Sunday, March 16, 2014

Gear Review: Aeris Jet Pack Travel BCD System

What: Aeris JetPack Travel BCD System: Travel BCD and detachable dry-bag backpack.
Price: $649.00
Why We Wanted To Try It: One-size-fits-all, they say. Rugged and comfortable construction. Can fit all of your divegear, clothes, and personal items into the system and still have it be a 30 lbs or less carry-on size. The system uses the bcd as a basis for the travel backpack (shoulder straps are the straps, the rest folds and zips onto the included Dry-bag). The dry-bag is also a detachable dry backpack with its own fold-away straps and waterproof zippers.
Why We Were Dubious: Can it really fit everyone? Tall, short, busty, big, small... we do have a plethora of variable-sized Divemasters at our disposal. If it fits Robyn will it also fit me? How is this possible? This is higher priced than most travel bcds, but lower priced than a travel bcd plus a dry backpack. Will it really fit all my dive gear, plus clothes and such, enough for say, a week-long trek through the various airplanes and dive sites of the Philippines? (The Aeris website advises 3 days of clothes. Do some laundry on long trips, yes?)

Let's put it to the test!

Fit: Yes, it fit every one of our variable-sized crew. There are many ways to adjust the fit of the BCD: Cummerbund can not only shrink or grow, but can be seated higher or lower. Chest strap can slide (quite ingeniously!) over about a 5" long area. Shoulder straps can lengthen or shorten, with any extra webbing folded and secured by velcro into smart tab-sized bundles, keeping anything from dragging through the corals. Weight pockets can even be adjusted on the cummerbund for comfort and trim options. I got this right after it had been sized to the tiniest of our Divemasters, and I was able to size it up pretty fast. It did take some adjustment and fiddling, and it felt unstable on the 1st dive, but by the 2nd dive I had it pretty locked in.Warning: While the shoulders and chest strap can be set and forgotten (and used as-is for the backpack), the cummerbund needs to be removed for the backpack option, meaning you will need to re-set it from packing to diving.There are a bunch of videos on the Aeris Jetpack site to help. Dives great: The back inflate has a bunch of lift, and the adjustable weight pockets mean you can make it trimmed out for your body. There is even a rear-dump valve! I thought I would miss the D-rings, but I loved the looped chain of webbing for organizing my hangers-on all up and down my shoulders.
Conclusion: So many options for adjustment means you will need to find the best arrangement for your body, but once you do, it is stable and comfortable.

Packability: I gathered and packed all dive gear (wetsuit, fins, booties, mask, snorkel, regulator), clothes for 3 days (swimsuits, tee-shirts, shorts, sarong, hat, dress), laptop, towel, and assorted stuff to replicate toiletries or what-have-you. I packed it all without working too hard. The drybag is roomy and can cinch down even smaller. Fins can fit either in the drybag, between the bags, or even strapped to the sides. Success!

Conclusion: If I were going back to visit the Philippines, where one dives, hops on a plane to another island, and dives again, I would buy this right now and be thrilled!
Packed and all set to go...Wait, where is my airline ticket?