BCDIR Zone Cub Arctic Wing
When I was sent a wing-style BC bearing the brand DIR Zone, I almost felt that I was being tricked into writing a diving version of Salman Rushdies Satanic Verses, complete with a fatwa to follow.
     A minority of DIR divers (Doing It Right, for the uninitiated) have a limited sense-of-humour quotient, so if you fall into this category, please close the mag now and go down to WH Smith for something more serious, like Nature.
     Regulators and computers are deadly serious in what they do, but a BC is simply a bag into which you put air and let it out again. Ive recently experienced a miserable weeks diving with a wing that didnt do this very well, but it was never life-threatening. So I try out BCs like the DIR Zone Cub Arctic wing with far less trepidation and the potential for a bit of light-heartedness.
     Assembling it was a bit tedious but quite simple. The black Cordura buoyancy chamber is a simple slim doughnut-shape bag with an inner bladder and cut-outs for the two tank cambands and two stainless-steel bolts to pass through. Its strongly made and gives 15kg of lift while fully submerged.
Mouth to surface
A 15 litre buoyancy cell displaces only 15 litres of water when fully submerged. I make this point because wing-makers often claim that their products give massive amounts of lift, when in reality this lift may not translate into effective surface support.
     When we do comparison tests of BCs, we always measure the actual height of the mouth above the surface, rather than simply quote manufacturers lift figures.
     This is because a big cushion behind the divers head that is not under water does nothing for surface support. Its how well youre supported that counts, and Im afraid the simplicity of the Cub Arctics design tends to allow it to fall into this trap.
     You may well find yourself lower in the water with it fully inflated at the surface than another diver with the same equipment but using a BC or wing designed (usually with an expanding gusset low down) to keep its inflated part fully submerged.
     The tank cambands have substantial stainless-steel buckles made in an unbreakable Teutonic style. There is a simple corrugated hose with a direct-feed control and a single dump valve (with no toggle end) that ends up at the lower back when the diver is upright. The direct feed from the regulator passes neatly under a couple of rubber bands to integrate with the corrugated hose.
     The buoyancy cell bolts on to a backplate that bears the one-piece harness. The harness has three movable D-rings and an over-engineered stainless-steel weightbelt-type buckle. The crotch-strap has two D-rings, mainly for attaching the lanyard for a tow-behind DPV.
     The harness has several strategically positioned rubber bands for coping with extraneous webbing.
     The waistband has a sheath with a small knife. This looks like an Oceanic Cutter, which earned almost full marks in our recent knife comparison. Its a sensible place to put a knife, because it is much more accessible than if strapped to a calf.
     There came a time when I found myself struggling to get out of the harness when I was sorely tempted to use the knife, but more of that later.

Sniping positions
The backplate has cut-outs for the cambands and holes for the bolts to pass through. There is a choice of materials for this backplate, but as both a poser and a person who hates carrying too much kit in my bag, I opted for an anodised black aluminium job.
     Black magic. How cool is that The backplate has the necessary perforations for stowing a light canister and so on. Pity the stainless steel D-rings and buckle glinted so much. I felt they might give away my position to the enemy.
     Enemy What enemy I could imagine certain divers taking up their sniping positions. How dare I use one of these wings without having at least done a DIR Fundamentals Course first
     Well, I dared. I used the Arctic Cub wing with a wetsuit. When I use a single tank with a drysuit there is never any reason to use the BC for buoyancy control, because I maintain the suit at constant volume. I start off weighted for neutral buoyancy near the surface and stay that way throughout the dive. So a heavyweight wetsuit it had to be.
     The one-piece harness with crotch strap takes some adjusting, but I finally got it to fit snugly. At this point, because it had no breaks in the form of pinch-clips or buckles, it took some getting out of. The harness certainly doesnt slip through the slots in the backplate easily. Im used to slipping a strap off one shoulder and swinging a set round if I need to get to the valves under water. Otherwise I release a waistband and duck down and pull a twin-set over my head.
     Reaching back to do a shut-down drill is the last resort when youre losing your youthful flexibility, but that seems to be the only option when imprisoned with a tank in this way.

Following your nose
You can dump air from the Cub Arctic by raising the corrugated hose and pressing the button. This naturally tends to let water back in the other way.
     The prescribed method is to lie horizontally in the water and activate the dump at the lower back. In practice, this means being at least slightly head-down.
     This slim buoyancy cell is not as bad as a wing for twins would be on a single tank, but it still tends to wrap itself around a single. Air always migrates to the highest point, so you need to make sure its in the right side of the bag, which means doing a slight roll to empty the left side.
     Just following your nose for the surface and dumping air as you go is out of the question.
     I can appreciate the appeal of the simplicity of this well-made item. I understand that it is possible to practise routines so that even the most bizarre ritual becomes second nature.
     However, I like gear that operates without a seconds thought, leaving me free to consider my main task, whether thats photography or interacting with wildlife. With the DIR Zone Cub Arctic, I felt I was learning to be a DIR diver when I should have been getting on with the main business.
     So if its your pleasure to wear black and be a living example of perfect control and technique, this is the kit for you.
     If, like me, you just want to get on with your job, squirt some air in on the way down and dump some on the way up, slipping niftily out of your rig once its time to be picked up and otherwise acting like a complete diving slob, you might decide that its too much bother.
     Neither way is wrong. We all dive for different reasons. There will always be those who eschew the modern automatic washing machine and prefer the simple reliability of the tub and mangle. Who is to say that theyre wrong
The DIR Zone Cub Arctic with Diving Niknaks anodised black aluminium backplate costs £299. Cambands (right) cost £35 extra.
  • Diving Niknaks,

  • Divernet Divernet
    + Robust
    + Good, simple design
    + Stylish for divers in black

    - Simplicity may not be its strength
    - Not cheap for what you get