That’s why I was surprised to receive a Hollis HD100 wing finished in blue with some attractive red piping. It seems that this product is aimed at the sort of technical diver who can think for himself, and eschews the code of “black for everything”.
I had it rigged for a single tank, and thought it would be ideal for a spring diving trip to the Maldives.

This is by no means a BC aimed at the travelling diver. For a start, it is of dual-bag construction, whereby the inner polyurethane buoyancy cell is concealed inside a heavy-duty Cordura outer covering, and this is attached to the harness.
Climbing into it, I felt a little like Philip Pullman’s heroic armoured bear.
The massive cummerbund is covered with more than a decent helping of Velcro and, once I’d clipped together the waistband that lies atop it, the heavy 15-litre steel tank on my back was going nowhere.
It felt so secure that I was confident enough to camband my Pegasus Thruster diver propulsion unit to the tank as well.
A small hard backpack locks the tank in place and makes it obvious that this item is solely intended for single-tank use. The Hollis HD100 uses a conventional camband with quite a long throw to its buckle, so that the rather thick and slightly hard-to-handle webbing is pulled securely tight.
There’s a strap that pulls tight around the neck of the tank to ensure that it can’t twist on your back, and also a handle, whichcame in useful during swift surface-interval tank changes.
Four small stainless-steel D-rings are attached to the back of the harness, with four large ones at the upper shoulders and low down towards the back. One could easily hang a sling-tank or even use this BC for side-mounting tanks if desired. There is also a D-ring for use with a crotch strap or a DPV.
Tough as the HD100 undoubtedly is, the soft edge of the collar of the harness and the back cushion makes it very comfortable.

Integrated Weight System
An integrated-weight system that includes weight pouches held tight with an overkill
of Velcro, plus locking buckles, means that releasing a weight pocket needs quite a hefty tug. These pouches look big enough to take at least 5kg each side.
Trim-weight pockets are located towards the rear of the harness and held closed by Velcro. These were redundant to my requirements, with the Hollis HD used in conjunction with a heavy steel tank.
In fact, with the Thruster in place, I needed only 2kg of lead. Bearing in mind that I am going on for 2m tall and displace a lot of water even in a 3mm suit, that’s not much at all.

Descent and Ascent
The inverted U-shaped buoyancy cell has a bottom dump-valve only on the left side, so I had to be sure to squeeze all the air out of it before I hit the water.
If you don’t get down quickly when diving in big Maldivian spring currents you can miss the site completely, so I would go in head-first and carry on finning furiously downwards, pulling the solitary bottom dump in the hope that any remaining air trapped in the other side of the inverted U-shaped wing would not be of too much consequence.
After finding a spot on the reef that afforded a bit of shelter from the “wind”, I could go horizontal and dump any air by pulling on the toggle of the right-side shoulder dump – once I’d located it, that is.
The difficulty was caused by the toggle being rather floaty. In these strong currents it would tend to get swept up on top of my shoulder. Once I knew that that was where it would be, it ceased to be a problem.
The inflation button at the end of the corrugated hose always fell to hand, because I’m in the habit of tucking it under the sternum strap, so expect to find it just below my chest.
This practice raises eyebrows with those locked into using the oral inflation-valve to jettison air, but that’s their problem.
However, I couldn’t jettison air on the Hollis HD100 by pulling on the same corrugated hose, as I would have preferred, because there was no left-side shoulder dump to operate.
To provide the best position for the upper dump valve, the inner buoyancy cell has a tab that runs from the wing part to the top of the right shoulder. Both upper and lower dump-valves are mounted on broad technopolymer gaskets to prevent the inner bag getting pulled through the outer covering.

In the Water
Air for buoyancy control always lodges at the highest part of any BC. The important thing is that it doesn’t get trapped anywhere when you want to dump it on ascent.
With the Hollis HD100, it doesn’t. In the strong currents I encountered, its apparent bulk didn’t seem to impede my progress in any way.
In fact the zipped pockets that sit outside the integrated-weight system proved useful, in that I could stow a current-hook there, its webbing end attached to a small D-ring. Sometimes I just wanted to hook in and admire the view.
Some larger D-rings on the harness would be useful for clipping on an alternative air-source or any other kit you might want to take along.

At the Surface
On reaching the surface after a controlled ascent, there was no tendency for the wing to push me face forwards when fully inflated, thanks to the weight of the steel tank and the Thruster that sandwiched the wing between us.
This was lucky for me, because I was sometimes subjected to long waits in big seas while other divers were picked up from far apart, thanks to the dispersal effect of currents accelerating over and eddying around the reefs.
When I had to use the HD100 with the standard aluminium 80 tank commonly encountered in tropical diving zones, I didn’t trust those Velcro flaps on the trim-weight pockets to hold in the lead during the fast
head-down descents required in strong currents. I ended up putting all the lead I needed (8kg) in the weight-pouches. I should have put one block on the camband.
Alas, with the wing inflated at the surface, with an aluminium tank and if there was no Thruster to counter-balance things, I would be pushed face-forwards into the water.

The Hollis HD100 is a serious item of kit for a single-tank diver. Its main disadvantage, besides the U-shaped wing, is that it is so robustly made that it is obviously intended
for the diver who either drives to the diving destination, or can afford business-class airline tickets and the checked-baggage allowances that come with them.

Buddy Tech Wing Light, £329
Dive Rite Travel Pac, £449
IST Dolphin (18kg lift), £295

PRICE £454
INTEGRATED WEIGHTS Yes, with trim-weight pockets
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