Zeagle: A Brand to Grow With
Zeagle, which began in the 1970’s as a parachute equipment manufacturer, specializes in tough, reliable, and adaptable Buoyancy Control Devices (BCDs). Their innovative designs have made them widely popular with tec divers, cave divers, and professional rescue teams. Indeed, Zeagle was the first to introduce the BCD integrated weight system.
The influences of their skydiving origins can be seen in their unique ripcord release system; in an emergency the diver just pulls the cord, which opens the bottom of the main weight pockets allowing the weight to drop out. The cord can be easily re-threaded leaving only the weights to be replaced, unlike most quick-ditch systems in which the whole weight pocket is lost. Like other systems, however, the trim weights are not attached to this system so it is important to remember to release them individually if needed.
Zeagle designs cover a broad range of functions. Some are designed for specific uses; others fall pretty squarely in the middle of the technical to recreational spectrum. The Covert BCD, weighing in at just under four pounds, is perfect for travel, without losing any of the durability of other Zeagle BCDs. It does, however, lack the lift power of other, more tec oriented BCDs. The Ranger is an excellent example of the midpoint between tec and rec diving. It is rugged and durable but with a lot of room for adaptation. You can adjust it for nearly any dive environment. The Express Tech, 911, and S.A.R. BCDs all are designed specifically for technical applications. The Express Tech is a bare bones and highly customizable set up while the 911 and S.A.R. are designed for public safety divers and search and rescue divers. They weigh 9.6 lbs. and 12 lbs., respectively, when dry and sport an impressive lift capacity (65lbs) compared to the other models.
At the moment, all Zeagle BCD’s are back inflate or back flotation style BCDs, meaning that the bladder is mounted on the back instead of wrapping around the shoulders and the torso (jacket style BCD). Back inflate BCDs hold a diver differently in the water than a jacket style. They typically tip forward slightly keeping the diver horizontal in the water. This is ideal under the water but if weight is not distributed properly it can pitch you forward on the surface leaving you fighting to stay upright. To counteract this tendency to tip forward, trim pockets can be added (if not already present on your specific model) toward the back of the BCD to counteract the lift and tilt. Problems arise when the user doesn’t properly distribute weight, frequently putting too much weight in the front, leading to over inflation and being pushed face down on the surface. All of that said, if you are really in love with jacket style BCDs, keep an eye out; Zeagle is slated to expand into jacket style at some point this year.
I am an Advanced Open Water Diver and have been diving with jacket style BCD’s ever since I was certified. In March, I dove the Zeagle Ranger for the first time and it only took a few dives to find the right combination and distribution of weights to keep me comfortably positioned on and below the surface. So don’t be daunted by the idea of having to figure out the best trim for you. It is definitely easier than it sounds. I, also, really liked that you don’t get the squeezing feeling that you get when you inflate a jacket style BCD. I felt like I had a better range of movement and was generally more comfortable.
In short, Zeagle makes a great range of BCDs with the Ranger firmly placed as a solid model for a wide range to diving. I would recommend the Ranger to anyone looking to get into more advanced recreational diving like wreck or cave diving, as well as anybody thinking about tec diving. Absolutely try one before buying it, as they’re not for everyone. But if they are for you, they are hard to beat.
Drew Wyllie is a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver working toward Master Scuba Diver. He is looking forward to escaping to Utila this April to spend some quality time with the whale sharks.