My review of DSS Kydex Backplate & 20lb LCD Wing!

Discussion in 'Buoyancy Compensators (BC's) and Weight Systems' started by reefrat, Oct 31, 2006.

  1. reefrat

    reefrat Barracuda

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    Location: Houston Texas and Grand Turk
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    My Review of DSS Kydex Backplate and 20lb LCD wing

    I had been looking for a travel BCD that was light, packed small and suitable for tropical diving with a 3mm wetsuit and single Al 80’s. After considering a number of options I decided to try a Deep Sea Supply Kydex (plastic and stainless hybrid ) Backplate with a 30lb LCD wing and a Pro Fit harness.
    The medium size Kydex plate weighs 1.6 lbs dry which makes it much more travel friendly than the 6lb stainless unit.

    Endless hours of internet research and procrastination resulted in a decision to fit the tank bands of the backplate with Halcyon weight pockets capable of holding 5lbs each. These come in a set of two to be fitted to a tank band on either side of the tank and snuggled right down close to the wing to keep the weight even, central and as close as possible to where it would be with a steel backplate.
    A Diverite mask pocket was also ordered to fit to the waist belt of the harness and hold a spare mask and safety sausage etc.

    An email was sent to Tobin at DSS and followed up with a phone call to clinch the deal. Tobin took a few minutes to ask me some pertinent questions about style of diving and weights etc before suggesting that the 20lb wing would be all the buoyancy I should need.

    Let me say at this point that I am relatively inexperienced in the ways of back inflation, having owned one Zeagle Ranger back in the early nineties but otherwise used a variety of ADV’s for all my diving.

    I work offshore and ordered the BCD from Angola then went directly from site to a dive holiday in Belize. My dive buddy confirmed that she had received all the components by mail and very kindly packed the lot up with all my other dive gear to meet me at the airport.

    On arrival at our lodgings on San Pedro Island I unpacked all the DSS goodies and read the instructions. The supplied components appeared to be of high quality and very utilitarian, however it became immediately obvious that a Hogarthian harness had been supplied instead of a Pro Fit! This was a little annoying at first, I’m not into the DIR thing although I admit some of the principles are obviously sound and the equipment configuration makes sense for serious penetration dives. Oh well, just have to put it together and see what happens!
    The instructions were a little sparse and the text had to read carefully but it all went together very well, remember that I really know nothing about the Hog harness so this is a testament to the straightforward nature of the kit. The lengths of the shoulder harnesses were adjusted by moving the strapping back and forward through the lower slots until a good fit was achieved. Excess strap was cut off and the ends sealed with a lit match.

    The DSS line cutter (a short modified serrated blade knife in a webbing sheaf) came standard with the harness, this is really neat and I now use this instead of shears. The short DSS low pressure inflator hose was fitted to my reg and seemed to match the length of the corrugated hose on the wing well.

    The 20lb LCD wing is tiny, really small and can be orally inflated in a few breathes. I wondered whether it would provide adequate lift on the surface and also resolved to wear minimal weight at all times.

    The Halcyon pockets fitted perfectly and the Diverite mask pocket went onto the right waist belt. The closing flap of the mask pocket seemed a little flimsy and this suspicion was lately confirmed when it nearly allowed the spare mask to escape mid dive, I may replace this in due course with a Halcyon unit.

    How did it all work?
    The next morning I set up my gear on the boat and slipped two 3lb weights into the Halcyon weight pockets.
    I have never used a backplate/wing before so I was expecting the initial experience to be a little awkward. I lifted both shoulder harness, slipped my arms easily though, secured the waist belt, checked everything was in place and rolled off the boat.
    The partially filled 20lb wing immediately brought me back to the surface and I found the reclining surface position to be comfortable, reassuringly stable and high enough for normal surface conditions. If there was a bit of a sea running or it was choppy I would keep my reg in my mouth or alternatively use a snorkel, but really the surface position with a 3mm wetsuit and six pounds weight was very good.

    Air was dumped and I sank like a rock, this is when it becomes apparent just how buoyant a normal ADV or jacket BCD is! For following dives I went down to 4 pounds of weight in the rear pockets with a full length 3mm suit and no weight belt. It was a revelation for me after needing 10 lbs with my normal BCD.

    The Halcyon pockets/ Kydex backplate worked like a charm. I experimented with the positions of the weight pockets and eventually settled on both pockets fitted to the upper tank band. Good horizontal trim was easy to establish and there was no rolling tendency whatsoever. In any position I felt great balance and freedom of movement, it was all so easy!
    The lower profile of this BCD was also apparent when swimming into currents or catching up with other divers, I was able to achieve and sustain greater speeds than I could previously and with much less effort.

    And the Hogarthian harness? From the first dive it felt like I had been using it for years, not once when getting in or out of the harness on the boat or in the water was there any difficulty. It never needed any further adjustment for the next 16 dives and held my rig securely and comfortably.

    The short inflator hose did at times escape to the rear and required reaching behind the head to locate it, but it was really not a problem and most of the time it sat very conveniently on my left shoulder.

    All in all I am extremely please with my new travel rig and my ADV will be appearing shortly on Ebay. The bottom line here is that anyone who has been thinking about going to a backplate & wing but is a little intimidated by it..don’t be!


    My next purchase will probably be a 30lb wing for the backplate for colder water destinations.

    The DSS Kydex backplate/ wing is a well thought out high quality rig for general diving and I can also recommend the Hogarthian harness and Halcyon weight pockets to complement it as a brilliant travel bcd.

    Consider me a convertee!
     
  2. cummings66

    cummings66 Loggerhead Turtle

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    Just wanted to say typical reaction of a person who's never tried it and finally gets around to using one. Good and typical reaction.

    Now on to my pet peeve, Hogarthian does not equal DIR. I'm not DIR and love the Hogarthian harness and style of diving. Many people assume as you did that this config is either DIR or technical and it's neither. It is a comfortable setup that's just right for having fun in as you noticed. I'm glad you had fun and think it's a nice setup, if only more people would be so open minded.

    Now for my question, how sturdy did the BP seem to you?
     
  3. cool_hardware52

    cool_hardware52 Equipment Manufacturer

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    Glad to hear the goods are meeting your needs. You should have one inner tube loop on the upper left shoulder strap, above the dring. Run your LP hose under this loop, and then connect to the inflator. That will keep you inflator in position. Alternatively some people weave a loop of 1/8" bungee through the left chest Dring keeper. This can be used to secure the inflator.

    Tobin
     
  4. cool_hardware52

    cool_hardware52 Equipment Manufacturer

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    Matthew,

    We have sold a few hundred Kydex plates, People are using them with Rebreathers, double steels, and of course with single tanks for warm water and dive travel.

    We have had zero warranty returns. Remember a Back Plate is not highly stressed. Stainless Steel is used not because you need great strenght in a back plate, but because in some situations the weight of the SS is benefitial.

    Tobin
     
  5. *Floater*

    *Floater* Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Here, there and everywhere
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    I put a loop of bungee next to the left chest d-ring (held in place by the same triglide), and I put the inflator LP hose through it so the power inflator hose doesn't escape and it's always there for easy access, but I can still work with it because the LP hose slides along the stretchy bungee loop. One person I dove with just put the whole power inflator through the bungee loop before jumping off the boat (since that's when it often escapes), and another guy had an extra triglide and loop higher up on the left shoulder strap which he used to put the inflator and corrugated hose through.

    Here's mine:

    [​IMG]

    By the way, I'm collecting some wing data for another thread. If possible please let me know the max length and width of the wing when completely empty and laid flat, and same thing when full. Pics would be welcome too.
     
  6. reefrat

    reefrat Barracuda

    # of Dives:
    Location: Houston Texas and Grand Turk
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    Hi again

    I'll try the LP inflator hose through the inner tube next time, but really it wasn't a problem to locate the inflator even if it went over the back!

    Incidentally Tobin you may have noticed I ordered another LP hose from you, this is because on our last night in Belize a lower life form crept onto our balcony while we were a few yards away and stole both our regulators !!

    Mathew
    The BP seems very tough, but it is supplied with a warning that it should not be left in the hot sun or otherwise exposed to heat as it may warp!

    Cheers
    Col V
     
  7. cool_hardware52

    cool_hardware52 Equipment Manufacturer

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    Your hose and parts have already shipped, sorry to hear about the gear theft.


    You have to get them pretty hot, but direct tropical sun is not a good idea for any black thermoplastic, particularly large flat panels like a back plate.


    Tobin
     
  8. Rainer

    Rainer Tech Diver

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    Sounds like you made a great purchase!
     
  9. Splitlip

    Splitlip Surface Interval Member

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
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    Just wondering why you did not go with the aluminum plate. I think the weight and buoyancy characteristics are pretty close.
     
  10. Rainer

    Rainer Tech Diver

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    I don't think DSS has an AL plate... (I'm assuming he wanted DSS wing + harness.)
     
  11. cummings66

    cummings66 Loggerhead Turtle

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    Thanks for the explanation, I've heard of the Kydex plates you make of course but don't know what that material is. I kind of guessed it's some sort of composite and I know based on my plate and wing from you that it's well thought out and doubt it would give any trouble.

    For me it's a non issue, I doubt I'll ever dive warm water but curious minds want to know just the same.

    Again, thanks.
     
  12. cool_hardware52

    cool_hardware52 Equipment Manufacturer

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  13. TeddyDiver

    TeddyDiver Scuba Instructor

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    Reefrat, what's the total weight?
     
  14. tie

    tie Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Santa Barbara, CA
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    Can the steel backplate weights be used on the kydex backplate? Then you could have one adjustable-weight backplate suited well for both cold water and tropical diving (and travel), with a total cost not much more than a single steel backplate.
     
  15. thomjinx

    thomjinx Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Atlanta, USA
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    Thanks for the great review.

    I am also very interested in the total weight of that setup.

    I often travel to out of the way places and have evolved a light weight set of gear for that purpose. I had a setup that was working pretty well, but I am always looking to improve it.
    Based on suggestions from many people that something like a DR Transpac would be even lighter than what I have been using (SeaQuest Passport) I got a Transpac with the travel wing. I like the way it dives and the fit is great, but it is still more than a pound heavier than the Passport, even with all of the padding removed. And this is before adding any pockets other than very small weight pockets.

    So I am interested in other options, but I am a bit more skeptical this time. I fully appreciate the advantages of BP/W setups, but many people seem to think they are better for every application, whether or not they have any experience in that application. Kydex or AL BP with a small wing and a Hog harness might work, but I want to know how much it weighs before I buy it this time.

    I have a SS BP with a singles wing that I use when I drive to dive. It is just too heavy for travel.

    To clarify, I understand that with a lighter BC I will need to add more weight when I dive. But I won't need to carry that weight through airports or pay baggage overweight charges on it. Small regional flights in Thailand and the Philippines, for instance limit you to 15 kilos! So every pound DOES count in this situation.

    My current travel rig:
    Oceanic Delta 3 Titanium reg, with Air Source inflator/octo
    SPG only. I found a Dacor that is calibrated in BOTH psi and bar. I just wish it was smaller. I use a wrist mount computer for depth. I have a loose depth guage in a pocket for backup.
    SeaQuest Passport travel bc (less than 6 pounds with titanium knive attached)
    Excel .5 mil tropical suit (actually only .5 mil on the torso. The rest is like a thick diveskin)
    Tusa Expert Zoom full foot fins (super power-to-weight ratio!)

    I will post more on this later, including more precise weights.

    Cheers,
    Thomjinx
     
  16. *Floater*

    *Floater* Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
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    No. But I had the same hope, an AL plate of the same design as the steel plate so it could take the additional weight plates. IMO it would be a killer product, but Tobin didn't the idea.
     
  17. cool_hardware52

    cool_hardware52 Equipment Manufacturer

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    Floater,

    We currently offer 9 back plates, 5 sizes in SS and 4 in Kydex. Having 5 more Aluminum plates, that offer no advantage travel weight and buoyancy characteristics compared to our current Kydex plates makes no practical sense.

    We have quite a few users who have a SS plate with weight plates for cold water use at home, and travel with just the SS plate for tropical use. A 8 lbs change in total weighting is pretty typical when switching from a 5 or 7 mil cold water suit to a 3 mil tropical suit. This is even more the case when using steel tanks at home, and AL80's abroad.

    Many tropical divers still need some ballast, particualrly with buoyant AL80's. Having this ballast up over their buoyant lungs promotes good trim. It is quite common for divers to use just the SS plate as ballast when diving tropical.

    Who then needs a Kydex plate?

    If your travel is extremely weight sensitive, the 3+ lbs weight savings of the Kydex plate may be valuable.

    If your combination of Exposure suit and tanks requires little or no additional ballast. An example is heavy double steels in warm fresh water. Here the diver may be over weighted by using a SS plate. Keep in mind that the Kydex plate is slightly lighter than a aluminum plate out of the water, but is almost neutral in the water, less than 1 lbs negative.

    Is an aluminum plate lighter than Kydex in or out of the water? No it is not.

    Does a aluminum plate offer the flexibility of a Kydex plate? No it does not.

    Is aluminum subject to corrosion? Yes, and Kydex / Stainless is very corrosion resistant.

    I won't say I'll never make aluminum plates, but I just don't see what problem they solve that isn't being addressed by our Kydex plates.


    Tobin
     
  18. SkiDiver

    SkiDiver Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Boston, MA
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    I guess the only real disadvantage is that you apparently can't attach weight plates to the Kydex plate. If you could, it could possibly be used for both a lightweight travel plate and a local cold water plate (assuming weights were heavy enough).
     
  19. *Floater*

    *Floater* Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Here, there and everywhere
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    Well, my gf and I have both your Kydex and SS plates, which we've enjoyed very much, and when I went to Mexico a few months ago I took both with me and I ended up needing both, Kydex with 3,5mm and Steel with 7mm wetsuit.

    I guess I could have just used the Kydex plate exclusively and just added weight to it in another form or just have dove the SS plate a few lbs overweighted, but it would be a convenience to just have the Kydex plate or an AL version of it and the extra plates - or at least it would be a nice option. Also, it would be a good selling point for people who are considering a plate and are trying to decide whether to get the kydex/AL or SS. And it would be cheaper than getting 2 separate plates and harness kits.

    Another suggestion I would have would be to include the independent doubles slots on the additional weight plates and also to cut open the bottom part that goes around the harness grommet so that the plates would be easy to mount on the side of the plate that faces your back. I know you don't recommend people use them like that, but it would be a nice option for those who want to anyway. Personally I see legitimate reason for both.
     
  20. cool_hardware52

    cool_hardware52 Equipment Manufacturer

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    Sounds to me like you need to start your own scuba gear company, then everything would be exactly as you like it.;)

    Of course the need to actually turn a profit sometimes gets in the way.

    Good Luck!

    Tobin
     

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