You voted for your all-time favourite items of dive gear, and most of them are still being made. John Bantin rounds them up
AT THE DIVE 2005 SHOW at the NEC, Birmingham at the end of October, one particular display seemed to catch everybody's eye. The 25 items of dive gear on show were familiar enough, but it was the fact that they had been selected by DIVER readers and DIVERNET users as their all-time favourites that made it a must-see.
The online vote was for those items of equipment that had given divers the most satisfaction in the way they performed and continued to perform over the long term. And while the appeal of seeing whether one's own favourites were reflected on the display was understandable, I must say that the results came as no surprise to me.
Among regulators the Apeks ATX 200 (placed 4th) attracted the most votes. We've come a long way since DIVER upset the status quo in the diving trade in 1991 by taking an Apeks regulator to 55m with four divers breathing from it simultaneously. This revealed that it performed better than many then highly regarded regulators.
Other manufacturers rushed to catch up, and now we're spoilt for choice. The Aqua Lung Legend Supreme (11th), a regulator that has a lot in common with the Apeks product, also did well in the poll. Both models have environmentally sealed diaphragm-type first stages.
The Scubapro MK25/S600 (13th) represents a different design philosophy, being a piston-design regulator, but its extremely high performance, delivered in a sublime manner, showed it to be almost as popular. Also up there was the good-value Oceanic Delta 3 (19th), a regulator that has always done extremely well in our side-by-side deepwater regulator tests.
Traditionalists were represented, too, with the side-exhaust Poseidon Cyklon Metal (17th) attracting a lot of votes.
The Seac-sub Pro 2000 BC contains 21st century design features
There were no surprises among the BCs, either. The appeal of the Buddy Commando (3rd), designed to be robust enough for a divers entering the water from a speeding Gemini Craft or even a helicopter, is enduring.
Owners continue to get satisfaction from these heavyweights of the BC world long after their original bright colour has faded.
The Commando couldn't be described as sleek, however - unlike the SeaQuest Diva LX (12th). Its flexible bodice is designed to hug a woman's body, making it extremely comfortable and obviously very popular.
The Seacsub Pro 2000 (15th) fits somewhere in the middle. It's robust enough but includes some 21st century design features, such as the ability to alter the trim between when the diver is submerged and needs it high at the back, and when at the surface, when buoyancy support is better low down.
Suunto dominated the voting for diving computers, with its now ubiquitous Vyper nitrox computer taking 1st place overall. Suunto was first to introduce a simple menu-driven system activated by positive push-buttons, simple and user-friendly.
Suunto Vyper, your favourite piece of dive kit.
The watch-like Suunto Stinger (5th) was not far behind. Watching divers boarding planes to Sharm reveals many to be sporting Stingers.
Aladin computers were brand leaders not so long ago. A direct descendent, the Scubapro/Uwatec Smart Pro (14th), now also with the option of an algorithm that includes micro-bubble suppression, got plenty of votes, although it has now been superseded by recent developments from Uwatec's Swiss factory.
It was predictable that the Delta P VR3 (21st) computer was voted for by technical divers, as it is virtually the only mixed-gas diving computer available. With continuous software upgrades available, some say it is the only computer you will ever need.
Fins? A poll of professional dive guides the world over will reveal one firm favourite, and that is the Mares Plana Avanti Quattro (2nd). They have always been at or near the top of the performance table in our comparative tests of fins, and users are clearly still happy with them.
The fins of many divers' choice for a long time now were runners-up - Mares Plana Avanti Quattros
Avant garde Force Pro fins (6th), designed in California by Bob Evans, attracted a lot of votes too, presumably from those who know how to get the best out of them. Their pure polyurethane content makes them virtually indestructible.
Voting for drysuits was fragmented, but some clear loyalties were revealed with the neoprene O'Three Ri 2/100 (8th) attracting many votes for the custom-satisfaction guaranteed by an exemplary after-sales service.
The classic crushed neoprene DUI GF200 XRKN (16th) has benefitted from continuous development over a long period to produce a hard-wearing, good-looking suit that will keep anyone totally dry, though its quality comes at a high price.
Rufty-tufty wreck divers revealed their partiality to the tough Otter Britannic (18th), conceived for and supplied to divers on the Otter-sponsored Kevin Gurr expedition to dive the Britannic wreck in 1997. It was designed to be as strong as possible, employing a Trilaminate material often used as kneepads on other suits. This has a durable surface and some stretch.
AP Valves changed the rules when it introduced a delayed-deployment SMB with a constriction to stop it deflating if it fell over at the surface. Others could only follow. Then it introduced an independent inflation system, using a small "crack" bottle to do the job. Deployment from depth had never been easier and the Buddy Delayed SMB (9th) has become almost standard issue among British divers.
You need a reel and line to use with the buoy, and the British-made McMahon Reel (24th) with its traditional "BSAC" design and modern materials has proved to give lasting satisfaction to many divers.
It's amazing how a simple thing such as a reel and line can cause problems in the way it operates. Lines tangle or bird's nest, reel bobbins fall apart, but I've had a McMahon for years and it has never given me grief.
Among masks, Cressi-sub, the Italian manufacturer, distanced itself from those products made in the Far East with the Big Eye. By tilting the lens frame and giving deeper lenses, it gave divers a better view of items of equipment they might need to access in the chest area. It was an instant hit.
A rash of look-alike products followed from competitors but the Cressi Matrix (20th), evolved from the Big Eye, obviously maintains satisfaction levels and was one of the few masks voted for in any numbers.
The IST Pro Ear 2000 (22nd) solves a problem encountered by many divers in tropical seas - ear infections. Enclosing the ears within the same air space as the eyes keeps them more or less dry and, esoteric as this product might be, enough users have been liberated by the Pro Ear 2000 mask to vote for them in great number.
The IST Pro Ear 2000 mask has saved more than a few divers the misery of waterborne ear infections
Two very different lamps made the Top 25. One was the expensive but utterly reliable and trouble-free Kowalski Speed 1250 (23rd), which has the ability to be charged without having to break open any seals that might leak later. This very high-performance product emits a great deal of light.
The Ikelite PC Lite (25th) is at the less expensive end of the price range for underwater lights. It emits far more light in a tight, well-designed beam than anyone would expect.
Usually bought as a back-up light because it stows so conveniently in a pocket, divers often use them as primary diving lights.
Lamps are notoriously trouble-prone, so many distributors avoid selling them. The well thought-out Ikelite design has stood the test of time.
Finally, let's remember the APD Inspiration (10th). "The Inspiration could be the most significant development in diving since Jacques Cousteau invented the aqualung." That's what DIVER said after extensively diving the first production models of this rebreather in 1998.
Besides "silent diving", its closed-circuit format gives the benefit of low gas consumption and minimal decompression obligations. The no-stop time for 20m is around three hours!
The Inspiration Vision and Evolution CCRs, its direct descendents, are now produced for the leisure diving market in numbers that would have seemed amazing for what was seen as a very specialised product a few years ago.
The first to be put into mass production, with a training scheme to back it up, it is true to say that it was the Inspiration that kick-started the CCR revolution.