ONE OF MY PET HATES is seeing divers working hard and struggling with neutral buoyancy because they’re overweighted and have had to over-inflate their BC to compensate.
Use as much lead as you need, sure, but as little as you can safely get away with. That way, it’s amazing how little extra buoyancy you actually need.
But, he said, climbing down off his soapbox and looking thoughtful, there are times when you need a big range of buoyancy adjustment. That’s when a big wing’s the only game in town.
Use a twin-set of bottom gas and a pair of stages for deco, pretty much the norm for open-circuit tec, and you can find your weight changing by the best part of 10kg during the dive as you consume the gas. Suddenly a wing with a lot of potential buoyancy makes sense.
Which brings me to the Scubapro X-Tek Pro System Extreme harness and 27kg wing, offered as a package from an extensive Scubapro range of harnesses and wings.
The harness webbing of 50mm-wide ballistic material is threaded through a 2mm stainless-steel backplate all in one piece except for the bit at the bottom of the left shoulder-loop, which features a sturdy pinch-buckle to make de-kitting easier.
I know some people see pinch-buckles as a potential failure-point, but I have never seen one fail. Made of near-indestructible plastics, failure is so unlikely that the thought has never crossed what passes for my mind while diving.
Both shoulder-straps feature some padding. It isn’t thick, but it’s wider than the straps and will help protect the shoulders of your suit and ease the apparent weight of your twin-set, though nobody moves around the deck of the dive-boat any more than they need to once the cylinders are in place.
Two D-rings feature on each shoulder-strap. The left strap has a loop of bungee into which I stuffed the left direct feed to keep it handy.
The waistband has a D-ring ready-mounted on the left side, but there’s no D-ring on the right. Adding one from the spares box was easy, but not supplying one seems a bit naff.
The X-Tek Pro Harness does, however, have two D-rings on the crotch-strap, one front, one rear, and the chunky stainless-steel lever-action buckle on the waist-strap was excellent.
The backplate is nicely shaped to fit your back, has a sufficiently deep V to accommodate the bolts from your twin-set and is long enough to sit on your hips rather than your lower back. I’m five-eight, and there was enough backplate and some to spare.
A padded cover on the inside adds comfort. There’s additional padding at the base of the backplate where it sits just above your bum.
This wing features double bladders for redundant buoyancy. Some argue that a drysuit already provides such redundancy, but plenty will shudder with distaste at the idea of using a drysuit for that purpose. If you dive in a wetsuit, you have no redundant buoyancy anyway.
The wing is the traditional horseshoe shape, with much thicker legs that widen even more toward the bottom to keep as much buoyancy as low as possible when the wing is fully inflated, such as at the surface post-dive.
How to describe the fully inflated wing? You know those reassuringly buoyant tubes on the club RIB? That. Permanently attached bungee-cord keeps the wing tidy when not inflated, and helps squeeze gas out There are two corrugated hoses, each with a Scubapro Balanced Power inflator, one on the inner surface of the top of the wing, the other on the outer surface on the opposite side.
Both will rotate, so you can route the hoses as you prefer, and one has a webbing keeper to make it simpler to dress.
Each corrugated hose features a loop of plastic with a cap to keep the hose from your first stage neat and tidy. The cap covers the nipple on the inflator unit to protect it when not in use. It’s a nice touch.
There are three dump-valves at the bottom of the wing, two on one side and one on the other, with big, chunky, moulded plastic knuckles to grab to dump gas.
The outer cover is made of heavy-duty 1680D ballistic nylon, and the inner bladders from 420D nylon. If the figures don’t mean much to you, the inner bladders are as heavyweight as some BCs, and the outer cover is much tougher.