The Aqualung Axiom i3 is the top recreational BC in the Aqualung range. It utilises the patented Aqualung i3 inflation system and is available in the Soul i3 model for ladies. Recently I have decided that I really should upgrade my BCD from my old Scubapro Glide Pro which has served me well but I wanted to wear the same equipment stocked in the Ocean Tribe shop. As an Aqualung dealer Ocean Tribe offers the whole range of Aqualung BCs so I decided on the Axiom i3. Tell the truth I am super glad I did.
With over 4000 dives under my belt and hundreds of students certified, I did not anticipate I would like a piece of equipment so quickly. The Wrapture harness system enables me to be much more comfortable in the water (I know I couldn’t believe it either) and adjust my body position better. The first thing that I really enjoyed about the gear when putting it on was the absence of a cummerbund. This means one less strap to worry about the the new strap in the wrapture harness works well and I don’t miss the cummerbund at all. The chest strap can be adjusted to different heights on the BC which is great to avid the BC choking you if its too high or covering dry suit valves
Now the i3 had me very conflicted about whether to go with the Aqualung Axiom i3 or just simply buy the Aqualung Axiom BCD which has a standard shoulder inflator. As an instructor obviously I need to be able to demonstrate to my students in gear that is similar to theirs. The i3 system is not standard on most dive equipment so it’s not the best for demonstrating. However after trying out the i3 system simply for me as a diver I found I loved it. No extra dangling hose off the
gear, with one less thing to get caught. I can adjust my buoyancy from any position using the deflator on the i3, I don’t have to be upright to allow the BCD valves to vent. If I want to dump air quickly I use the same deflator lever pushed right the way down rather than trying to blindly find the shoulder dump valve. And no more feeling around trying to find the inflator hose. It is always in the same place. The oral inflation hose is easy to reach folded up where the inflator hose would normally be and is easier to inflate than the oral inflator on a standard inflator hose. A bit of a pain to fold up again but just touch your mouth to it and the airway opens. All-in-all I like it.
The way I combat the instruction problem of using the Aqualung Axiom i3 is to simply remove the oral inflator hose and attach a standard inflator hose when I am teaching the entry level Try Scuba Diving, Scuba Diver or Open Water Diver courses. A standard Aqualung inflator functions well on the BCD and I can use the same inflator hose no problem, so I don’t have to have specific regs for it. Yes there are a couple of differences to our rental Aqualung Wave BCs, such as the lack of cummerbund but all in all I’ve been teaching in it fine. But yes I do take off the inflator hose when I’m fun diving as I enjoy using the i3 and the extra streamlining on the gear.
I actually find its a good BCD to wear when teaching the Diver Stress & Rescue course as it gets the students thinking that there are non-standard inflation points on a BCD that as Rescue Divers they should be looking for in an emergency. As long as the inflation system is shown during the buddy check, then my buddy should also be aware of the different position of the inflator.
The Griplock tank bank is also easy to apply and holds in place well. Takes a bit of getting used to and have got my fingers snapped in it once but happy with that too. The integrated weight system is easy to remove and replace and it also has two non-ditchable weight pockets on the tank band.
However there is that old saying in life that nothing is perfect and the Aqualung Axiom i3 is not different. Despite having 5 D-rings and the scooped out pockets in the front lobes for the octopus and gauges, the zipper pockets on the BC are tiny. I can just about fit my gloves in one and a rolled up SMB in the other. There is one foldable larger pocket on the right-hand side but on the left the space is taken up by the i3 inflator mechanism. The lack of a backplate with grip handle too makes it harder to hand up out of the water when we are taking the gear off before exiting.
But honestly I am far from disappointed with my Aqualung Axiom i3 BC, and would go so far to say that it is the best BC I have ever used. The annoyance of having to change the inflator when teaching entry level student’s is compensated for by the comfort of the jacket. If the inflator hose is going to be that big a deal for you then I would invest in the Aqualung Axiom BC which has the standard hose and most of the same features. But when I’m diving for myself or with more advanced divers I love the i3 inflator. I understand all the arguments about it being non-standard and by complicating it something extra that can go wrong. But in reality if it fails then I can still attach a standard inflator as a short term solution before I repair it. If you are looking to invest in a new BC then I would recommend you try the Aqualung Axiom i3 out (or the Aqualung Soul i3 for ladies).
Ocean Tribe stocks the Aqualung Axiom i3 and the other buoyancy compensators in the Aqualung range.