Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Snorkeling Made Simple with the ARIA Full-Face Mask

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

If you were to research trends in scuba and water-based activities, you’d learn pretty quickly that people have been searching for the terms “full-face,” and “snorkeling” together quite a bit recently. Full-face snorkel masks have only been around for a few years but they grab more attention and accolades by the day. What makes them so special?

Why use a full-face snorkel mask?

Those who design dive masks and snorkeling gear usually have years of in-water experience, and thusly their products are designed for people who are already comfortable in the water.

As divers, we forget what it’s like for a huge chunk of the population — potential ocean lovers and fellow future divers, free divers and explorers — who have never been able to overcome the uncomfortable moments when they first tried putting their face in the water with a traditional dive mask.

Water leaking and having to clear the mask without any experience, for many, feels like a daunting task. On top of that, you must consider possible fogging, the claustrophobic sensation generated by a small field of vision, and not being able to breath through your nose. Let’s not forget the most difficult task for newbies — clearing water from a snorkel while keeping the mouthpiece in place. With the full-face snorkel mask, we’ve tried to eliminate some of these barriers for newcomers, introducing our blue planet to them in a way that’s easy to master.

How does it work?

The ARIA makes if far easier to start discovering the underwater world. Users can breathe naturally through their nose, and needn’t bite on anything to keep the unit in their mouth. The mask doesn’t fog; there’s no water in the snorkel; and the field of vision is cinematic. Simply put, the ARIA increases the chance that new snorkelers will remain snorkelers, and may move on to diving if they’re comfortable enough in the water. And if you’re already an experienced snorkeler? Well, it’s just plain fun for self-professed water people. And if you’re viewing animals at the surface, it may considerably increase your snorkeling time out of sheer comfort and ease of use.

What’s the story behind ARIA?

ARIA is the evolution of the original Easybreath snorkeling mask, with a higher aim in terms of style, breathing effort and accessories. As with many second-generation products, it borrows all the best features from the first generation and moves them a step forward. ARIA is also available in the U.S. (unlike the Easybreath mask), sold also as the Sea-Vu Dry. The hoped-for result of introducing and promoting full-face snorkeling is to introduce more people to the ocean, creating more snorkelers, divers, conservationists and defenders of the marine environment.

Tough-skinned, salt-water-in-their-veins divers and ocean enthusiasts may initially object that some boundaries and obstacles must be surmounted and conquered to really enjoy and respect the ocean, and while this may be true, why put so much of the planet out of reach of so many? Let’s include the newbies in our tribe — who knows, they may be the dive leaders of tomorrow, all thanks to the full-face snorkel mask.

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First Impressions: The Shearwater Perdix Dive Computer

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016

Dominated by the large, square color screen — though it was also available in monochrome — the original Shearwater Predator looked less like a dive watch and more like a somewhat clunky iPhone that you’d strap to your arm. Followed by the Petrel and the Petrel 2, these computers have, in part, set a new standard for the legibility and richness of data that you can expect from a modern dive computer.

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One of the main advantages of the larger screen is that all important information is always available without the user having to cycle through various screen modes, as is common in dive computers with smaller screens. The original Shearwater computer was targeted largely at the technical market, and could be used for open-circuits, closed-circuits, trimix, nitrox and air. Without sacrificing the Predator’s technical aspects, the company produced the Petrel and the Petrel 2, aimed squarely at the recreational-dive market, and suitable for anything from easy, shallow reef dives to extended, technical wreck dives on closed-circuit rebreathers.

The Shearwater Perdix

Now, with the Shearwater Perdix, the company is making its range of dive computers even more attractive. Boasting the same versatile features as the Petrel, and allowing for recreational diving, tec diving and rebreather diving using a range of gas mixes, the Perdix is smaller and lighter, has a slimmer profile, and a longer battery life.

The 2.2-inch widescreen display is in only available in full color and is as easily legible as its predecessors, which allows the diver to get an overview of all relevant information in a single glance. It features the adaptive safety stops that the Petrel is known for, wherein every dive is treated as a deco dive, and number, depth, and duration of stops is adjusted to your dive time, depth and history. By providing a “Time to Surface,” the diver always knows how long they should expect to spend on their ascent, all safety and deco stops included.

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The computer features four settings: OC Recreational, which allows the use of up to three oxygen/nitrogen gases (either surface air or nitrox), OC Technical, which allows for the use of up to five trimix gases, CC INT, for closed-circuit rebreather diving, and a gauge mode. All modes are user customizable in terms of what they show and where. Everything is controlled by two buttons, one on each side.

The Perdix is 30 percent smaller in profile than the Petrel, and features a contoured design that allows it to sit closer and more streamlined on the diver’s arm. Powered by two AA batteries, the Perdix gets up to 30 percent longer life out of a set of batteries as well, compared to the Petrel 2. The batteries are, of course, user interchangeable, and don’t require specialized tools. It is advisable, however, to purchase two sets of high-quality rechargeable batteries, as the bright, large, colorful screen does take some oomph to power up, and you risk spending a lot of money on disposable batteries (not to mention creating a lot of battery garbage).

My overall first impression of the Perdix is that this could very well represent a popular breakthrough when it comes to high-res dive computers. While the Predator was definitely meant for tec diving, the Petrel and Petrel 2 garnered many die-hard fans, particularly among more advanced divers who did both recreational and technical diving. The Perdix, depending on its retail price, may be the choice of divers who do primarily or exclusively recreational diving, but still want the advantages of a full-screen dive computer.

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Say Goodbye to Fogging Dive Masks

Friday, February 12th, 2016

By guest blogger

What diver hasn’t envied the mythical mermaid (or merman), who’ve no need for oxygen tank and certainly no need to spit into a mask to see clearly? But, since divers don’t live under the sea — as much as we’d like to — we are pretty much stuck with the apparatus needed to enjoy the wonders of the deep. Now, as someone who loves the ocean, I’m sure you’ll agree that good gear makes for a good dive, with the same holding true for lousy gear laying the groundwork for a dive full of mishaps and misfortunes.

Most of us dive as a hobby, for the love of the sport…weekend warriors if you will. And since our free time is precious, we must make the most of what we’ve got, which means good pre-planning and good gear. Can you imagine arriving somewhere and realizing you forgot to fill the tanks? Highly unlikely.

Or, how likely are you to just show up at a dive shop with no reservation and expect to have it all come together and go? Also very unlikely. My point is that if you time, energy and resources into having a great dive experience, why would you risk having a fogged up mask?

Dive-mask fogging is an ever-evolving issue — there are better masks, better polycarbonates, anti-reflective lenses, and smart lenses, and yet the issue remains. And no matter how many articles are written on the subject, folks still fall back to that age-old remedy, spit.

Now, if you don’t mind winging it and hoping for the best, then spit might do you just fine. But, if your goal is to make the most of the experience, then why not use the best product available to combat fogging on eyewear.

Sven Can See is an innovative solution to combat fogging on eyewear. No matter the use, Sven Can See will solve the fogging issue. What makes this product so unique is that it uses no alcohol to solve the fogging problem. The folks at Sven Can See delved into to the root of the fogging issue and found a solution within nanotechnology, whereby they keep the water molecules that make up fog from crystallizing. No fog.

Sven Can See is also perfectly clear. Oh, and it has a really cool back story. You see, Scott Newman, the creator was looking for a name for his new product.  “When my daughter was really little,” Newman says, “I used to tell her bedtime stories of Sven the Mountain Climber.”

The key to success with Sven Can See is twofold. First, less is more, so use only a very little drop and rub it with your finger onto the entire lens surface. Next, you must apply it to a dry lens. And if you rest between dives, “dry and reapply.”

Sven Can See is the real deal. It’s a very cool product that has no alcohol, no ammonia and no odor. And it really works. And, if you are not 100 percent satisfied, Sven Can See has a money-back guarantee. Check it out today, and don’t let mask fog ruin even one more dive.

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Book Review: The Swarm

Saturday, November 14th, 2015

With the subtitle A Novel Of The Deep, The Swarm by German author Frank Schätzing is an environmental thriller with a marine theme. Translated from the German Der Schwarm into English in 2006, the book tackles a range of complex issues, drawing upon the challenges of deep-sea oil exploration, marine science, animal ethics and the role of mankind’s relationship with nature. The story is worthy of a Hollywood disaster movie, and the plot sees most of Northern Europe in ruin and the rest of the world on its knees, along the way delivering a staunch warning to mankind about how we treat our world.

The novel opens with a series of unexplained accidents along the coast of South America, where deep-sea fishermen have gone missing, their boats found unmanned and adrift. Eventually, the plot unfolds into humanity’s worst nightmare, and militant environmentalists’ wet (pun intended) dream: what if the oceans fought back? What if the oceans started exacting revenge on humanity for all the waste we’ve poured into them, all the overfishing, and all the other harm we’ve done to them for centuries? Think Independence Day meets The Sea Shepherd and you’ve got a good idea of the plot.

The story centers on an ensemble of main characters, the majority of them marine scientists from various fields, and all of whom are called into action when strange things start to happen in the world’s oceans. It all begins with a new species of worms living on the methane hydrate deposits on the world’s deep-sea continental shelves. As the worms munch through the methane hydrate, they collapse, taking the continental shelves, and most of the world’s coast lines, with them (not a too far-fetched scenario, and a possible outcome of global warming), destroying a large portion of the industrialized world. But that is just the beginning, and when poisonous jellyfish and crabs attack, whales start sinking ships, and underwater probes start going missing, it becomes obvious that there’s something going on, and that mankind has a new enemy.

The main problem with the novel is that it’s too long; the story quite simply would have worked far better if it had been trimmed. There’s too much downtime. The author takes his time building the premise, following multiple characters around the world and adding little plot elements here and there. This is a classic way of building tension, but the story takes too long to get going, and the reader will be a third into the book before the plot starts to develop in earnest. And even here, there are overly long passages exploring philosophical questions or characters’ backstories, which are unnecessary to advance the plot along.

It’s clear that a lot of work has gone into the novel, from the above-mentioned character development to accurate representations of oceanography and other science used in the book. And the book does a great job of introducing complex, scientific topics in easy-to-understand ways. However, as the story progresses, it simply tries to bring too many things on board. Oceanography and marine biology are digestible topics, but when accompanied by genetics, cultural studies, the search for extraterrestrial life, conservation, marine engineering, history, oenology and much, much more, the task load of the book simply becomes too much, and the story starts straining under the weight of all of the topics it has to carry.

Which is a shame, because when the novel works, it works well. The main idea is quite original and seemingly well researched. The book is entertaining, outdoing many Hollywood disaster movies in certain passages and, as long as you skim a bit, it is a pleasurable read. Especially if you, too, sometimes wish the ocean could fight back.

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Gear Review: Halcyon Explorer Knife

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Halcyon has built a solid reputation for making top-of-the-line gear, primarily for technical divers. All of their gear is built around the standard technical setup of wing-and-backplate BCD rather than a typical jacket BCD. Quite often, divers using this setup will put their knives on the waist belt, similar to how you’d carry a normal knife. This placement is advantageous because it’s unlikely that the knife will get tangled up in something, and you can easily reach it with both hands, almost regardless of which part of your body becomes entangled. Knives meant for this placement need a sheath that accommodates being threaded onto the belt.

Halcyon makes two knives, both meant for this specific placement, and both made of titanium, which is lightweight and corrosion resistant. The H model is a traditionally designed knife, though smaller than most dive knives. The Explorer model, however, is even more minimalist. It consists of a single piece of 5.75-inch titanium, which makes up both blade and handle. This makes its profile beyond slim, and reduces the weight to only 2.2 oz, with the sheath. The Explorer’s blade is 2.5 inches long, making this one of the smaller knives on the market.

To further reduce the profile of the knife while sheathed, Halcyon has omitted the traditional closure system that locks the knife in place in the sheath. On their H model, this is done via a nylon strap with a Velcro closure, which more minimal than the integrated locking systems featured on many knives. But on the Explorer, it is removed all together, with only the friction between the blade and the simple nylon sheath holding the knife in place. This means that the entire thing (knife and sheath) weighs in at only 2.2 oz and 1.2 oz for the knife alone, and measures only 0.12” in thickness at the thickest point.

A feature that may seem fairly inconsequential, but one that I’ve come to appreciate about the Explorer, is the slanted sheath design. The knife sits at about a 50-degree angle (from horizontal), designed to make it easier to reach the knife when placed opposite the diver’s dominant hand. So right-handed divers would place this knife on the left side of their body, while left-handed divers would put the knife on the right side. While a small slant might seem that important, I was actually quite impressed with how much easier it made deploying and replacing the knife.

While I had some misgivings as to whether or not the knife would stay in place during a dive, I put it through the ropes during a recent wreck dive, where I found myself in pretty much every angle imaginable (including completely inverted upside-down), and it never budged. The combination of the friction and the knife’s negligible weight means that the knife won’t be pulled from the sheath by gravity.

No doubt the diminutive size and minimalistic design of the knife will put some people off, but as anyone reading my articles on dive knives will know, I’m a big proponent of small knives. I like to put a knife on my gear and forget it’s there until I need it. And this one definitely fit the bill. You don’t even have to worry about rinsing it after diving, as the titanium won’t corrode. And if you’re a traveling diver, counting every ounce, this knife will definitely not weigh you down.

It rest fairly well in the hand, though for my hand (I’m a fairly average-sized guy) it felt a little small to get a really good grasp, particularly if you need to cut through a tough material. Cutting through fishing lines and nets was a breeze, as the blade is very sharp, and maintains its edge well. Getting it out of the sheath and replacing it was easy, helped along by the angle mentioned earlier.

The simple sheath’s design means that the Explorer is pretty much only suited for carrying in the belt of a tech wing BCD; there’s no real way of attaching it to the leg, jacket BCD, or on the low-pressure inflator hose.

All in all, the Explorer is an excellent knife for travelers and for people (like me) who aren’t fans of large dive knives. Anyone who regularly uses his knife to cut through serious stuff, such as marine rope for cleanup purposes, will probably find it lacking. I probably wouldn’t take it kelp diving, for example, but for the absolute majority of my dives, it’s a great choice.

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