My test dives with a Halcyon SS backplate (long)

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Posted by Robert M on July 04, 2000 at 17:47:38:

Summary, for those wanting the quick fix: I like back flotation
enormously, and the harness/backplate system is pretty much what
it is cranked up to be. I personally find the single tank adapters
to be rather kludgy, but I know that this is basically a doubles
setup that is tweaked for single tank use. I worry about the wearing
of the edges of the stainless (OMS) or aluminum (Halcyon) adapter
against the galvanized finish of my steel tank. Both the Halcyon and
OMS made wear marks on the tank, and might cause rusting if they
wore through the coating. I would put some protective layer over the
raw metal of the adapter if I buy this setup, rather than risk a
rusting tank. The Halcyon Pioneer wing, even the oversized 45lb'er I
used, is at least definitely designed for single tank use. Lack of
pull dump was not a factor: the damn thing dumps so fast through the
inflator you better have a quick trigger finger. The harness give a
very secure feeling in the water, without any feeling of being bound
up by it. The completely different positioning of attachment points
for backup reg and such will require a rethinking of the rest of your
gear, but the DIR system encourages this anyway. The SS plate would
be too heavy (for me) in warm water if I wanted any ditchable weight.

Through Michael Kane's generosity and patience, I was able to borrow
a Halcyon stainless steel backplate/harness, 45lb Pioneer wing (the
only single tank wing on hand), and Halcyon single tank adapter. I
spied an OMS single adapter on the garage floor and asked to borrow
that too, as it was noticeably lower profile than the Halcyon.

Michael was packing for a trip to demo the Halcyon system, but took
the time to help me out, with harness adjustment and thorough going
through of the equipment. I did some checkout "diving" in my pool to
get a feel for things. This helped get the crotch strap adjusted
right, and showed the shoulder straps were right on. I have not
converted to DIR hose lengths and routing, so I fumbled a while
trying to get a satisfactory stowing of my backup reg. Ended up high
on my right shoulder, but that is really the only place with this
rig and standard hoses. Clipped my computer to the left waist D-ring
after moving it forward a bit.

I found out real fast that the SS backplate (-6lbs) wouldn't work
very well in a skin suit, and maybe even in a 3mm wetsuit like I use
in Hawaii: I sank like a stone in the pool water with no weights.
Salt water buoyancy would help, but I gotta think I would end up with
no ditchable weight with a 3mm suit, if I added a keel weight. But, I
am trying this out to see if I like it for SoCal diving, and worry
about Hawaii later. Downside is more $$ for a warm water rig.

My wife and I went out on the Liberty from Ventura Harbor on Monday.
First dive was with the Halcyon adapter and 14lbs in my weight belt.
I figured with the -6lbs of the backplate, I would be overweighted by
a few pounds, and I was. The donning of the gear on the boat was
different, but no big deal. Did not have to "chicken wing" it at all.
Easier than my Classic, which I usually have to do an over the head
don. Ended up with the crotch strap over my weight belt when I could
find no easy way for the waist belt to coexist peacefully. They both
want to occupy the same space. Not a big deal, I would use the Halcyon
integrated system if I go with this setup. I noticed right away that
the feeling of this setup with a thick wetsuit (6.5mm) is much freer
while moving around the deck before the dive than my Scubapro Classic.
All the restriction around the chest is gone.

In the water, everything that is said about the rig just disappearing
is true, it really does. For the first time I was not constantly
fighting to stay horizontal, and could adopt any posture I wanted to.
Even did a couple barrel rolls for the hell of it. How much of this is
back floation and how much more is added by the distributed weight of
the backplate, I dunno. Deliberately shifting my shoulders vigorously
shook the plate and tank a bit, but not to the point it felt sloppy,
and no worse than my Scubapro BC. You could feel a bit of a pendulum
sensation (from the tank adapter offset?) but you had to provoke it.

Second and third dives I switched to the OMS low profile adapter, and
dropped down to 10lbs in the weight belt. The OMS sets the tank
closer, and maybe a bit more "integrated" and tighter while moving
around helping my wife with her gear? Hard to say. The diving felt
about the same: very effortless. Testing for streamlining was hard to
do, as I did not bring my Classic for comparison, but you really do
glide quite a ways after a kick.

This setup works.

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