Keep it simple

The ISLA is Oceanic's entry into the women-friendly dive market, cut to fit the female form. And while it's suitable for both cold and warm water diving, it is undeniably simple, in both appearance and function. Comments from other divers whenI first wore it - to test it out - ranged from: 'What a beautiful BC' to 'It's very basic'.

I always thought my perfect BC would be one that covered every eventuality: one that I could wear in any situation, anywhere, that could do anything, that would have a D-ring for every accessory I could possibly need and pockets capacious enough (and secure enough) to hold every life-saving gadget. So why did I end up buying this, when I only wanted to test it? I was reluctant, at first. But what sold me was that when I put on the ISLA, I simply forgot about it and got on with the business of diving. Unlike any other BC I have ever worn - and I have hired and tried out several - it doesn't ride up, roll around, squeeze, cut into my hips or give me shoulder-ache.

But let's start with the basics. The low-profile back pack has a comfortable carrying handle, rounded so it doesn't force a groove into your hand. It's beauty is in its simplicity. And now I know the meaning of the word 'snug' when applied to a BC (and a good example of a manufacturer using the word absolutely truthfully). The air cell is contoured to the body and not only does it fit snugly around the hips, it does the same around the shoulders, where it is cut much closer in towards the neck, with extra padding on the shoulder straps, with soft edges.

There's just one way to secure it across the body - underneath the chest, with a wide (4in?) Velcro-ed cummerbund and APS buckle adjustable positioning system (Oceanic has a patent pending on this). You simply pull out the cummerbund ends and place them across your lower chest to secure one on top of the other. Then you click the buckle ends into each other on top of the cummerbund and pull the plastic D-ring ends to adjust for the perfect fit. There are long, velcro-closing pockets on the outside (not huge, but big enough to take a large SMB or safety sausage) and underneath them, pockets for Oceanic's optional integrated wieght system, each holding a maximum of 4.5 kilos (10lbs). The shoulder straps are also adjustable along the same lines, with plenty of 'extra' depending on how well endowed you are! Although it is designed as a women's BC, the fact that it does not have a more obvious breast-support design makes it even more popular - and bought by men, according to Oceanic.

The slimline, corrugated inflator hose has a Velcro holder at the top and there are retainers above the pockets to keep the octopus and instrument console in position. And there are clips on either side for attaching accessories. The ISLA comes in black, black/blue, black/neon pink and black/purple in small, medium and large with (freshwater) lift respectively 22, 24 and 30 lbs.

The beauty of the ISLA is its simplicity. It's extremely comfortable, functional and once it's on, you forget about it. And surely the whole point of diving equipment is that it is simply an aid to enabling you to savour the diving. We dive for the sake of diving, not for the sake of the equipment, I say. All Oceanic BCs come with a comprehensive 22 page 'Owner's Guide' and all Oceanic products in the Life-Support range come with a full labour and parts warranty for two years from the date of purchase.

The ISLA costs £281.24 from Oceanic, stockists details from tel: 07000 OCEANIC or 01404 891819.

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