I'm close to purchasing this, but I'm adding up the cost of 'add-ons' such as a sport utility pocket, 2 weight trim pouches, sternum strap and D rings. My question is, with no shoulder pads, no sternum strap & no cumberband waist padding, just how comfortable is this out of the water?
Bought it for my wife strictly as a light weight travel BC. She always dives with a shorty so padding is not an issue. Most if not all resorts have weights/belts.
I added the trim weight pockets and the D rings both are important additions. I have used this BCD for 100+ dives and did not miss the extra padding. most of the dives were from boats with only a few shore dives using single tank set-up with a 3mm wetsuit. Hope this helps.
Any hog harness setup like this, is very comfortable in and out of the water and comfort harnesses, shoulder pads are simply not required unless you are diving without any exposure protection. Cumberbands are also not necessary. 24lbs bladder is also more than enough unless you are as dense as lead weight. Trim weight pockets seem like a good idea, instead of the quick release.
I like the simplicity of the basic setup. (With no paddings, shoulder pads, cumberband) I did add stainless steel D rings and a crotch strap. (bought the 2" webbing to make the crotch strap from a fabric arts and craft type store, it is softer than the webbing that comes with the Express Tech which is a good thing),
As far as comfort goes, I have used it with a 3mil and 7mil wetsuit, which works as padding for me. In the past I have used BC's with all kinds of padding but don't miss it. You will definitely use less weights for sure compared to padded BC's.
One thing I had to get used to is that the tank rides a bit higher than regular BC's but on the plus side, once during a dive, I forgot to turn my air on, but I just easily reached back and turn on my air.
As for traveling, fits in my carry on, along with regulators and more.
Out of the box, with no changes made to it, it's pretty comfy in and out of the water. I'm about 1.75m tall, a bit on the skinny side, weighing about 70kg. If I'm wearing at least a rash guard, the straps will not cut into my shoulders or pelvic region.
I find that the shoulder pads, sternum strap & cumberband waist padding are unnecessary. The weight pouches may be useful if you are a large person. I strap my 4pounds of weight on the tank straps. The utility pouches and D-rings are necessary, I feel. You can attach your lights, pressure gauge and regs to the D-rings. Your SMB and reel cut go into the pouch.
However, the only original item I have left from this BC is the wing, bladder and tankstraps. The rest have been replaced with a longer, one-piece nylon harness, an aluminum back plate and a shorter inflator hose. These were done to improve stability and streamlining.
It's a good BC and I'm glad I bought it.
I like it very much. It is more comfortable than my last BCD which had a lot more features that I did not use and just added bulk.
I used the accessories from my standard BC. This is a great BC for traveling and free up the front area.
I've used mine on dozens of dives, including dives with steel tanks from shore with a short hike involved, and I've never thought about or wanted padding. This BC is every bit as comfortable as anything I've worn - with a wetsuit, you don't need any padding on the straps, and d rings can be added cheaply. When properly adjusted, you don't really need a sternum strap, in my opinion - I've never had the shoulder straps threaten to slide off. I usually do have to readjust the buckle once I'm in he water, but other than that, it's as easy and comfortable as a jacket style.
I think this is just about the perfect BC, and once you add a couple of D-rings and maybe a small pocket/pouch, it has everything. I wouldn't gum it up with to many add ons.
You barely know its on when in the water; I hate big rigs now. It should only be on your shoulders to get off the boat, so out of the water does not matter really. 75% of the time you will have a wetsuit on unless you are diving in mid summer in the Caribbean or something, so as far as comfort goes you are good. Don't waste money on all that junk. A rented weight belt saves a bunch of money now and space on the plane later, it's also easy to ditch in an emergency as well and $100+ cheaper. Try the system as it was designed with no junk on it and then see what you need. A rock here or there in your wetsuit can level you out if you need it, but I never had a problem. Minimalist for safety = less things to go wrong. Are you going to ditch your shoulder weights mid way through your dive if they are causing a dangerous situation causing you to loose your attention? A ditched rock is free. I oped for the plain version vs the deluxe, my wetsuit or dry suit has enough padding. Google " zeagle express tech bc, the last bc you will ever need" and a scuba huge forum discussion will pop up. No sternum strap needed, crotch strap is more important. I think, your local shop will have the little pieces otherwise buy a half dozen plastic tri-bars and D rings (lighter than SS) and some 2' webbing to set things up how you want. D rings can be strapped in place with a tribar. See the forum for pics. If you really want to spend money set it up as a side mount rig = safer, easier to get dual tanks set up faster, and comes apart faster, no manifold, less weight on you back, just get in the water and then clip on the tanks.
I'm super lean and small, so I'd probably be one of the first to complain about straps cutting into my body, but no real problem. I added no padding - period. This in fact seems to be the preferred approach for most users (check out the long thread on scubaboard). I should mention however that since I don't have much fat, I end up wearing a fair amount of neoprene even in warm water.
Haven't tried a sternum strap - might be something that I would eventually consider.
The 'Zip Touch Weight System by Zeagle' is recommended by many - I got it and like it.
Buy some metal d-rings and belt slides not just for clipping off gear -- they're handy for trapping the webbing so things don't come unraveled when you don/doff. If you decide not to use them, you're not out a lot of dough.
I also have the Sport Utility Pocket - like it. I mount it on the harness webbing - just enough room.
Also, did not like the plastic buckle that came with the rig - got a SS one which is much better.
Plan on spending a fair amount of time adjusting the rig before your first dive - it isn't like a conventional BC.
Other things I bought for this rig that I ended up NOT using: tank pockets, latest version of the Dive Rite Thigh Pocket.
Before diving the Express Tech, I added a pocket, weight pouches, sternum strap, shoulder strap pads, buckle and D rings. It's real comfortable, but I think it would be okay without the shoulder strap pads as long as one is using some neoprene exposure protection, and certainly lighter for travel. I have considered removing the strap pads, but haven't acted on it. I wasn't aware of the cummerbund padding, but that area is fine without it.
I have the 35# bladder, and it works well for both tropical and cold water diving. I have the tank strap weight pouches in addition to the trim pouches and it easily does double duty for me. I left the straps long to accomodate 7mm exposure protection when needed, but dive a 3mm in tropical water most often.
I hope this helps, I really like this unit. My wife is diving more now, and will be getting one before our trip to Palau and Hawai'i in November.