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As promise in a previous review, this is a review of the sub-gear magnetic octopus holder. I recently upgraded from a scumball type (bendy plastic cup that you force the mouthpiece of a scuba regulator into) to a magnetic holder that is much more refined, easy to use and more professional looking.
An Octopus is the general name for a secondary breathing mouthpiece that is connected to your scuba cylinder in order to have an emergency backup for yourself or a dive parter in case of equipment failure. It is important that it is easy to locate and east to release the octopus quickly in order to stuff it in your mouth.
As I mentioned in my previous review there are several types of octopus holder such as a platic loop, a bendy plastic cup and a magnetic type. The magnetic type is the most expensive but well worth it in my opinion.
===The Sub Gear Magntic Octopus Holder===
The octopus holder consists of a lightweight small cylinder made from aluminium that breaks in half via two magnets in the centre. One half attaches to a suitable point on your scuba jacket and the other attaches to the hose of your octopus.
The octopus attachment is done using a simple slip around the hose and a push clip is used to attach the other half to your jacket. These are easy to clip on and once attached shouldn't need removing unless you change set up.
Once in place it is a simple job to release or replace your octopus. You simply pull at the octopus and it releases. The magnets are strong enough to keep the octopus in place without falling off when not in use, but weak enough to make the release easy without having to pull too hard.
Reattaching is simple and removes all the fumbling I have experienced with other types of octopus holder. The magnets simply stick together and you are done. This is very useful when I am teaching a scuba lesson as I can concentrate on keeping my eyes on the students instead of struggling to get the octopus back into the holder.
The sub-gear holder is simple, well made with a solid feel too it. The clips work well and it appears o be robust (I've only had it a month and yet to see any deterioration)
The top of the cylinder is a golden yellow, which could possibly be improved to be brighter as it's a piece of equipment for safety and should be highly visible. My octopus is a neon yellow and easy to spot so I am not too worried that the holder isn't that bright.
A small sub-gear logo is present which is subtle enough not to add more blatant branding to a dive set up.
The Sub-Gear magnetic octopus holder is currently available for £16.99 plus delivery frm simply scuba, which is a great price. I believe I paid £25 from a dive shop in brighton for mine. At £16.99 it is extremely good value and only about a fiver more than the fiddley types such as the scumball holder I previously reviewed.
Highly recommended. It's easy to use and means you can pay more attention to what is around you.
Buddy diving is the use of the buddy system by scuba divers and is aimed at improving your chances of survival if something unexpected happens or your equipment malfunctions. When buddy diving you dive as a pair and stay close to your partner whilst monitoring them regularly. This can be a relaxed check if diving with someone experience or may require stict observation with a newbie.
Often in UK diving visibility is extremely limited and can be down to one metre or less. This is when a bussy line comes in handy. A buddy line is effectivley a rope that is used to tie each other together so that you don't loose each other.
A buddy line is also useful on a drift dive. During a drift dive you drift with the current and can travel several miles in the course of a dive (generally you attach a marker buoy to yourself and drag it along the surface so that a boat can follow you). During a drift it's easy to get separated from your buddy and a buddy line is used to keep you together.
Personally I don't really like the use of a buddy line for bad visibility, but generally use one on a drift dive and may use one when teaching a student in order to keep them close to me at all times.
Another use is during decompression stops. This is when you stop at a certain depth when ascending to let the nitrogen bubbles that build up in your body under pressure disperse from your tissues. A buddy line can secure you to a shot line or anchor line (used to mark an entry route) so that you don;t move about too much. During decompression it is important that you stay below a certain depth or you can suffer from decompression sickness (the bends).
===The AP Valves Buddy line===
As from my previous review of the AP valves Buddy commando jacket you can probably tell that I am a fan of AP valves/ They are a british manufacturer and make high quality, durable and reliable equipment.
The buddy line made by AP valves is a 125cm long 25mm wide strip of bright yellow webbing. It has a brass spring clip at one end that can be clipped to a divers jacket and a loop of webbing at the other which can be tied to a diver or held with your hand.
A pouch is built into the line that the webbing can be rolled up and stored in, rolling down to about 8cm in length. This pouch has a drawstring for sealing the pocket.
As mentioned above AP valves make very good kit and this is reflected here. The stiching is durable and the webbing is strong and robust. The brass clip doesn't corrode in seawater (due to being brass) annd operate smoothly and easily.
£14 might seem like an expensive piece of rope, but it is a well made item and has lasted well and compares well with other makes of buddy line.
It's a simple product (think bit of rope) but this item is well made, useful and comparable to other makes.
A BCD (also called a BC, stabilizer, stabilisor, stab jacket, wing or ABLJ) is a piece of equipment worn by divers. It contains a bladder which can be filled with air and released to control your buoyancy (how much you float).
When you dive you want to be neutrally buoyant so that you stay at the same level as opposed to sinking (negative buoyancy) or floating (positive buoyancy). The main method to do this is by controlling how much air is in the BCD so it's an important piece of diving apparatus. It is also important to find oe that fits comfortably, is reliable and easy to operate.
When I was shopping for dive gear I asked people in my club which brand I should go for and the resounding answer was AP valves and the buddy commando model. Many divers in my branch of BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club) have used these for years and claim they are the most robust, longest lasting and best value. Judging by the faded versions owned by some of the older members they could have been using them for decades!
===The AP Valves Buddy Commando BCD===
The Buddy Commando was originally developed to meet the demands of Navy SAR divers and hence is one of the most reliable around.
The jacket consists of a jacket section mounted to a plastic backplate. The plastic backplate keeps the jacket in shape and is the section that a scuba cylinder is strapped onto. The strap for mouting the cylinder is solid and thick and the clip provides a tight fit to stop the cylinder slipping around. The backplate also provides a handle that makes it easy to carry the equipment around (it gets quite heavy with a big sttel cylinder attached to the back)
The jacket is adustable at the shoulders to allow you to achive a good comfortable fit. Together with a velcro cumberbund style waist strap the jacket is comfortable to wear and fits me well. There are two further clips that go around your waist and chest and two shoulder clips that mean the jacket can be removed easily and quickly in case of emergency. ALl these clips are simple squeeze to release style.
The jacket includes two dump valves, one at the shoulder level and one at the kidney position. These are used to release air quickly from the jacket. I tend to use these more than the main air release as there is less chance of water getting inside the jacket and corroding it when using these.
The main air feed line is connected to the jacket on the left in a suiable position to be operated by your left hand. A small blue button at the valve where a low pressure line connects the jacket to the air cylinder is used to put air into the jacket. At the top of the control unit is a grey push button that releases air. The control device also incorporates a mouthpiece shaped valve which can be blown into to manually inflate the BCD.
The control device is simple and easy to use, the buttons work very easily and are fairly standard to most BCDs meaning there will be no complications underwater trying to figure out how to use it.
An additional automatic overpressure valve is added on the left shoulder which releases air once the jacket is overpressurised meaning you will not be able to explode it!
The jacket has several D-rings over it which are loops of metal ideal for clipping other bits of diving equipment too.
The BCD is cloloured black and grey which is far more attractive to me thatn some of the brightly coloured lurid makes available. Piping is reflective and makes it easier to spot underwater in murky UK water.
At the kidney position on easch side there is a pocket built into the jacket. These are quite large and great for storing my torch and delayed surface marker buoy (a fold up buoy that you inflate with air).
I cannot fault the AP valve buddy commando BCD. I have been using it for 2 years and it has proved to be reliable and simple to use. There are enough clips and pockets to store all my gear in accessible positions. I like the appearance of the jacket much more than other models I have used.
After 2 years the jacket is still in perfect condition as I am fairly careful to wash it off in the shower after diving in saltwater.
I paid around £350 at my local dive shop for this BCD but have just found it online at some scuba shops for £275. Whilst more expensive than many options (mares, scubapro etc.) The quality is far superior and based on a huge number of recommendations I think this is good value and it is a brilliant product. Also, it's a british company so I am more than happy to suport it.
I realise it's a bit early in they year, but I'm already planning a summer holiday to somewhere sunny in the summer and have started investing in some summer clothing in order to spread the cost over a few months instead of going shopping as soon as the sun hits (or should I say 'if' the sun hits). I destroyed my last pair of flip flops last year working in africa and their white appearance is now a muddy red so I though a new pair was in order. As a bit of a DC shoes fanatic and regularly buying their trainers and skate shoes, I decided to go for some filp flops (Jandals to kiwis or thongs to aussies) from DC.
===The DC spray graffik flip flops===
Apart from spelling graphic badly, the DC flip flops are pretty standard in terms of flip flops around this price range. The sole consists of a layered rubber sole with PVC upper part. This means that the rubber provides grip on the sole of the shoe and the PVC top is comfortable to wear. The bottom of the sole includes a "DC Pill Patterned Rubber Grip Sole" which gives some texture so that you don;t slip around too easily. The side of the sole is stiped giving the flip flops an attractive appearance and making them look a little better than the standard own brand cheap style flip flops.
The thong part that holds the shoe to your foot is made form texturised rubber and fits between your big toe and second biggest toe (I'm sure that should have a proper name) to hold the shoe to your foot.
The DC shoes spray graffik flip flops are available in a range of colours. Mostly black with a combination of green, blue or grey but I have also seen more girly patterned ones on the internet. I chose the black base colour with a grey DC logo as I liked the simplicity and didn;t think they were as lurid as some of the other combinations. Apart from the large DC logo on the top of the sole, there is also a small embossed DC logo on the thong part of the flip flop.
So far I have only really used these around the house as it's way too cold to get them outdoors without my toes falling off.
I find the sole has some flexibility and it soft enough to be comfortable without feeling too much of the bumps and floor beneath them. The texture of the sole means they are more 'grippy' than other flip flops I have owned although not as grippy as some more expensive fabric versions.
The thong is comfortable compared to other plastic thong style slip flops although can dig in between the toes a bit and if I was spending more I would opt for something more substantial in the style of o'neil fabric flip flops.
I've been wearing them around the house for a couple of months and they don't seem to have worn at all. I often find the design will rub off the top of the sole, however this is probably due to sticky feet when it gets hotter so I will hold full judgement until the summer.
These are currently avaiable from amazon for £12.95 plus shipping from amazon. I bought them through chemical records website (which is a good source for this kind of brand) for about £8 using a 20% discount and getting free shipping due to spending over the correct amount. For £8 they are very good quality and a good brand that would often cost more. I think the price is very acceptable, but I would like to get a pair of more comfortable fbric style at some point although these are likley to cost in the region of £30.
In summary, these are a good budget priced flip flop that seem comfortable and durable compared with others I have owned.
=== Why do you need an octopus holder? ===
When scuba diving it is now usual to dive with two regulators (the mouthpiece that you breathe through). The purpose of this is to have a back up air source if for any reason your main one stops working. It is also used so that if someone that you are diving with has a problem (running out of air, equipment failure etc.) two people can breath from the same cylinder. This is why the secondary air source, usually called an octopus, is usually a bright lurid yellow to make it easy for another diver to see, locate and grab in an emergency.
As explained above the octopus needs to be accessible quickly and easy to remove from where it is stored. This is where an octopus holder comes in and there are a range of designs which do this and it is essential to explain where your octopus is located and how to remove it to any dive partners prior to diving.
The main types of octopus holder that I have come across are the 'scumball' type as I am reviewing here, the magnetic type where you just pull to release it and the simple rubber loop which loops around the mouthpiece. The magnetic version is the best and easiest to use but by far the most expensive. The rubber loop can be difficult to remove and replace an octopus as it gets tangles a little around the mouthpiece. I've used all of these types in training where you practice changing a mouthpiece and breathing from a partners gear. I've now upgraded to a magnetic style octopus holder although dived with my 'scumball' type until recently for about 3 years.
===What is the scumball holder? ===
The main component of the scumball octopus holder is a rubber 'pot' which is a sort of tulip shape with a circular opening at the top. The rubber is flexible and a regulator is secured by slotting the mouthpiece of the regulator into the opening.
The rubber pot is attached permanently to a belt type clip which is in turn connected to a plastic spring clip that can be used to position the holder in a suitable location on your dive jacket (BCD, stab jacket or whatever you like to call the inflatable jacket worn for diving)
For safety the belt holding the pot and the rubber pot are a bright yellow colour which makes them easy to see in the murky depths of the UK.
===Does it work===
The scumball holder holds an octopus well. I have never had the mouthpiece fall out without having to pull on it intentionally. I have used it when teaching students and they have had no problem removing the octopus quickly for use (although many have problems with swapping it over into their mouth).
The scumball holder has lasted very well and shown no signs of degradation over 3 years of use (it's rubber so I wouldn't really expect it to).
I have had issues with getting the octopus back in. In order to hold the mouthpiece in the opening is smaller than the mouth piece and it can take a bit of fiddling to push the mouthpiece into the opening. It's not as tricky as a simple rubber loop, but much more annoying than using a magnetic holder.
At £9ish from cetecea this holder compares well to other brands making similar products. For a lasting piece of kit that works reasonably I think this is a reasonable price to pay. If you can afford it opt for the magnetic style costing around £30 (which I'll review soon), however this holder does the job and is a more than acceptable product.
The simply scuba mask strap wrapper is a branded wrapper that fits over the strap of a scuba diving or snorkelling mask to make the strap more comfortable to wear.
When you put goggles or a face mask on for scuba diving, you often find that the strap can dig in around the ears and case uncomfortable rubbing, or the strap digs in in other places, or just mucks your hair up (I don't suffer from this problem due to a distinct lack of hair). Due to my lack of hair I do find that a narrow silicone strap on a mask can dig into the back of my head quite hard, and leave pretty unsigly marks when I am not diving in a hood.
=== The Mask Strap Wrapper ===
The mask strap wrapper consists of an almost rectangular piece of neoprene with curved edges that will follow the curve of your head when it is worn.
The two shorted ends are open and it is here that the silicone mask strap is fed through. This requires one end of the strap to be removed from the mask and fed through. Make sure you remember how it was atached as it can always be a bit tricky to reattach the strap to the mask. Once the stap wrapper is on there is no need to remove it, so apart from adjustments you won't have to fiddle with the strap again.
The two longer sides of the mask strap wrapper are stitched and provide a curved edge that rests against your head.
There is simple branding of the product in big white letters stating simplysuba.com which is where I bought it from and the only place that it is available as a new product. I like that it is a simple look and it doesn't need to be any more imposing.
===Is it comfortable?===
The mask strap wrapper is extremely comfortable to wear. The curved edges and neoprene are pleasant to wear and the pressure from the strap is distributed better over the surface of my head than with a thin silicone strap.
The larger strap area makes it easier to move the strap around and get the mask into a better position for use.
For UK diving, the fact that it is neoprene even adds a bit of warmth on top of my hood, which is definitley not a bad thing. This will add a bit of buoyancy to the top part of your head, but the effect shouldn't mean adding any extra weight to your weight belt or affect your balance underwater.
I've had this mask strap wrapper for about two years and am finding that it is showing signs of wear. The stitching is coming a little loose along the edges and the neoprene is looming a little deteriorated. THis may be due to me not wahing it off properly after diving in saltwater and does not concern me a lot as it is a very cheap piece of diving equipment that can be easily replaced.
The simply scuba mask wrapper sells on the simply suba website for £5 plus £2.99 postage. This is rougly the same as most other versions I have seen, although you may pick one up a little cheaper in a dive shop as you wouldn't have to pay any delivery charges.
The IST dive slate is used for communicating underwater. When diving you should always dive with a buddy or partner. This is mostly for safety reasons, i.e. if something goes wrong, there is someone there to help out. A dive can last several hours underwater and obviously with breathing apparatus stuck in your mouth it's pretty difficult to talk even if you could be heard.
A dive slate is an simple piece of equipment that allows you to write whilst underwater and makes it possible to communicate with your buddy without having to surface and terminate the dive.
I've recently qualified as a BSAC (British sub aqua club) assistant instructor and now find myself giving lessons and training within my club. I use a dive slate to plan lessons and use it in the pool to act as an aid to my memory of what I should be covering within a lesson. I actually have a variety of slates now due to some overeager bidding on ebay.
===The IST slate===
The IST slate measures 15cm x 12cm and is a few mm thick. The main slate is simply a piece of plastic (probably polyethylene PE but I'm not sure) which has a hole in the top for attatching a clip and a blue logo printed at the bottom.
The slate includes a pencil which is attached to the slate with a bright yellow rubber bungee cord. The pencil is small and similar in size to the tiny ones that you get for free in Argos measuring in around 8cm. (I may be stocking up with spares next time I visit the holders of the laminated book of dreams)
A clip is provided which consists of a belt type nylon strap secured to the slate by a loop and with a clip the other end for securing the slate to the rest of your diving gear. In the middle of the nylon belt is a push to release clip acting as a quick release system.
My dive kit has a lot of steel D rings built into it which are easy to clip this slate to and keep it out of the way when I am not looking at it.
In use I find that it can be quite hard to write on the slate hard enough that the pencil is visible. This is easier on land prior to a dive, so making a lesson plan in advance works well.
The pencil marks do not change underwater and I find that you do need to use a rubber (eraser) to remove any notes, this can be a little annoying underwater if you run out of space.
Running out of space is the main issue. This dive slate is very small and I find making a lesson plan including all the briefings and debriefings as taught by BSAC (with endless other acronyms in there) easily fills the slate for an hour lesson. Because of this I tend to use a slightly larger slate and this one now just stays in a pocket for open water diving as a communication tool.
The materials appear to be good quality and the strap, plastic slate and rubber attaching the pencil have shown no signs of deterioration in the few months I have been using it.
I bought this on ebay for around £3 which is extremely resonable as it sells in dive shops and online for around £6. The larger versions are usually about £12, so I think this is a very good value product as the clip probably costs a lot more to make than the plastic slate does.
Lemsip is my 'go to' item when I feel a cold coming on. I'm pretty prone to the sniffles whenever the weather changes, so during spring and autumn I tend to get lots. As I like to save my time off work until I'm feeling better I tend to dose up heavily on paracetemol and carry on like normal (whilst moaning about it in a typically man like fashion).
Lemsip is a brand of cold and flu remedies in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. It is manufactured by Reckitt Benckiser. It was originally made as a lemon flavour that was added to hot water to make a lemon (ish) flavoured hot drink containing a decongestant and paracetemol. Nowadays it's available in a range of capsules, pills, powders and comes in varying strengths and flavours including Wild Berry,Hot Orange and Breathe Easy flavours.
The pack I most recently purchased was the Lemsip Max Blackcurrent. This came in a cardboard box easily identifiable by the yellow and green packaging as Lemsip. The purple mug on the front easily shows that the pack contains the blackcurrent flavoured version.
Inside the box are 10 Sachets of lemsip, each containing 1 dose (or one mug when diluted) of the magic lemsip cold curing powder.
Each sachet containds 1000 mg of Paracetamol and 12.2 mg of phenylephrine hydrochloride. It also contains ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), sucrose and aspartame.
Lemsip Max Cold and Flu Blackcurrent is used for the symptomatic relief of colds and flu. It treats headaches, Fever, Blocked noses, Body aches & pains and Sore throats. I think there are better products for aches and pains and proper decongestants for blocked noses, but as a 'treat all' cold remedy it covers everything a bit.
The drink is made by ripping the sachet open (neatly along the top) and tipping the contents into a mug. It is easy to tear the packet and the powder pours easily without leaving any tricky bits to pour out inside.
These sachets are suitable for children over the age of 12 and adults. It is advised to take one sachet every 4-6 hours, but not more than 4 sachets in 24 hours. I won't recommend it but can say I've outdone the recommendations many times during particularly bad colds and never suffered any side effects.
The blackcurrent flavour attacted me to this version of lemsip as I am partial to ribena and other blackcurrent flavoured drinks. Dissapointinly the blackcurrent doesn't hide the sharpness of the other ingedients and it not as soothing as I was hoping for. I think it is too sharp for me and in future will stick to the standard lemon which I think hides the medicinal taste better.
===Does it work?===
Lemsip doesn't cure instantly and I do find a cold last just as long if I don;t use it, however it does seem to reduce the effects a bit during the cold. I it works well at getting rid fo a headache and makes me more alert when pushing through in the office. During a sore throat it works well too and soothes for while (although i find glugging cough syrup more effective).
I'm not really one to go for name brand medicines all the time but tend to go for lemsip as I prefer the flavour to stores own brands which are cheaper. I paid £3.85 for 10 sachets from boots. This is more expensive than other brands but purely due to the improved flavour I think it's reasonable (despite disliking the blackcurrent it is a better flavour than elsewhere).
Lemsip is a great product and does the job for relief from a cold. I disliked the blackcurrent flavour so it looses 2 stars as this is the only thing that differentiates from Standard lemsip. Lemsip- yes, Blackcurrent-No.
===Why is a clip in the diving category?===
Clips, clips and more clips. That seems to sum up my more recent scuba diving purchases. For UK diving you tend to dive with a lot more equipment attached than in hotter climates abroad. It's very dependant on individual preference, but I tend to clip a large amount of equipment diectly to my BCD (buoyancy control device...or jacket) especially any equipment that could save my life as then it is easy to reach even if you get tangles in fishing line or netting.
I use a variety of clips to attach my torch, knife, hoses, gauges, slate (for writing underwater when I teach), reel (for letting a buoy to the surface and reeling it in to show your position) and goody bags (for collecting scallops, lobsters or crabs. It's pretty easy to see that I don;t have enough hands to hold all of these so it's good to have them hanging in easy access when diving. Clips can also be helpful if you choose to dive with an stage cylinder (a small cylinder for extra gas when decompressing on the way up) or a sidemounted cylinder that hangs from your side instead of on your back.
The Scubapro Stainless Steel Swivel Bolt Snap is a stainless steel (AISI 316) clip that has a snap fitting on one end, a swivel joint in the middle and a permenant ring at the other end. The snap clip is opened by pulling or pushing the small tab connected to the retractable part of the clip and closes automatically on release.
The ring end can be permanently secured to an accessory, cylinder or yourself depending which end you want to be removable. This is usually achieved using a tie or piece of cord. For my slate I use a bungee cord as I like to be able to stretch it away and have alot of manouverability with it.
The clip measures aproximatley 12cm in lenght, 3cm in width and 0.5cm deep. This is more than enough for it to feel reliable and robust.
===Is it any good===
Scubapro are a well known brand and make quality diving equipment somewhere around the mid-range. As clips go, you can't go far wrong as proved by this Stainless Steel Swivel Bolt Snap which works well, feels strong and has shown no signs of degredation after two years use in saltwater, murky lakes and chlorinated swimming pools. As with all diving equipment it's worth washing it off in freshwater after a dive to prevent any corrosion that may occur.
316 Stainless steel can discolour in saltwater and attact marine growth, but this hasn't happened yet as I do tend to wash it off well.
It's a stong clip and holds all my equipment well. The swivel runs freely making equipment easy to move around and use.
The only failure I can think of is that when wearing thick gloves underwater, the tab to open the snap part of the clip is a little small and it can be difficult to operate.
This clip sells for £8 which may seem expensive for a little metal clip, however this is pretty standard for diving clips and I can't rate it down for the price.
It's a pretty basic bit of kit but does the job well. Apart from being fiddley to use wearing gloves it is a good item and highly recommended.
===Why do I use Weight retainers?===
When scuba diving it is essential that you use weights to reach neutral or slightly negative buoyancy. Once kitted up in scuba gear and a drysuit, wetsuit or semi-dry suit you will float, this is called positive buoyancy and makes it impossible to submerge. By adding weights in the form of lead blocks or lead shot you increase your weight and find a level that means you sink, this is called negative buoyancy. If you add air into your jacket this increases your uplift and once an equilibrium is reached where you don't go up or down this is called neutral buoyancy.
Weights can be worn in the form of solid lead blocks that usually have two holes in them to be slotted onto a belt and worn around your waist. Alternatively you can get a harnes or pockets which distriute the added weight around your body improving your weight distribution and making you more stable in the water.
I wear a weight belt around my waist (although considering an upgrade at some point to a harness). This is a flat nylon belt secured using a lever clip at the front. I use from 2 to 12kg of lead weights depending on where i am diving and what I am wearing. A drysuit is the most buoyant and needs lots of weight added to get to neutral buoyancy so i use 12kg by adding a combination of 2 x 3kg weights, 2x2kg weights and 2x 1kg weights. When diving in warm water with no suit I only need about 2 kg which is achieved using 2 x 1kg weights.
When underwater I find that the belt absorbs water and loosens, this means that the weights slip around a lot and are uncomfortable to wear. I have had a lot of bruises to my hip bones due to weights crashing about. Weight clips are the ideal solution as the do what they say.....they keep the weights in place on the belt.
===The IST weight retainers===
The IST weight retainers are a pretty standard item. They have two slits in them much like the lead weights I use. These are used to thread the retainers onto the belt either side of each lead lump on the belt. The centre strip has spikey bits (not sharp to touch, but enough to dig into the belt) which grip the belt and stop the weight from slipping from it's position.
The IST weight retainer fits a 50mm belt (the length of th slits) and is made from high tensile polymer (a clever way of saying strong plastic).
The retainers are available in yellow, blue and black and can be bought as an individula item or in packs of 4. I have 8 black ones bought as 2 multipacks and this is enough to hold 4 weights securely, although you may decide that you don't need two for each weight and get away using less. The colour is not at all important as diving isn;t the most attractive of sports, however the bright yellow ones may be good as a safety device for other divers to spot your weight belt in an emergency and allow them to remove it quicker.
===Do they work?===
The most weight I have applied to a single retainer is 4kg when i 'piggy back' a 3kg and a 1kg weight in an effort to spread out 12kg around my waist. The retainer has shown no signs of weakness, no distortion or damage and has kept the weight in place well. The only movement I get now is from not doing up my belt tight enough to begin with.
A four pack cost me £3.95 and I have seen single ones in dive shops for £1. This is extremely reasonable for a very useful product, but some may consider it a lot for a small lump of plastic. When compared with other dicing equipment £1 each is pretty good.
===Would I recommend?===
In short....yes. Don't bother paying more for a stainless steel version as these do the job well and make my diving much more comfortable.
After a year of UK diving in a wetsuit and spending a lot of time shivering, not able to feel my fingers and running to the car to sit with the heating on full for a hour, I decided it was time to invest in a drysuit.
The main choice in buying a drysuit is deciding between a neoprene or membrane type suit. Different divers prefer different things and advise varies depending on who you are talking to.
A neoprene suit is generally cheaper and provides more insulation. A neoprene suit however can be restrictive for movement as it is typically a lot thicker than a membrane and it can be too hot in summer. The neoprene also compresses as you go deeper and therefore changes your bouyancy (a bit of physics there - the amount of lift of an object in water is proportional to the volume of water displaced) this can mean fiddling about with how much air is in your jacket or suit. You can get crushed or compressed neoprene suits which do not compress so mch underwater.
A membrane suit is much thinner and is used wearing a thermal undersuit for insulation (basically a body shaped sleeping bag). As they are thinner they are easier to move in and more flexible. They don't compress so do not affect bouyancy at depth. Disadvantages include a lack of protection against cold if the suit floods (neoprene will act like a wetsuit), repairs are expensive and the suit itself costs more.
After weighing up the pros and cons and talking with divers in my club and the local dive shop I opted for a membrane suit which seemed like the more recent technology and I liked the idea of being able to move a bit more underwater.
===The Otter Skin MK 2===
The otter skin Mk 2 is a mid-range membrane drysuit, a lot of features are optional extras and I will stick try to stick to the ones I chose. It consists of a full suit with built in rubber boots, wrist seals, neck seal, entry zip, relief/vent valve, air inlet and some pockets. The suit is made form otterskin which appears to be a secret material.
I had mine custom made as the local dive shop offered a free fitting service where they measured all my dimensions and sent them off to the factory. The whole process took around a month for the drysuit to be deivered, but the fit was perfect and I'd highly recommend going for the custom made version as it doesn't cost extra.
Many of the features can be custom fitted where you want them.
I chose to have the vent valve (this is used to release air from the suit as you ascend) on the left shoulder as this is where I usually vent air from when diving with a jacket only. The valve is easy to operate and works by rotating clockwise or anticlockwise to release or seal the valve. As you ascend you raise your shoulder to make it the highest point and air wil disperse through the one way valve.
I set the air inlet valve in the centre of my chest, rather than to one side, as this gives me more flexibility to change my set up at a later date.
One pocket comes included with the suit and I placed this on my right leg for storing knives, torches and other equipment when needed. You can opt for a second pocket on the other leg too, but it costs extra so I didn't bother.
You can choose between latex or neoprene wrist seals. Both have a risk of leaking and tearing or corroding so there is little difference. I found that a neoprene neck seal is more comfortable so opted for that. The man in the shop asked me to tense my wrist and if a bump off veins show (which it did) told me that latex seals will work better, so I went for latex wrist seals.
The Zip is across the shoulder blades on the otter MK2. Other manufactures offer a front entry across the chest, which means you can do the zip without a partner. As I always dive with other people this disn;t bother me too much. The sip is brass (I think) and seals tightly to stop water etting in. It is quite stiff and needed a lot of wax to get it running smoothly. A secondary zip goes over the top for protecting the main zip. I don;t really see the use in this as the zip shouldn't corrrode anyway.
Inside the suit are a set of shoulder braces which mean you can wear the lower half of the suit and leave the top half hanging. These make it a bit of a tangle to get into but are a useful feature.
You can add a pee valve, for when your bladder reaches emergency levels but I didn't bother and haven't had to surface covered in urine yet.
I also bought the otter undersuit as part of a package. This is effectivley a sleeping bag which has a zip down the front of your chest. It is also custom made and fits well. It's fleece lined and very warm.
The srysuit is very easy to use. The valves work well and the connection to an air hose fits perfectly. The material is robust and hardwearing and the inbuilt knee pads strenghten the usual area to break first.
I have used this suit around the UK for about 20 dives so far, the coldest so far being a water temperature of 3 degrees celcius. On that dive my body stayed warm and only my hands and feet froze as I still use standard wetsuit gloves and a hood (Dry gloves may be my next investment).
As the seals age, it is likley that I will get some leakage into the neck and seals, but this is usual and after a year of diving I haven't suffered any yet.
As mentioned above I got a free custom measurement. On the otter website this is currently £83, however I beleve if you shopped around you could find a dive shop offering free fitting. the suit itself cost me around £750 and the undersuit around £90. Whilst not the cheapest drysuit around, Otter are highly respected and I can feel the quality of manufacture that has been put into the suit. This price may seem expensive, but it falls well below technical diving gear where a drysuit can cost thousands. For not freezing my balls off it's a price worth paying.
A superb suit that keeps me warm, is well made and very adjustable. If you are a diver, get one! I'm yet to try a dinner jacket under it in full james bond style, but I may well give it a go one day.
A dive cylinder is probably the most important, yet overlooked pieces of diving equipment. It's purpose is to hold compressed air to allow you to breath underwater and to provide a method for supplying this air to you.
===About Dive Cylinders===
Dive cylinders are pretty standard pieces of equipment, however there are a few options and differences between makes. These are not particularly important to a newbie diver, but with experience you start to know what you like and want to get equipment that will fit with your existing set up.
Dive cylinders come in standard sizes. The main sizes available are 10L, 12L and 15L. Obviously the larger the volume the larger the cylinder and the heavier it is. A smaller person can struggle using a 15L and a larger person will hardly get their head wet before running out of air using a 10L.
The second choice is whether to use an aluminium or steel cylinder. Aluminium is lighter, however it is weaker and therefore the walls need to be thicker making the cylinder more bulky. As the aluminium is lighter, the cylinder weight as you work through your air will change more and makes controlling your level slightly harder throughout a dive. Aluminium also corrodes less in seawater.
Lastly you can choose the valve type at the top of the cylinder for connecting to your first stage regulator (the bit you breathe through). The standard fittings are A-clamp where the regulator clamps onto the valve or DIN where the regulator uses a screw thread to attach to the valve.
===The Faber 15L Cylinder===
SO, after wading through all the choices above, I opted for the 15L steel cylinder made by Faber. I chose this based on the more constant weight throughout a dive and the fact that my bouyancy would vary less and therfore require less adjustment and fiddling about underwater.
The cylinder can be used as a single cylinder or twinned using a duel cylinder set up for really lnog dives (although I haven;t tried this as one is heavy enough!)
The Faber cylinder is designed to the relevant UK design codes (BS EN 144 in the UK with a CE stamp) and can take a pressure of 232 bar (some cylinders go to 300bar). It is marked with all the required information including the working pressure, serial number, manufacturer, metal type and test date (more to come on testing).
The cylinder is painted white with black and white quaterred patern at the top. This is the international symbol for breathing air or nitrox (nitrogen enriched air).
I opted for an A-clamp valve at the top (although to be honest, an adaptor can be bought for a few pounds to DIN so it isn;t that important)
The cylinder somes with a boot (check as this is not always the case and you'll need one) which is the rubber section at the botttom of the cylinder. This really just provides some stability for standing the cylinder on one end and a little protection against bumps.
I bought the cylinder from a local dive shop (Amphibian sports in West Norwood - Highly recommended) and it was ordered in on the week of it's test date to give me the maximum life before a test is required. For safety and to meet design codes European Union countries require a visual inspection every 2.5 years, and a hydrostatic every five years. A dive shop would be very unlikley to refill your air without a stamp showing that the cylinder is in test (They used to return them with a hole drilled through the side).
It's impossible to say how long the air in a 15L faber cylinder will last as this is determined by lots of factors including how deep you go, how much you breath, your weight, your fitness, are you a smoker, how cold is it, are you swimming or drifting with the current......and endless other things. With experience you can estimate how long it will give you and I have never run out of air so far!
There aren;t many working parts to review really, but I can say that the valve is easy to operate using the valve handle which is grooved for grip and I haven;t had any leakage between my regulator and the valve.
I've had my 15L cylinder for 2 years and apart from a few minor scrathes to the paint it hasn;t shown any signs of corrosion.
I may have adapted to the cylinder, but I find it easy to maintain my level when weighted correctly underwater.
The one weakness is that it doesn't come with a carrying handle and as it is quite heavy can be hard to carry using the valve as a handle. I bought a screw on handle for about £10 which rews around the neck of the cylinder and makes lugging gear about a lot easier!
I paid around £160 for my Cylinder from Aphibian sports in West Norwood, which is a very good deal. They seem to be available online for around £175, but beware that delivery charges will be high! This is a reasonable price and doesn't vary by brand much at all.
===Care of the Cylinder===
I thought I would add a few notes on care of the cylinder for anyone who might have or be looking at buying one.
Firstly, wash it off in fresh water after a dive in the sea or pool. This will stop the valve and bottle corroding.
Secondly, when in use store horizontally. If it falls over and the valve breaks it will get messy. When not in use store with a small pressure of air in it. It can be stored vertical if secured so that the side lying on the garage floor doesn't corrode.
Lastly, get the vave serviced every few years. Don't try and do this yourself unless you are a valve expert as you are are relying on it working again underwater!
Faber are well known and probably the biggest supplier of dive cylinders in the UK. The cylinder meets all codes and has lasted well. It's well priced and a good choice.
Depending on who you talk to, tiger balm cures just about everything. It is marketed as a balm for the relief of muscular pains, but my first memory of it is using it to treat mosquito bites growing up in Brunei in the 90's.
===What is it?===
According to wikipedis Tiger Balm was originally developed in the 1870s by an herbalist, Aw Chu Kin, in Rangoon, Burma, who on his deathbed asked his sons Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par to perfect the product. It is now made on a mass scale in singapore and Honk Kong. Originally it included tiger bone, but now consists of only herbal ingredients (thankfully).
Contained within the balm are methanol, camphor, Dementholised mint oil, Cajuput oil, Clove bud oil and Cassia oil contained within a paraffin and petroleum jelly base. The white and red varieties of tiger balm contain differing amounts of these ingredients and a newer Tigerbalm white HR uses eucalyptus oil instead of cajuput oil.
These ingredients form a dense balm similar in consistency to a solid lip balm. The mixture is softened using the heat in your finger and usually rubbed into an affected area.
The smell of tiger balm is very strong and overpowering. It's hard to describe but could be something like a very strong minty, cinnamon, medical smell.
I've used Tigerbalm on aches and pains (a fall from my girlfriends daughters scooter whilst showing off on the skate park resulted in use this weekend and hence writing this review) and as mentioned above on bites and stings to relieve itching an pain.
A bit of research when trying to find out what is actually in it reveals it can also treat coughs by rubbing on the chest and the back, Stomach ache by rubbing on the stomach, Nasal congestion by sniffing it, Interstitial cystitis (bladder pain)by applying just above the pubic bone.
Gerard Depardieu was even reported to have told Robert De Niro how to use Tiger Balm and water to solve an erection problem while shooting a scene for Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900
I can say from experience that it definitley relieves mosquito bites and was my parents preferred choice to stop me picking at bites on my legs when I was younger. It does sting a little when applying but is soothing within microseconds.
For aches and pains, it certainly has a warming effect which relaxes the area that aches and reduces pain. Whilst a pinkiller may be more effective the soothing effect is noticeable and I prefer it without resorting to proper drugs.
As it's pretty pungent stuff it does carry several warnings which I think are worth mentiong:
Do not use on broken or irritated skin.
Keep away from eyes and mucous membranes.
Tiger balm is for external use only.
Do not use as an inhalant.
Not suitable for children under two.
Avoid excessive use in pregnancy and lactation.
===Price and Availability===
Tiger balm tends to cost around £4.50 in most shops for a 19g pack, although i have just discovered it can be bought for £3.50 with free shipping from the web.
I've been using this since I was a child (about 25 years) and have come to love the pungent smell. It feels effective and is highly recommended for stings, bites and aches....and worth a try for some of the ailments listed above.
Jungle formula insect spray can be used in pretty much any situation and protects against mosquitoes, midges and a variety of other flying, biting insects.
I consider myself pretty well travelled and have lived, worked and travelled in a lot of tropical countries where mosquitos are an unavoidable pest that are ever present. Whilst I'm pretty lazy when it comes to actually using insect repellent there are some countries (particularly West Africa) where I am more cautious and make sure to use it regularly. I can tolerate a few bites and rarely find that my skin is heavily irritated, however I am more concerned about protecting myself from diseases carries by biting bugs.
Whilst preparing for trips I often end up in camping and outdoor shops to buy mosquito nets and suchlike. It's in these types of shops that I tend to spot Jungle formula spray as opposed to the standard DEET type sprays found in superdrug. It's personal preference, but I prefer the smell of jungle formula to other sprays and fins it less toxic smelling to use.
===How does it work===
Despite popular belief, everyone gets bitten ocassionally. It is just that some people do not react to the bite and won't show any signs of irritation or inflammation where they are bitten. Bugs are attracted by different factors such as body heat, smell, Carbon dioxide from breathing and can even be sensitive to the soap or deodorant that you use.
Insect repellant doesn't repel insects by intolerance (disliking the smell), instead it blocks the receptors of the insect and makes it harder for them to detect you (i.e. effectivley clogs their noses)
Jungle formula spray comes in a range of types including a roll on stick and a pump action spray. I prefer to use the spray as it is easier to distribute over any exposed skin. It comes in a range of sizes but I find the 75ml bottle to be a good size for carrying around in a backpack.
The bottle is a a pump action type which means that you pump the button at the top to spray out the insect repellant onto your skin.
It has distinctive labelling and it is clear which type you are buying. From the packaging it can be se
I usually buy the 75ml bottle, which will last me about 2 weeks of use in the evenings (I don't usually bother in the day unless I happen to be going somewhere swampy).
The spray comes in a range of strengths. I always go for the strongest (IRF 4) which is 50% DEET and lasts up to 10 hours as I do not see the point of using it halfheartedly. Whist this does smell very chemically due to the DEET it also contains some plat extracts which in my opinion smell better that competitors versions.
The spray disperses easily and is clear. It rubs easily over the skin but like other makes it can feel a bit greasy.
Due to the DEET content it is quite corrosive and can damage clothing and jewellery easily, although can wash marker pen off your skin effectivley.
As DEET is toxic it is not suiable for children under 3. Also, as noted above, it can damage clothing. Do not get it in your eyes....it stings like crazy.
===Does it really work?===
In my opinion, it works as well as any other repellant I have used. Whilst I still get bitten, it seems less excessive than other people (maybe I don't react or am more careful). Due to the possible diseases carries by many bugs and the fact that doctors recommend using DEET based repellants I am willing to trust that it is working and preventing more bites.
Jungle formula insect spray ranes in price quite a bit depending on where you buy it. I usually pay about £7 for a 75ml pump action spray in camping shops but was charged a lot more in a private medical place when my company were paying. It's currently on amazon for £6 which is comparable with other brands.
In Summary, it's much the same as any DEET based repellant, but I prefer the smell and would recommend it on that basis.
I have to admit that I am pretty much opposed to vitamin substitutes in general. I understand that if you have a deficiency obviously it's a good idea to take supplements, however in general people overdo the RDA (recommended daily allowance) which either gives a negative effect or has no effect as your body can only deal with a certain amount.
Despite my general hatred of supplements, I received a free packet of these krill tablets through the post from a trials website that I am a member of and decided to give them a go. I had used other vitamins when I was younger through force from my mother who used to be quite into homeopathy (don't get me started on that - water doesn't have a memory whatever these non-qualified doctors claim.) but had no recent experience so decided to try them out and see if they made a difference.
I do get painful joints on occasion, particularly my shoulder from an old snowboarding accident, and thought that if it helps that's a good thing. Nothing lost if there is no effect.
I love David Hasselhoff as much as the next person, but I bet even from his Baywatch days he doesn't know that Krill are a variety of small crustaceans that live in the oceans. They are near to the bottom of the ocean food chain and provide a source of nutrient for many larger animals.
When Krill oil is produced it contains omega-3 fatty acids similar to those of fish oil, Phospholipid-derived fatty acids and astaxanthin, an anti-oxidant. This makes krill oil similar to fish oil which is famous for containing omega 3. (Note that the body needs some oxidants and in my opinion and many others I have read anti-oxidants are pretty pointless)
==Claims of Krill oil===
Omega 3 fatty acids, in the same way as fish oil are thought to be beneficial for reducing the risk of heart disease. Krill oil is suggested to reduce cholesterol, and reduce the effects of arthritis. It is also meant to reduce pain for ladies at that time of the month (I can't tell you if that works or not).
Krill oil is similar to fish oil however a relatively new recommendation as a nutritional supplement as new sustainable ways of collecting Krill are being found. I watched a recent program on a new Norwegian krill collecting super ship but couldn't tell you much about it. From a brief bit of research before taking the capsules I have found several websites telling me that there has been no proof of any different effects than fish oil (which also has questionable effects) even though Cleanmarine claim it is more effective. There are very few published papers that prove any of the effects.
Despite the lack of scientific evidence around, I thought...what the hell, I'll give them a try...they were free after all!
The Cleanmarine krill oil comes packaged in a small plastic bottle inside a cardboard package with all the usual recommendations on the back. The capsules contain 500mg of krill oil and are small and translucent blue. The pack that I was supplied with contained 60 tablets.
The capsules are easy to swallow and not too large. unlike fish oil I tried in the past there is not aftertaste or 'burping' a fishy smell.
I have found a major flaw is that when stored at room temperature, the capsules can leak. When they leak they do smell terrible and the liquid is hard o remove from surfaces.
This is a brief summary of the results I found: NONE
I felt no different after using these daily for 60 days. I still had pain in my shoulder after exercise, felt no healthier and had no change in cholesterol. Admittedly I am fairly healthy despite the problem in my shoulder but For the price would have liked to see some sort of effect on the joint pain or cholesterol.
As I said above I received these free on a trial, but on Amazon they currently cost £17.99 for 60 tablets (one per day).
This is shocking compared to fish oils that seems to be similar sized capsules priced around £8 for 90. I concede that the krill oil is currently rarer and more sustainable but as I saw zero effects I have to rate them a 1 (can't do 0).