Ob­jec­tive, in­de­pen­dent gear re­views — that's the foun­da­tion of Scubalab, now cel­e­brat­ing 25 years.

This year we cel­e­brate not only Scuba Div­ing mag­a­zine’s sil­ver an­niver­sary, but also Scubalab’s. In the June 1992 pre­miere is­sue, Scubalab’s then-di­rec­tor tested and re­viewed travel BCS, a new trend at the time.


I was hired as an ed­i­to­rial as­sis­tant, and one of my tasks was to fact-check the fea­tures and prices of the gear. We didn’t have email, and I wasn’t yet re­search­ing on the in­ter­net. Over the years, we’ve evolved how we do things, but I’m al­ways amazed that a small mag­a­zine elected to take on such a big re­spon­si­bil­ity.

In 1991, when then­pub­lisher Ro­dale was un­der­tak­ing an in­dus­try anal­y­sis for pub­lish­ing a dive mag­a­zine, they needed some­thing that would set it apart from Skin Diver, the first na­tional mag­a­zine for div­ing, launched in 1951. Ro­dale ex­ec­u­tives heard the same thing from a num­ber of scuba divers and in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als: Dive jour­nal­ism was lack­ing ob­jec­tive travel and gear re­views.

We've come a long way, baby: Travel BCS were a new idea — and pretty funny-look­ing — in 1992, when Scubalab fea­tured them in its first-ever re­view of gear.

That be­came our guid­ing prin­ci­ple, and it is the foun­da­tion on which Scubalab was built. It’s dif­fi­cult if not im­pos­si­ble for a diver who wants to buy a piece of gear to col­lect a half-dozen or so mod­els and run tests such as putting regs on an ANSTI breath­ing ma­chine, us­ing a cham­ber to com­pare dive com­put­ers, or check­ing the in­her­ent buoyancy and buoy­ant lift ca­pa­bil­i­ties of BCS in a pool.

Scubalab founder Jon Hardy shared that vi­sion. His first Scubalab re­port was also an in­dus­try first: Divers could now get ob­jec­tive test re­sults about the de­sign and per­for­mance of the life-sup­port equip­ment on which their lives de­pended.

Scubalab ex­ists to help divers be­come in­formed con­sumers of dive gear. No­body de­votes as much


man­power, spends as much money, or in­vests as much time to pro­vide ob­jec­tive and prac­ti­cal in­for­ma­tion on dive gear as Scubalab. It is with great pride that we present this year’s Gear of the Year, ScubaLab’s Testers Choice and Best Buy win­ners for 2017, on page 33. — PA­TRI­CIA WUEST,

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