Aqualung Balance BCD Review

Aqualung Balance BCD

Aqualung Balance BCD

A few weeks ago I sold both of my Sport Diving BCD’s, a Seaquest Predator and a Seaquest Black Diamond. I liked them both but decided it was time for a change into something made in the same century as what my Open Water students are most likely to be considering as they progress into gear ownership.

Originally, I had planned to replace the Black Diamond simply with a newer Black Diamond. But, since I almost always use a tech rig outside of teaching classes, I really didn’t want all the extra d-rings and crap all over my recreational BC. I also wanted something that feels a little more snug.

The shop owner where I teach had me try on the Aqualung Balance BCD. In the store, it felt great. They do some cool stuff with the adjustments making it easy to just pull on things to cinch it tight. Granted, that’s not at all what I want diving doubles, but going back and forth from the pool to a drysuit using the Balance is awesome!

In the water, It’s really good. If I could, I’d eliminate a few things, like the velcro hold down strap for the inflater hose (yes, I know I can cut it off, but not a chance I’m doing that to my new BC). I just leave the hose outside of that. I always have, since my other BCD’s had them too.

I also don’t really get the purpose of the handle on the back. To me, it’s just unnecessary junk back around the tank valve and entirely superfluous.

I do like the trim weight pockets, and I love the “Surelock” weight integration. They’re not kidding that they hold a combined 20 pounds. Using shot bags, I was able to jam exactly 10 in each pocket. I dive with a DUI CF200x (40 degrees in the water around here right now) and wear a lot of lofty underthings this time of year to keep warm. Unfortunately, warm also means buoyant, so I don’t have much choice but to load it up.

I got mine with the Air Source inflater/alternate. I had the original version on both of my last BC’s. My hardcore tech friends have it in their heads that an octo is the way to go because it is more like the back up that goes on the left post of a tech rig, but they’re just repeating what they read in the DIR/GUE forums. For recreational diving, I like them a lot better than an octopus. They’re also less likely to be dragged through the sand on the way to the water.

Believe it or not, I like the old oral inflater better than the new one. For the uninitiated, the old ones used to have a hard plastic ring to blow into rather than the regulator mouthpiece. With a mask on (so you can’t inhale through your nose), having your lips sealed around a mouthpiece makes taking the next breath harder. Remember, you’re presumably out of air and on the surface if you need to inflate this way. Not a big deal though.

The bottom line is I love the Aqualung Balance BCD. I might even use it for more than just teaching.

7 thoughts on “Aqualung Balance BCD Review

  1. Hello Joe,

    Thanks for your review on the Balance. I am considering purchasing one very soon after looking at different rear wings:
    Knight Hawk Pro, Dive rite, Black diamond and Mares Hybrid Pure.
    I see the old Balance seems to be so good that they just gave it a facelift.
    I’m looking at purchasing some new fins. I’m a recreation diver also interested in wreck diving, have you any suggestions? something good with power and good for sharp turns that wont stir up to much silt while inside a wreck.
    Thanks.

    • Hi Darrin,

      All of the BCDs you mention are really good. It’s really a matter of fit and durability. I do own the Balance, and I like it a lot. But, most of the time nowadays, I use my backplate and wing, with the appropriate lift wing for the dive I’m doing. Since you mention wreck diving, you may want to explore that option too. I like it because it allows me to configure my kit the exact same way whether I’m in doubles, a single tank, traveling, you name it. If you do get into advanced wreck diving, you won’t have an expensive BCD just sitting around.

      For fins, I assume you saw my review of the Scubapro Seawing Nova? I really don’t love any fin I’ve tried. I am trying to get Dive Rite to send me a loaner pair of XTs for review, but they don’t seem too interested in the idea. If they’re truly the same as the original Apollo Prestige dive fins, I’m sold. But, I have an early pair of Dive Rites that suck… bad. So, until I’ve seen them, I’m sticking the the Nova, which is not bad. Split fins just don’t work for me. But, a lot of divers I know and respect swear by them.

      Let me know what you end up with!

      – Joe

      • Hello Joe,

        Thanks for the advice. Yes I will let you know what I end up with. I was also looking at the Sherwood SR1 or SR2 but have been advised to stay away from them. another reg of interest is the MK25/600?
        This is the shopping list so far though what are your thoughts:
        -Legend LX (ACD) 2013 model
        -Balance BCD
        -12 Lt Steel tanks (Less weight to carry on me)I use 10 kg with Ali’s
        -either a Suunto Cobra console or D4i/D6i or D9 ???
        -Fins either Atomic / Avanti Quattro /Aqualung Xshot

        Any advise on the above gear. I dive in a 7mm suit and with the Ali tanks I am using 10kg weight

        • Hi Darrin,

          I don’t think you can go wrong with either regulator. My personal bias leans toward Scubapro, because I’m told by a number of service guys, who are also technical divers, that the MK25 is the better performer when you get deep (130-150+). I never see Sherwood on a serious technical kit. That doesn’t mean the SR2 isn’t a great reg, just that the guys who take their gear to the limits gravitate toward other brands.

          Personally, I have a strong preference for Apeks. All but one of my technical regulators is Apeks (Tek 3, XTX 40 oxygen, etc.), and I am soon going to replace my sport regulator, a Scubapro MK17, with the Apeks XTX 50. The MK25 is a better reg than the MK17, so this isn’t a comparison. Nevertheless, my problem with the MK17 is that it is a poor cold water performer. I’ve had mine freeze and free flow below 100′ more than once. I don’t think that’s an issue with the MK25.

          I’m not sure about the Aqualung regulator, but Aqualung has an affiliation with Apeks. They may be very similar. I don’t think I’ve helped much. My choice, the Apeks XTX50, isn’t on your list.

          I’m 100% with you on your tank choice. You won’t ever regret going to steel cylinders.

          For the computer, I’ve gotten away from anything but gas switch, technical computers (Shearwater Petrel, in my case), and even if I wasn’t doing technical dives, that would be my choice. I have a hard time navigating Suunto’s menus, but I think I’m just lazy about really learning it. Even for non-technical dives, the Petrel (which has a recreational mode) is awesome. It’s easy to read, easy to navigate, and will grow with you no matter what kind of diving you do in the future.

          On the other hand, it’s larger than the Sunnto, doesn’t offer air integration and is rather pricey at $1450 US to start. So, it may be that I’m just biased by the types of dives I do. I would NOT buy Uwatec, based on the fact that I’ve had 3 of their computers fail. It’s too bad because I love them underwater.

          I like those new Atomic fins a lot, and used to dive Avanti Quattros. Both are exceptional fins. Personally, I can’t stand the Xshot, and have no idea why people like them. But that’s just me. Every piece of gear you are considering is great, so if it feels right, get it, and dive it.

          I think I mentioned that I personally own the Aqualung Balance. I think it is great. These days, I only use it when I’m teaching open water students, but that’s just because I can configure a plate/wing for any kind of dive and have it fit the same no matter what. Of all the recreational BCD’s on the market, the Balance is my favorite.

          I hope this helps. Remember, these are just my feelings. I do have a lot of experience with this gear, but listen to the advice of your local dive shop and more experienced diving buddies. Having service technicians and parts available can be more important than a minute improvement in theoretical performance.

          And, if you’re ever near Lake Tahoe, let me know and I’ll take you diving!

          – Joe

    • I love the Balance. Zuma… not so much. I’ve had more students with them since I wrote that original Zuma review and it just doesn’t seem to fit anybody right. Some divers say they love it though, so to each his own, I guess.

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