Hands On Review – Putting a Dive Rite XT CCR wing to work on a KISS Classic Explorer Rebreather to find out what it is made of.
Back in the winter of 2012, I was getting close to looking for a replacement wing for my KISS Classic Explorer rebereather. The one that originally came with it, manufactured by Zeagle Systems, was showing a lot of wear, and starting to sprout small leaks. Several times, I had to patch pin-hole sized leaks in the inner cell created when small sharp or abrasive objects made contact with the wing, or worked their way inside to damage the inner cell. Wrecks and suspended bebris in tropical waters like South Florida can do that.
About the same time I started shopping for a new wing, Dive Rite rolled out a new series of wings that caught my attention. This series utilized a 360-degree, donut-style bladder designed to support variety of single or double cylinder combinations.
Dive Rite’s Travel and Voyager Wing for single tank applications featured a nice low profile wing design offer 25 lbs. / 11.3 kgs lift in the Travel model where as the Voyager Wing provides slightly more with 35 lbs./ 15.9 kgs of lift. Billed as their “hybrid wing” due to its capacity for double as well as single applications is Dive Rite’s Rec Wing providing 45 lbs. / 20.4 kgs of lift. From there, the models avaible become more mission orientated with the Nomad wing (featuring 50 lbs. / 27 kgs. of lift) for side mount diving, the Classic Wing (featuring 60 lbs. / 27.2 kgs. of lift) for traditional double applications and of course the CCR Wing specifically made for rebreathers with 40 lbs. / 18.1 kgs of lift.
Although the lift capacities of the larger wings might come off as a bit conservative, according to Dive Rite, the numbers are based on actual displacement volumes measured in fresh water – the test criteria needed for CE approval.
While the tear and abrasive resistance of 1680 denier ballistic nylon used in most of Dive Rite’s newer line of wings is pretty good, the wings in the upper-grade XT Armored Wing series that really caught my attention. This is because the XT version incorporates SuperFabric® technology in the construction of the wing’s outer shell.
What SuperFabric basically involves is taking one type of fabric—in this case 1000 denier Cordura®—and bonding a second layer of tiny plates that act as a type of protective armor on the fabric’s surface.
The bonding process transforms ordinary fabric into a composite that is highly resistant to sharp objects such as a knife or scalpel, while the spacing between the “armor plates” is just enough to allow the fabric to remain flexible.
The first time I saw this fabric in use was on one of Oxycheq Mach V Extreme wings where the owner of the company, Patrick Duffy allowed me to repeatedly raked a box cutter over the surface of a fully inflated wing without leaving much of a mark. To say the least, I was impressed.
Dive Rite XT CCR Wing on KISS Classic Rebreather?
Originally both the XT and EXP CCR wings were a redesigned for Dive Rite’s own O2ptima rebreather, but as it turned out, the donut-style wing’s height and width measurements— 22-inches/55.8cm tall by 21 inches/53.3cm wide—are as close to a perfect match for my KISS Classic Explorer than anything I could find.
Mounting the wind to a KISS Classic rebreather is hardly any different than it would be to install it on a set of doubles. The center of the wing features two sets of marine-grade 316 stainless steel grommet mounting holes that can be easily aligned with the holes in the center spine in the Classic’s counterlung case to achieve the most desirable positioning for in-water trim.
One of the features I particularly liked about this design is that the mid-section of the wing is completely open, which allows for a broader range of hose routing. Since I like having both my SPG’s and the MAV hoses come down over my shoulders, having the option to route all of them under instead of over the top of the wing really tidied things up for a more streamlined affect.
The only thing that I find keeps this wing from being perfect for my use is that the inflator hose is a little too offset to the left, which causes it to lay just to the outside of the shoulder straps. Then again, the wing was designed for a rebreather with chest-mounted counterlungs.
Taking it to Sea
So it looks good, but how is the trim? On the CCR wing, the volume of inflation on both the top and bottom ends are very close to even, with the two primary side regions of the cell providing the bulk of the air cell’s 40lbs/18.1 kg lift. Given the center of mass on the Classic Explorer is centralized between the diver’s neck and the small of the back, the configuration of the wing’s donut shaped air cell makes it easy to achieve a very comfortable state of horizontal trim.
Another feature that makes the CCR wing different from the rest is that it includes a ‘Gusset Control System’ to streamline the wing when it is fully or practically deflated. This is not to be confused with “bondage wings,” where the bungee cord encircles the air cell and can restrict airflow or the ability to inflate to full capacity. Instead, Dive Rite’s Gusset Control System weaves back and fourth across only the side of the wing facing the diver’s back. When air is let of the wing, the bungee cords contract only that side of the wing, causing the wing to curl inward to reduce in-water drag. I looked at this as a particularly good feature with XT wing as the SuperFabric side of the shell is largely the only side that remains exposed, even when the wing is half inflated.
Before I began writing this hands on review, I had been using this wing for a bit more than year. In that time, I had have performed more than 100 dives, most in salt water. At the same time, the wing also got plenty of exposure it to our intense South Florida sun. The durability of this wing so far is very impressive; as it showed only the mildest visible signs of wear on both the fabric and all the sewn seems.
In fact the Superfabric material it self looks almost the same as the day it was installed. It seems the fabric is as resistant to UV rays as it is to punctures and tears.
And remember my little problem of developing pin-hole leaks in the wing’s inner bladder when sharp or small abrasive objects worked their way into the inner air cell? Well, that’s been no longer a problem either.
The SuperFabric has had a lot to do with this toughness, but if you were to un-zip the outer shell to look inside, you’d notice that the inner air cell of the XT wing is made of a heavy-duty 210 denier laminated nylon instead urethane plastic. I don’t need to state how tough that type of material is for a bladder, but I will point out the counter lungs on the Classic Explorer are made from almost identical material.
KISS Rebreather’s Wing of Choice
On a side note: During my initial sea trials with this wing 2012, I directed the owner of KISS Rebreathers, Mike Young, to have a look at this wing as viable match with the Classic’s design. In addition to this model, Mike found it to be a perfect match with Ocra Spirit and Spirit LTE mCCR, as it allowed the counter lungs to come through the open mid-section and more freely wrap around the diver’s rib cage.
One Tough Mother
In the years following my initial hands on review, I discovered that just how durable this wing truly is.
Dive Rite backs this wing with a “Worry-Free Lifetime Guarantee” that states that the company will repair or replace any XT Wing damaged by faulty manufacture or material, at no cost, for the lifetime of the wing.
It is now June 2017, and I am still diving this same wing on my KISS Classic. Amazingly enough, In addition to still looking pretty dam good, has given me zero problems. When was the last time you saw something like that on a BCD?
The price tag on the Dive Rite’s CCR XT Wing runs about $439.00 USD which includes your choice of a 12 or 16-inch inflator hose (with corresponding low-pressure inflation hose) with the inflation system affixed to standard elbow. The same wing is offered in a dual bladder configuration for roughly $150 more, $589.00 USD.