secondary remote exhaust should be at the lower right rear for horizontal and head-down swimming. And you should practice using them.

 

  Clear distinction between inflate and deflate valves. Confusing the two can ruin your day. Making them different colors, sizes and shapes are all effective. These valves should also be easy to grip and use, given your hand size and strength.

 

  Easy-to-use pockets and attachments. Because of a BC's multiple uses, attachments and pockets must work with your gear, on your body.

 

Strategic BC Shopping--A 7-Step Plan

   Step one: Narrow the field by determining your needs: tropical diving, technical diving or all-purpose diving.

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How to buy your first BC

What to Look For:

  Correct size and comfortable fit. Tests have shown that this is a safety issue--an ill-fitting, uncomfortable BC will not perform as intended.

 

  Adequate buoyant lift. Which begs the question: How much is enough? The answer: While only half full, the BC should float you and full gear, your head comfortably out of the water, with no kicking. Again, tests have shown that having an adequate reserve of buoyancy is a significant safety.

 

  Ease of assembly and adjustment. Your BC is most likely to need assembly and adjustment at the very times you don't have the instructions: on the dive boat or at the dive site.

 

  Correct exhaust positioning. The shoulder exhaust should be at the air cell's highest point for horizontal swimming and ascents. The

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It's the most complex piece of gear you'll own and performs the most functions--a good reason to find the one that's right for you.

 

We've come a long way in the development of diving's most versatile piece of gear: Today's BC floats you on the surface, hauls your tank down below, allows you to achieve that sublime state of weightlessness and serves as a pantry for storing gear you take down there with you. No wonder it's so hard to find the right one: it does so much.