Of course, a lot of nonsense gets spouted about them. The classic is the idea that they hold you more horizontally in the water than a conventional BC.
If you think about it, under water the air you use for buoyancy control always rises to the highest point, and when a diver is swimming horizontally, that’s almost certainly at the back, high up near the shoulders.
Perhaps this myth originated from the differences between BCs and the old-fashioned horse-collar ABLJ. That device certainly made you swim more upright under water.
Of course, at the surface, a conventional BC fully inflated will hold you upright in armchair comfort, while a wing might push your head forwards if you have failed to rig your weights properly.
The buoyancy cell of a technical-diving wing suitable for use with multiple tanks can be enormous, but the idea also caught on with recreational divers, although less maximum lift was needed.
One of the first leisure-diving wings I encountered was made by Zeagle in the USA. The company then made a reciprocal arrangement with Apeks to supply its BC, while Apeks made Zeagle regulators.
That all came to an end when Apeks was bought up by Aqua-Lung. Since then, Zeagle has drifted in and out of the British diving market.
Most recently it has come under the auspices of the company that distributes Atomic, Bare and Stahlsac products in Western Europe.
I was very happy to take a Zeagle Stiletto with me on a recent shark-diving trip to the Bahamas.


The design
Unashamedly aimed at single-tank recreational divers, the Stiletto has a low-profile buoyancy cell that can give around 16kg of lift when fully inflated, but otherwise stays neatly stowed, thanks to a detachable elastic strap that runs around the inner side. There are also a couple of small pinch clips that can be undone, for those who like their buoyancy cell to be able to flap in the breeze like a sail that’s lost the wind.
The inverted-U-shaped cell has a dump-valve operated by pulling on the corrugated hose, and the outlet for this is close to what should be the highest point. If you’re inverted, as you would be when making a fast head-down descent, there is a dump-valve operated by a pull-cord at the extremity of the U-shape on either side.
The BC is made from tough 1000-denier nylon and has a soft backpack with a sewn-in lumbar cushion. It is clamped securely to a single tank by means of two man-sized cambands, either of which can carry the two trim-weight pockets.
These have red tags to guide a rescuer who might need to pull them open to release the weights.
For the type of diving I was doing one week, I needed to be secure on the seabed in a current, so I added far more weight than I might normally have used. These rear trim-weight pockets will accept up to 9kg each side, but I used only a 2kg block each side.
The front-mounted weight-pockets accepted 4kg each side, and I’m told they will be safe with up to 5.5kg each.
What is unique about the Zeagle system is that you drop the weights easily into the pocket via a zipped top flap each side, but should you wish to jettison them in a hurry, you need only to pull on a single emergency ripcord toggle, also identified as red.
This effectively unlaces the bottoms of the two pockets, and the weights are allowed to
fall away.
It’s not the sort of thing you should do on an ascent line with lots of divers coming up from below you. They won’t thank you for dropping weights on their heads – if they survive.
Although it follows the wing ideal of the uncluttered chest, the Stiletto comes with a wide cummerbund affair on which the quick-release integrated-weight system is fitted.
There are also two well-drained zipped pockets either side. These proved essential when needing to pocket an underwater camera’s dome-port cap or similar.
The harness consists of parachute-style straps, so it really does put the weight of the tank comfortably onto your hips when you’re standing ready to dive.
These straps have shoulder facings that come with conventional pinch-clips and a single stainless-steel D-ring each side.
If you want to use a side-slung tank with this BC you can, because there is a matching D-ring either side towards the lower front.
Another D-ring presumably is positioned to be useful with a DPV lanyard or a current-hook. There’s also a fitting for an optional crotch-strap. An adjustable sternum-strap stops the shoulder-straps from spreading off your shoulders, and the waistband has adjustable elastic panels for a snug fit.
The Stiletto is not the most lightweight of travel BCs, but its dry weight is still only 3.4kg, and packing it to fly proved no imposition.

In The Water
Although for that one week’s diving I was overloaded with lead, the Stiletto proved superbly comfortable, both on the boat before diving and in the water. The previous week I had dived more conventionally, with a lot less lead, and in that case it proved sublime.
Air dumped painlessly when I needed it to and never got trapped in the folds of the bladder. This gives me an excuse to explain how I go about awarding stars.
If a product lives up to expectations, I give it eight stars. If I find problems, I deduct stars from that point. If it exceeds expectations I add one or two stars. If something wins 10 stars, it doesn’t mean that there is no room for improvement, however.
So I award the Stiletto eight stars because it did exactly what it said on the tin.

Tiger-proof
A last word about the quality of manufacture and the ruggedness of the Stiletto – my gear went out two days’ running without me on a boat with Steve Backshall and a BBC production team. They were baiting sharks, and I guess my gear imbibed a lot of fish-blood and its smell, as it was on the deck of the boat for all that time.
That’s my explanation of why a large tiger shark, one day later, decided that it rather liked me, grabbed me by the tank and swam off with me down the reef.
I was only glad it hadn’t grabbed me by a part of my anatomy that would bleed. What’s more, it grabbed me by the bladder of the Stiletto a second time 20 minutes later and attempted to do the same thing again, until my good friend and shark-wrangler Stuart Cove intervened.
At least I wasn’t grabbed by a crocodile, as Steve Backshall famously has been.
Was the Stiletto damaged There wasn’t a mark on it. Thank goodness I had witnesses, or I might have thought I was dreaming.

COMPARABLE SINGLE-TANK WINGS TO CONSIDER:
Aqua-Lung Lotus i3, £430
Hollis HD100, £454
Buddy Commando Escape Sub Three Zero, £345
Cressi Air Travel, £287

SPECS
PRICE £424
MAX LIFT 16kg
DRY WEIGHT 3.4kg
INTEGRATED WEIGHTS Yes, with trim weights
SIZES SM, MD, LG, XL
CONTACT www.zeagle.com
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