BC Halcyon Eclipse wing-style
I like to keep an open mind and test each piece of equipment on its merit. My aim is to tell you, the reader, as much as I can about all the products that are available to you, without fear or favour.
     I was pleased to receive a Halcyon Eclipse wing-style BC to try for these pages. However, another person in the office greeted its arrival with the sort of welcome that might have greeted a parachute sent by Osama Bin Laden. Halcyon products bear the mark of DIR, and while to some this is seen as a sign of all things good, others see it as the mark of the Devil.
     For those divers who have been living on another planet, I should explain that DIR, or Doing It Right, is a system of diving which embraces not only equipment and training but attitude and lifestyle. Some see it as rather Mormonic in the demands it makes on those who subscribe to its teachings, but then there do seem to be a lot of very happy Mormons.
     Well, as a professional maverick, I didnt feel threatened. Nor did I feel I needed to recant any previously held beliefs to go diving with the Eclipse and tell you what I think of it. Halcyons importer has clearly decided that it needs to widen the market for its products rather than limiting sales to the few faithful followers of the DIR creed.
     The Eclipse is for use with a single tank. It is a simple bit of kit that marries to a Halcyon stainless-steel or aluminium backplate and harness. When supplied complete, it goes by the name of a Multifunction Compensator.
     The BC comes with a stainless-steel single-tank adapter with two cambands for securing the tank. You can also buy the wing alone to fit to any harness and backplate you might already have.
     It was easy enough to sandwich the three parts and assemble them with the bolts, wing-nuts and washers provided. I was amused to find myself following the instructions on how to adjust the harness straps so that the two shoulder D-rings ended up in the right place. I was suddenly reminded of Henry Reeds famous wartime poem: ...but today we have naming of parts.
     The harness is a continuous loop of webbing, just like the one on my first Spiro twin-set of 25 years ago. This means that it can be easily adjusted to fit almost anyone.
     It has a crotch-strap with a big stainless-steel D-ring at the back and another at the front, and a big Scubapro buckle. The rear D-ring is evidently intended for reels and SMBs and the like. There is a waist D-ring for clipping off a pressure gauge.
     The front crotch-strap D-ring is for hitching to a tow-behind scooter only, so will become rather redundant when we are all using JetBoots!
     There is no back cushion as such, just a panel of heavy fabric secured to the backplate with a number of bolts. I found five such bolts in the parcel, although there was the possibility of fitting eight.
     The fabric panel hides the bolt-ends and wing-nuts that hold the sandwich of backplate, buoyancy cell and tank-adapter together. Its the shape of the back-plate that stops the bolt-ends and wing-nuts sticking into your back and making you feel uncomfortable.
     The cambands were not as easy to tighten as in a conventional set-up, and I strongly advise the user to wet them thoroughly before fitting to a tank. Webbing stretches when wet. The Halcyon type are not as easily threaded as ordinary cam-buckles and you wouldnt want to have to try to tighten them up under water.
     The buoyancy cell or wing is of double-bag construction with a urethane-coated bladder inside a ballistic nylon outer shell.
     It is shaped like an elongated doughnut, with a pull-dump at the lower front left side and a corrugated hose attached to the upper right back. This has a reinforced elbow. The bag comes with either 18 or 13.5kg of lift.

Despite some shortcomings, I enjoyed using this wing. I like minimalism. Why have something that is not needed
     The Eclipse follows the less is more philosophy, but this does give those whose job it is to market the product something of a problem. In our added-value world, how can you sell something that actually strives to give you less
     The press release supplied with the Eclipse made great play of the internal drainage system for excess water. I guess it meant the lower dump valve.
     Well, you will need to dump water out of this after a dive, because the only way to dump air from the wing on ascent is to raise the corrugated hose and let it out through the manual inflation valve. This, of course, lets water back in the other way.
     Dont expect to get anything as convenient as a toggle on the end of the lower dumps pull-cord either, even though it would have made it easier to find it to dump air during a fast head-down descent in a strong current.
     The press release also makes great play of the fact that the corrugated hose has its inflator mouthpiece set to face inwards. Whats the mystery If I ever get any BC that has its inflator mouthpiece pointing any other way, I simply unclip it, rotate it and refit it. My opinions may be heretical to the devoted followers of DIR, but I am equally devoted to the principles of JDI (Just Do It).
     Under water, the backplate substituted for lead on my belt, the small wing did not flap around the tank, and the BC became a part of me, which is good.
     However,I had to be circumspect about positioning my body in such a way that I could dump all my air on ascent.
     If this BC had an upper dump valve, I might well have loved it. If you dive only in a drysuit and use the BC for surface buoyancy, its absence may not be a problem.
     There may be merit in having a continuous loop of webbing and only one buckle rather than a couple of pinch-clips, as with most other BCs, but I missed the convenience of conventional shoulder buckles.
     When it came to getting my cylinder off in the water, it proved to have become rather a snug fit. However, I am adroit at tipping my rig over my head and ducking out from under it, and that worked fine once I had the existence of a crotch-strap fixed in my mind.
     I imagine those of us who are less slim and nimble might have to consider diving only from a boat with a ladder, so that they can climb aboard still fully kitted.
     But then, if you follow the strict DIR regime in all its aspects, you will be at least as fit as me!
     Thats it - a wing perfect for shore-diving in a drysuit in freshwater lakes. No BC needs to be complicated to work, and the Halcyon Eclipse is certainly not unnecessarily complicated.
I often find myself writing that less is more. In this case, less certainly costs more. This is a BC stripped to the bare essentials, and what essentials there are seem to be solidly made. But then they would have to be, to justify a whopping £424 price-tag.
  • W Silent Planet, 001305 824 555, www.silentplanet.info

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    + Well-made
    + Simple design
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    - Less is more when it comes to cost