IT'S NORMAL FOR PEOPLE TO ORDER THEIR DRYSUITS with the valves placed wherever they choose. This usually equates to centre chest for the inflation valve and upper left shoulder for the auto-dump, although some people choose to have these valves in very different positions. That's all very well, but how many of you specify the actual make of valve you want? The Swedish company Si Tech makes valves that are a very good alternative to others with which you may be supplied. The inflation valve can be provided to fit either the conventional drysuit-inflation hose or the international hose commonly used for BC direct-feeds and now being used more often for drysuits. This gives a certain flexibility with hoses. God forbid that you arrive at a dive-site after wetsuit-diving without a drysuit hose, but with a common connection you could even use the same hose for both. Not only that, but the inflation button is supplied either with conventional push-activation or with a slider. This puts less stress on your chest, once you're used to it. Both valves will rotate through a full 360? so hose-routeing is, as the Americans would say, a no-brainer. Si Tech can also offer a hose with a new and unique quick connector, a boon when operating with frozen hands. Si Tech sent me a set of valves to try. I was pleased to find that, with the rubber flange supplied with each valve in place, they simply inserted into the holes from which the standard Apeks ones already fitted to my suit had come. Each valve also comes with a handy tool for tightening it in place on the suit. One is tempted to make a direct comparison with the Apeks alternatives. The Si Tech dump valve may be smaller than the low-volume Apeks offering but it stands slightly more proud. It is opened and shut and adjusted in exactly the same way as the Apeks, and it dumped air fast when needed on manual dump. I felt that the Si Tech dump valve probably jettisoned air more quickly. The fully rotating swivel of the Si Tech valve proved more convenient than the Apeks, which has a stop in each direction of rotation. This was handy for me, because I often dive with different sets of hoses so I am not sure over which shoulder the next direct-feed hose will be coming. I chose the slider inflator system and found it very comfortable to use. The plastic tools supplied to fit the valves were important. So often people break valves while trying to do them up tightly without the proper tool. I didn't really detect much difference in the rate of inflation between the Si Tech and Apeks valves. I am sure one of the manufacturers will now write an angry letter putting me right on this point. Following the dive, I noted that the Si Tech valves left my chest front and upper arm perfectly dry. If you like the idea, specify Si Tech valves when you order your next suit. Each valve is the same price:£32.50.
Alpha Distribution 01709515157, www.sitech.se
clockwise from left: The front-push inflator valve; side-push inflator valve; blanking plate; and constant-volume dump valve.
+ Good alternative to standard Apeks range + Choice of hose connection types + Choice of inflator mechanisms