My first 65-minute dive in the Hollis HD200 wing turned out to be an hour-long commercial for the BC. Unintentionally, I had become the ultimate silent salesman.
I’d been cruising along the wreck trail that is a highlight of Camp Bay, Gibraltar, my usual testing ground. My buddies were old friends, Dennis Santos and Danny Freyone, both with decades of diving experience.
They had dived in the early horse-collar BCs before progressing to jacket models and then, for twin-set diving, to wings.
When we surfaced, Danny had immediately commented: “That’s a great BC. Your trim was perfect.”
“It floats you really high on the surface,” Dennis added. Such accolades are almost embarrassing to report, because they make my reviews look like advertorial, and I have to try to find faults to balance them and prove that I’m not the dive industry’s favourite yes-man.
Hollis was founded by Bob Hollis, who also created Oceanic, one of the world’s biggest equipment manufacturers. Oceanic was born in the 1970s, long before the emergence of technical diving, and offers a wide range of products. Hollis is newer, with a narrower choice of kit, marketed towards tekkies.
At the end of the day, however, diving is diving and whether you’re a newly minted occasional recreational diver or a hardheaded technical one, a lot of kit is interchangeable.
This crossover is very apparent in single-cylinder wing BCs, the category into which the Hollis HD200 falls.
The HD200 is a well-specified, weight-integrated, back-inflation BC. It’s horseshoe-styled, meaning that the air-cell runs down either side of your tank, but, unlike a doughnut air-cell, does not connect at the bottom.
The penalty is that air cannot flow freely throughout the air-cell, but the gain, popular with some technical divers, is a gap into which you can tie accessories, such as light canisters.
Both horseshoe and doughnut-style wings are popular, suggesting that neither air-cell has an outright advantage over the other – it comes down to personal preference.
As the prefix HD suggests, this is no lightweight – it weighs in at 4.3kg.
But then it’s expected to be used hard, serving, say, the UK diver who while at home is using a single backmount tank, plus a stage for deco, but then wreck-diving using a similar set-up in the Red Sea.
With 15-17kg of buoyancy, depending on size, there’s a lot of lift for such excursions.
The ability to shrug off abrasion from rusted metal for wreck ferrets and the accumulative day-to-day wear of regular use comes from Hollis’s choice of a twin-bag design. The buoyancy cell itself is made from thick polyurethane.
This in turn is protected by an outer shell of 1000-denier Cordura.
The HD200 uses a rigid backpack with a nice wide hand-grip at the top for moving your rig around. There’s a single camband for attaching your cylinder, with non-slip studs along the tank track for added security to prevent slippage.
An adjustable loop sits over your tank-valve to set the height of your cylinder, helping gear-handlers to assemble your rig correctly in your absence, for instance.
Hollis HD200 padded back-pack.
The backpack is well-cushioned. The harness comprises wide shoulder-straps with squeeze-buckle releases. Across your chest sits another strap, with two different height positions, so it won’t interfere with drysuit inflators.
The cummerbund is quickly adjustable for length simply by reaching in behind the backpack and tightening or slackening off the ends, which are held by a touch fastener.
This feature lets you keep the overlap of the cummerbund in front to a minimum. The benefit is a close fit, regardless of changes of suit or, within reason, fluctuations in your body mass.
A waist-strap sits over this, closed with a stainless-steel cam buckle.
Surplus strap can be adjusted by rethreading the nylon through the buckle slots and back on itself. So you should be able to achieve a very snug fit with the HD200 and still keep all your webbing neat.
Connecting to the waist-strap via another large squeeze-release buckle is the wide jock-strap, designed partly to prevent any cylinder or BC ride-up but also to take the strain of riding scooters, for which a large stainless-steel D-ring is included for a tether.
In fact the HD200 is festooned with D-rings, all sewn into fixed positions.
One of the two large ones that sit on the upper shoulders proved ideal for mounting my SPG where I could see it with just a downwards glance, while two other medium rings hang from the HD200’s lower edge, where I might clip off a reel.
At the back is a huge D-ring to which the jock-strap attaches – I could see myself pressing this into use for carrying my main DSMB. Four small D-rings are arranged in pairs on either side of the Hollis, one sitting near your outer shoulder blade and the other a little lower.
These could be used to bungee in a rolled-up back-up DSMB or small lift-bag, for example.
The Hollis has quick-release pouches for your main weights, and these sit around your waist. Two zippered cargo-pockets sit on top of these.
Sandwiched between the backpack and wing are the trim-weight pockets.