Atomic Aquatics BC1 review

Its maker says this is the ‘ultimate’ BC: are they right?

Author: Pat
7th February 2020
 

Atomic Aquatics BC1 test

Once upon a time I had an argument with a family member over the merits of football (nb ‘soccer’, for international readers.) “What’s the point of it?” she decried, “it’s just a load of men kicking a bag of wind around a field.” Technically she was right, but you could make the same argument about many things. Music? Just organised noise. Gardening? That’s just tidying up nature. Sports cars? You’re going to sit in the same traffic jams as everyone else.

Atomic Aquatics BC1

Atomic Aquatics products with their eyebrow-raising price tags seem to provoke the same arguments. What’s the point of a BCD that costs £1,100?

hard to resist the urge to jump straight back in and dive the BC1 again

To side with them for a moment, the BC1’s overall design is actually fairly conventional. It is a wrap-around jacket-style BCD, with built in quick release (QR) pockets. It has a kidney dump, shoulder dump and inflator hose pull-dumps, D-rings, and pockets for a torch or reel. Same old, same old.

Atomic Aquatics BC1

But before you zone out and lose interest… that’s where normality ends. Take the construction, the materials Atomic Aquatics has used are not found in any other BCD on the market. The BC1 is stitched together using polyurethane-coated fabric, making it impermeable to water. After a dive and the water just runs off the outside like a plastic mac, different to any permeable jacket or harness. Likewise, the BC1’s plastics are high-grade and highly durable, and metals chosen for their corrosion resistance. The D-rings have a Titanium coating, no less. These materials are tough and also incredibly strong, for the inevitable knocks and scrapes we subject our kit to.

Tough also means durable, so the BC1 should easily outlive the rest of your dive gear. Some dive centres have reported their BC1s appear ‘like new’ after a thousand dives or more.

Atomic Aquatics BC1

In comfort terms, the BC1 is the class leader. Tec divers might appreciate wingnuts digging into their back, but for recreational divers the backpad stitched in a quilted ‘Chesterfield’ pattern is of the highest quality, and generous padding absorbs the weight of your tank nicely. Neatly hidden from view at the nape of the neck beneath another pad is a grab handle to lift your rig with.

Atomic Aquatics BC1 Cam-Lok

There’s innovation almost everywhere you look. Perhaps the most obvious example is the Cam-Lok tank band, which replaces the conventional webbing strap with a plastic ratchet mechanism. If you’ve ever worn ski boots with bindings, you’ll be familiar with how this works – simply pull the red ratchet and black locking mechanism apart, then fold and snap it fast. Any kind of tank will be gripped securely by the BC1, and no way for it to ever work loose. Likewise, it won’t stretch or degrade like a fabric strap.

Atomic Aquatics BC1 weight pockets

A level of obsessiveness has gone into the BC1. For example, the right-side shoulder dump pull cord is a simple solid tube, not a string, so it always stays exactly where you expect it. The zips on the pockets have no exposed teeth, thus preventing dirt and sand getting in.

This is an integrated weight jacket and the two pockets snap in with a reassuring ‘click’, thanks to a positive pressure action: the locking mechanism’s natural position is with jaws closed. The BC1 itself weighs in at a hefty 4.9kg, so this is not a jacket for those fearful of travel weight restrictions.

Atomic Aquatics BC1

Atomic doesn’t ship the BC1 with a standard inflator, so you’ll need to budget for either the Ai (steel), Ti (titanium) or SS1 safe second before you can get it wet. This nudges the price up towards at least £1,300, but if you’re still reading by now, price is unlikely to sway your purchasing decisions.

In the water

I took the Atomic Aquatics BC1 on several club trips, diving from our RHIB. Gear thrown into the bottom of a crowded boat is always at risk of a battering, but the BC1 took it all in its stride. My slung 3-litre pony clipped neatly between the left shoulder/right hip titanium D-rings for dives in the 30-metre range off Weymouth. This is, hands down, the most comfortable BCD I’ve ever worn – in fact it barely felt like I was wearing it at all. The Ai power inflator is a reassuring, precision instrument, and everything on the jacket felt placed exactly where it should be. Frankly, it was hard to resist the urge to jump straight back in and dive it again.

Atomic Aquatics BC1

Summary

The Atomic Aquatics BC1 is robust, innovative, packed with features, well-built, distinctive and good looking. It’s extremely comfortable to wear in and out of the water. Yes for some, that price tag will be too much to bear. But just as there’s no rational ‘point’ to a Rolex watch, if you derive happiness from high quality things then the BC1 has to be the jacket for you. Ultimately, isn’t being happy the only point of life at all?

 

For more information, visit www.atomicaquatics.com, or follow www.facebook.com/AtomicAquaticsUK

 
 
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