Over the past year, I have been diving with all sorts of Buoyancy Compensators (BCDs).

So I was very excited during a recent trip to Indonesia when the Bali dive shop Divemasters Indonesia loaned me a different BCD to test out.  During the three months I spent in Indonesia over the past year, I’d often popped into Divemasters. I was having trouble with another BCD not fitting very well and becoming a little bit of a nuisance for me while diving. So I spent some good time with Udo, the manager of the shop, who took me through his inventory to find a suitable BCD.

The problem I face is that I am very small – just five feet tall with a somewhat small frame – so finding a BCD that fits me can be quite challenging. With other BCDs in the past, I’ve found that the shoulders can be loose or that I move around too much. I’ve never felt snug in a BCD. It seemed to me that the SCUBA companies were not making great equipment designed specifically for women. That’s when Udo showed me the Aqualung Pearl i3, which is a hybrid between a jacket style BCD and a back inflation BCD. I was very intrigued by the sports bra feature, which wraps around the diver to make for a very good fit. The weight system is the well-known SureLock™ II integrated system. And I really like how easily I can insert and pull out the weight pockets – they feel smooth and secure.

Aqualung describes the BCD here:

“The Pearl i3 is a mid-level women’s BC with superior fit, comfort and style. It offers an adjustable waistband and wide adjusting shoulder straps to accommodate women of all shapes and sizes. It also incorporates a plush back lining and Aqua Lung’s proprietary, integrated sports bra (patented) for added comfort and stability.”

After trying on a few different sizes, I settled on the small version. Below are the technical specs for you to consider:

Technical Specs: 

  • Style: Weight-integrated Hybrid Air Cell
  • Size varieties: 5
  • Inflator: Powerline
  • Dump valves: 2 Flat valves
  • Harness: Standard with Sports Bra
  • Weight system: SureLock™ II
  • Tankband: Universal slotted tankband
  • Number of D-rings: 4 metal
  • Pockets: 2 large lobe pockets
  • Knife attachment: Yes
  • Rolled collar: No
  • Ditchable weight: All sizes 20lb/9kg
  • Non-ditchable weight: Sizes M,ML,LG – 10 lb/4.5kg, Size SM – 6lb/3kg, Size XS – none
  • Lift capacity (lbs/N): XS 23/100, SM 28/120, M 32/140, ML 37/160, LG 44/190
  • Warranty: Limited Lifetime

Comfort

Yes, very much! I found this BCD to be beyond comfortable. The sports bra wrap makes the fit very snug and secure. No loose shoulders here, the BCD fits like a dream. The adjustable shoulder straps and waist make it very easy to alter the fit, too.  And with five different sizes offered, you’re sure to find a good fit.

i3 System

With my new BCD in my hands, I headed off to the ocean to test it out. The main feature I was really excited about was the i3 system. When I’m diving I usually have a few cameras (yes, more than one) in my hands, so having the inflator/deflator on the left side of the BC was perfect for me. Many times, I’ve struggled with an inflator hose in an attempt to dump air.  But that was not the case with this BCD. The Pearl i3 can dump air from any position, adding to its performance.

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Pockets

Pockets are another thing I’ve been missing on other BCDs I’ve worn, so I was happy to see that the Pearl i3 has a drop down pocket for me to store some tools in. It also has a large pocket on the right side of the BCD where I like to keep my safety sausage.  Additionally, there’s a small zip pocket on the sports bra wrap that’s another great spot for storing tools.

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Octo Pocket

This was the first Aqualung BCD that I’ve used, so I was very surprised to see this feature in a BCD. The Octo pocket allows you to stash your alternate air source in a pocket on the BCD, still keeping the alternate visible and readily accessible. No more folding hoses and finding clips – this feature takes care of it.

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Summary

It’s been almost three months now that I’ve been diving with this BCD and I couldn’t have better things to say.  The fit is snug and tight, I have pockets to store things within, the i3 Inflator/Deflator system works like a charm.  I feel so much more comfortable and secure underwater with the Pearl i3! One thing to note is that you need to be aware that your inflator is now on your side, so you can accidentally let air into your BCD by hitting the lever on the inflator. While this has happened to me a few times, it was never a big deal as I quickly noticed and corrected it.

 

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