Buoyancy control device
Mares Vector Platinum
The BCD Vector Platinum is a traditional single bladder ADV jacket made from 1000 D Cordura® Plus exterior/420 nylon interior. It doesn't look very special - no fashion frills, coloured mostly in black and grey. It is a hard pack jacket with a padded backpack and fits very comfortably. At the top is a safety strap which can easily be pulled over different kinds of double valves. The cummerbund can't be stretched, but it can be adjusted very exactly so that it can be quickly adapted for each user. Once adjusted the jackets fits very well, be it on a 3mm tropical shorty, a 7mm semi-dry with an ice vest or a dry-suit.
The inflator on the Vector Platinum is the usual Mares power inflator, which I like very much, as it is possibly to use it in a very controlled way, changing buoyancy very slightly, but if necessary it is possible to quickly pump up the jacket with air. The bladder has a size of 16 litres (at size L jackets), which is at the bottom range for that size jackets. It wouldn't hurt to have a bit more, but for normal recreational
The jacket is adorned with eight plastic D-rings: four large ones on the straps, two of those at breast height, two at the bottom of the straps, as well as two small ones just above the pockets and two small ones at the bottom end of the jackets underneath the pockets. I use the top pocket rings mainly to affix stuff I keep in the pockets, like my dive tables and backup lamp. The left bottom ring is used to clip in the console with depth and pressure gauges, the right one for the compass.
In my first report on this jacket I originally wrote:
I wouldn't hang stages from these rings, as they are made from plastic. However, I wouldn't use this jacket for that kind of diving anyway!
Well, times change! By now I did use the jacket for that kind of diving and did hang (aluminium) stage bottles from the rings, although I did affix the stages only once in the water, in order not to put to much undue weight on the rings. On close inspection I couldn't see any damage done by this, still I can not wholeheartedly recommend this practice and will abstain from doing so in the future (since I have a harness - back plate - wing combination now).
NOTE: Mares does not condone the use of stages with this jacket - if you do use them, it is at your own risk.
What I especially like about this jacket is that both pockets have a zip. I can therefore fill them both with stuff like my backup lamp, tables, snorkel and wet notes without being afraid of the stuff falling out. Even with dry-suit gloves it is possible to open and close the zips, although to close them means to fumble about a bit. Both pockets have a mesh at the bottom so that the water quickly drains and the Jacket can dry without damp reservoirs. The pockets are also quite robust - I have been using them as a place to keep some of my lead (1.5kg per pocket).
The jacket is constructed primarily with single tanks in mind, but it can be adapted for double tanks (up to D10 - two 10 litre tanks). The cost involved (for the larger strap) is about € 80,-. I used the normal belt in the past to strap in a D8 (but then there is no strap left at all to come out of the buckle) secured with a normal weight belt (without the weights, obviously) - see 2nd picture on this page. All in all I would not recommend to use this jacket as a long term double pack jacket, as (in my opinion) it is not robust enough and its bladder isn't really big enough.
The Field Report
I have been using this jacket both in fresh and saltwater and I'm very satisfied with it! It is a hard pack jacket, but still light (2.8kg) and compact (folds up nicely) enough to go travelling with it. As a dedicated travel and warm water jacket it is probably slightly to big and heavy, but as a hybrid jacket for divers who mostly go diving in colder waters and occasionally on holiday, it is really an ideal choice.
Getting in and out of the jacket is very easy. All adjustable (buckles) and usable (inflator) elements can be handled and adjusted easily in full gear, even in a dry suit with matching gloves. The jacket is constructed in a way that the cummerbund holds the jacket but when inflated the bladder is pushed outwards without constricting the diver's breathing thus avoiding the "diving in a straight jacket" feeling.
The cummerbund can be adjusted to suit every suit (and diver's girth) and underwater keeps the whole jacket stable and secure. Nothing pinches, yet everything sits tight, even enabling to dive belly up if the mood takes one! Once the diver is properly weighted, it is possible to dive in any position without the danger of the equipment rolling in one or the other direction.
The inflator works without any hitches - like all Mares inflators I've used so far. It is possible to just very lightly top up the jacket with air without the danger of suddenly being lifted a few feet by the sudden positive buoyancy. But if need be, the inflator really pumps in the air. However, never underestimate how long it does take to fill up the jacket - especially at depth! If you're not only doing a free descent, but also a "free fall", it is a good idea to apply the "air brakes" well in advance of the depth aimed for. I once aimed to stop at a depth of 25m and started to put in air at 20m. by the time I was finally neutrally buoyant, I had reached 27.5 m! It doesn't matter so much if underneath you is just water, but just imaging crashing into a fragile coral reef!
All in all I can say that the Mares Vector Platinum is a very good jacket, both for fresh and salt water. I am very happy with it and can recommend it without hesitation.
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