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December 27, 2010

New (and lighter) gear for Christmas

For Christmas this year I was led on a treasure hunt that ended in the garage of my home where I found a gear bag with new fins and a new BC. And not just any new fins and BC, but a set of Scubapro Seawing Novas and a Scubapro LiteHawk BC. While I had hinted I wanted the fins, the BC was a complete surprise. I had seen it at DEMA in Las Vegas a couple of months ago and liked it, and Carol had picked up on that.

What's remarkable about both is that they are lighter than the gear I use now (and have been using ever since I started scuba). My black Scubapro Twin Jets weigh 5.5 pounds whereas the new Seawings weigh just 4.3 pounds. My trusty old Scubapro KnightHawk weighs 8.7 pounds, the new LiteHawk just 6.2. So between them, there's a weight saving of almost four pounds. I never thought this would even matter, but it does in this day and age of ever more strictly enforced luggage weight limits at the airports. Yes, in a few short years we've gone from being able to shlep along a virtually unlimited amount of gear to having to pack and repack to make the weight and not pay another king's ransom for a second bag.

The airlines' efforts to squeeze ever more fees out of travelers has led to changes in the scuba industry. Aqua Lung has been advertising their "Travel Light Package" that includes BC, fins, mask, snorkel, regulator, computer and a carry-on bag that combined weigh less than 18 pounds. So if you travel really light, you may not even need another bag. That assumes, of course, that you travel to warm places where you don't need a bulky wetsuit and such, and then there are the dive boots that alone can weigh several pounds. As is, my gear bag usually comes in at 49.5 pounds by the time I have all my dive gear packed (and that doesn't even include my regulator, computer and mask that always go in my carry on) and enough clothes and toiletries to last me a week.

Problem, of course, is that I also always take along a good bunch of underwater camera and video gear for testing, and that makes the airlines' weight and luggage count limits even more infuriating. It's become a frustrating exercise in playing triage with equipment and gear, carrying along my own luggage scale, limiting the souvenirs I buy, and building an ever bigger head of steam against an airline industry whose purpose for being increasingly seems harassing customers into avoiding air travel altogether. Add to that the ridiculous lengths the increasingly surly and condescending TSA goes in viewing even little toiletry items as threats to national security and suspicious potential means of terrorism, making going through "security" an increasingly stressful and humiliating experience, and sometimes I truly wonder how many divers have simply given up on the sport because it's too much of a hassle to deal with getting there and back. And let's not even get into things like taking along a potentially life-saving dive knife and such. And I have no idea how tech divers and those who use rebreathers and such do it. But I digress.

Even without pesky air travel harassment, lighter gear is good and I cannot wait to try out the new fins and BC. The Seawing fins are a radical departure from any earlier fin design, with what Scubapro calls "variable blade geometry" and a "power plate" in an attention-grabbing design that everyone else is already trying to emulate and copy. The reviews I read are good, and if nothing else, the fins show that Scubapro is making efforts to stay upfront and in the news. The company still enjoys a good reputation among seasoned divers, but these days much of the competition has it all over Scubapro in terms of marketing and cool factor.

The LiteHawk falls into the category of "travel BCs." This means less weight, less size and less bulk. This means that straps are narrower, there are no pockets, and trim and padding are smaller or missing altogether. Perhaps the biggest difference is the weight pockets that are much smaller than the large pockets in Scubapro's other weight-integrated BCs. For me, that's always been an issue against travel BCs as I tend to need a lot of weight, ranging from 14 pounds in a dive skin all the way to 30 or so in cold water with a 5-mil shorty over my 7-mil wetsuit. The LiteHawk's small pockets are officially meant to be accessories pockets, though apparently everyone uses them as weight pockets. If so, they do not seem to hold more than perhaps a maximum of six or seven pounds each, so a second set or some weights strung onto the weight belt-like integrated strap may/will be necessary. The LiteHawk, though, makes no concessions in areas like bladder and tank band, which both seem identical to those on my heavy-duty KnightHawk. Lift capacity of the LiteHawk, in fact, is higher than that of the KnightHawk.

I have no idea what to expect from the Seawing fins. I've never used a fin other than my big and heavy black Twin Jets. They get the job done, but are bulky, very negatively buoyant, and a pain to put on with their unwieldy rubber straps. Since I am not a power swimmer and much prefer finesse and the ability to make precise movements, I wonder if the Seawings will help me in that regard. They also have a totally different foot pocket, which to me is important as I am given to foot cramps and need a sturdy pocket with no pressure points. And there is a pull strap instead of the ratcheting rubber straps, which should make putting the fins on much easier.

So there. I cannot wait to check out my new gear!

Posted by conradb212 at 03:51 PM | Comments (0)