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.