We use Scott NXGN packs. They are small, light, and have the following; integrated PASS alarm, buddy breather attachment, face piece HUD, quick connect bottle for rapid change out without the threads. They are nice packs, durable and dependable. The bottles are carbon wrapped and light, very small and maneuverable.
In other departments I have used the older scotts; 2.2, 4.5 mostly. I have never seen or heard of any malfunctions or mechanical issues with these packs and they are easy to use. Hope this helps, but coming from a guy who has only used SCOTT brand packs, with the exception of the two ISI Magnums my dept tried once for a year, I think I may be a little biased!! lol
I think overall you will find them to be good packs.
Personally, I have always preferred to SCOTT SCBA for the type of mask system alone. There are bells and whistles on all the SCBA's now so the decision should be made based on not just the cost and features but the service contract when things go wrong on the units. It's also important to try to have the same type of SCBA that other departments use for compatibility issues when it coms time to refill the bottles. Depending on how many your department is going to purchase, you might want to consider looking into Homeland Security Grants because I know for fact that purchasing replacement / upgraded SCBA's is considered an acceptable way to spend grant monies. But... go big factoring in a new refill station (mobile?) as well if you are thinking of grant application requests.
Mike is absolutely correct with the use of grant dollars for SCBA upgrades. We are in the process of doing that now.
As for the pros and cons to the scott packs; my advice would be to contact your nearest supplier of the packs and have them bring in a few for the guys to try on and get a feel for.
Another good piece of advice from Mike was to try and keep your bottle type the same as in your MA area.
My personal experience is limited to the scott packs. I haven't used another style. All I can say is that I have no problem with the pack and have never had any issues with it. Only, make sure you keep your battery changes regular in your PASS.
Look around in the Fire Service trade mags... The vast majority of larger (busier) FD's use either Scott or MSA. That should tell you something. There are two "westcoast" FD's that have the initials of "LA" that use Sperian, which is the mother company of Survivair. Why do they use them?? It could be that the company is in California....
With Scott you will have a "sticker shock" affect. They are usually priced higher than all the other brands, but if you can afford it??? Your personnel are worth it.
We went from the older MSA's (belt regulator, manual PASS) to Scotts, they are a bit lighter and seem to carry on the back more comfortably.
We had an issue with battery life so we change them out, at a maximum, every 3 months.
The shoulder harness -where it comes through the top back pack - have a tendency to fray so it warrants keeping an eye on that.
The only thing I don't like is the push-to-turn tank valve, it's just a pain in the ass.
By using Scott we are now interoperable with all of our surrounding MA departments.
We have in-house personnel that are trained to do basic service on the packs, otherwise we send them out. To my knowledge we've had no problems with service. Overall I have no complaints with Scott and find them perfectly usable.
We have spare packs for when one is taken off line for service as well as training packs for classes at the academy (rather than beat up the on-line ones.)
As is often the case, some people are fanatic about a particular brand (of anything) and think all others are pieces of shit. For me, I (naively?) trust that my department spends their money wisely, getting us the best equipment we can afford (although lack of (coffee)cup holders in the rig does annoy me).
If you do a search in here on the topic, you'll find that often as not, there will be those that sing the praise of a particular brand while as many others decry it. It's that ford vs chevy mentality.
Form a committee, get a number of different brand packs, go out to the burn building and use them. You'll get a much better idea of what works for you than you will from a multitude of opinions from in here. But then, that's just MY opinion.