2017 Product of the Year – Scubapro Hydros Pro BC

Scubapro Hydros pro GAME-CHANGER! You hear those words and say “yeah right.” But not this time. Scubapro has taken a core product of scuba diving, pitched it into the sea and started from scratch. They have created a BCD that is the first product in years to truly deserve the title of “game-changer.”

There are many features of the HYDROS PRO BCD that qualify as revolutionary…not on paper, not in marketing hype, but in real life dive testing. This is the most striking change in a dive product we have ever seen many years. But most importantly, during our live dive testing, Hydros Pro lived up to every one of Scubapro’s claims in the water; and so much so that we are awarding it the ScubaGadget 2017 PRODUCT OF THE YEAR.

Seeing and diving this BC makes it is easy to believe the ScubaPro Hydros Pro design team, headed by Rhys Cousins, when they say they set aside all that they knew about typical BCs and designed this from scratch. They didn’t think outside the box, they said “what box?” and just designed a “high-tech buoyancy system” from the water up.

It took the Scubapro team 5 times longer and was 5 times more expensive than they had planned. But after six long years, they can be proud of what they have created. Unique does not go nearly far enough to describe the difference. The Hydros Pro was also awarded the prestigious “Red Dot Award” for product design.

THE LONG LIST OF HIGHLIGHTS

  • We agree that this BC is what ScubaPro claims, a “BC 4 LIFE.”
  • It will serve every level of recreational diver, and many pros, from beginner through open water dive instructor.
  • It’s instantly convertible and works for diving anywhere in the world from tropical (travel) to cold water (and in the pool).
  • It packs up small enough to take your full kit as carry-on.
  • The completely modular system makes it easily repairable by the diver in the field (no BC knowledgeable seamstress needed)
  • Because there are no materials that absorb water, it drys in minutes and is neutrally buoyant.
  • Highly resistant to damage from chemicals, UV and abrasion.
  • Dual stage donut air cell offers low drag without sacrificing lift.
  • Pick any color or change colors according to your mood.
  • Hugs and molds to your body both in and out of the water, without slippage.
  • Designed to take on many accessories, including knives, lights, SMB, and pockets.
  • Ships with everything you need
  • Easy to use but super-secure weight pockets with one-hand action
  • Modular design allows for micro-size
  • It has a redundant support system

THE DETAILS

It’s hard to know where to start with the revolutionary features of the Hydros Pro BC. But it’s clear that materials and modularity are two of the features that immediately tell you, this is different than anything you have seen before.

Traditional BCDs are made by cutting, layering and stitching together water absorbing foam and fabrics. This causes them to be somewhat buoyant, to hold onto the water and to dry very slowly. The Hydros Pro parts are injection molded.

The major components of the Hydros Pro, including straps and “backplate”, are made with Monprene ® TPE (thermoplastic elastomer). Just in case you are not up to date on your TPEs, Monprene is a high-performance line of TPE materials, great for applications requiring stretch, flexibility, and a soft-touch feel. This is the same material used for the Scubapro Seawing Nova fins. One marvelous characteristic of Monprene is that it can be injection molded like a plastic, but it also can have the feel and flexibility of rubber. Another thing that Monprene means is that nothing on this BCD will absorb water. This make the BC dry in a snap.

One marvelous characteristic of Monprene is that it can be injection molded like a plastic, but it also can have the feel and flexibility of rubber. Another thing that Monprene means is that nothing on this BCD will absorb water. This makes the BC shed the water like a duck and dry in a snap. The material is also extremely durable and will stand up well to UV, chemicals and abrasion.

Most everything on this BCD is modular. With simple tools, you can quickly and easily add, remove or replace weight systems, straps, pouches, and much more… To add to that, you can easily add accessories and change the color accents to suit your mood or style.

Modular means:

  • You can repair or replace broken parts in minutes and in the field. For other BCDs, damage often means sending the BCD in for repairs, sometimes to a seamstress or getting the whole unit replaced.
  • Resorts and dive shops in remote locations can now stock small parts that may need replacing.
  • This allows for many more mico-adjustment points making for an easier fit.
  • COLORS – Weight pocket and other accents are available in a wide range of colors.
  • It will have a longer (or infinite) lifespan because you can simply replace or repair many parts that make up the unit.
  • You can accessorize. There are or will be a wide range of mountable accessories lessening the need for pockets. If that is not enough, you can even add an accessory pocket in two styles.

IT IS A BC 4 LIFE +

Because the modular design of the Hydros Pro allows you to easily swap out worn or damaged bits, Scubapro touts it as a “BC 4 Life.” We agree with Scubapro but would go even further on that trail of reasoning. We found even more reasons why this could be the only recreational BCD you need to own. It can last a lifetime and it adapts to nearly anywhere you want to dive.

  • It comes with all you need to easily switch between tropical and temperate modes (no tools needed).
  • It holds enough integrated weight for diving at any temperature.
  • Even instructors will love that their Hydros Pro can go from pool sessions to a temperate open water in minutes.
  • Back inflate but no face flopping. Many new divers don’t feel comfortable with back inflate BCDs because they tend to make you feel like you are going to flop face down while floating on the surface. This drives them to buy a jacket BC first and later have to spend more money to switch to back inflate when they gain more experience and confidence. But the unique trim-pocket placement on Hydros Pro nearly eliminates this problem and will feel comfortable throughout the diver’s skill range.
  • The dual inflation bladder (more below) offers the low drag without sacrificing safety and comfort of major lift when needed.

DIVING

Preparation: As we mentioned the Hydros Pro is ready to dive the entire world. We found that it was even easier than expected to set up our test model to dive cold water. With a quick switch of clips, in one minute you can remove the travel straps and snap on the integrated weight pocket system. In either configuration, it will roll up and pack down into the included small day pack, or, in an an optional 25 liter dry-bag along with your mask and regulator, computer and accessories.

Even though the Hydros Pro comes in 4 sizes for men and 3 for women, our test version was so adjustable that our different size and gender test divers all felt like it fit them well.

Since we were diving cold water in a drysuit, we loaded up the weight pockets and trim pockets. When the side pockets are loaded with anything less than the maximum capacity they are much easier to snap into the BC than others BCs. But if you load them to the brim, they act like other BCs and take a bit of jiggling to get them in.

On land: The soft carry-handle built into the dual-compound backplate makes for secure transportation of your fully loaded kit without digging into your hand.

There is a sneaky cool little feature on the Hydros Pro that you may miss: the articulated shoulder straps. This feature, besides allowing for flat packing and easy shoulder-strap replacement, will also let the BC hold your straps in an open for easy donning. It is as if your buddy was holding them up for you. As soon as you tighten the BC straps, the articulated joints relax and help the BC hug your body.

Among the many other adjustable parts, we were particularly impressed with the robustness of the adjustable check strap. We have seen this on other BCs but this one is both adjustable and as strong as any non-adjustable system.

The first time we stood up with a fully weighted BC we were amazed at the difference. Unlike other BCs that hang off your body, the Hydros Pro adapts to your body, hugs you and grips to stay in position. The backplate actually curves to match the contour of your back and the dual swivel shoulder straps and to the adaptation. It feels like you are wearing a high-end hiking backpack. Shore dives are much less work and much more stable and safe when clambering over rocks.

IN THE WATER

On the surface, we expected to face-flop forward which is so common with any back inflate BC. But the design and outboard rear trim pocket counteract this tendency. This give the Hydros Pro the stable feel of jacket BC on the surface.

The 2 stage inflation is nothing short of amazing. Scuba pro used a tri-bungee system to control the air distribution. This helps maintain a trim (low-drag) shape under the water as well as provide high lift capacity at the surface.  Even with our other 40lb lift backplate and wing systems, rigged with cold water weighting and a steel tank, we find them to be not much more than neutral on the surface. But the Hydros Pro felt as if it had enough spare lift to use it as survival raft.

Underwater, we remembered Rhys telling us it could be nearly as stable as sidemount. As always, we were skeptical. But we were still surprised to discover that the Hydros Pro certainly beats the stability of any other BC we have tested. Not quite dual-sidemount stability (which we call “scuba sled” diving) but somewhere beyond normal backmount diving.

But then John noticed the spinner dolphin feature and looked like he had some form of shallow-water narcosis. Because the Hydros Pro hugs and conforms your body so well, it does not have that “tippiness” of a normal backmount system. Besides the hugging to your body, the natural grip of the monprene holds your kit in place as you move through different depths. We were both able to joyfully spin around and stop in nearly any position with ease and much more comfort than with another BC.

All in all the Hydros Pro merges with your body and make diving feel extremely natural. Not quite freediving but certainly in that direction.

AFTER THE DIVE

As in the beginning, the walk to the staging area elicited a much lower urge to curse gravity than with our other BCs. Weight pocket releases are simple and really are one handed. Cleanup, drying and packing was a snap and there was a much smaller puddle of water in the car when we got home.

CONCLUSION

What can we say? With any new design, we always find a few features that are not ready for primetime. But in this case, it looks like Scubapro had the patience to hold the Hydros Pro to higher standards and close to the vest until the full product was ready to dive. On our live diving and in-house testing we found only amazing features, mildly amazing features, and one tiny feature that seemed normal. It is priced at the high end for a recreational BC ($839). But that includes the cool bag and setups for travel and cold water diving. When we think TCO (total cost of ownership) this BC is cheap. The Scubapro BCD 4 Life tagline is not just hype. All of our testers agreed, we would be totally comfortable to sell all of our current backmount BCs and be happy to dive only the Hydros Pro for travel, training and local dives. Out of 5 stars we would have to give it 6 and that why it gets our ScubaGadget 2017 Product of the Year Award.

 

 

 

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