Category Archives: Product Reviews

Product Review – Sea-Doo Explorer X

I have been using my Sea-Doo Explorer X DPV’s for several months now and thought that it was about time for me to write a review on them to let everyone know what experience I have had with them. I wanted to wait until I had a chance to really test them out under various conditions before writing a review.

When I first received the Explorer X DPV (Diver Propulsion Vehicle) I was skeptical as to how it would actually perform on a dive, especially the battery life. Sea-Doo claims that the batteries have a 2-hour runtime, so just in case I ordered a spare battery with mine.

I was also a little nervous after reading other reviews complaining about the seals not holding and the units flooding. Sea-Doo had apparently completely redesigned the rear end of the Explorer X and driveshaft seals to take care of this problem by incorporating a new three-stage waterproof seal.

I charged the batteries up overnight and prepped the DPV for its first voyage below the surface the next day by carefully inspecting it and installing its o-ring seal which I carefully lubricated with the supplied lubricant. Once the batteries were fully charged I installed the first one and ran a few tests on the scooters on/off switches and finger triggers to make sure that everything was working correctly. Everything appeared to be working correctly so I loaded the unit up for the days dives.

To start testing the Explorer X out I decided to do several boat dives with it, so that incase there was a problem with it I would not be stranded out in the middle of nowhere and have to swim back to shore dragging it behind me. For the next three months I dove with the Explorer X on just about every boat dive that I could as long as I wasn’t doing a training dive that would not allow its use.

I very quickly became a huge fan of the Explorer X. On land with its battery installed it only weighs 32 pounds, about the same as an empty 80cf aluminum scuba tank however in the water it is neutrally buoyant. Its hydrodynamic design allows it to glide through the water with ease and it has the strength to pull 2 divers along for the ride at up to 3.3 MPH.

Most recreational DPV’s in the same price range as the Explorer X (around $700) are very limited in the depths that they can be safely taken down to, many not even able to reach the 100 foot mark. That is one area where the newly redesigned Explorer X shines. It is depth rated to 130 feet (40 meters), and is tested to 160 feet (50 meters). I have had mine down to 125 feet so far with absolutely no troubles whatsoever.

As I mentioned earlier, I was wary of the two-hour battery runtime claimed by Sea-Doo, so I ordered a spare battery for my Explorer X yet I have never run the battery completely empty. I have used it continuously for a 90 minute dive at top speed circling the dive boat (for safety) and I ran out of air before the battery ran out of power. As a safety precaution though, I always change out batteries when I change out my cylinders on my surface interval.

Routine maintenance on the Explorer X is simple to perform. After the days dive’s I thoroughly rinse the DPV in fresh water allowing it to sit submerged for a few minutes to remove any salt deposits. I also start up the DPV while holding it in the water and let it work any salt from the driveshaft and propeller. Then I let it dry off completely before opening it up to take out the battery to recharge. While the battery is out of the unit I carefully inspect the o-ring around the battery compartment to make sure sand or other debris are not on the seal. I also make sure that there is plenty of lubricant on the o-ring before I drop in a freshly charged battery and seal it back up.

I love with the Explorer X so much that I now own two of them and have used them to show other divers how enjoyable they are when we dive together. A couple of the divers that I have allowed to use mine have loved them so much that they have now ordered their own. I actually dread shore diving without one now, thinking about how I will have to fight against currents, or make long surface swims to get out to a dive site. The Explorer X has become an invaluable tool in my dive trailer.

My Product Rating: 

Product Review – XS Scuba Pony Bottle Holder

I have been searching for a system to mount my 40 cf pony bottle tanks from when I do my deeper dives besides mounting it to d-rings on my BCD under my arm which is a little uncomfortable because it gets in the way sometimes.

I have looked at a few models and did not like them, either due to their design, or their price, until I received the Pony Bottle Holder from XS Scuba that I recently purchased from Divers-Supply.com.

This is a very simple design, yet you can instantly tell that it is a well designed, durable, quality product that is made to last for years. The webbing of the straps is a lot thicker than I thought it would be considering it is only designed to hold a pony bottle strapped up against your main tank. It doesn’t have to carry a lot of weight.

The system uses two separate straps that are long enough to go around my aluminum 80’s easily and look like they would have no problem fitting a 100 either. The buckles are stainless steel to prevent rusting and the straps are secured with velcro the entire length of the strap, not just a tab on the end of it. I can’t think of a possible situation on a dive where the velcro of these straps could come loose.

Inside both the main tank straps and the pony bottle straps are rubber grippers to prevent either tank from sliding out of the straps.

I strapped my pony bottle onto my aluminum 80 and secured the straps, then dropped it into the water for several hours to make sure that the straps had been impregnated with as much water as possible to see if it would allow the straps to loosen up at all. When I pulled it out of the water and shook the BCD quite briskly, the pony bottle didn’t budge a bit. The rubber grippers held everything nice and secure, and the long length of the velcro did not allow the straps to loosen one bit.

I can’t wait until this ear infection clears up so that I can test this out in the water on an actual dive, not just in my rinse bucket.

My Product Rating: 

Product Review – Aqua Lung Nautilus

Dive safety requires the use of a snorkel, and PADI requires every diver to have one in all of their classes.

One drawback to a snorkel is that it causes drag in the water which can be annoying, and also cause your mask to leak. This is why many divers choose not to wear one while diving.

Aqua Lung has introduced a compact folding version of the snorkel that rolls up and stores inside a seashell shaped plastic case that can be attached to your BCD.

The snorkel is deployed only when it is needed, thereby eliminating the unnecessary drag and mask leak problems.

I decided to try one of these snorkels out for myself because I hate wearing a snorkel, especially when I am using my DPV because of the extreme drag that it causes. Every time I try to use my DPV while wearing a snorkel my mask leaks severely which makes me take it off. thereby eliminating its intended safety function.

 The Nautilus is attached to one of my BCD d-rings and is out of the way until it is needed. Then I can simply pull it out of its housing and attach the snorkel to my mask strap when I am on the surface. No more drag while underwater.

The only drawbacks that I have found to the Nautilus is that it is not a dry snorkel nor does it have a purge valve. If you are used to using a dry snorkel like I am, be very careful as you breath with this snorkel as there is nothing to prevent a wave from entering and flooding the snorkel. It also requires two hands to snap the snorkel keeper around the mask strap to secure it.

My Product Rating: 

Product Review – Spare Air Model 300-N (Nitrox)

A few months ago I purchased the Spare Air model 300 to attach to my BCD as a completely redundant alternate air source for my dives. Since I do a lot of Nitrox or Enriched Air diving I chose the 300-N model because it comes Nitrox ready.

The Model 300 is a 3 cubic foot or 85 liter capacity scuba tank that can be pressurized up to 3,000 psi, and will give a diver approximately 57 breaths while at the surface. The deeper you are the more the surrounding water pressure will affect the number of available breaths. With this in mind, I only use my Spare Air on shallow dives of less than about 80 feet.

I purchase my Spare Air as a complete kit, which included the Spare Air unit that has the simple to use on-demand regulator with purge button right on top of it, high-visibility yellow mounting holster, coiled safety leash, attached mouthpiece cover, mounting straps with quick release buckles, pop out pressure indicator, and convenient yoke style Refill Adapter that allows me to attach the Spare Air unit to my scuba tank to fill the Spare Air from.

I opted to include the pressure gauge to my unit to replace the pop out pressure indicator so that I know exactly how much pressure is in the unit at any time, not just when it is full to 3,000 psi.

The aluminum cylinder is manufactured just like any other scuba cylinder and includes the same safety features. It should have a visual inspection every year, and also undergo hydrostatic testing every five years, the same as with your other scuba tanks.

A couple weeks ago a friend of mine was diving up on the North Shore when he had a catastrophic failure of  the o-ring where his first stage attaches to the tank, it completely disintegrated. This caused him to loose 1,000 pounds of air per minute. In this type of catastrophic event, with a full cylinder he would only have 3 minutes of air in his cylinder before it was completely empty. Luckily he also carries the same 3 cf Spare Air with him on his dives. He was able to switch over to his Spare Air and return safely to the surface without incident.

Luckily I have never needed the Spare Air in an emergency situation as of yet, but I have run several emergency simulation tests on it from various depths. Because of its small size and thereby limited air capacity it should only be used in an emergency out of air situation.

It will give you those precious breaths needed to return to the surface, but it does not have enough air capacity to allow you to make a 3 minute safety stop on the way up. This is why I choose to only use mine for shallower dives, which do not require a safety stop. If you were to use it on a deeper dive, you would have to just blow right past the safety stop and take your chances for DCS.

I love the Spare Air system for its simplistic design and functionality. For around $300 it can definitely be a life saver, and I wouldn’t do shallow dives without it ever again.

My Product Rating: 

Product Review – Oceanic Excursion 2

Up until now I have been using the Oceanic OceanPro 1000D which is a jacket style BCD, primarily because it was on sale as a package at the local dive shop when I signed up for my Open Water certification however I have never really been happy with it.

The OceanPro 1000D did not fit me very well at all because I am in-between Large and Extra Large sizes. I assumed that I would be able to use the adjustable straps to make it fit better, however this turned out not to be the case. It always flopped around on me underwater and I had to constantly adjust it throughout the dive, so it was time for a change.

I checked into more expensive back plate style BCD’s that the other instructors were using, but I just could not afford to invest that much money into something that I had no experience with to know if it would work better for me or not. I finally decided on the Excursion 2, back inflate BCD from Oceanic which I was able to try on at Island Divers Hawaii’s brand new Scofield Barracks location and it fit me like a glove.

The Excursion is a back inflate which took some getting used to instead of inflating around my sides, but I found this actually more comfortable. When the BCD is fully inflated on the surface it does not feel like it is squeezing or suffocating me. On the first dive using the Excursion 2, my trim and buoyancy drastically improved and I was able to loose 4 pounds of my weights immediately.

I have been using the Excursion 2 for a week now and I absolutely love it. It has plenty of “D” rings positioned down both sides between the bladder and the vest, as well as more above and below the side pockets and on both shoulder straps. These are not the cheap plastic “D” rings that were on the OceanPro 1000D, these are sturdy stainless steel and are actually meant to be used instead of just being for looks.

The Excursion 2 also has mounting grommets on the side pockets to attach a Spinner Knife and two built-in trim weight pockets on the tank strap.

Because of my past experiences and fears, I always dive with a 3 cubic foot Spare Air alternate air source which can be difficult to mount to a jacket style BCD, but with the Excursion 2, I can mount it on the “D” rings going down the side and it tucks nicely right behind and under my arm, I don’t even notice that it’s there and have to reach back every once in a while to make sure it’s still with me. It feels so comfortable there and does not affect my trim at all. It is almost like it was meant to be attached to this BCD in that location.

With the Excursion 2 BCD I now have the option of diving with a single tank mounted onto my back, or side mounted tanks with the built-in “D” rings on the sides if I decide to pursue that PADI specialty. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate an instructor in Hawaii that offers that course as of yet, but I am still looking.

Overall, for the price, I think this is one of the best equipment upgrade decisions I have made. I love the new Excursion 2 from Oceanic.

My Product Rating: 

Product Review – Nautilus Lifeline

My local dive shop has been recommending the new Nautilus Lifeline divers emergency radio since I started diving with them back in January, so I decided to try it out.

The Lifeline is a self-contained marine VHF radio enclosed in its own watertight case that is capable of being taken down to a depth of 425 feet. It was designed with the recreational diver in mind, but it is so well designed that it can go way beyond the recreational diving limits.

When the diver surfaces, he can open the case, extend the antenna and speak via marine VHF radio to his dive buddy, or the boat. In an emergency he can also use channel 16 to speak with all vessels that are nearby.

But what if the diver still can’t find anyone nearby? He can also activate the “Distress Mode” which sends out a signal with the divers GPS location and an emergency message to every vessel and Coast Guard station within a 4,000 square mile area of the diver for up to 24-hours. It even activates a flashing light in case it’s too dark for the diver to be easily seen.

The Nautilus Lifeline displays the divers exact GPS location as well as other information on the built-in LCD display screen. Besides in an emergency, this is also a good tool to have around for pinpointing that awesome new dive site that you just happened to stumble upon. Now you can see exactly what the GPS location of the dive site is, and even upload it to Google Maps with the computer software provided.

With all the horror stories out there about divers getting left behind by their dive boat by mistake, or divers becoming lost at sea, the peace of mind that this little unit can bring is priceless.

I believe that every diver should have a Nautilus Lifeline with them on every dive. You never know when an accident or emergency is going to happen on a dive. As my mother always told me when I was growing up, “Better to be safe, then sorry”.

This little unit has now become part of my permanent dive gear. I will not dive without one again!

To find out more information, or to purchase the Nautilus Lifeline, check with your local dive shop or visit http://www.nautiluslifeline.com to find a dealer near you.

Product Review: The Nautilus Lifeline Marine Rescue Radio from Backscatter on Vimeo.

My Product Rating: 

Product Review – iGills SE-35

Every once in a while a product comes out that changes everything, and I believe the iGills SE-35 is one of those “Game Changers”.

I have been hearing a lot about the new iGills that allows you to use an iPhone as a fully functional dive computer and dive logging system complete with photos and videos taken during the dive, so I decided to try one out for myself and see what all the fuss was about.

The iGills allows you to dock an iPhone 3, iPhone 4, or iPhone 4S inside its waterproof housing and dive up to 130′ deep utilizing software from a free downloadable app that converts your phone into a fully functional and versatile advanced dive computer with an easy to use interface. For my testing I decided to risk it by using my most expensive iPhone model and used my iPhone 4S.

Some of the features of the iGills include:

  • Multiple dive modes including Air, Nitrox, and Gauge
  • Ascent rate indication
  • Nitrogen loading tracking across multiple dives
  • Time & Depth alarms
  • Altitude compensation
  • Automatically generated content rich dive log
  • Dive compass (gyro stabilized with iPhone 4 & 4S)
  • Emergency Flashlight
  • Dive camera (8 megapixel autofocus with iPhone 4S)
  • Dive Videocamera (1080p with the iPhone 4S)

Whats better is the iGills housing that contains the depth & temperature sensor and onboard computer does not use a battery. So you never have to worry about changing out a battery, or missing a dive because of a dead battery. Everything runs off of the iPhone’s own internal battery.

The entire housing is made from high-strength impact resistant polycarbonate, thats the same material that bullet-proof glass is made from, and all of

the hardware is made from marine-grade stainless steel so you know it is made to last.

The display is easy to read and the six button interface is easy to navigate, even while diving with 2mil gloves on.

I currently use a wrist mounted integrated Vyper Air as my main computer, but the iGills is much easier to read underwater, and much easier to navigate through the various screens and functions.

The iGills housing comes complete with instructions, a protective microfiber carrying pouch and wrist/BCD lanyard with quick disconnect.

The iGills SE-35 has my vote for one of the absolute best new products on the market.

For more information or to purchase the iGills SE-35 check with your local dive shop, or visit http://www.igills.com

The only drawback that I have found with the iGills SE-35 is that it does not offer air integration, so you still have to have a separate pressure gauge. If this can somehow be added in a future version, perhaps via bluetooth I would give this product a full 5 dive flag rating.

My Product Rating: 

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