Divers are slaves to fashion, and my club just like most, has its uniform; Buddy BCDs, Apex TX40 regulators, and O'Three crushed neoprene dry suits. Having already succumbed to the charms of the Apex TX40 and the O'Three, I have spent the last year denying the need for a heavy-weight jacket, and have belligerently stuck to my gorgeous purple Seaquest Diva, a big girl's blouse of a BCD if ever there was one. I perversely enjoyed the fact that rufty tufty types at Portland Harbour would glance mockingly at my girlie kit, and although the cross-your-heart bra-like cummerbund would slightly obscure the inflator-valve on my drysuit, my Diva did me proud.
Yet as I progressed to Nitrox and slightly deeper, slightly longer bottom times, the inevitable day came when I had to admit that my Diva wasn't quite up to the job. I needed more air and an independent alternative air source, and suddenly the dinky bladder on my Diva looked dangerously small. I needed to upgrade, and conveniently I had a couple of months to research the possibilities before the London Dive Show.
I threw myself into the project with such gusto, and canvassed so much opinion that after a fortnight I was more confused than when I started. While a pony and a Buddy Explorer seemed the obvious choice, I was gradually being seduced by the dark side - the tekkies - all of whom recommended twinning up. I found myself propping up the bar with the tech boys discussing double bladders and manifolds, nodding sagely at the thought of making my own back plate.
I gradually came to my senses, and accepted that the prospect of bolting 12-litre cylinders to a bare back plate was a little too austere for my liking. While the Hogarthian theory of no-frills-kit makes perfect sense for cave or wreck divers, I was looking for a little more Philippe Starck minimalism in my twinset. Besides, I couldn't help thinking the rigid dress code of certain tekkies was all too Stalinist, and the rebel in me was just bursting to plaster my kit in neon plastic D-rings and suicide clips.
Still, I was sold on the idea of twin cylinders, and just as I was about to buy two 10-litre bottles, a friend let me try out his 300 bar 7s. It was love at first site. With just 10% less gas than twin 230 bar 10s, the 300 bar 7s are slimmer, easier to carry, nicely negative in the water, and they look just gorgeous. For ease, I also plumped for a manifold, since it means I don't have to switch regulators every 50 bar, and I have no problems reaching the isolator tap in emergencies.
As for the back plate and bladders, I found the simplicity and the comfort I was seeking with the Dive Rite harness and Rec wing. Like the cylinders, the wing is low profile and the harness has a back pad for wimps like me. The front of the harness is regulation tech minimalism, with a just hint of Philippe Starck. And I'm delighted it commits the heinous tekkie crime of having six D-rings!
So how does it perform? Apart from the additional gas this system provides, I find the twinset much more balanced both in and out of the water, and as long as I sling it on my back, it is easier to carry than a 12 or 15-litre with a pony. For the sort of 30-45 metre diving I have been doing this summer, a 3-litre Nitrox stage has sufficed for accelerated deco, and this hardly adds to the overall weight.
The only problem I have encountered is that some filling stations still cannot pump to 300 bar, particularly Nitrox-clean cylinders. To date, this has not curtailed my diving, and is the only blot on an otherwise spotless logbook.
For more information on the Dive Rite harness and other equipoment visit www.diverite.com
Seduced by the dark side - Jane on board John Thornton's MV Karin,
diving the wrecks of Scapa Flow
No, no. Not that kind of twinset
'I gradually came to my senses, and accepted that the
prospect of bolting 12-litre cylinders to a bare back plate
was a little too austere for my liking.'