Apeks WTX wing system • WTX Harness £179.23; WTX6 redundant bladder £256.80; S/S backplate £95.44; Surelock weight pouches £72.28
The WTX system is a range of BC wing parts that allows the user to select various individual components to make up the wing to suit his or her preference. The backbone of the wing is a chunky 316 marine-grade stainless-steel backplate. Cylinders can be either strapped directly to this using webbing cam bands or, if they are manifolded together, bolted on and incorporating twinning bands. The system includes plenty of slots and holes, which can cater for virtually any kit configuration.
There is a choice of two different styles of harness. For those who like to keep things simple, the one-piece webbed harness is the one to go for – a continuous 4m loop of 2in (5cm) webbing that needs to be pre-adjusted to fit an individual diver. It comes with six stainless-steel D-rings and six serrated retainers, a crotch strap, neoprene shoulder protectors, three retaining loops and a waist buckle. However, I preferred the more versatile WTX harness. Made from 1,000-denier Armorshield Cordura, it is tough and comes with all the accessories of the one-piece harness, with the addition of six smaller D-rings. It is also fully adjustable, with quick-release shoulder buckles and the option to be fitted with one of the best weight-integration mechanisms on the market – the Surelock system.
Finally, you have the choice of four types of buoyancy cell. Ranging from 32lbs (15kg) for the WTX3 to 80lbs (36kg) for the WTX8, and with a double 60lbs (27kg) variant, there is a huge amount of flexibility. We chose to test the double 60lbs WTX6 option with WTX harness and integrated weights. Assembling all the bits and pieces and adjusting my twinning bands to suit was straightforward, taking around an hour – a typical length of time for setting up a new wing system for the first time.
At first glance, the most noticeable feature is that it is solidly built. The twin-bladder arrangement is largely redundant when diving with a drysuit; however, I would say that it’s essential for technical diving in a wetsuit as it provides 100 per cent buoyancy backup. The concept is that a separate inflator, which in turn is supplied from a different gas source, can fill each bladder. Adjusting the harness to fit was simple, as there is plenty of webbing – enough to fit around even the largest of divers.
Underwater, I got used to the wing fairly quickly. The inflation mechanism works well when using 5mm neoprene gloves, although dumping air has to be done by lifting the corrugated hose above your head – it would have been nice to see shoulder dump valves. For ditching gas, the bladder is also fitted with two rear or lower dump valves that can be fitted on either the inside or outside of the bag, depending on preference – I tried them in both configurations and couldn’t really decide which was better. On the inside it was easier to locate but, on the other hand, dumping all the air was much easier using the outside-mounted valve.
There are heaps of D-rings to which you can attach gizmos such as reels, delayed SMBs and torches, but there are no pockets. When fitted with twin 12-litre cylinders, I required 8kg of weight to achieve neutral buoyancy – I easily managed to get them into the two weight-integrated pockets as they clicked smoothly into position. Releasing them was also easy, even with numb fingers. At the surface, the wing is beautifully trimmed when half inflated, though with more air inside it tended to throw you forwards a little. But all in all, the WTX is easy to get to grips with and appears to be built to last. Apeks has taken the ‘belt and braces’ approach and produced a good all-round wing system that would be equally at home in overseas waters as in the UK.
Comfortable, with plenty of options
Apeks • 01254 692200 • www.apeks.co.uk