When it comes to scuba gear, divers place a lot of emphasis on the proper fit. So it’s puzzling when manufacturers offer only unisex BCDs with no concessions to the differences between women’s bodies and men’s. Luckily for lady divers, more and more brands are designing BCDs specifically for them. Zeagle has marshaled its ethos of utility and minimalism to create the Zena, a BCD that’s as attractive as it is practical.
Though not specifically marketed as a travel BCD, the Zena is stripped-down and light, which makes it ideal for people who dive both at home and abroad. To put it through its paces, I took it to Wakatobi Luxury Eco Resort for five days of concentrated diving.
My first impression of the Zena was a snug, secure fit. The shoulder straps and waist straps are totally adjustable (there’s even a video to help you get it just right), and the front panels are elasticized, adding up to a customized fit from an off-the-rack BCD. Without the encumbrance of thick pockets or a wide jacket, my torso felt much freer and my range of motion increased. The wing and trim pockets make it easy to maintain a streamlined dive position, and the dual cam bands held the tank steady and tight against my body.
Another facet of frustration that often accompanies women’s BCDs is a limited aesthetic. With the Zena, Zeagle manages to address many of those concerns right out of the gate. The waist and hip straps cinch in a way that defines your curves, eliminating the typically bulky silhouette that comes with most BCDs. More than one woman has told me that the zipper-closed front panel offers support and even some lift for busts of all sizes, and having tested the claim for myself, I can confirm. While of course, it isn’t crucial to look good while you dive, it sure doesn’t hurt.
Rather than producing the Zena in only one color, Zeagle shrewdly leveraged their signature modular design by offering a selection of replacement panels in two styles and four colors. The standard model is all black and the modification does cost a bit extra, but having that control over the look of your gear can make the difference between liking your BCD and absolutely loving it.
Time to talk about performance. The Zena has a useful pair of d-rings up front and at the waist, as well as a mesh pouch that folds discreetly into a pocket when not in use. If you need more storage, there’s an after-market pocket you can add. Or if you need to streamline even further, you can swap out the standard inflator head for Zeagle’s in-line secondary air source, the Octo-Z. The Zena, like most Zeagle BCDs, uses the parachute-style ripcord weight-ditch system.
In the water, nearly every feature functioned as expected. All except for one, the seemingly secure fit. Whereas the waist strap cinched tight and stayed put, the hip strap had a tendency to slip from the widest part of my hips up toward my waist where it was narrower. The net result was a lot of slack at the bottom margin, allowing my tank to constantly drift up during my dive. This may not be a problem for women with different builds, but in my case, this problem may have been solved with a crotch strap.
The other performance concern is the weight-ditching system. The snug fit of the BCD keeps your weights pressed close to your body. When the ripcord is pulled, the tightness of the outer layer of fabric can keep them trapped rather than allowing them to fall out of the bottom of the pocket as intended. A little vigorous wriggling will shake them out, but in an emergency, a panicked diver might not have the presence of mind to do this, and those seconds are precious.
Re-threading those weight pockets after an emergency drop can seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually not that challenging once you get the hang of it, and Zeagle provides this helpful video to guide you through the process.
The Zena does have a higher price point, but don’t let that scare you off. The materials are durable and high-quality, and Zeagle offers a lifetime warranty for the original owner (don’t forget to register!). Four years working the dive shop floor has taught me that they are responsive and liberal when it comes to ensuring the performance of their gear.
- Available in sizes XS, SM, MD, LG, XL
- Dual waistbands allow weights to be positioned below waist level for superior comfort and balance
- Component sizing fits waist, torso length, and chest size independently
- 31lb capacity bladder
- 24lb capacity Ripcord weight system
- 16lb capacity rear mount weight system
- Expandable mesh “Quick Pocket” at waist
- 4 Stainless Steel D-Rings
- Dry Weight: 6.2 lbs
- Zeagle Zena Women’s BCD $566.95 USD (~€475 EUR / ~£425 GBP)
|Value For Money|
If you have a woman's body and you're shopping for a new BCD, find a Zena to test-dive. It may not work for every diver, but for most, it's a thoughtfully-designed, stream-lined workhorse. It's simple enough for beginner's, but the low-profile wing and spare harness will stand you in good stead all the way into tech diving.