When designing a buoyancy compensator, the tube design can often be overlooked. Most of the low to mid-range products on the market employ a cheap molded hose from China or Korea with squared off convolutions. The square areas provide infinite breaking points for tears and cracks to form as they are weathered and used. So how do we build a better hose?
The first consideration is shape. User feedback suggests that an oval design is preferred for better ergonomics, a lower profile, and hose security, as an oval is less likely to roll around than a round hose. Next, the convolutions should be rounded off rather than squared. This produces fewer potential stress failure points on the part. The squared off tubes are aesthetically pleasing, but in this case long-term performance and safety should trump looks, and that’s assuming that there is some measurable consumer preference for a squared style convolution versus a traditional rounded one. Material is critical to long-term durability of the product as well. EPDM rubber is an outstanding choice because of its weathering properties and resistance to most chemicals used to sanitize BC tubes when cleaned. Finally, customizing the tube design for the BC unit is important for optimal performance. Many low-end units are designed to use the stock square molded tubes, but for about the same cost one can purchase a custom part that fits the unit perfectly. Men, women, and children are all different sizes, and it can be very beneficial to have length options that fit each group. This too is possible with a custom design.
Like with most things, BC tube design is better when it is tailored to the end user rather then when a one-size-fits-all design is employed. Tube performance is a key factor in user satisfaction, and the cost of getting it right is simple on the production side and critical to the function of the BCD. It’s an easy part to overlook by just grabbing a part off-the-shelf, but a little effort in that design can go a long way to making the BCD more usable and profitable.