I just received a new AVID 4XL BCD on Thursday and was able to dive with it in the pool. I have been a Sherwood user for many years. My favorite BC was the Sherwood Genesis. I currently have a Spirit. I also used Sherwood Oasis+ and Oasis 2 regulators. I had to trade those in two years ago in July because parts were no longer available. I also have a new Oasis Pro on order. I still wear Sherwood boots I bought many years ago. I would order some more if they had them. I have also previously attended a Sherwood SCUBA Servicing clinic. I just wanted to explain that I am a Sherwood fan.
It takes time with any new equipment to become familiar with its capabilities and features. This is a “preliminary” review since a couple of hours in a pool is just not enough time to critique a product. It is also important to remember I am an instructor. I use my equipment more than most recreational divers and my expectations are very high. If I could build my own BC that would be awesome but I don’t see that happening.
Before buying any equipment, decide how it will be used and what is important to you. What one person deems as perfect might fail horribly to another person. I wanted a new BC for two reasons. First, a dry suit. It is bulkier and I needed a BC that can provide more room to stay comfortable. As an instructor, I want a BC that has a lot of lift. I may need to support a student in addition to my own equipment. I also wanted more attachment points – d-rings. My current BC only has one on the right shoulder and two on the lower edges on each side. I attach slates to the shoulder when teaching. I also attach things like cameras, slates, and flashlights for recreational diving.
I want a full jacket style BC. I have always used a full jacket so I am most comfortable with one although I can dive with anything. As an instructor, I spend a good amount of time at the surface talking. A full jacket gives me stability while upright at the surface. They frequently have more lift than other styles. The Avid 4XL has 36 pounds of lift. I have no trouble trimming them for a dive. Besides, they give me a SCUBA hug. 😉
Pockets? Who needs pockets? I use them. I prefer to keep my SMB in a pocket. It makes me more streamlined and there is less to get caught. I keep a day flashlight in one. It is good for looking in holes and crevices. A finger spool is also nice. Most BCs don’t have a lot of room in the pockets anymore so The reel gets attached elsewhere. The AVID has a full-sized pocket on each side with zipper closures. I like to have zippers that go either direction. It is a convenience but it is helpful. The Avid zippers are one-way and unzip from the back.
The chest strap is a feature on most (all?) new BCs. This is similar to the design of backpacks. It pulls the straps together to make it more comfortable. This can get in the way. Straps that are too high can wind up under the chin. The Avid strap is much lower on the shoulder straps. I have seen some BC that allow you to remove the strap and some are height adjustable. The AVID is in a fixed location height but can be removed. During my pool dive, the position of this strap was in the vicinity of my dry suit inflator. It did not create a hazard but was a minor nuisance. I know I would not have noticed without the dry suit.
The d-rings on the Avid are heavy duty. I think you could pull a truck with them. There are four on the shoulders and two at the bottom on each side. It sure meets my need from or connection points. The diameter of the rings is a little large for some of the clips on some diving equipment. This would be a consideration when purchasing accessories.
The Avid has an awesome backpack. It has lumbar support making the BC a lot more comfortable carrying a tank. It is one of the first things I noticed when I tried it on. The Avid, like other Sherwood BCs does not have large hard pack. This makes it fold 1/3 smaller than some other BCs for travel. The tank is secured by two tank bands. This is required since the backpack is smaller. There is a strap to loop around the top of the tank also.
The cummerbund is nice and wide, padded, and has good depth compensation built in. I like to have a little more overlap of the Velcro in the front but it is more than adequate. All the straps are good and have plastic loops at the end to pull and adjust.
One unique feature is the presence of quick clips. There is one on the left and one on the right. The left also has a snap attached. This makes attaching accessories, retractors, etc. easy and closer to the BC. These are nice but I would still like to have a small d-ring on each side for the odd connection. Fortunately, Cetacea make a clip for nearly everything.
The low pressure inflator hose is longer than a lot of other. It get the inflator down away from the snorkel so that is nice. The hose to the regulator is connected on the inside rather than the outside of the hose. Many hoses push the hos toward the center of the body. The Avid hose keeps it straighter. There are three over-pressure dump valves: right shoulder, right rear, and left shoulder. There also some grommet locations. Akona sells a pro kit that has a light, retractors, and a knife that are compatible with this BC and they probably fit those holes.
The BC holds 30 pounds of weight, 20 releasable and 10 in trim pockets. This is plenty even for a dry suit configuration. The trim pocket openings are a little small. Some weights may not easily fit into them. They do have latches to keep them closed instead of hook and loop fasteners. The pockets also don’t have bellows so they won’t slip around a lot but they won’t be as easy to adjust them in the water.
I think the zippers could be heavier on this BC. It might not be an issue for the recreational diver but time will tell if they hold up to instructor use.
Bottom line, I think this is an excellent BC and worth consideration for any recreational diving application.