Appeared in DIVER April 2006

WING  Custom Divers Bravo
 So with only 20kg of checked baggage with which to play, why did I choose to take a Custom Divers Bravo Wing with me to the Sudan
Because you can use it without a backplate, stripped down to just harness and buoyancy cell, and that makes it very lightweight indeed.
Not only that, but its unique two-cell inner bag meant that
I had the option of fitting a second direct-feed inflator for complete redundancy if I chose to twin up a couple of independent cylinders, using Buddy Twinning Blocks and Bands, for example.
On the subject of Buddy, this Custom Divers wing has what looks to be a very nice front pocket - rather like that of a Buddy Trident, one of my favourite wings. Things looked promising for the Bravo.
In fact Custom Divers has, appropriately, come up with a wing that you can customise exactly to your immediate needs. The harness is of simple 5cm webbing sleeved over the front shoulders. It has two over-sized pinch-clips that allow you to break it easily when climbing out of your kit. The harness carries six over-sized stainless-steel D-rings.
The waist-strap is fastened with a conventional stainless-steel buckle of a type commonly used on weightbelts. There is a crotch-strap for those who feel they need it, and this comes complete with a big stainless-steel ring for attaching the tow lanyard of a DPV. That all adds up to a lot of shiny metal.
The left-side direct-feed hose is enclosed within a sleeve with the corrugated hose, and you pull on this to dump air from the top left shoulder. Otherwise you can use the lower back dump on the right side. Blanking plugs are supplied for the redundant half of the buoyancy chamber.
The buoyancy cell is unique in that, instead of using two inner bags, Custom Divers has come up with a flexible bulkhead within one cell. This means that you should be able to inflate a single cell within its outer bag and get as much maximum buoyancy as you could if you used the redundant half as well. I used it with only the single direct-feed set-up.
Without a backplate, I needed to use two cambands, one above the other, so that the tank was secure. I was surprised to discover that I had to supply my own. Three sets of slots give you a choice of positions. The Bravo has a moveable cushion to keep things comfortable.
So how did it perform I was able to dump air quickly during a head-down descent by pulling on the rear lower dump valve, but I had to be sure first that this was not caught up within the harness straps when I kitted up.

Left side only
Air was injected without drama, although I was always sure to secure the direct-feed control under the sternum strap, and it dumped nicely when I pulled on the corrugated hose to activate the left-side shoulder dump connected to it.
However, things felt better than they must have looked when this product was used with a single 15 litre steel tank.
Thats because the wing tended to fill on the left side only when used for buoyancy control, which left fellow-divers saying that it looked very uncomfortable with one side of the wing down and the other wrapped at right-angles alongside the tank. However, I felt fine.
The effect when used with independent twins did not merely look uncomfortable but was. The Sudan liveaboard Royal Emperor had some manifolded aluminium 12 litre twin-sets available, and the demand for the limited number of 15 litre cylinders among the other passengers was such that
I gave up mine after a few days to swap to twin-12s. I preferred to use them as independents with the isolator valve firmly shut, with air in one for the deep part of my dive and nitrox for adding safety to my deco once I was shallower.
Things were then not so good with the Bravo.
The problem arose once one tank was near-exhausted and the other still very full. The extra weight of gas in one side and the floaty effect of the aluminium on the other conspired to add to an out-of-balance effect, and to twist the set on my back.
The crotch-strap did nothing to ease this problem, which is obviously a side-effect of the complicated design of the internal bulkhead in the buoyancy-cell.
It didnt help even when I had the residual weight of the nitrox in the left tank, on the side of the wing that tended to retain the air. Once I was at the surface and fully inflated the wing, all was sweetness and light. It looked marvellous and performed likewise there.
Now I confess to not having tried the Bravo with a steel backplate. I guess that its design was originally conceived
with this in mind, and I am prepared to believe that the compromise of using it without is obviously less successful than its designer hoped.
However, if you do buy a Bravo wing and intend to take it without a backplate and only one direct-feed on a long diving trip, be prepared to put up with some drawbacks.
Compromises always need to be paid for in some way, and
I believe this wing would be much happier when used with both sides of its buoyancy cell connected to its own direct-feed, thus giving the user the option to even things up during the dive.
Sadly, I was also disappointed by the pocket mounted on the waist-strap.
Because the two zips were identical, they were difficult to identify quickly by feel (my reef hook was in one, and when you need that you normally need it in a hurry, especially at
the southern end of Shab Rumi or Sanganeb) and the zips were such small gauge that they proved difficult to close up easily under water.
The Custom Divers Bravo wing costs from£288 according to specification.
  • Custom Divers 01737 773000,

  • Divernet
    The zips on the pockets proved difficult to work
    the harness carries six large stainless-steel D-rings
    Versatile technical wing intended for leisure-divers too

    - Not good with independent aluminium twin tanks