HEAD to HEAD:
XTEC's side pockets take the weights.
XTEC's dump valves are hard to handle.
XTEC's "weightbelt" buckle.
What's in a name? The world of marketing knows that a name can make or break a product. So AP Valves' Buddy Trident (which was launched as the Trimix) and Scubapro's XTEC must both have been aimed squarely at the technical diver. But don't be put off if you are more interested in exploring the shallow water of a coral reef; these BCs have a much wider appeal than their manufacturers originally envisaged - which AP Valves must have recognised, hence the name change.
The Buddy Trident/Trimix first appeared on the scene some years ago and was the first AP Valves BC that I truly liked. The Scubapro XTEC is new for 1999.
Both are single-bladder, double-bag, wing-style BCs which are as much at home with a single tank as with twins. In either case you can access the bladder by undoing a zip in the outer bag. To make either of them into true tekkie BCs you would have to add an additional redundant bladder.
The XTEC comes as a separate XPAK harness and air cell and a variety of lifts are available. I tried the REC TEK air cell (25kg maximum lift). The Buddy Trident comes with only one maximum lift (22.5kg).
The Buddy Trident has a hard backplate, like all its siblings, and is secured to the tank by a single camband. The XPAK uses two cambands and a soft backpack, although a stainless steel backplate is available as an option.
Once donned, the XPAK harness is fastened with a waistband and weightbelt-like buckle, plus a sternum strap. The Buddy Trident's stiffened harness fits snugly around the upper torso and fastens instantly with only one extra-large fastex buckle over a velcro-covered cummerbund.
A large double front-pocket attached to this has a zipped section ideal for precious things like one's mask. There's a velcro-secured flap pocket, too. Both are very accessible. The XTEC offers a pocket as an optional extra.
I am glad to say that Buddy has abandoned the two integrated-weight pockets from which it was impossible to jettison the lead unless you were inverted - when the weights just tumbled out at will. Now these pockets have been enlarged and prove ideal for umbilical lamp-heads, lifting bags, or a rolled-up late-deployment SMB. However, I found they were useful only for things you took out but didn't put back under water. They were impossible to reload.
The XTEC has optional integrated-weight pockets fitted either side on the waist strap. These take weights (I found 4kg per pocket was the ideal maximum) in separate stiffened bags. These are secured by a double helping of velcro with large release toggles. They were easily dumped when necessary. Sometimes I still needed to put weight on a separate weightbelt.
Naturally, there are loads of stainless-steel D-rings on both BCs to attach things like winder reels and sling-tanks when required.
OUT DAMNED AIR!
The outer bag of the REC TEK wing has elasticated cord threaded around it to keep it neat. The outer bag of the Trident has no such help and it does tend to wrap a little around a single tank, though not so much that you'd notice it during the dive. It was solved by using karabiners to clip the D-rings at the bottom of each side of the bag to the nearest D-rings on the harness.
The direct-feed control is simple on both BCs, but I noticed that when the XTEC was fully inflated air escaped from the joint where the Scubapro clip attaches to the corrugated hose. That's in addition to the pressure-relief valve.
When it comes to dumping air, the Trident scores heavily over the XTEC. The typical AP Valves dump valve, with its pull-cord positioned at the right shoulder, seems to be perfectly placed to prevent air from getting trapped.
However, I found that pulling down on the corrugated hose of the XTEC to operate the integrated valve pulls the left side of the bag down, leaving a lot of air in the right side. I think the problem arises because the harness is attached to the buoyancy bag too low down.
I had to do a lot of rolling about, accompanied by gurgling noises coming from the bag, to get all the residual air to its left side. With empty cylinders, it meant being quite circumspect about heading in the direction of the surface.
Of course, you can simply lift the hose of either BC to dump air, although this will let a lot of water back into the bladder. The Trident wins again when it comes to emptying that water out after a dive. The XTEC needs a lot more rotating and fiddling. Both have pull-cord dumps at the lower back.
The corrugated hose of the Trident can be supplied with either the Buddy Auto Air alternative breathing system or the more conventional direct-feed control. Scubapro can supply its excellent Air II if you so wish. Like all Buddy BCs there is the option with the Trident of the 400ml auxiliary air supply cylinder - demanded by many club divers.
For me, what distinguishes the Buddy Trident from the XTEC, and so many other BCs, is the ease with which I could get it on - even when equipped with two weighty cylinders, plus lamps, winder reels, and the like. Knowing that my mask was in that pocket was also a bonus. I found I was into my set in a moment, and, with fins previously fitted, instantly ready to fall into the water.
Using the Buddy Trident meant that my companions were not held up while I faffed around with endless straps and buckles. When I got back to the boat, if I thought the set was too heavy to carry up a ladder, I could slip out of it in a moment in the water. The XTEC was not too bad in this respect either.
Both BCs provide a perfect attitude in the water and heaps of surface buoyancy. Unlike some wannabe tekkie BCs, both float when fully inflated, even with two 12 litre cylinders fitted.
Which one was better? For me the Buddy Trident won hands down, although the Scubapro XTEC's integrated-weight system is hard to beat. It all came down to that moment of drama when I needed to dump the last of the air on the way up.
The Buddy Trident comes in sizes S, M, and L. In the form tested it costs £447. The Scubapro XTEC offers four XPAK harness sizes and a choice of four air cell sizes. In the form tested (REC TEK and integrated-weight system) it cost £404.
Trident's side pockets can take other items
Trident dump valve toggle is perfectly placed