A dummy's guide to the Apeks Range of Backplates/Wings/Harnesses.
Sam Burnell - www.apeks-online.co.uk
You've obviously been diving for a while, chances are you've dived and learnt to dive in a conventional jacket style BCD (unless you are old like me and learnt in an ABLJ - but we just arn't going there - the memories are to be frank too unpleasant.) Jackets style BCD's are great and were a vast and HUGE (let me reemphasise the HUGE) there leap forward on what was already on the market. They are comfortable in the main, they are easy to get on and off, sizing isn't an issue, most brands come in a good range of sizes. The design's in general put the diver in a vertical position at the surface which is comforting, it's always nice to see what's coming to get you.
But diving moves on, and now you are looking at your dive buddies and other guys in the club and wanting to take your diving to the next level so you are thinking - wing time. This system is all about keeping it simple, easy to use and adapt. Here's a rough beginners guide to the Apeks systems available.
A backplate and wing come in two bits - you got it the backplate (stainless or aluminium - we'll come back to this later) and the wing. The wing is the bit that provides the lift and the backplate and harness secure the lot both to the cylinder(s) and you. Now you can split the harness types into two basic types - one piece and quick release. In simple terms the one piece is exactly that - one single webbing strap makes the whole harness, there are no clips, once the system is set and adjusted for you it's upto to you to wriggle in and out of it before and after each dive. Apek's version is the Delux Webbed One Piece Harness, this is designed to be extremely strong, the elimination of the buckles avoids a weak point in the harness sytem.
The second type is the quick release, this is a bit more like your BCD and comes with quick release buckles. The WTX harness it has to be said also comes with a good degree of padding which is truly absent in the one piece delux version. The backplate slides in neatly inside the harness. In both cases the harness needs to fit snugly, you shouldn't be able to get more than a couple of fingers between the webbing and the suit. The overall idea is that the tight fit makes your kit a part of you, so you move it goes with you - man and dive kit in perfect harmony.
So you've got your harness and backplate and now this is where the system does come into it's own you can set this up now for twins or single cylinders easily. The WTX wings come in various sizes offering differing degrees of lift. For example the WTX3 offers 30lb of lift, and if you coupled with this an aluminium backplate , single tank adapter, and the one piece harness you would also have a nice travel light system. The WTX4 gives, you guessed it 40lb of lift, the WTX6 60lb and the WTX8 80lbs. Now Apeks also offer the WTX6R (note the R) it stands for redundant and it comes with a second redundant bladder, a nice safety feature. Please also note the two bladders cannot be used together to give 160 lbs of lift as one of my confused customers recently thought. Also 160lbs of lift what the hell are you trying to get off the bottom - the Titanic!!!
Backplates - well there are two materials here. Shiny sexy stainless, stainless steel is always sexy and has an allure in the diving world that no one can quite adequately explain. It is also a damn sight heavier than the aluminium counterpart. What it boils down to is a weight issue, a stainless back plate weighs in at around 2.2kgs more than its aluminium counterpart.
Putting it all together - the WTX harness is pretty self explanatory, but I kid you not the Apeks one piece is an art form. It arrives as a box of bits and although there are instructions you lot are generally men so that's the first document you'll dispose of. Just to help you out we've put together the definitive video on how to get your bits in the right places. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTuh2gpQKa0
Don't miss our next article "My reg's got a knob and I'm not afraid to use it!"