zuma as a replacement, with a slight discount. However, the dive shop where I purchased the Passport interceded, and managed to get me a 40 percent discount on the Zuma. Then the recall on the Zuma . . . ."

Debby Hamann (EL Cajon, CA) also had an Aqua Lung Zuma travel BCD for nearly two years but only used it for a couple trips a year, so wear and tear was not the problem. "But when I turned upside down, one pocket weight consistently left the pocket and plummeted downward. I ran an extra strap through the top of the weight pocket and attached it to the BCD. It was a pain but it kept me diving. It is a very unreliable lock."

And talk about poor customer service from a dive shop. Dive instructor Denise Boniface (Calgary, AB) lost three SureLock weight pockets. "They were not even broken. All I'm told by my dive shop is I'm not putting them in right. Wow. I'm an instructor with more than 1,000 dives. If I can't 'do it right,'who can?"

It's Not Just Aqua Lung They're Complaining About

Readers wrote in with complaints about other manufacturers' weight systems and their poor designs. John Miller, owner of Texas Dive Center in Lubbock, bought Oceanic BCDs for training and rental because he has owned one for many years and was satisfied "with the integrated pockets that slip into the pouch, and the Velcro flap that snaps/clips into place. The new BCDs, however, use an internal clipping mechanism that is next to impossible to secure reliably. My openwater students find it extremely hard to perform their weight removal and replacement skills underwater, and the instructor has to assist 75 percent of the time. During their openwater dives, we've seen lost weight pouches due to their not being replaced securely. While wearing the BCD, releasing weights is mostly a 'by feel' exercise, and I can't imagine attempting it while wearing gloves. I've told my Oceanic regional sales rep, and was told they are working a solution. It seems almost all of the manufacturers are using the 'clip in' pockets, and you cannot find Velcro any longer. I also am a TUSA dealer and don't like their weight system much better."

Jay Jarrett (Gainesville, VA) had a problem with the older version of Dive Rite's weight pockets, citing their poor design. "Basically, if I had the clip unbuckled to allow for 'quickly ditching' weight, there was Velcro that held the pouch in place. But on one dive, I was oriented directly downward, the weight pouch flipped out, and the momentum separated the Velcro bond -- I literally caught the pouch as it was sinking, which was a good thing because I was in a 7-mm. With the buckle latched, the pouch can't slide out but I must be deliberate about removing weight -- no 'quick release,' so to speak."

Peter Telkins (Salem, OR) has a set of Dive Rite weight pockets "that have fallen out of their sleeves several times with certain soft weights, leaving the weight dangling from the retention clip, and virtually impossible to re-insert underwater. Dive Rite later modified the product with a stiffer weight pouch backer, but never replaced the defective ones already sold. "

Maynard Luterman (Orchard Park, NY) had to have the weights in his two-year-old Dive Rite Transpac replaced twice. "When you dive head down, like in a high current, to get to the reef, the pockets fall out. I have had to use elastics ties to hold them in. On my trip to Cocos Island last year, a fellow diver had the same problem and replaced the weights with a Scubapro substitute that was secure. I am debating whether to replace them or have a shoemaker put Velcro strips in. Either way, they're not well designed."

Older BCDs with Velcro pockets remain a problem. Steven Cohen's (Annandale, VA) seven-year-old Seaquest Balance BCD is poorly-fitting Velcro. When doing a back roll off a panga, they will detach and fall out if I have more than two pounds in them. Consequently, I have to wait for everybody else to make their entry, then slide in feet first!" Few manufacturers now rely on Velcro to keep integrated-weight pockets in place. After frequent immersion in saltwater, then drying in the sun, Velcro deteriorates and loses its sticking power. It also traps sand and other particles, which likewise reduces its ability to hold fast. If you have an older jacket with Velcro pocket fasteners, you ought to scrap it or resort back to a weight belt.

How to Keep the Weight On

If you're reluctant to spend money to replace a BCD with pocket issues, you can jury-rig yours to hold the pockets in place. Lin Gitterman (Toronto, Ontario) has troubles with her women's Cressi Travel Lite. "The weight pockets clip in, but the weights cause the pockets to fold and double-back on themselves, causing the weights to fall out. The weight pockets are still held on to the BCD because the clip is strong but the weight ends up dangling out of the pocket." When she was in Little Cayman, she met another diver with a similar problem but found a solution: "She put a thin sheet of solid plastic in her weight pocket so that it couldn't 'double-back.' This seems to work but still it's a manufacturer's defect. "Tabby Stone (Playa Del Rey, CA) met a woman at her dive resort who also had the Travel Light and had put extra snaps on her trim pockets to keep the weights in.

Mike Bakich (Paxinos, PA) has a Deep Outdoors BCD, bought in 2005, with two flimsy Velcro closures on the weight pouch. "My first cure was to put a two-inch webbing around the pouch, while installed in the BCD, and then I put a stainless steel weight belt buckle on it. After feeling unsafe, I decided to get the DUI weight system, the harness with the pull cords, and that system is wonderful. I just keep my weights loaded in the pockets all the time. Throw that on, then the BCD. It saves so much time instead of trying to get the stupid pouches installed in the BCD. "

Chris Summers, who owns Terrapin Wetsuits in Center Point, TX, says he can add two-inch-wide, quick-disconnect clips to most BCDs with slide-in weight pockets. "They're attached with seat-belt webbing to both the BCD and the pockets to help hold the pocket in place. The cost is $42, plus return shipping. You can e-mail him at chris@terrapinwetsuits.com

John Bantin tells us he was diving with multiple tanks in Truk Lagoon and "had to secure the weight pockets of my favorite BCD with cable ties. That was after I'd dived into the bottom of the hold and successfully searched for a weight pocket that had departed company. Cable ties are not a perfect solution because the weights can't be jettisoned in an emergency, but I was far from home and had no alternative solution."

Going Retro?

Not Richard Boucher (Manhattan Beach, CA), who admits he has lost weight pockets, "but only under conditions where they have been dragged out, like when pulling hand-over-hand along an anchor line in a strong current. Consequently, I always bring spare weight pockets on a trip." He says he will never go back to the old-fashioned weight belt. "The improved attitude you can get with having the weights distributed in a BCD (some lower, some higher) is so much better. Having the weight belt pulling down your waist while the BCD is up around your armpits can be very annoying!"

But some readers either have given up on BCD weight systems or don't see the need for them, and again prefer weight belts. Nancy Balch (Louisville, CO) has a vintage Oceanic Isla BCD that she has used for 15 years, but for the past two, she has left it at home and "gone retro" with a weight belt. "Two reasons: The weights are extremely difficult to seat properly in the pockets, taking five minutes, and the BCD is too heavy to easily transfer to a new tank."

Michael Zagin (Winter Park, FL) also scorns weight pockets. "They cost money, make a BCD heavy to handle, and dangerous. A weight belt is something available at any dive operation, free, will probably never fail, easy to get on and -- most importantly -- off."

All these comments about weight pocket issues truly raise the safety of BCDs with integrated weight pockets. Do they truly add value? It's your call how you gear yourself up. But next time you shop for a BCD, give more than passing consideration to whether weight pockets or a weigh belt is the right choice for you.

To read a piece we published eight years ago on the weight pocket problem, go to www.undercurrent.org/UCnow/dive_magazine/2005/VelcroWater200510.html

-- Ben Davison

I want to get all the stories! Tell me how I can become an Undercurrent Online Member and get online access to all the articles of Undercurrent as well as thousands of first hand reports on dive operations world-wide



NEW! Find in  

| Home | Online Members Area | My Account |
| Travel Index | Dive Gear Index | Health/Safety Index | Environment & Misc. Index | Seasonal Planner | Forums | Blogs | Free Articles | Book Picks | News |
| Dive Resort & Liveaboard Reviews | Featured Reports | Recent Issues | Back Issues | Login | Join | Special Offers | RSS | FAQ | About Us | Contact Us | Links |


Copyright © 1996-2016 Undercurrent (www.undercurrent.org)
3020 Bridgeway, Ste 102, Sausalito, Ca 94965
All rights reserved.

fc