OMS has been a mainstay of the technical diving arena for a long time, producing robust and sturdy gear designed for the hardcore diving of deep wrecks and caves that recreational divers fear to – and will probably never – tread.
As a result, brands like OMS hover on the periphery of the recreational diver’s awareness. Many don’t recognise the name at all, and those that do might dismiss it as complicated and slightly mysterious equipment for dedicated technical divers only. Which I think is a bit of a shame. From a business perspective, recreational diving vastly outweighs tech in terms of numbers, yet it remains largely untapped by technical manufacturers.
The debate between rec versus tech will continue long after the cows have come home, binge-watched all of Netflix and gone to bed. In the last decade or so, however, there have been some serious attempts to bridge the gap which, much as I’m not a techie, I think is a good thing.
Hybrid BCDs, rear-inflation jackets with minimal – or no – bladder presence at the sides have become more commonplace. There have also been some ‘hybrids’ approaching from the other direction: wings that are pre-packaged with harnesses and some of the creature comforts – integrated weight pouches, for example – that recreational divers appreciate. As the recreational world dips its toes into tech, so tech manufacturers are dabbling in gear that recreational divers will enjoy.
The IQ Lite is just such a product. It has a harness that won’t frustrate novices who’ve just finished their entry level course in a jacket-style BCD, a doughnut-style wing of a size which doesn’t make you feel like you’re dangling from an inverted RIB, an integrated quick-release weight system and padded cummerbund, all in a well-designed and aesthetically pleasing piece of kit.
OMS IQ Lite first impressions
When I first received the IQ Lite, I did exactly what it said on the tin and put it on straight out of the bag. The fit was excellent, with minimal fiddling and – being a regular jacket-wearing recreational diver – I felt quite at home.
The IQ Lite has a standard Velcro cummerbund, which I like. Partly because I’m rather soft around the middle and partly just because I like them – because I’m a jacket-wearing recreational diver. All the clips are standard pinch-clips and the crotch strap – which isn’t really necessary for a comfortable fit, but very useful – was easily adjustable while wearing the BCD, rather than having to repeatedly doff and don the wing while fiddling in between. It has a very well apportioned ring at the front which became the designated holder of my camera’s lanyard. There are four, very solid D-rings available for clipping, one on each shoulder and one on each of the integrated weight pockets.
Fixing it to a tank was as straightforward as any other BCD. There are two tank straps with very solid rubber anti-slip pads and tank stabilizers built into the rear. The cam bands did rotate a little as I tightened everything up, but then I just rotated them straight back out again.
Donning the whole setup was as easy as could be, with the easy-to-adjust straps and the soft, padded backpack making the whole thing very, very comfortable indeed. The Performance Mono Wing (available in 12.5kg or 14.5kg lift sizes) with which the harness is packaged as standard is compact and unobtrusive.
I have always had reservations about integrated weights. I don’t like them in jacket style BCDs, mostly because I find that the weight is postioned too far away from my body, and also because they fall out. Without the extra padding of the bladder at the sides, however, ‘hybrid’ designs effectively place the weights on the sides of the belly strap. This is the case with the IQ Lite, and I found the body proximity much more agreeable as a result.
I wasn’t sure about the merits of weight pockets with the opening at the bottom. Not really from a safety perspective, since the weights would be most likely to fall out before you jump, or just after you land in the water. This would be more of an inconvenience rather than dangerous, but my feet were a little nervous. The IQ Lite’s pockets, however, are very secure. So secure that when I first tried to pull them out, I thought they might be stuck. A short, sharp tug pulled them free with ease, and once they were filled with lead and back in place, I no longer had any concerns that they would break free. Pulling them out and replacing them underwater took little effort. They are fairly small but will easily hold a 2kg block each, possibly 3kg if it’s a single piece of lead, although I would stop at 2kg.
In the water
At the surface, face-planting is somewhat inevitable when fully inflated (I did a lot of inflating and face-planting to check), but since that’s fairly normal for wings (and a lot of jackets), it’s nothing that can’t be fixed by a bit of deflation and leaning back. Those with less diving experience – and none with wings – should spend some time practicing, but that’s standard, basic advice for potential customers, rather than any issue with the product itself.
The inflator/deflator mechanism is excellent. It is solid, precise and positive. I was less happy with the dump valve at the end of the corrugated hose, however. Possibly because there is a lot of movement at the top of the wing between pulling on the hose and it actually operating. I tugged a few times at the surface and then switched to the deflator. The dump works fine, eventually, but nothing beats a corded shoulder dump.
I do have an issue with the kidney dump valve, of which there is only one, located on the left-hand side. It works perfectly well, but I think all BCDs should have at least one dump valve on either side. I know that techies prefer a left-hand rear dump valve, but I think that there is an important reason why BCDs targeted at recreational divers should have one on the right.
In the short-hose recreational world, in an out-of-air situation and diving with a standard recreational setup, the octopus comes over your right shoulder when you donate to the out-of-air diver. Ascent is a standard ‘look up, raise hose, deflate and swim up’, while holding on to each other.
If, however, you have to move through the water horizontally to a safe exit point, the out-of-air diver (who might also be somewhat panicked) is on your left-hand side, and standard practice is to hold on to their tank valve with your left hand. This doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility of the donor diver using a left-sided kidney dump, and of course it’s also possible to dump with the deflator hose using your right hand, but it is far, far easier to dump air, if necessary, using a right-hand-side dump valve (my preference is for the kidney). This also removes the possibility of dislodging the octopus as you reach for the deflator hose.
The argument about long hose primaries and bungees is another debate that will keep the cows awake long after they’ve come home, but the point is moot. Without a monumental paradigm shift in the recreational world, that’s how it is. It is my considered opinion, after having dealt with this situation both for real and for training purposes, that there should be a means of rapidly dumping air, top or bottom, on both sides of a buoyancy control device.
Now that I’ve said my piece, everything else about the IQ Lite underwater is top-notch. Thanks to the padding of the backpack and harness it is very comfortable in the water, and there is very little movement in different positions.
I am a three-dimensional diver and I spend a lot of time upside down. Partly because it’s a super useful position for taking photographs without lying in the coral, but mostly just because I like being upside down. There was no slipping of harness and tank, and when I could be bothered to be horizontal for a while, the classic wing design kept everything in trim, with the exception of my hair.
The IQ-Lite is a fine piece of apparatus. It’s made by a tech-oriented manufacturer but as I mentioned in the introduction, even novice recreational divers will feel at home wearing it. I think dedicated techies will be looking at something a little more technically dedicated, but I think it would be an excellent choice for recreational divers who might fancy a bit of limited tech on the side (and possibly vice versa). At just over 3kg in dry weight with small-profile packing, it’s an excellent choice for travellers.
Price-wise I think it’s a little expensive, but I don’t think it’s overpriced, if that makes sense. I made 18 dives over six days and – with the exception of the lack of a right-rear dump valve – I really enjoyed wearing it. I would highly recommend that divers who may not be familiar with the OMS brand at least try one on for size.
- Weight: 3.4kg
- Lift: 12.5kg or 14.5kg
- D-Rings: 4 large anodised aluminium, 2 small, crotch ring
- Harness sizes: XS, S, M/L, XL
- Colour: Black, Black/Red, Red, Pink, Grey
For more information, visit https://omsdive.eu/