This wing has been clipped
The tekkie who plans to do some ordinary coral reef diving now has the option of fitting a Travel Wing to his DiveRite harness to reduce baggage bulk. John Bantin takes a look at it
The DiveRite Transpac is a favourite BC among technical divers. In its Super Wing form, with double bladders, it gives about as much lift as a small dinghy - ideal for those loaded with up to four tanks. However, all this equates to a lot of bulk in the baggage of the travelling tekkie. Sea & Sea 01803 663 012
The Transpac harness can be mated to a number of different wings, each matched to the job in hand, and the tekkie who plans to do some ordinary coral-reef diving has the option of fitting the DiveRite Travel Winginstead.
I was slightly disappointed when I received a Travel Wing for test. The one I had looked at for our Big BC Guide last year was very compact. It looked like a whoopie cushion but stretched when inflated to give lift far beyond expectations.
Perhaps there were problems with that product because today's Travel Wing is a larger, non-elastic bladder that folds flat for packing in a divebag but flaps around rather unattractively under water.
It has a hose-pull dump on its direct feed and a lower-back dump in case of inversion. Potential lift is 25kg.
The Transpac harness comes with eight stainless-steel D-rings, a padded backpack with two tank cam-bands, both a cummerbund and a waistband, and a cross-chest strap to discourage the shoulder straps and their wide facings from slipping off the wearer unexpectedly.
Different strokes for different folks, and although I was not sure about the way the Travel Wing looked underwater, my buddy who also used it said he rather liked the way it tended to wrap itself round his cylinder. He certainly encountered no problems in jettisoning air from it during controlled ascents
The cost is £397 complete with Transpac harness, or, for those who already own the harness, £199.
Suunto Solution Nitrox computer
On the side of caution
The Suunto Solution proved to be one of the most cautious of all the full-function, deco-stop computers during our side-by-side deep-diving computer comparison. A Nitrox version is available for those who wish to take advantage of the shorter deco-stop requirements when using oxygen-rich mixtures instead of air.
In addition to all the functions and features of the regular Suunto Solution Alpha (including the novel electroluminescent backlight operated by a tap switch) this version is programmable for nitrox mixes in 1 per cent increments between 21 per cent (air) and 50 per cent oxygen.
One can also choose a working maximum ppO2 from 1.2 to 1.6 bar. If the diver exceeds the set ppO2 limit, the actual ppO2 is displayed during the dive. The maximum working depth based on preset ppO2 and the O2 percentage of the nitrox mix in question is displayed at the surface before diving.
A colour-coded bar graph takes care of OTUs and the CNS limit for O2 exposure. It displays what is called the "Oxygen Limit Factor".
As with the standard Suunto Solution Alpha, the user can choose to set personal limits by adjusting the unit for deco requirements at levels higher than sea-level, as one would when diving at altitude.
If the Solution Nitrox is being used with any mix besides air, the user must set this before each dive. Otherwise the computer defaults to a worst-case scenario which equates to 50 per cent O2 for oxygen toxicity and 79 per cent nitrogen for deco requirements.
All this information is entered by using the three wet-finger contacts. Hours of fun can be had doing this part alone. Then, if you are very keen, you can use the dive-simulator mode for advance planning, for instructing other divers, or just because there is nothing on TV.
Naturally, all the information obtained during your dives (up to 1500 hours of it) can be accessed via a PC interface and Windows-based software (Suunto Dive Log for Windows version 2.0 or newer). This proves invaluable for those who want to surf their dives, and anyone else who might be interested - not, one hopes, a hyperbaric doctor!
As with all the other Suunto computers, I found some elements of the display on the small side and so a little hard to read, but I put that down partly to my resistance to getting even stronger plus dioptre lenses installed in my mask.
The Suunto Solution Nitrox costs £325.
Blandford Sub Aqua 01923 801572
Ocean Reef Nitrox regulator
Just blown in from Italy
AMONG the many nitrox-dedicated regulators now available from well-established manufacturers, Ocean Reef's offering is the new kid on the block.
This new brand, formed by the merger of Italian companies Ocean Edge and Reef Marine, is only now getting intensive representation in the UK diving market. Some Ocean Reef products have a familiar feel, and the 6600 Nitrox regulator is one of them.
The first stage carries four medium-pressure ports on its turret and two hp ports on the main body, which has the bold green on yellow nitrox identification. The second stage has a breathing resistance adjustment knob and a venturi +/-ontrol in the form of a sliding bar.
The oval purge button carries the Ocean Reef man-and-dolphin logo.
In line with its intended use, the second-stage front is lime-green and the hose protector at the first stage is colour coded too. This is useful because if you are using nitrox as a decompression gas, in conjunction with another gas (air or tri-mix) for the deeper part of your dive, it is crucial that you put the right regulator in your mouth at the right time - and certainly not when you are deeper than the maximum operating depth for that particular nitrox mix.
The Ocean Reef 6600 Nitrox regulator comes O2-clean from the factory, so is suitable for use with nitrox up to 99.9 per cent and pure oxygen - provided it has not been contaminated with gas from an ordinary air supply in the meantime.
The 6600 should be an ideal regulator for tekkies; but I was reluctant to test it at any great depth because it seemed pointless trying it with anything less rich than nitrox 28 (maximum operating depth - 40m). In the end I kept it on my sling-tank of nitrox 50 and felt happy using it at 18m and less.
The balanced-piston design of the first stage reminded me of an older Scubapro product, which was never a great performer under strenuous conditions at depth but had the simplicity of a Kalashnikov rifle. And we all know how reliable they have proved in less than ideal conditions.
So for shallow nitrox diving or for the deco gases of technical divers, the Ocean Reef will be more than adequate.
The Ocean Reef 6600 Nitrox costs £331 and the octopus second stage £123. This adds £71 and £34 respectively to the price of the standard units.
Ocean Reef 0181 399 7049
Markat Shark 9 knife
For sharp dressers only
I am still picking up lost diving knives from the seabed. It is starting to become something of a collection, and some of them look spectacularly mean. I am concerned that such weapons should be in the hands of so many careless people.
One day I will be arrested for an innocuous offence like smiling at a police speed-control camera. They will search my house, find my hoard, and the tabloids will turn it into a "secret cache of illegal fighting knives"!
Meanwhile, for diving, I am using a little Markat Shark 9 knife that stows neatly in its sheath attached to a BC strap. It saves all the bother of having to strap on yet another accessory before diving.
Instead of looking like a World War One bayonet, this knife's stainless-steel blade measures a mere 9cm, yet still gives me a serrated edge, a slicing edge and a line cutter. Its handle has a securely ribbed grip, and the whole thing sits tidily and unnoticed until the moment I might need it.
Markat says it is its best selling knife and, assuming that its customers are modern-thinkers who do not feel the need to be "tooled-up", I am not surprised. It costs £12.
Markat 01935 815424
SDE Nautilus 5 torch
Not as bright as it thinks it is
Twenty-one thousand Italian lire (£7) is not a lot to pay for a diving torch and that is what the Sic Divisione Elettronica Nautilus 5 costs direct-mail from the manufacturer in Italy. However, it seems that in life you get what you pay for.
I received an example in the post. It appeared to be made from the same plastic as those tacky fairground toys. I had difficulty removing the reflector unit to insert the five D cells because it had jammed in transit. I persevered. but the reflector was chipped before success was mine.
The wiring between lamp and switch did not inspire me with confidence but I thought the batteries might keep the reflector unit from jamming too far in again.
Once the batteries were installed the thing burst into life. It was bright - one might say dramatic.
It remained bright despite my best efforts to switch it off, because the switch did not work. It then began to smoke. It was probably the O-ring grease I had used in trying to get the thing apart in the first place.
At 21,000 lire it is cheap. Very cheap. Treat yourself to something better!
Sic Divisione Elettronica 0039 832 243172
C Bear Tricore & Tactel undersuits
Big, warm and welcoming
C Bear is a new company with a lot of experience in thermal undersuits. Caroline Sochanik, its prime mover, was a partner in the original Polar Bears business. Last year she decided to embark on undersuit manufacturing under a different banner.
Today C Bear is close to achieving Caroline's ambition to be the specialist in the field. It now manufactures for the RNLI, Coastguard and Customs and Excise, as well as sub-contracting to a number of well-known drysuit brands. Its undersuits are available in various weights, from 100gm Thinsulates for sport divers to 250gm Tactels for tekkies.
Caroline sent me a new design in a material called Tricore. Like tri-laminate drysuits, this undersuit is made from three layers of material. An inner layer of acrylic fleece is laminated to an inter-layer of 100gm Thinsulate, which is up to twice as efficient as equivalent down or polyester of comparable thickness. For this reason it is the most frequently chosen insulation in sport-diving undersuits.
The outer layer is a modern, beautifully soft yet water-repellent material that appears to be quite hard-wearing and easy to wipe clean. There is a choice of 21 off-the-peg unisex sizes, plus six off-the-peg sizes for women and a made-to-measure service. The Tricore undersuit costs £139.95
C Bear also sent me a trial version of the woman's cut of a second suit, the Tactel 100.
This undersuit uses a combination of Thinsulate for insulation and Tactel, a new fabric that is superbly water- and wind-resistant yet "breathable". Sizes apart from made-to-measure range from XS to XXXL for men and dress sizes 8 to 18 for women. The Tactel 100 costs £129.95.
Both suits feature a two-way zipper, elasticated waist, soft knitted cuffs and collar, foot straps and thumb loops, and a range of bright colours.
The test garments were somewhat generous in fit but lived up to their promise of warmth and comfort. I felt positively cosy on a wintry day at the south coast.
C Bear 018272 87274
Appeared in DIVER - October 1997
Back to DIVERNET NAVIGATOR