Annual Regulator Service and Video Editing

final cut pro editingThis past week and weekend was extremely busy indeed.  As you know we have been going non-stop these past weekends with a trip to Ulleongdo and Dokdo, a wedding on the East Coast all followed up with rebuilding regulators and servicing gear.  Each event means pictures, blogging and video editing.  Most of this is done at night after work long into the night.  Scrubbing video footage and marking our favorite clips and pics.  Once that is done we add in our logos, splash and end page as well as any effects and or transitions.  Needless to say not a quick task despite us 2015-07-16 00.04.49doing it all the time.
Once the wedding video, pre-wedding dive video and finally Ulleongdo video was finished it was time to service gear.  Carefully inspecting the regulators, hoses and all other attached items ensures that we have a good idea of what kind of condition the gear is currently in, and it will help to identify any troublesome areas.

Once inspected as a whole the main components are tested to give a benchmark then each piece is broken down into the simplest component and each thoroughly inspected one-by-one.  Then comes the careful cleaning of 2015-07-15 01.01.57each and every piece, to include hose ends, hose o-rings and even transmitters and SPGs.  A thorough rinsing and drying is needed followed by replacing all the parts that were discarded as per manufacturer recommendation.

Now comes the meticulous re-assembly noting some parts are lubricated while others are absolutely not.  Torque specifications are strictly followed and careful application of new parts and o-rings.  Order and attention to detail is critical.  Once the equipment is roughly 98% complete each piece is tested using the guidelines laid out by the manufacturer.  The 1st stage needs to perform between a certain IP (intermediate pressure).

2015-07-15 20.59.15Once the 1st stage is calibrated the 2nd stages must be calibrated.  Each second stage must be calibrated to manufacturer specifications.  This might even mean that you must use a separate 1st stage to conduct these tests to achieve the proper IP pressure for 2nd stage testing.  The tests for the second stage are critical to achieve maximum performance from the regulators.  First set the IP to spec, then adjust the regulator to hear a very minor leak…then turn slightly back to stop leak.  Once more turn adjustment knob slightly and viola the reg should be very close.  Finally the 2nd stage is validated with a cracking test (officially called the Inhalation Effort Test).  This test simply measures the force needed (or difficulty) to breath from the regulator.  For this you need a Magnehelic gauge.

Ultimately repairing your own inhalation effort testequipment will give you the satisfaction of knowing the job is done right and you can fine tune your equipment for you.  The downside is that the equipment to get started gets pricey quick.  It will cost the average person around $500-$1000 just for the specialty tools and calibration equipment.  This won’t even cover the cost of attending the manufacture’s training so that you can buy the parts and have access to the repair manuals.  There are places that you can save some money while still getting some great test gear.  For example the single item that I would recommend is the DUAL PRO 2015-07-15 23.46.53STAND, 0-3 MAGNEHELIC, IP GAUGE, FOUR SPINON ADAPTERS.  Just like it says it is a dual gauge that verifies IP and breathing effort (inhalation and exhalation with this model).  As you can see it is nearly $400 once you add in shipping.  That is half of a high-end DIY’ers budget.  Now you can see why shops charge so much for servicing gear.

If you are a DIY’er look no further than Scuba Tools for each and every tool you may need.  This company is a small business that supplies even the large manufacturers with tools and customized equipment. They are great to deal with as well.

Hollis 500SE Regulator Review

Hollis 500SE Regulator profileWith every new regulator launch comes new “hype”, most of the time I have noticed that most of the improvement is in the visual design.  The new version looks cooler, it’s black and features aggressive characteristics to portray the “Tec” image.  Well this new design isn’t really new at all.  In fact it is quite old.  If I would have seen this a few years ago I might have passed it up for the newer looking round regulators…and I would have missed out big time.

Benefits of the Hollis 500SE

  • Pneumatically balanced servo valve system
  • Patented Orthodontic Mouthpiece for comfort and reduced jaw fatigue
  • Standard with 30″ maxflex hose
  • Easily disassembled without the use of tools and underwater if necessary
  • Left or right positioning – no upside down
  • Boltsnap tie point (Hollis.com, 2015)

Hollis 500SE Regulator backsideHollis has brought back an old design with a modern look and features.  Hollis highlights these features on the regulator’s website (http://www.hollis.com/500se-dc7), the ones listed above.  Of those bullets I feel that there are 2 that need to be mentioned again.

First the statement, “Easily disassembled without the use of tools and underwater if necessary” is an understatement.  I was a bit skeptical when I read this but wow this regulator is unbelievably easy to disassemble.  All you have to do is twist off the plastic nut that holds in the hose and pull the interior of the regulator out…done!  That is seriously it.  This is amazing for cleaning or removing debris.  To go hand-in-hand with that, the service kit is minimalist due to the simple, but reliable construction of the 2nd stage.  I would like to thank Hollis for this design because it makes yearly overhauls simple and time saving.

Hollis 500SE Regulators on BCDSecond, “Left or right positioning – no upside down” design makes for great application during stage/deco/bailout bottles, sidemount setups and finally air-sharing.  Students no longer have to worry about regulator orientation and an air sharing exercise can be done in the blind.

One of the most important features of the regulator (for me) wasn’t highlighted by Hollis and it definitely needs to be mentioned.  For those of you who know me know that I primarily dive a PRISM 2 eCCR.  The CCR is probably the greatest tools for underwater videography because there are no bubbles that ruin your shots, no giant distortions covering your subjects…just clear water.  This is where the 500SE makes it’s money.  For the divers out there that can’t afford to dive a CCR and want to minimize bubble intrusion in your videos this is the single greatest option…and at a fraction of the cost.

This past weekend I shot tons of video underwater (which I am still scrubbing through) and the 500SE’s performance related to video was fantastic.  At almost no time did the bubble ruin a shot or distract from the video.  I didn’t have to think about breathing during my scene captures…simply amazing as far as I’m concerned.

Hollis 500SE RegulatorSo how did the 500SE perform in the water?  Excellent, and I am sure that didn’t surprise you.  The 500SE breathes extremely easy and I didn’t have any issues with free flows during any dive, ascent/descent etc.  The mouthpiece is very comfortable and I didn’t endure any sort of jaw fatigue or feel any pull or push…the regulator rested perfectly in my mouth and was barely noticeable.

Drawbacks of the Hollis 500SE

I honestly could not find a downside to this regulator.  These regulators have now retained a permanent home on my gear for all my OC dive setups.

Summary

Would I recommend this regulator?  YES! Who would I recommend this regulator to?  This regulator makes deco/bailout tank streamlining a breeze.  It is also great for beginners who want a high-performance regulator that can meet recreational and technical diving demands as well as feel comfortable in their mouths during long dives.  Finally and without a doubt I would highly recommend this regulator to every open circuit videographer out there, especially those non-professionals that implement multiple cams like GoPro cameras on helmets.

Was there a question that I didn’t answer?  Still want to know more?  Feel free to comment below, I love to hear our feedback.

ANTARES Dry Glove System

 with the Hollis DX300 Drysuit

ANTARES dryglove kit on Hollis DX300First off I have to say this is quite possibly one of the easiest projects I have done related to scuba diving.  At first it does seem intimidating but it is easy I promise.  If you have been following our blog then you know that I recently reviewed the Hollis DX300 drysuit.  This suit was super comfortable with it’s silicone seals and material.  The major benefit of this suit is that is utilizes quick change SiTech QCS Oval Ring system that is completely compatible with the SiTech ANTARES system.

Oval Stiff Ring for ANTARESIf you don’t have a new Hollis DX300 and you are using this on an older QCS Oval system then you need to verify if you have the new or old QCS system; the older version requires the additional purchase of the Oval Stiff Ring which replaces the thinner older (non-ANTARES-compatible) rings that attach the seals (this is an extra step but it is as simple as changing your silicone seals).  

If you are lucky enough to have the new QCS seals (any QCS Ovals manufactured after May 2013) or the Hollis DX300 then you are a mere 10 minutes away from dry hands.

Total Cost of Project:

  • $124 for parts (not including shipping)
  • 10-15 minutes of your time

Items you need to purchase:

  1. BLUE PVC Dry Suit Glove Replacement ($24)
  2. Antares Oval Dryglove System ($100)

I highly recommend the blue/orange gloves because it is easy to see hand signals if you have a darker drysuit or black gear, or limited visibility.  The black gloves look great on the surface however they aren’t as functional underwater for signaling.

Installation:

 

  1. Find the spacer ring that creates a snug fit with your glove (if you purchased the blue gloves above then it will be the blue spacer).  Thinner gloves like rubber only (no fabric on the inside) should take the green spacer.
  2. Tuck the glove wrists into themselves to fold over the spacer ring.
  3. Check to see fit on writs and verify oval is properly placed for wrist and movement.
  4. Hold glove and ring in place and press firmly into the quick connect cuff ring that attaches the glove to the drysuit ensuring there are no creases in the glove as the ring seats itself.
  5. Push the ring all the way against the quick connect cuff ring.
  6. Pull the glove and the quick connect cuff ring in opposite directions to ensure proper installation.
  7. Trim excess material from glove cuffs.  (1.5cm/1.25in should be enough)
  8. (Optional) install ANTARES support ring into the drysuit sleeve.  This is included in the ANTARES kit (previous kits required an additional purchase).
  9. Lubricate the glove seals with the lubrication stick provided
  10. Test glove to suit fit by pressing the glove into the suit.
  11. Relax…your done.

Surprisingly easy huh?.  That’s exactly what I thought and it was truly simple.  The modular system is amazing and it really makes the Hollis Drysuit even better.  Now you can quickly (within 1 minute) change from wet to dry gloves or back.  Even better you can swap out QCS Oval Kitgloves should a previous pair become damaged, torn or flooded.

I can’t stress enough what an amazing system this is, especially when paired with the Hollis DX300.  I think that my next project will be installing the SiTech QCS Oval system on my Hollis BioDry 100 so stay tuned.

If you purchase these and doe this easy project let us know how it went for you and what your thoughts are on this system.  If you have questions drop us a line as well.

Hollis DX300 Drysuit Review

Hollis DX300 DrysuitRecently I got my hands on the illusive Hollis DX300 and I was excited to try it out.  Once unpacked it took all of about 5 minutes for me to start trying it on.  Before I go into the suit let me first say that I have been previously diving the Hollis BioDry 100 (front entry) for about 2 1/2 years and it was going to be very hard to top that suit.  The level of comfort that the BioDry 100 has is simply amazing.

Specifications

  • Entry: Front
  • Seals: Replaceable (silicone)
    • SiTech Neck Tite system
    • SiTech Quick Change Solution Oval
  • Pockets: 2 large velcro (1 on each thigh)
  • Foot Type: 5mm Neoprene Sock
  • Material: trilaminate (light weight) double diamond weave
  • Knees: thick padding
  • Zipper: YKK plastic, flexible
  • 3M reflective safety strips on each arm
  • Price: $1899.95 (MAP)

Test Conditions

  • surface temperatures: 15-21 C (60-70 F) and windy
  • Water temperature: 6-10 C (43-50 F)
  • dove drysuit using the PRISM2 eCCR
  • shore (shallow) & boat (deep) dives

With that preface out of the way lets begin the review.  Fist I was super excited to have neoprene socks (my BioDry will be going back to Hollis to have these added shortly).  The socks are amazingly comfortable and add a bit of cushion inside the rock boots.  This made for a really comfortable weekend in the suit for several hours each time.

Pros

11084398_787843441269441_1785072992_nThe next thing the wearer notices is that is is an updated plastic YKK zipper.  Now at first I was very disappointed and thought…”oh great plastic…I can see I will have to replace this when it breaks teeth”.  After a few uses the zipper is definitely more comfortable than most other dry suits and even tops the Biodry 100’s metal zipper for comfort.  I am hoping that the DX300’s zipper is every bit as durable as the Biodry 100’s zipper.

Finally, and this is absolutely the best feature, the user-replaceable silicone seals.  When anyone first uses this suit and carefully slides the seals on they will instantly notice the difference and be extremely happy.  These silicone seals are amazing…let me say that again…amazing.  First off zero trimming was necessary to get them to comfortably fit, secondly they are comfortable (in case you weren’t sure if I really meant it the first few times I said it). Replaceable seals are a big plus for me because of living overseas and so far away from AUP/Hollis.  The seals in the BioDry 100 must be replaced by Hollis.  This means that each time I need new seals I must send to my Authorized Dealer and they in turn send it back to the US to get serviced.  Needless to say this simply takes too long.  This was the whole reason why I wanted a second drysuit and luckily my second drysuit had user replaceable silicone seals.

The overall fit was great especially since it was an off-the-shelf size and not custom tailored.  All pieces work together to allow very comfortable movement and facilitate and nice range of motion.  This is especially important in technical diving because of all of the equipment that is worn and the range of motion needed to react in real/simulated emergencies.

One other benefit of the suit is that it was extremely comfortable on and below the surface.  Normally I can’t wait to take the suit top off and get out of the wrist and neck seals.  This wasn’t the case at all this past weekend (which was nice).  Because the suit was so comfortable I was able to wear it (as you dive it) all day without any discomfort.

As far as in-water handling the DX300 worked perfectly.  The inflator valve worked with the same precision as the BioDry 100.  The dump valve was the same, worked without any issues.  The drysuit material appears that it will hold up just as well if not better than the BioDry 100, however time will provide the ultimate test.

Being extremely familiar with the cold water diving of South Korea I was able to see one more benefit to the suit.  The DX300 material appears to provide a slightly warmer dive than the BioDry.  I am sure this is due to the thicker material.  I dove the suit in 6-10 C (43-50 F) water using only the lavacore undergarments and I wasn’t cold (except for my hands).  Usually I must add an additional top and bottom piece on top of the lavacore in the winter here.  I also think that this suit will be much easier to get into and out of for pool/warm water where a diver wouldn’t use full bottoms (i.e. shorts or underwear only).  This is because the BioDry has a rubber inside that tends to stick / rip out leg hairs and the DX300 has more of a nylon feeling interior.

Updated 08 April 2015: This suit is 100% compatible with the ANTARES Oval Dryglove System.  Read our installation and review here.

Cons

Unfortunately there are some negatives to the suit.  One that is immediately noticeable is the oval plastic cuffs that can dig into the wrists during wrist movement if not properly positioned prior to devices being put on the wrists (slates, computers etc).  The cuff also reduce arm space available for these items.  This was something that was rather irritating, especially since I was diving my rebreather and needed the arm space for my Predator (primary) Petrel (backup), wrist slates and compass.  Perhaps I need to rethink wrist slates that I love so much.  The other down side to the DX300 was the fact that the cuffs and in combination with the suit material (not 38th Parallel Divers just before a cold water divebeing wearforce stretchable) there were some instances where It was more difficult to reach the drysuit dump shoulder dump valve.  This would not have been a problem had I been diving OC (backmount singles/doubles or sidemount); this was directly related to the PRISM2’s counter lungs and harness system.  I am not sure if it is fair to subtract points from the DX300 for this but I don’t experience this with the BioDry 100 so it is a thought that will run though my head when selecting which drysuit to wear on a dive.

The other downside to the silicone cuffs is related to Hollis’s policy itself.  The Hollis website clearly states, “Fitted with SiTech Quick Change Solution Oval wrist system with silicone seals as standard (comes with spare seals)” however this was not the case.  I even contacted Hollis and they stated they weren’t aware that the suit was supposed to come with spare seals.  I also informed them that the site stated it was supposed to however not sure which is correct at this point since the site still states “yes” (as of 25 March 2015) to spares and I didn’t receive any or an indication that some would be sent to future purchasers.

I’m not really upset that there are no spares, it would just be nice to know in advance so that I could have purchased them to have on-hand. Since they are SiTech seals you can purchase them directly from a SiTech dealer.  I bought replacement wrist seals from Amazon (see right).

Modifications Recommended

Light Monkey P Valve on Hollis DX300 drysuitThe only modification needed for this suit is the addition of a P-valve.  I like to make sure that me and all my divers stay hydrated, especially in the cold waters on technical dives.

If you already have a P-Valve the quick disconnect is quite possibly the best add-on you can get. It allows for easy detachment from the suit without having to remove the device from the diver (works with both male and female systems).

Summary

All in all the suit has some amazing features that make it an excellent buy:

  • user replaceable neck and wrist seals
  • extremely comfortable silicone seals
  • standard neoprene feet
  • flexible plastic zipper

I definitely would recommend this suit to anyone, especially those who find themselves in situations where they cannot easily send back a suit to replace seals.

The only downside to this suit is that the wrist cuffs and neck cuff will take some getting use to since it does make a diver re-think arm device setups and feels slightly different in the next area.

Diving Education & Training During the Winter

Diving LibraryRecently we were asked for recommendations on books, videos and any other educational material about diving.  This weekend we combed over our materials to develop this list of information.  We divided it into four major categories:

Within each of these topics is a short write-up on what we thought of the materials and how we rated it on a scale of 0-5.  Zero meaning we haven’t yet read/watched it (but heard good things so we bought it) thru 5 meaning we recommend this as a MUST HAVE for every diver’s library at home.  We also took the time to link to Amazon (where appropriate).  This does two things:

  • give you a direct link to the product that we have
  • helps us generate a tiny (and yes we mean tiny) amount of revenue to help cover website costs (remember we are a club without membership dues)

So please, if you are going to make an Amazon purchase, use our provided links.  Ok enough our plugging our links.

The second part of this quick blog is once you have the knowledge how does a diver (in Korea specifically) practice any of these skills in preparation for the upcoming dive year?  This is really important for all those warm water divers or divers without drysuits.  We know you want to practice however not to the point of freezing in 4° C waters.

Will he just answer us already…where and how can we practice?  OK. OK.. it is simple continue to check our page (Facebook Events Page) for events for pool sessions.  Any time that we have pool sessions feel free to come along and practice buoyancy, SMB, and any and all other skills related to diving.  If you want to see a specific skill clinic simply ask.  We are more than happy to get in pool with you to assist in developing your skills.

Hollis SMS75 Review, Open Water

Hollis SMS75Ocean Review

My apologies to my readers for being lazy and originally putting this blog as an “update” versus a stand-alone post.  I took the SMS75 out to the East Coast on our most recent trip and dove it all weekend as a recreational sidemount rig.  Overall the BCD still retains my approval and it is a really good BCD however the lack of a rear dump valve in combination with the poor placement/design of the only dump valve (top left shoulder as the diver wears it) knocks this BCD down from being perfect.

I would love to see Hollis put a dump valve on the rear of the wing facing away from the diver, this would enable the diver to deflate and not break trim.  Several times during descents and ascents we had to break trim  to obtain a head’s up positioning to deflate the BCD.  The BCD did however have very quick inflation/deflation response time which made the requirement to break trim minimal.  The other issue is with all the gear that technical diving requires we found that the pull cord for the existing dump valve seemed to wind itself around just about everything making it difficult to easily locate and use consistently.

With that being said the donning/doffing of the BCD is SUPER fast and it rides very comfortable.  This BCD seems to be a mixture of several components from the Elite 2 harness, the SMS100 (only streamlined) and some similar attachment points that can be found in their PRISM2 counter-lung setup.  For me this was great to see because Hollis has taken (in my opinion) some great features of each of these BCDs and incorporated them into the SMS75.  I am sure that the xDeep and Razor enthusiasts out there will be saying, “the SMS75 is so big, it has to drag in the water” … my reply is simple, “You’re wrong”… the bcd may look slightly larger than most sidemount harnesses or lately but the SMS75 performs great in the water.  Attachment points are very convenient and easy to reach, it is comfortable in and out of the water.  Everything (except the dump valve) was easy to operate under task loading which made for effortless diving.  All-in-all I would repeatedly buy this BCD again.  (hint hint… please Hollis fix the dump valve issue).

Who would I recommend buy this product? Any instructor that teaches both recreational (single tank) backmount and recreational and technical sidemount.  This one BCD can quickly and easily switch between the two modes and is equally capable in either setup.  If you our your students/customers are diving in open water (ocean, lake etc.) then this bcd will be great.  I cannot speak about advanced wreck penetration or cave diving as I am not a cave diver and there simply aren’t large wrecks to penetrate at my normal dive locations.  However based on my knowledge and understanding I would fully expect that this bcd would perform well in either situation with only one drawback; the SMS75 still only has 1 bladder for lift.  It does have 40lbs / 18kgs of lift according to the website.

Response from Hollis

Prior to me writing this post I had sent a message to the Hollis Distributor and expressed my concerns regarding the BCD.  Moments before my original posting of this blog (when it was just an update) I received an email relayed to me from the President of Hollis Gear (Nick Hollis) stating, “…can [you] let Larry know we are adding his points to our next product discussion and will likely add a 2nd OPV on the lower left as requested.”  This is exactly why I love AUP Gear (specifically Hollis gear)…the company is willing to listen and, if appropriate, make changes to better suit divers.

If you would like to see the overall setup and review post check it out here.

Hollis SMS75 Review, Setup and Modification

Hollis SMS75

When people hear sidemount today they often think of 2 companies that have been dominating the market share, the Razor sidemount and the Stealth sidemount systems.  I must disclose that I have never dove the Stealth sidemount system but I have owned and dove the Razor 2.0 complete system.

Let’s get a few things out of the way, the Razor and Stealth systems are both extremely streamlined and take up a small footprint. The Razor offers their batwing which is a dual bladder setup (very nice for redundant lift capabilities).  The Stealth has a similar design however it is lacking a dual bladder (one can be added but it is not standard).  Both Razor and Stealth systems utilize webbing material and metal brackets to form a harness, there are no fastex quick-release style buckles.  The upside to this design is that there are less points of failure and they offer a completely custom fit.

The SMS75 is a more traditional style system in that it is closer to a traditional bcd versus a sidemount harness.  To some this may be a fault, however I believe this is hands down where the SMS75 will make its money.  The harness style systems take significantly longer to setup and fit.  For a comparison it took me about 2-3 hours to setup my Razor to factory specifications where it took 5 minutes to setup my SMS75.  This is critical for shops that sell to primarily open water sidemount divers.  I think that the primary marketshare for beginning sidemount divers will be dominated by the SMS75.  What customer wants to spend that much time  setting up gear when they first get it?  Sure I will I agree that technical divers will most likely enjoy the über customization that can be achieved by the Razor / Stealth, and those same people will argue that the Razor offers true lift redundancy.  I will argue that none of these systems is perfect.

The Good and the Bad

Let me first say this, I am NOT a cave diver and I have no cave experience so my perspective is from open water sidemount, not cave/wreck penetration.

The Bad

1. Size: The first thing that you notice (especially if you have owned any low profile harness like the Razor/Stealth) is that the SMS75 takes up a large footprint and it appears bulky.  While Hollis has slimmed down this new bcd from the SMS100, the SMS75 is still large in comparison to other sidemount rigs.  The SMS75 is more along the same size of a traditional travel size bcd.

The Fix: I’m not sure I would fix this based on what this tradeoff provides the diver.  While the bcd is large it does offer some unique characteristics that are unparalleled in other sidemount only bcds.

2. Vent Placement: The SMS75 has only 1 overpressure relief/dump valve.  While this itself is not a bad thing the placement is.  Factory setup has the dump valve at the top left shoulder which does cause some extremely mild discomfort when wearing it with only a rash guard (it is just enough to let you know it is there, not painful).  The problem I have is with the fact that it doesn’t vent toward the surface if you are in a proper trim position for sidemount.  The vent exhausts into the upper shoulder meaning the diver has to put him/herself into a head up position slightly.  Thankfully the placement isn’t so bad that trim is completely lost, it is just requires a less than perfect trim position to vent.  I suspect that this is because the inflator/deflator can trade places with the vent to provide a recreational style location where the inflator/deflator comes over the left shoulder (discussed in “The Good”).

The Fix: in the next version of the BCD, Hollis could simply put a second vent at the lower tail facing away from the diver.   The current placement of the shoulder vent could be moved up away from the shoulder and more on the upper back facing away from the diver, not venting into the diver.

3. Redundant Lift Capability: There is only a single bladder version at the moment.  For serious tec divers that will be carrying weight that requires a dual bladder setup this bcd will fall short.

The Fix:  I would suggest a bare-bones 2nd bladder that is sandwiched like the Razor system.

As with all sidemount harnesses I had to make some minor modifications to achieve perfect trim.  Ideally I would request that a round ring system that I describe below be part of the factory kit.

The Good:

Can the SMS75 recover from those negatives listed above to make $700 (MSRP) worth parting with?  I would say yes…hands down.  Why?

1. Versatility: The SMS75 is a great multi-system that can be used as both sidemount and backmount diving; and very quickly.  It only takes about 5 minutes (taking my time, careful not to strip the plastic threads) to switch between sidemount and single backmount.  All a diver has to do is swap the inflator/deflator and exhaust vent.  This is especially valuable to instructors and dive shops now that major training organizations allow for training entry level students in sidemount diving.  If a shop/instructor had these as rental units they can train both sidemount and traditional backmount students…no need for 2 systems, the SMS75 can do both.

2. Insanely FAST setup:  This sidemount system has an unparalleled minimal setup time.  Literally you can dive this system right out of the box in under 10 minutes.  This even includes setting up the tank bands for the tanks…maybe 20 minutes if you have to watch the YouTube video several times to get the tank band setup correctly.  It took me roughly 15 times longer to setup the Razor sidemount system.

3. Quick Change from Cold to Warm Water and Back: This is another great feature of this system over all of the rest, especially for those of us who don’t get to dive in bath water all year round.  Diving here in South Korea we dive dry suits with heavy undergarments almost all year; when we get to dive in the tropics we have to change our harness setup for much less thermal protection (if any).  On the Razor system this took about 30-60 minutes…with the SMS75 it can be done in 3 minutes.  What’s not to love about that?

Overall this is such an excellent and versatile bcd that I have convinced most of those that know me to order one.  I really had to work hard to find some complaints with this bcd.  Even with being hyper-critical I would buy the SMS75 again as well as recommend it to anyone who would like a great sidemount harness but isn’t quite ready to completely go sidemount all the time.

Check out the Hollis SMS75 Open Water Performance Review

What I Had to do to get the SMS75 to My Personal Standard / Liking

Hollis SMS75 waistband round-ringsBoth the Razor and the SMS75 needed (in my opinion) minor modifications in order to be an excellent harness.  To make matters even more close they both (and the Stealth would be included in this if I had owned one in the past) needed the exact same modification.  The modification mimics the DiveRite Nomad bungee system.  It was the addition of 2 – 2″ metal round rings (not “D” rings) in the middle of the bungee on each side.   Since the SMS75 comes with some really nice side bungees you will definitely want to reuse these.

  1. unhook the quick link from the bungee
  2. loop the bungee over the round ring to form a girth hitch
  3. re-secure the quick link to the round ring
  4. adjust the bungee so that the round ring rests in the armpit region.

 

 

inflator retainer setupThe SMS75 needed 2 Hollis SMS75 waistband d-ringsother minor mods.   I added 4 total D-rings to the waist band (2 on each side).  I find that the trim of the tanks is much better (for me) using these as lower attachment points for the tanks; I can also shift the tanks to lower D-rings as they become more buoyant due to air consumption.  The last modification for the SMS75 was to add a small bungee loop to the chest strap for inflator/deflator retention.

sidemount top attachment straps

A modification I make to all my sidemount setups is with large clips attached to bungees to secure the upper portion of the tanks.  I piece of bungee is looped through a clip and secured (using hog nose pliers/staples) to prevent slippage.  The tails are tied with an overhand knot to close the bungee creating a loop.  This will then get wrapped around the tank valve 3 times.  Finally it clips into the round rings on the side of the SMS75.  This makes the in-water trim absolutely perfect.

Parts List:

Delayed / Surface Marker Buoy (SMB/DSMB) – Selection & Deployment

SMB at surface

Deploying a surface marker buoy is critical in many parts of the world for diving and now it is required as part of the PADI Open Water Diver course.  We definitely agree that is a must know skill for divers. We have been part of a few rescues where improper DSMB deployment use or inadequate SMB size caused divers not to be noticed by the boat for pickup.  NO diver wants to be left in the water.  I will use the terms SMB and DSMB interchangeably, just understand the only difference is DSMB would be deployed underwater after dive start, usually on ascent (delayed); SMB would normally be deployed on the surface at the beginning of the dive.  The skill that I will be talking about is deploying the SMB underwater.

Very recently we were on a dive where another buddy team suffered from two mistakes:

  1. They had an inadequately sized DSMB
  2. They lost control of their DSMB

A critical task is to conduct pre-dive checks.  Pre-dive checks are not simply making sure you have equipment, they are there so that you make sure you have the right equipment.  The right equipment will vary depending on many factors … basically your decisions should be made in the following manner:

  • What is the Dive Goal
  • Surface/Water Conditions
  • Dive Site Location
  • Buddies/Equipment Available
  • Time
  • Environmental Impact Considerations

Going back to choosing proper SMB size, if we were diving in the Philippines and it was super flat, clear waters then perhaps a 1 meter SMB could be appropriate.  Now lets move to the Korean East Coast.  On the East Coast conditions can change throughout the day at a moderate pace, also we have seen currents pop up out of no where once in a while.  On the surface there are generally some swells that range from small to fairly large (we dive in all types of weather so long as the boats are allowed to leave the harbor with our experienced divers).  Even with small swells a small DSMB is difficult to see from a distance in this environment.  Most of our divers opt for the larger 1.6 – 2m tall DSMBs.  For South Korea we personally feel that these are the bare minimum for our environment.

This is a video of the tail end of a 2.5+ hour search and rescue where divers were diving with too small of an SMB and they lost control of the SMB as well. Needless to say we were all very grateful when we located the divers.

Now let’s talk about deployment of your DSMB.  This task execution must also be carefully evaluated based on environment.  Many instructors teach students to use their alternate air source to put air into the SMB.  This is a technique but not an ideal technique.  Why not?  If you dive in Korea the water temps in deep water (or in winter months) can reach 5º C.  With water temperatures that cold there is a high probability that your alternate air source will freeze causing a free flow.  Now you have two problems to deal with, (1) you probably just overfilled your SMB and it is out of control (unless you are experienced with SMBs) and (2) you now have a free-flowing regulator wasting precious breathing gas.  Neither are good and the combination probably caused the less experienced diver to also lose control of the SMB reel, so now that is gone.

So what is the right way to deploy an SMB?  There is no 1 specific right way, it is all dependent on your surroundings, however there are ways that work in most situations.  There are 3 techniques that work well in all environments:

  1. Fill your SMB with your exhaled breaths directly from regulator to bag
  2. Fill your SMB by blowing into the oral/power inflator nozzle
  3. Attach an extra low pressure inflator hose to your 1st stage that you will use to inflate the power inflator nozzle.  The same style hose that attached to your LPI (low pressure inflator) on your BCD.

We found 3 good videos on YouTube that showcase each of the options. These are not our videos and we are not affiliated with any of the owners/instructors etc.

Option 1 does take practice in maintaining proper buoyancy and trim however one plus is that the regulator never comes out of the divers mouth.  This however will NOT work for CCR divers, as we simply don’t exhale into the water.  Alternate air source freezing won’t occur.

Option 2 does require the diver to remove the regulator from his/her mouth and blow into the oral/power inflator nozzle.  This could require multiple breaths depending on depth and amount per breath the nozzle allows to pass through.  There is very little chance that too much air will rapidly enter the SMB as the diver controls each amount with precision. Alternate air source freezing won’t occur.  This again would not be ideal for CCR divers as they would deplete their loop contents and change the loop mix.

Option 3 would work for all divers (OC and CCR).  Simply connect the LP hose up to the power inflator nozzle and carefully fill.  Alternate air source freezing won’t occur and the regulator always remains in the divers mouth.

We understand there are several other variations out there that would work as well, such as using the existing LP hose attached to a diver’s low LPI however anytime a diver disconnects items there is a possibility of failure or inability to reconnect.  Each diver must carefully conduct a personal assessment on which way to setup his/her gear and task execution.

Finally a last note, make sure you can find, reach and fluidly deploy your SMB. This is where practice comes in. Start by testing out configurations on dry land in our home. Then do it blindfolded. Then move to the pool. Slightly adjust locations and setup until you find one that works best for you without violating the above consideration list. Think safety first at all times. Finally when you have mastered the skill in the pool move to the ocean. With the help of buddies record each others’ deployment of DSMBs to see how you really look executing the task.

As always if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us and keep your eyes peeled for our next dive clinic.  Not sure where to pick up an SMB like ones that we mentioned above?  Comment below or PM us on Facebook www.facebook.com/38thParallelDivers

2014 Pre-Season Check Dive

So we went to the Suwon World Cup Pool on March 20th to check out new equipment that was purchased over the winter and to get our current equipment back in the water. We wanted to get wet to go over our Tec and rebreather configurations as well as get time to practice some buoyancy and gear configurations.

First note: During the week is the ABSOLUTE BEST time to go to the pool, we had the entire pool to ourselves (almost).

We were lucky to make a new contact with an Aqua Lung International and AquaLung USA representative. Coincidentally they were showing off some of their shallow-water (O2 only) rebreathers off to some ROK military. It was pretty cool watching these guys in the water. We also were able to meet up with some Korean friends from Young Jin Technical Scuba Shop. Our favorite Young Jin instructor had about 6 new students with her fro entry level recreational diving. It is always great to see a friendly face.

Since we had the pool all to ourselves for most of the time we were able to use all the underwater hula-hoops, ascent/descent lines and have a free-for all without worrying about others.

Hollis M3 Mask

We also tested out some new equipment, the Hollis M3 mask. The Hollis M3 mask turned out to be an amazing new addition to our equipment. We have tried many masks in the past from several manufacturers but this one is our new favorite. The glass is CRYSTAL clear providing an excellent amount of light in. The side skirts are black which allow for easier focusing and less distractions from peripheral shadows. Our last mask we dove was the Hollis M1 mask (round edges) and we were wintering if we were going to find anything that could come close to this mask. The M1 offers a great FOV (field of view) and extremely low profile…WAS our go-to mask of choice until we laid our hands (and face) on the M3.

The M3 also has an extremely low profile and has a great FOV. The glass is Crystal Clear Saint-Gobain Diamant Tempered Glass. When they say crystal clear it is CRYSTAL clear. The second you put on this mask you will see an immediate difference in quality. Two critical factors (for us) make this our new STANDARD mask:

(1) Achieves a perfect seal with full beard and/or full goatee, there were ZERO LEAKS the entire dive. We rarely ever experience this. SERIOUSLY there we NO leaks it was honestly unbelievable (even the M1 has leaked a TINY bit now and then with bushy facial hair).

(2) ZERO pinching of the nose (under or over). This mask is quite possibly the most comfortable mask we have ever worn. After 2 hours in the water and on our face there wasn’t a spot that was uncomfortable or irritated. This is CRITICAL for two important groups of people (instructors and rebreather divers). These two groups wear their masks more than any other diving group. We can’t stress enough how great this mask was to wear.

We encourage EVERYONE that is interested in bettering their skills to contact us for our next trip. We have divers of all skills in our group to include Instructors, Tec Divers (back and sidemount) and rebreather divers. Not only are our club members always willing to help[ but we can always learn from what our new friends can bring to the table. Contact us via facebook if you are interested in getting some new skills or just looking to fun dive. We hope to see you next trip!

Technician Course & VIP Instructor Certifications

In February 2014 we headed off to Hawaii to attend the AUP Open Circuit Technician’s course, the Hollis Explorer Semi-Closed Circuit Rebreather Technician course and the PRISM 2 eCCR Technician course. The courses lasted 2 days on Oahu in the AUP Hawaii Building. It was a great class hosted and instructed by some great folks from AUP/Hollis. Now that we have a certified AUP Open circuit technician we are able to service several pieces of equipment. The main premise behind the course was to gain technical knowledge into fixing the PRISM 2; this is extremely beneficial because shipping the PRISM 2 to/from California to get serviced simply takes too long.

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The day after we returned from Hawaii we attended a PSI (Professional Scuba Inspectors) VCI (Visual Cylinder Inspector’s) course. We coordinated wit PSI to host a local course which was instructed by Dr. Kang (only PSI Instructor on peninsula). The visual cylinder inspector’s course will enable us to ensure our divers’ tanks are in keeping with American standards (which also happen to be the same as Korean standards). This course goes hand-in-hand with the Gas Blender course that we had taken earlier in the year. Now we can Visually Inspect and sticker (VIP) tanks for up to 100% oxygen use. This is great, especially for our technical and rebreather divers.

If anyone would be interested in taking the PSI-VCI (VIP) course or the Gas Blender course please contact us via our Facebook page.