Bye bye tea bag
After a run of bad luck with its leaky Tracer drysuit, Typhoon is back on track with the new Ranger Sport, says John Bantin
SOME years ago I tested and reported on the Typhoon Tracer drysuit, a lightweight membrane suit made from a sort of rubberised cloth called Clo-Tex. I said at the time that it reminded me of the material used in policemen's raincoats!
I used the Tracer for a week in the Mediterranean in June, when the sea was still quite cold but air temperatures were rising to their summer norm. Its lightweight nature meant I could use it with a suitably thin undersuit but not die of heat exhaustion when sitting in the boat. However, I did add the caution to my report that I had no idea how hardwearing the material would be.
Within a few months I was inundated with calls from dissatisfied purchasers. It seemed the material was not hardwearing at all. In fact it had a tendency to develop a multitude of small holes. Surprisingly, the manufacturer did not seem very interested to know that this drysuit was fast becoming known among divers as "the tea-bag".
Today Typhoon is under new ownership and the management says that it is anxious to eliminate the possibility of defects in Typhoon products, and erase any memories of what it sees as the previous management's somewhat high-handed attitude regarding complaints in the past.
The latest Typhoon TRS Ranger Sport is made from the same sort of rubberised cloth as its predecessor, but in what appears to be a much heavier weight. It is called Divetex and I am told by the new management that it has none of the problems of Clo-Tex. In addition, areas of high abrasion, like the knees and seat, have reinforcing panels of polyurethane.
Although the version I tried had a conventional shoulder rear-entry zip, it had the extended torso section normally associated with diagonal front-zip versions. The lower part of the suit is supported by internal braces which support the necessary tuck in the material.
The boots are typically Typhoon, lined with neoprene. They are ribbed along the top of the foot, which provides a snug and secure fit into one's fins, but also makes it a trifle difficult when it comes to pulling the fins off. They are also reinforced at the heel with a locating point that stops the fin strap from slipping.
An Apeks inflation valve is fitted at the centre of the chest and an Apeks constant volume auto-dump is positioned at the shoulder. The neck and wrist seals are of a soft latex which makes the suit a doddle to get in and out of.
I decided to give the TRS Ranger more than a perfunctory test by including a scramble over the rocks while shore-diving at that well- known quarry in Leicestershire. There was no sign of the "tea-bag" syndrome but I have to say that the latex wrists seals were less than generous in their length and, as expected, I finished up with wet arms.
I compared the Ranger's seals with those of my favourite drysuit. It's the one that I would be quite happy to dive in immediately before attending the Diver Awards Dinner, wearing my dinner jacket and secure in the knowledge that I would still be immaculately turned out for the big event. These seals measure 8cm of tight contact along my wrists, while those of the Ranger measure a mean and evidently less effective 1.5cm.
So although the suit seemed flexible and comfortable, it was not dry enough. Change the wrist seals for better ones please, Typhoon, and you've got a good product!
The Typhoon TRS Ranger Sport costs £470 including valves.
Typhoon 01624 486104
Stahlsac XL Dive Cargo Pack
Hands off my old bag
Sometimes you come across an item which might be expensive but continues to prove its worth, year in, year out. The Stahlsac XL Dive Cargo Pack is such an item. It is extremely strong, with heavy-duty rust-free zips and heavyweight stitching in a ballistic-type cloth.
I had one for more than three years, took it on endless trips throughout the world - by air, land and sea - and it always proved both capacious and virtually indestructible. I was singing its praises to the importer who loaned it to me when, to my horror, he asked for it back!
Things were not as bleak as I expected, because in return for the old bag and a list of all the 46 international trips I had taken it on, he sent me an example of the XL Dive Cargo Pack with wheels to use instead.
At £238 (£189 without wheels) it is probably the most expensive dive bag on the market, but quality has to be paid for. Stahlsac translates from German as "steel bag", although this is mere coincidence, because these bags are made by the Stahl brothers in the USA.
Measuring an enormous 66 x 57 x 30cm, there is enough room to pack two sets of equipment, including suits and BCs, with two roomy side pockets for two sets of fins, plus two additional pockets for anything else you might want to carry.
Travelling solo, I found that the padded main section of the bag took all my diving gear, while the two strongly designed front pockets coped with my personal clothing.
Once fully packed, the XL Dive Cargo Pack weighs a tonne, so the rucksack-style straps (concealed behind a zipped panel) become almost essential.
When you have the wheels, with a reinforced panel in the bottom of the main section of the bag, and have the extending handle of the more expensive version, you can simply trail the whole lot behind you.
This proved a godsend during a stay at Estartit, where my apartment was tantalisingly in sight of the quay, but was in fact about half a mile distant.
I trailed my new bag back and forth on a daily basis without a wheel failure. Alas, one day I failed to notice that a corner of one fin pocket was rubbing on the tarmac, and this quickly wore a small hole in the heavyweight ballistic-quality cloth. Extra reinforcing is evidently needed here.
It was a great shame, but I learned that the wheeled XL Dive Cargo Pack is really not suitable for use over long distances on abrasive surfaces. Never mind. It is still ideal for smooth airport floors - and you can always carry it!
Markat 01935 815424
Dive Optx Mask
Clear solution for poor viz
It has been said that there are two groups of people over 40 - those who read books and those who do not need glasses. It probably goes without saying that there are two groups of divers over 40 - those who can read their instruments and those who don't bother.
I now have an optical mask that accommodates my failing eyesight. However, its price tag prevented me from carrying a spare - until I discovered Dive Optx.
A pair of acrylic lenses in a dioptre strength suited to my eyes for close-up vision are simply fixed while wet to the inside of a plain mask. They are pressed in place, concave side against the glass, and the whole is polished dry.
It is important to position the lenses exactly where you need them, and I found that this required a certain amount of dexterity. I got the height right, but the lenses were not as evenly spaced left to right as I would have liked. Nonetheless, they sufficed, and I knew that if I had it totally wrong I could remove the lenses and start again.
These lenses are a cheap solution to an important problem. They let me glance down and read my gauges just as bi-focals would.
On the downside, they are not good at letting me see through my camera eyepiece. That would have required positioning them higher up the mask glass and spoiling my distance vision. They do, however, mean that I can return to carrying a spare mask in my BC pocket without a large cost penalty.
Dive Optx are available in half-dioptre strengths from +1 to +3 specifically for those who normally use reading glasses. They cost around £35 per pair.
Sherwood 0115 9458634
Appeared in DIVER - November 1997
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