Megan Howell

After using a weight belt for the last 15 years, I needed a new BCD and decided to look into getting a weight integrated one. I didn’t think it would make much difference to my diving experience, but all my friends have been raving about them for years.

I went into NZ Sea Adventures and had a look around at the different options and was happy to see that the Atlantis BCD was blue so, would colour co-ordinate with my dry suit – very important. I tried it on and straight away noticed how many features they had added for comfort.

As a woman I have always had the attitude that there is nothing in diving I couldn’t do. In the rescue and dive master courses, I was able to try out different lifting techniques that would help me rescue a buddy who was a lot heavier than me and still feel comfortable.

Up until now, I thought that there wasn’t much difference in the equipment that men and women use. But as soon as I put the Atlantis BCD on, I appreciated the adjustable chest strap. I was able to move it higher so that it keeps the weight off my shoulders and is very comfortable.

Because I am in a dry suit, I need a little more weight than I usually use in a wetsuit and usually that would go around my waist. With the Atlantis BCD, I added 1kg to each of the back pockets and managed to get the rest into the front weight panels.

Ok, it looks good, feels comfortable… let’s try it in the water.

Of course with my new toy, I just had to go for a night dive and try it out. We went in Princess Bay – what a great dive! The water was calm as I have seen it and the weather was so hot I was wondering the wisdom of putting on my undergarment under the dry suit (more on that later).

Gearing up was easy because the weight pockets are in the front and I could clearly see them clicked into their buckles rather than relying on my buddy to tell me (preventing the situation where you hear the click and ‘think’ that they are locked in, but they come loose during the dive).

Bending down to pick up my fins, mask, hood and gloves was easy without the weight belt.

The walk down the sand is always a bit of a puff in full dive gear, but once in the water, I didn’t have the weight belt around my waist. I was able to sit in the water and bend over to put my fins on. Usually the belt is digging into my waist so I usually kneel in the shallows to put the fins on one at a time. In rougher conditions this can be time consuming and awkward. With the new Atlantis BCD, I felt like a ninja and got the fins on in record time.

With that done, we were off. I spent the whole dive reaching for my belt thinking it had got loose and that’s why I couldn’t feel it. When I remembered that I didn’t have a weight belt anymore, I kept thinking ‘best dive ever!!!’.

The inflator button was so sensitive that I was able to adjust my buoyancy easily. My weight was perfect and I was able to lie on the sand without holding onto rocks, and in the shallows, I didn’t have buoyancy issues at all. Usually at 3 metres on the way back from the dive it is a real struggle to stay down, but this time I was cruising along like a stingray.

Usually about 40mins into the dive, my lower back gets sore and I start moving the weight belt around trying to get comfortable. With the weight integrated Atlantis BCD, I didn’t feel any discomfort.

And best of all, at the end of the dive, taking my fins off was a breeze and the walk up the beach was fine. The day after the dive, I didn’t have sore hips or lower back from the weight belt.

I would strongly encourage all divers to check out weight integrated BCDs, but especially women, as it was an all-round great experience.