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
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
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 email@example.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
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
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