“No, Florine, it’s not a travel BCD, it’s a minimalist BCD”. You should have seen my face when at Paris Dive Show 2017, Aqualung’s product manager introduced me to the prototype of their brand new concept, the Outlaw. Too late, I was already in love. Minimalism is not something I fancy, it’s my way of living (says the girl who carry 20 kg of scuba diving gear all around the world and almost nothing else).
The following year, the Outlaw was about to be released on the market along with its little sister, the Rogue, a version with more high-end features. “This is the one you need for sure”. Still quite convinced about the extreme minimalist concept of the Outlaw, I replied: “OK, I will test the two thoroughly during my 10-month trip from Japan to New Caledonia.” So here is my full compared review of these disruptive BCDs, but in the end, there can be only one (in my scuba diving bag)!
My background story with BCDs
I owned two BCDs before. I used a Lady Glidetek from Scubapro from 2011 to 2012, and then the Zuma Pro from Aqualung from 2013 to 2018. From very early on, I was convinced by back inflation BCDs and the incredible help it gives you to find the right trim underwater once you are used to it.
In 2011, when I bought my first BCDs, a second hand for 250€, back inflation was mostly only available as a wing/backplate tech diving set-up. It was way too intimidating for the beginner diver I was. A hybrid BCD with back inflation sounded like the ideal deal to me.
October 2012, I was scuba diving in Turkey. The instructor came to me after diving, and kindly said “ Florine, sorry to say, but your BCD is way too big for you, I think you have no idea of the space between your back and the tank when you dive”. I knew he was right, I could feel the tank moving all the time, but it felt hard to admit I made the wrong purchase.
End of 2012, I booked my Divemaster training. No way I could keep diving with that BCD. I looked at the Zuma BCD by Aqualung, which was lightweight and back inflation, but not robust enough for the kind of stress I was going to put it through. Shortly after, I discovered Aqualung had released a limited edition of their travel BCD, the Zuma Pro (this special edition inspired the current model, the Zuma Midnight). By luck, it was available in XS/XXS size and I found one at a discounted price of 299€ at Paris Dive Show in January 2013, just a few months before going to Thailand!
For 5 years, until my departure to Japan and New Caledonia, it is the only BCD I have used. It did an excellent job through 5 years of intensive use all over the world and was still in decent shape after this. The thing that changed though during these years was my practice of underwater photography.
The revolutionary concept of the Outlaw and Rogue BCDs
Not a standard BCD, not a metal backplate with a wing like tech divers, not even a hybrid back-inflation BCD like my Zuma pro was. It may be closer to the tech diving set-up but made it easy for recreational divers. The Outlaw (on the left of the picture above) and Rogue (on the right of the picture above) BCDs are minimalist harness style fully customisable back-inflation BCDs. Wow, that was a bit long, but it’s hard to make it short for something so unique on the market.
These BCDs are modular and come as a kit to assemble thanks to quick round plastic clips called the “modlock” connectors. These are as easy to clip as to unclip with the help of a simple pen.
The customisable parts of each BCD are the back pad, the shoulder straps and the waistbands. They come in 3 unisex sizes (S, M, L). It means you can get up to 27 possible configurations to adapt to your body type. You can also choose between two sizes of optional weight pockets.
In my case, I chose the following sizes:
- S size for the back pad
- S size for the shoulder straps
- S size for the waistbands
- L size for the weights pockets so I can use the BCD when drysuit diving
How to assemble the Outlaw and Rogue BCDs?
With the assembly notice, without any help, I was able to assemble each BCD in approximatively 10 minutes the first time, now it takes me less than 3 minutes. The assembly notice was similar to IKEA furniture, in the sense that you need to follow pictures but like IKEA one or two more steps of detailed explanation wouldn’t have hurt.
The assembly of both BCDs follows the same principle:
- Shoulder straps: their top tip must be attached with the connectors to the top of the back pad. Then the folded strap piece of the winge into the thing rectangular plastic buckle on the shoulder strap. The clip allowing to attach the bottom tip of the shoulder strap to the back pad is different. The Outlaw has a standard clip, and the Rogue has a pivot round clip. However, in both case, it’s quick and self-explanatory, the bottom part into the upper part of the clip, done!
- Waistbands: Easy, for both BCDs, just one connector on each side of the back pad and you’re done.
- Back pad + wing: the step that is theoretically the most complicated but with practice, it won’t be an issue anymore. You will quickly understand that you need to put the top strap and the tank strap through to the dedicated holes of the wing. The only tricky thing is the scratch on the wing that needs to go around the tank strap on the back pad side.
- Only for Rogue BCD: Don’t forget the connect the upper quick purge!
Are the Outlaw and Rogue are good BCDs for travel?
Yes and No.
The Outlaw is only 50 g heavier than my Zuma Pro BCD, whereas, in the case of the Rogue, this BCD is 320 g heavier (in the case of S size model, taking into account the large weight pockets).
Even if the metal buckle is a great feature to make it easy and quick to adjust the tank strap on the tank, I found it was a pity not to gain more weight by putting something more simple and keep this feature for full features BCDs.
Beyond weight, I discover a surprising advantage for travel, which is related to the way this BCD is made as a modular kit. The connectors move in a way you can fold the waistbands on the side when you put your BCD into your scuba diving bag almost flat. In extreme cases, I can disassemble it in a minute with the first pen I find. So the surprising advantage was the compacity and the space you can gain inside your bag.
Outlaw vs Rogue summary review
If you need to read only one paragraph of this article, this is the one. I summarised below all the top features and things I liked less for each BCD :
- Minimalistic, harness-like BCD
- Lightest model, 2,34 kg in S size including my weight pockets (1,83 kg without)
- Plenty webbed rings on the shoulder straps and waistbands to attach (for good) anything you need for your dive, but not pocket.
- I was not too fond of the hanging rubber piece to attach the octopus
- The webbed rings do not allow to unclip and clip accessories again easily, and I felt uncomfortable using the plastic carabineer for my SMB and my underwater camera.
- No quick upper purge, only a bottom one
- The pivot clip system of the shoulder straps adapts perfectly to anyone’s body, especially women (the straps go on the side of the breast without squeezing it)
- The width of the straps that go below your arms bring incredible comfort and make you feel like you make one with your BCD
- The 2 metals rings on the shoulder straps are incredibly practical to clip and unclip anything during the dive in the blink of an eye thanks to their large diameter and their bent shape at the end. A must feature for underwater photographers.
- The expandable pockets on the waistbands
- The total weight: 2,83 kg in S size including the weight pockets I added (2,31 kg without)
- The price: about 100€ more expensive than the Outlaw
For both, I loved that the optional weight pockets are positioned on each side of the back. Weight belts or waist weight pockets have always hurt my hips; this was a great relief for me.
My detailed set-up with the Rogue BCD
If you made it until here, I think you understood how quickly the Rogue BCD was the only BCD I kept in my scuba diving bag. Although it added weight to my scuba diving bag (+0,5 kg), the comfort the Rogue BCD brought me for underwater photography, whatever gear I’m wearing in warm or cold water, makes me not want to use any other BCD.
Compared to the moment I first used my Rogue BCD in the Izu Peninsula in May 2018 and my last dives with it in Ishigaki in March 2019, I made a few adjustments. Here is my final set-up:
- An SMB and a reel: my SMB is meant to be used with a reel, but the spool can also be used for any wreck or cavern penetration. I attach them with a double metal clip on my left metal ring. I safely attach my underwater camera on the same ring with a coil lanyard.
- Using the Octopus pocket: I used to have a yellow plastic clip for my Zuma Pro BCD that I kept first on the Rogue BCD before realising there is a dedicated pocket to slide its hose inside.
- A hose clip: this small clip is attached to my left bottom D ring to keep my gauge close to me (and not dragging everything around).
- A diving knife: I added a Squeeze knife on my left pocket, thanks to the two dedicated holes, and the quick screw system that came with the knife.
I hope this complete review will help you to find your ideal BCD. If you have any more questions about the Outlaw and Rogue BCDs, don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments!
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As part of my partnership with Aqua Lung, they provided me with complimentary BCDs to write this review. As always, all my views and opinions are my own and reflect honestly my experience. Photo credit: pictures of me underwater wearing the Rogue BCD courtesy of Thierry of Babou Côté Océan in Hienghène, New Caledonia.
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