BC Beuchat Masterlift Evolution II
One instinctively knows when something is right.
     So said the television ad for Croft Original sherry in the 1980s, and this sentiment came to mind when I first set eyes on the Beuchat Masterlift Evolution II.
     Its a very conventional jacket-style BC which harks back to the 80s and the days of advanced diving vests. It is available with shoulder straps cut to suit either men or women.
     Old-fashioned horse-collar-style ABLJs of that time tended to make a diver un-naturally upright while swimming - a not very efficient attitude. BCs arrived on the scene and allowed a diver to lie horizontally while swimming under water.
     Of course, one now sees all sorts of whimsical diagrams in diving manuals suggesting the differences in attitude attained by a diver under water while using different types of BC, whether it be wing, conventional jacket with shoulder straps, or the original waistcoat type.
     The reality is that if you are using anything with any space for air behind your back, that is where the air will be when you are swimming horizontally. Air will always make its way to the highest point. But you can still try to walk through the water if you are that way inclined.
     Admittedly, a wing does stop you from doing that. However, the main difference with a purely technical diving wing is the size of the bag and hence the total maximum buoyancy possible. Rig your weights wrongly with one of these and you might be tipped forward while waiting fully inflated at the surface.
     There is no such effect with the Evolution II, because when fully inflated there is support under your arms too. Remember that, at the surface, the inflated part of the BC which is raised clear of the water contributes nothing to lift.
     In terms of BC design, the Evolution II seems not to have evolved far, but it works, and well. However, it does seem to be designed for divers using a single tank.
     The buoyancy chamber is nicely integrated with a hard backpack and cushion and a harness in 840 denier material. There is a quick pull-dump operated by an integrated toggle to the right shoulder facing and another shoulder dump operated by pulling on the corrugated hose at the left. A bottom dump helps with those quick head-first descents when diving in a wetsuit and a strong current.
     Two capacious side pockets are easily accessed and held shut by large-gauge zips. There are no trim-weight pockets.
     Manufacturers have suddenly got wise to the fact that Velcro alone is insufficient for keeping integrated weights securely stashed. Each is doing its own rethink and Beuchat is no exception. In fact I think it was one of the first to address the problem.
     The integrated-weight pouches of this BC are held in place by a unique rip-away strap and buckle that is a little fiddly to cope with when installing the weights when the item is dry. However, it becomes easy after a little use.
     The pre-formed harness comes with two stainless-steel D-rings and there are two more about the lower edge of the BC if you need them. The BC has a conventional cummerbund with pinch-clip and strap over and a regular sternum strap. The tank strap has the normal camband and buckle but also a D-ring and hook which makes disassembling from a tank still fitted with a regulator quite quick and convenient.
     With all these features one could be forgiven for thinking the Evolution II might be heavy. Its no lightweight, but I could detect no extra weight penalty over other less-well-featured BCs.
     I wasnt sure whether to use the ladys or gentlemans version. But never short of an excuse to dress in womens clothing, I was happy to try a dive in drag.
     The Evolution II seemed to fit me perfectly. Of course, I have a chest flatter than an ironing board but I always assumed that the ladys version would be designed to avoid discomfort if you have a bumpy front. So I asked my wife, a fashion designer and accomplished diver with a front bumpier than most, to give me an opinion.
     She thought it very comfortable, though she couldnt really say why. The shoulder straps were positioned right across the front of her breasts, which sounds rather uncomfortable. Some other ladys designs strive to keep this area clear. She observed that there was no chafing at the sides.
     The real reason I prefer this version is that it comes with a comfortable padded area around the neck. Why does Beuchat think we men dont need this
     In the water, the Evolution II dumped air impeccably, with not a trace left caught up in the top part of the buoyancy chamber, even when pulling down on the corrugated hose. When fully inflated at the surface I was delighted to find that it expanded away from me comfortably, with no sign of the bear-hug effect found in some other designs. It was very comfortable indeed.
     Good one, Beuchat. Youll find a ready market for this BC among traditional divers. Forget those who insist on 30m dives with twin tanks, a backplate and wing.
The Beuchat Masterlift Evolution II costs £163.
  • Typhoon International 01642 486104, www.typhoon-int.co.uk

  • Divernet
    + Works impeccably
    + Very conventional

    - Very conventional and without surprises
    - Not for twin-tankers