ScubaLab: Best Dive Gear of 2015

This past year ScubaLab tested more than 70 pieces of new gear. Here are the regs, BCs, fins, snorkels and knives that excelled.

GEAR OF THE YEAR: REGS

ScubaLab Regulator Test 2015

See full test results at scubadiving.com/reg-test-2015

With so many regs to test in 2015, we split up our test, evaluating models under $500 (July) and over $500 (August).

How We Test Regulators

ScubaLab put these regs through two tests — the first is conducted on a breathing simulator (objective), and the second by our team of test divers (ergonomic).

Objective Testing

We conducted tests on an ANSTI wet breathing simulator at Dive Lab, a commercial test facility in Panama City Beach, Florida. The simulator measures the effort (work of breathing) required to move air through a regulator as it is subjected, under- water, to a precise series of depths and breathing rates.

The simulator pressurizes the test chamber to simulate depths of 132 fsw, 165 fsw and 198 fsw. Each “breath” by the machine moves 2.5 liters of air through the regulator, at breathing rates of 15, 25 and 30 breaths a minute. These precisely measured volumes of air — 2.5 liters multiplied by the breathing rate — are called Respiratory Minute Volumes (RMVs).

We don’t test on the simulator for a pass/fail grade, but to objectively gauge performance in carefully controlled conditions. You can see how each reg performed on the breathing simulator in the charts that accompany the reviews.

Ergonomic Test Categories

  • Ease of breathing in swimming position

  • Ease of breathing in head-up position

  • Ease of breathing in head-down position

  • Wetness in normal swimming position

  • Wetness in head-down and odd positions

  • Bubble interference in normal swimming position

  • Bubble interference in vertical/stationary position

  • Ease of clearing regulator using the blowing method

  • Ease of clearing regulator using the purge button

  • Purge button stiffness and comfort

  • Comfort of mouthpiece

  • Venturi lever adjustment function and effectiveness

  • Breathing- adjustment-knob function and effectiveness

See the Full Test Results Here


GEAR OF THE YEAR: BCs

SCUBALAB: 13 New BCs Tested

See full test results at scubadiving.com/BC-test

In our June issue we tested 13 new jacket, hybrid and back-inflation BCs for performance, stability and comfort.

How We Test BCs

A ScubaLab BC test has two parts: an in-water ergonomic evaluation by test divers and a series of objective tests we perform in a pool.

Ergonomic Test Categories

  • Assembly

  • Loading Weight System

  • Comfort and Adjustment

  • Attitude and Stability

  • Pockets

  • Valve Operation

  • Ascent Control

  • Surface Floating Position

  • Weight-Ditch System

Objective Tests

  • Flow-Rate Test

  • Buoyant Lift Test

  • Inherent Buoyancy Test

See the Full Test Results Here


GEAR OF THE YEAR: FINS

See full test results at scubadiving.com/fin-test-2015

In our May issue we tested 13 new open-heel and full-foot fins in a wide variety of styles and designs.

How We Test Fins

Fins were also evaluated for weight, buoyancy and the effectiveness of non-slip material on the bottom of the sole.

Fin Test Categories

  • Ease of Donning Fin
  • Adjusting for Fit
  • Fit and Comfort
  • Stability
  • Power vs. Stress
  • Kicking Style
  • Acceleration
  • Maneuverability
  • Surface Swimming
  • Ease of Removing Fin

See the Full Test Results Here


GEAR OF THE YEAR: SNORKELS

ScubaLab Snorkel Test

See full test results at scubadiving.com/snorkels-2015

In our September/October issue we tested a dozen snorkels, including pocket models, for performance, comfort and convenience.

How We Test Snorkels

To evaluate the performance of each snorkel in open-water conditions, the ScubaLab team of test divers snorkeled of the beach at Sebastian Inlet State Park on Florida’s Atlantic Coast in seas of about 2 feet, with an onshore breeze of about 12 knots. Using waterproof test sheets and slates, divers rated each snorkel in seven performance categories, with 1 being poor performance and 5 being excellent. Divers also recorded comments about their experience using each snorkel and ranked their top three favorites in each category.

Ergonomic Test Categories

  • Security, adjustability, convenience and ruggedness of the mask attachment.

  • Comfort, water seal and position of the mouthpiece.

  • Effectiveness in blocking water entry.

  • Effectiveness in removing water by the purge valve or blowing.

  • Ability to supply sufficient air.

  • Operating without excessive noise, such as gurgling or rattling.

  • Weight, dimensions, stability (wobbling) or other factors affecting overall comfort.

See the Full Test Results Here


GEAR OF THE YEAR: KNIVES

See full test results at scubadiving.com/diveknives

In our March/April issue we tested 22 knives for performance, construction and corrosion resistance.

How We Test Knives

We evaluated each knife’s ability to cut several types of line:

  • 1⁄4-inch diamond braid nylon-poly

  • 1⁄4-inch hollow-braid poly

  • 1⁄2-inch braided nylon

  • Heavy (.095-inch) plastic trimmer line.

While we could have used tougher lines (such as Kevlar), we chose the lines we did because they’re the kind of cheap, often-discarded, long-lived materials that we encounter diving.

We made a first cut through a hand-held loop of each type of line, and rated the cutting ability from 1 to 5 (1=Poor and 5=Excellent). Next we cut a double thickness of each line, and then we made 20 repetitive cuts of all lines on a block of soft wood, and followed that with more cuts of hand-held loops (since you’re not likely to find a cutting board when diving). We also scored each knife on the following: the security of its sheath or folding/locking mechanism; the ease of deploying/stowing the knife barehanded and with 5 mm gloves; how it withstood 10 pounds of weight when wedged 1-inch deep in a block of wood; and its overall fit and finish.

See the Full Test Results Here

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