width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% Travel Pac harness details
width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% Lite Hawk harness details and trim-weight pocket
YEARS AGO, WHEN I STARTED WRITING for this magazine, I was accused of being elitist.
BSAC club divers represented a high proportion of the readership at the time, and these guys would often stumble down to join the club RIB on summer weekends (ever-hopeful that the boat was going to work properly, if it actually arrived at the waterside), only to be disappointed by the sea-state.
I, on the other hand, was prone to jump on a plane before going diving in sea conditions that were almost guaranteed. Of course, air travel was relatively more expensive in those days.
Times change, and for many readers diving is irrevocably linked with trips abroad. I recently had a conversation with one of this country’s leading technical divers, who had just been diving in clear warm water for the first time, and was experiencing that same epiphany.
Air travel might be cheaper now, but it can get expensive if you turn up at the check-in counter with a tonne of baggage. That’s why there is a trend among equipment manufacturers to come up with new lightweight kit.
Packing for a technical-diving trip, it was very apparent that one of the heaviest bits of kit in my bag was my BC, rigged for multiple tanks.
Thank goodness most of us use a single tank when diving somewhere with clear water, because there are now plenty of lightweight BCs from which to choose.
The Scubapro Lite Hawk is one of the most recent to arrive in the shops, and at a very competitive recommended retail price. I’d call it a travel-wing, but some manufacturers prefer to avoid that tag nowadays.
Close on the Lite Hawk’s tail came the Dive Rite TravelPac, a substantially made wing-style BC from the highly rated US manufacturer . This has a good technical-diving pedigree, but represents a slight diversion away from its well-established technical-diving Transpac system.

The top part of the harness of the Lite Hawk is part of the buoyancy cell, whereas the lower part is separate and threaded through the small, hard backpack.
The two parts are joined together by quick-release buckles at the shoulders. These buckles rotate, allowing for a comfortable arrangement that would suit curvaceous women as much as men who are all steel and whipcord. There are a couple of plastic D-rings.
The harness of the TravelPac is also permanently fixed to the buoyancy cell. There is a removable cushion. This unit has plenty of shiny stuff, in the form of two large D-rings at the waist and two adjustable for height (with difficulty) on the shoulder straps.
There are harness breaks with pinch clips to make climbing out of the BC easy. A single crotch-strap eliminates the risk of a loosely worn tank falling over your head during a duck dive, and a stainless-steel ring allows attachment of the lanyard to a scooter should you have one.
Both BCs have a conventional sternum-strap to prevent the shoulder-straps from slipping off, although a lady friend discovered that this was a little tight with the TravelPac.
I had no such problem. Instead of the common waistband and webbing with quick-release buckle over, both BCs employ a 5cm webbing belt and buckle, akin to a weightbelt.

Like most other Scubapro BCs, the Lite Hawk employs the unique Scubapro stainless-steel cinch-strap that speeds up swapping between similar-sized tanks. The cinch-strap allows you to take the BC off a tank without pulling it over the top, and having to remove the regulator first.
It’s a lot easier than it used to be to adjust the cinch-strap for tanks of varying sizes. and perhaps even a little easier now than using a conventional camband buckle like that of the TravelPac, which is substantially constructed in stainless steel.

Integrated Weights
The manufacturer’s specification does not include an integrated-weight system on the Lite Hawk. However, on each side of the waist-belt there is a small pocket, mounted and closed with a pinch-clip.
These are not capacious enough to take either a reel or a DSMB, but dare I suggest that you could stow a couple of 2kg weights (or even more) in each pocket
Of course, these could not be dropped easily in an emergency but I found that, in conjunction with the same amount of weight on a belt that could be dropped if needed, they made wearing a separate weightbelt more agreeable.
I wouldn’t suggest this if the weight stowed in the pockets was the only weight you needed.
Dive Rite offers the option of QB weight pockets for use with the waist-belt of the Travel Pac. These come at extra cost, have a quick-release feature and can hold nearly 4kg each.

In the Water
Gently restrained by an elastic strap threaded through it, the buoyancy-cell of the Lite Hawk is kept nice and tight when not needed, yet there seems to be no problem with air getting trapped in the wrong part, and it doesn’t flap.
The doughnut-shaped buoyancy cell of the TravelPac is small and neat and in no need of restraining, and air easily finds its way to either dump valve, whichever is the highest at any given moment.
Air always migrates to the highest point, which is behind the shoulders for good diver attitude while finning.

Control of Ascent
With the usual three ways to dump air during an ascent (pulling on the corrugated hose, on a cord and toggle at the right shoulder, or on a bottom dump), the control of ascent with the Lite Hawk proved easy.
The TravelPac leaves you with the choice of pulling on the corrugated hose to activate the shoulder dump or using the bottom dump, so you need to raise that side slightly to get rid of the last vestiges of air.
It’s a shame that nearly all BC manufacturers opt to face the bottom dump, where fitted, downwards.
This makes it is less effective when doing an ascent in a horizontal position.
However, this seems to be the way it is, and these wing-style BCs are no exception. It’s a system that generally works well, and is quick to locate when dumping flotation air at the surface for a rapid head-down descent.

Surface Support
The buoyancy-cell of the Lite Hawk is inflated to become enormous when needed, so a massive amount of surface support is available. The cell widens out sensibly towards the bottom to give lift where it is needed at this time.
I should caution you that if you use the aforementioned pockets for weights, you need to be sure that your other weights are well round to the back, or you’ll be pushed forwards by a fully inflated BC onto your face.
The buoyancy cell of the TravelPac is much smaller. It’s likely to leave you a lot lower in the water at the surface, but enough is enough.
Assuming that you’ve travelled somewhere warm, you’ll probably be wearing a 3 or 5mm suit and not a lot of weight.
Without a trim-weights option on either, I used an additional short camband to lash a couple of 2kg block-weights to the lower part of my aluminium tank for better weight distribution, and to rid myself of that floaty tank feeling.

Which is Better
The Dive Rite TravelPac is robustly made. It looks set to take all the strains of a tough diving life. It can also be used to side-sling small aluminium cylinders if needs be, but there is not enough lift available for steel ones.
It doesn’t offer a tremendous amount of maximum lift, as the Scubapro Lite Hawk does.
The Lite Hawk is far from flimsy, but its larger wing needs the elastic cord to stop it from becoming unwieldy when not fully inflated.
The TravelPac offers simplicity and technical-diving credibility at a premium price, while the Lite Hawk offers a few extras but is really intended only for single-tank diving.
I think the travelling diver will be more content with the greater lift of the latter, especially if he finds himself surfacing in a rough sea, and the £150 price difference will go nicely towards the cost of an air ticket! n

Oceanic Islander, £379
Cressi Light Jac, £291
Aqua Lung Zuma, £272

optional extra
width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100%
width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100%