Mares Vector AirTrim BCD

February 7, 2011

AirTrim console
The AirTrim ‘console’ on my Mares Vector

It’s a given whenever I dive with a new group of people that, at some point in the trip, someone will ask me about my BCD. I’ve always been the only one on the boat with an AirTrim system, and it seems most people have never even heard of them, let alone seen them, so it seems like a good idea to share my experiences.

First, a basic introduction to the AirTrim system. It basically provides an alternative way of inflating and deflating your BCD. Instead of the ‘traditional’ pair of hoses that hang over your left shoulder, AirTrim has a two button ‘console’ of sorts fixed to the left side of the BCD, about where the hoses would hang (see photo). The console is large and easy to find without having to look down. It may seem a little flimsy, and I was warned by the sales guy that this was a possible weakness, but in the heavy use I’ve given it for over two years it has proved quite tough.

One of the console buttons fills the BCD with air from the low pressure inflater hose, which attaches as normal. The second button operates an actuator that opens a dump valve on your left shoulder, about where the traditional type of BCD hose would attach. The actuators operate using the air pressure from the inflater hose. The Vector model that I have also has a actuator operated dump valve near the bottom seam, near your right butt cheek. This combination means you can dump air even when you’re in a head down position.

This, of course, is the main selling point of the AirTrim system, and why I bought the Vector. I purchased the BCD very soon after I got certified, and if I had it all to do over again, I would hold off buying a BCD until I had more experience. I had several frustrating encounters with rentals that made me think I really needed to get my own BCD. The AirTrim system appealed since I knew I wanted to get into underwater photography.

AirTrim doesn’t allow you to dump air from any angle, but it does make it much easier, especially with the lower dump valve. If I’m trying to photograph something and need to reduce my buoyancy more than I can accomplish with the air in my lungs, it’s quite simple to dump some air with a minimum of repositioning.

The AirTrim valves releases air rather slowly, which most of the time is a good thing. In places like Komodo, where you need to get down quickly, I tend to use the manual dump valve to release air a lot faster.

Would I buy another AirTrim BCD if I were getting a new one? The simple answer is “yes”. I’m happy with the AirTrim system, but I’d look at other factors when buying a new BCD, and they might outweigh the attraction – as well as added cost – of AirTrim. One thing I don’t like about the Vector is that it’s a little too short on me. It’s not that the BCD itself is too small, in fact it’s a little too loose around the waist at depth. I think the short waist was an intentional design ‘feature’ to put the pockets, weights, etc. close to your center of gravity, and for me that puts the pockets too far up to access comfortably. If I were looking for a new BCD, I’d also like something less bulky. In spite of the issues Dive Rite has had recently, I still think their TravelPac looks like a great rig for a diver that has to get most places by plane.

Filed under: Gear Review — Michael @ 4:43 pm

2 responses to “Mares Vector AirTrim BCD”

  1. Steve says:

    Great review. My 2 kids and I have been diving with Mares Pegasus BCDs that also have the AirTrim system for about 10 years. It looks like Mares has come out with a new Pegasus that doesn’t look anything like the ones that we have and does not use the AirTrim system. Anyway, 10 years and no issues – none.

    A couple of weeks ago we were in the Bahamas for a couple of days and I decided that rather than lug all of the stuff down there for our short visit we’d just rent gear. The Dive Crew certainly had their eye on us as we tried to refamiliar ourselves with conventional BCs … trying to remember how to inflate/deflate after 10 years they came over and asked when our last dive was, what our experience level was, etc! As you pointed out, I tried explaining what we had and they had no idea what i was talking about but accepted that we had something different and relaxed.

    About 6 years ago I was diving with some folks who were supporting a sort of census for sea turtles in Florida. We were supposed to gently take the turtles onboard, take some measurements, a DNA sample, a photo, and release the turtle. I latched on to a nice sized Hawksbill and one of the trained folks came over and tried to assist. She latched on to me and tried to put a little air in my BC while I wrangled the turtle. She could not figure out how to do that and became a bit frustrated. I realized at that moment that in an emergency situation someone unfamiliar with the AirTrim operation would not be able to assist effectively either. After that I always made it a point to ensure at least the dive crew had seen and knew how to operate the thing. Probably not a likely scenario but doing it without a lot of “look at me” type fanfare makes me feel a little more comfortable diving.

  2. michael says:

    Thanks for your views. That’s a very good point about letting your dive masters know how your AirTrim works. With just two buttons, it would seem kind of obvious, but for safety’s sake you should probably make sure they know what to do in case of emergency.

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