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reefrat
October 31st, 2006, 04:05 PM
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 80ís. 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 ADVís 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, Iím 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..donít 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!

cummings66
October 31st, 2006, 04:21 PM
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, Iím not into the DIR thing although I admit some of the principles are obviously sound and

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?

cool_hardware52
October 31st, 2006, 04:30 PM
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.

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

cool_hardware52
October 31st, 2006, 04:34 PM
Now for my question, how sturdy did the BP seem to you?

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

*Floater*
October 31st, 2006, 04:41 PM
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.

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:

http://i95.photobucket.com/albums/l145/mr_floater/loop.jpg

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.

reefrat
October 31st, 2006, 05:10 PM
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

cool_hardware52
October 31st, 2006, 05:35 PM
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 !!

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


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!


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

Rainer
October 31st, 2006, 06:18 PM
Sounds like you made a great purchase!

Splitlip
October 31st, 2006, 11:55 PM
Just wondering why you did not go with the aluminum plate. I think the weight and buoyancy characteristics are pretty close.

Rainer
November 1st, 2006, 12:35 AM
I don't think DSS has an AL plate... (I'm assuming he wanted DSS wing + harness.)

cummings66
November 1st, 2006, 12:58 AM
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.


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.

cool_hardware52
November 1st, 2006, 01:12 AM
More about Kydex if you are interested http://www.kydex.com/


Tobin

TeddyDiver
November 1st, 2006, 01:51 AM
Reefrat, what's the total weight?

tie
November 1st, 2006, 02:56 AM
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.

thomjinx
November 1st, 2006, 11:15 AM
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

*Floater*
November 1st, 2006, 11:29 AM
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.

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.

cool_hardware52
November 1st, 2006, 11:47 AM
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.

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

SkiDiver
November 1st, 2006, 12:16 PM
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
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).

*Floater*
November 1st, 2006, 01:47 PM
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.

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.

cool_hardware52
November 1st, 2006, 01:51 PM
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.

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

jeffrey-c
November 1st, 2006, 02:10 PM
Tobin, I honestly don't know how you or anyone outside the major manufacturers make a living in this business! I think most people forget just how small the total available market is for scuba products. Looking at the stats in the US (info from DEMA) it is not a large or growing market: total certified divers are less than 3% of the population; only about 175k new divers are certified each year (a number almost 20% lower than a few years ago); majority of certified divers don't own their own equipment, and only 1/3 of those would consider purchasing gear.

I'm sure the niche of people who are willing to go outside the basic jacket BC mentality is a far smaller number as well, and it seems that many of those try to scrimp and save so much on their dive gear that I expect you must see very large price sensitivity in your market (look how many posts are on SB from people trying to do things like save $2 by getting brass boltsnaps instead of splurging the whopping $5 for a stainless version). And if you tried to service your market with different versions that appealed to each diver's specific desires you'd probably end up with 249,999 different product versions servicing 250,000 different diving consumers (I assume there are probably two people who coincidently want the same thing :) ).

I'm not in the dive business and given the market opportunity I don't think I'd ever want to be - as a businessman I don't find businesses with shrinking market size and increasing barriers to entry for new participants to be an attractive opportunity. But I'm glad you and others like you try - it's good to have choice other than the pablum products that the Big Few manufacturers pitch to the masses!

cool_hardware52
November 1st, 2006, 02:33 PM
Tobin, I honestly don't know how you or anyone outside the major manufacturers make a living in this business! I think most people forget just how small the total available market is for scuba products. Looking at the stats in the US (info from DEMA) it is not a large or growing market: total certified divers are less than 3% of the population; only about 175k new divers are certified each year (a number almost 20% lower than a few years ago); majority of certified divers don't own their own equipment, and only 1/3 of those would consider purchasing gear.

I'm sure the niche of people who are willing to go outside the basic jacket BC mentality is a far smaller number as well, and it seems that many of those try to scrimp and save so much on their dive gear that I expect you must see very large price sensitivity in your market (look how many posts are on SB from people trying to do things like save $2 by getting brass boltsnaps instead of splurging the whopping $5 for a stainless version). And if you tried to service your market with different versions that appealed to each diver's specific desires you'd probably end up with 249,999 different product versions servicing 250,000 different diving consumers (I assume there are probably two people who coincidently want the same thing :) ).

I'm not in the dive business and given the market opportunity I don't think I'd ever want to be - as a businessman I don't find businesses with shrinking market size and increasing barriers to entry for new participants to be an attractive opportunity. But I'm glad you and others like you try - it's good to have choice other than the pablum products that the Big Few manufacturers pitch to the masses!

Jeff,

That a very accurate analysis of the market. Your correct it's not easy to make a buck. If I didn't enjoy the both the sport and challenge of design and manufacturing it would be hard to justify the effort.

Our "solution" to the problem is somewhat unique in that almost 100% of what DSS sells is designed and manufactured in house. While our direct costs are not low, we mimic Dell computer in that we configure what the user needs more or less as we receive the orders. Because we build what we sell we don't have to stock a lot of finished goods, just enough raw materials to produce them. Our higher costs of manufacturing is offset by our JIT stocking system.

Gotta run now, need to go make some more back plates!


Tobin

reefrat
November 1st, 2006, 10:05 PM
A few people have asked about the weight of the Kydex BP with the 20lb wing.

I used the digital bathroom scales (that is all I have to weigh them) and took my weight 3 times without the BCD and 3 times holding it close to my centreline.
As far as I can tell the weight of the unit with the Halcyon weight pockets, mask pocket and line cutter is about 6.2 lbs.

I know it certainly feels light and with the wing removed and flattened the whole thing takes up very little space in my dive bag.

What I like about it is that it is a light travel BCD that is modular because I can increase the wing size if I need to and the weight pockets can be used (with standard weights found anywhere) to make it weigh the same as a stainless unit.

In fact I think these weight pockets, and the way fit on either side of the tank band very close to the wing are really essential to allow good horizontal or nuetral trim with this light BP and a single aluminium tank.
I won't be taking this BCD travelling without them!

Vicente
November 2nd, 2006, 12:15 AM
I'd love to see some good photos of this setup from a few angles.

I'm curious why the LCD wing and not the Torus wing?

I have a home-made rig that weighs 5 lbs for travel. Beuchat plastic backplate (with cushion pad), Halcyon 18-lb wing, single cam-strap, Hogarthian webbing, DiveRite single-zip pocket. No weight pockets I just zip-tie a 3-lb to the handle at my tropical destination put any additional on a belt. Works great. I never bothered installing a crotch-strap, seem to work just fine without it. At the time this rig got built, it was not at all about money it was about no one offering a light travel BP/W setup, so I had to cobble something together.

Despite the DeepSea solution being seemingly slightly heavier than mine, I like the flexibility. Mines a bit more tedious to take apart for one thing. DeepSea solution seems like it'd be a little less wiggly. Thinking about buying a new setup, keep seeking to improve, would love to hear any additional information you can pass along.

cool_hardware52
November 2nd, 2006, 12:47 AM
A couple quick points:

The reported weights in this thread are for a DSS Kydex, 20 lbs wing, harness, + 3rd party weight pockets and a mask pocket. I can get actual weights for just the DSS goods tomorow.

I have been waiting for DEMA to announce these, but I'll try to get some photo's and spec's of our new Tropical Travel Wing (TTW) up tomorrow. I can keep the other 4 or five new wings for DEMA;)

The TTW is 17 lbs of lift, Torus Shape, super narrow, single bladder wing. It's very light, very compact. The lift was of course tested in the assembled state, secured to a backplate with a tank mounted.

The TTW is constructed from 1000 Denier Cordura coated with 6.5 oz of urethane.

Tobin

PacketSniffer
November 2nd, 2006, 03:34 AM
A couple quick points:
<snip>I have been waiting for DEMA to announce these, but I'll try to get some photo's and spec's of our new Tropical Travel Wing (TTW) up tomorrow. I can keep the other 4 or five new wings for DEMA;)

Tobin,

Thanks for the heads-up! I'll see you at DEMA.

cool_hardware52
November 2nd, 2006, 01:11 PM
As promised some Rig weights:

DSS medium Kydex BackPlate, Hog harness and LCD 20 wing 5.2 lbs

DSS medium Kydex BackPlate, Hog Harness and TTW 17 wing 4.7 lbs

The actual weights are likely just bit less, because these include the full lenght of the webbing. Most users will trim off quite a bit.



Tobin

thomjinx
November 2nd, 2006, 03:57 PM
Thanks Reefrat and Tobin for the weight info! This is rarely listed for many pieces of gear. And thanks again Reefrat for the well-written review.

Tobin, your new TTW sounds like it has my name on it! 4.7 lbs! Now we're talking! I can't wait to learn more about it. I am sure you will get a good response at DEMA. I can't be there this year, I have too many projects going at once here.

Cheers,
Thomjinx


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