MSR Wing Review
I meant to do a little write up of this since quite a while but for some reason never got around and after a recent enquiry about their suitability I decided to put a few words down.
MSR Bags are basically a single bladder hydration bag made from heavy cordura. They come in various sizes from 2 – 10l and are used by a lot of sidemount divers as a buoyancy bladder.
Having done a few deeper dives in sidemount configuration I was never quite happy to use my drysuit alone for buoyancy as it is really a drag diving an overinflated suit and it is completely contrary to what I do backmount. Further to this sidemount mainly means sump diving or tight cave for me personally, which in turn often requires wet suits making an independent buoyancy bladder even more important.
There are a lot of sidemount harnesses with dedicated wings out there, but a lot of them appear quite bulky and many have the wing permanently attached which especially for UK/European sump diving is not very versatile as a wing is simply not needed on the great majority of dives.
A lot of people use MSR Bags straight out of the box using the plastic drinking hose to inflate and deflate the bag. Whilst this certainly works it is not something I am overly happy to do, as I don’t want to exchange regs every time I need to adjust my buoyancy.
Fitting an over pressure valve and inflator to the bag is relatively easy. I had an old inflator unit at home and the overpressure valve I cut off an unused surface marker buoy. The only thing to do really was to cut a whole in the bag, clue in the OPV and fit the inflator over the outlet of the drinking hose on the bag. For this I clued in an Halcyon inflator elbow.
To fit the over pressure valve in the bag I put it for a minute in boiling water to soften the plastic and fit it through the connection.
To connect the bag to my sidemount Harness (Martyn Farr’s version) I used small triangular maillons. This is clean and simple and I can take the bag on and off easily in case I have to carry the whole thing in a tackle bag.
I have done quite a few cave dives with the wing now and it certainly works and does what it is designed to do. Having a dedicated inflator makes life more simple and the closer I can match my sidemount setup to what I use for backmount the better.
My own bag is a 6l bag and although it is enough lift I would now certainly get a bigger bag. The reason for this is that the profile of the bag is quite high when fully inflated and a bigger bag only partially inflated would certainly be more comfortable. I am still experimenting with the actual Harness attachment but apart from slight modifications I am happy as it is.
As more and more people asked about this lately I have to write a few words of caution.
First off I am still using this setup. However after deeper dives with it and an interesting ‘incident’ of a buddy of mine we are looking at other solution atm. The main problem with a DIY approach like this is that this stuff just is not purpose made and is more likely to fail. A system like this has a number of weak points and in particular the glued in elbow assembly is something I am not overly happy with in the long run. So if anyone with a engineering background is reading this and comes up with a ‘screw in’ assembly to fit the inflator over the valve of the MSR bag I will be happy to hear about it.
So if you copy this setup think about the drawbacks and make sure you are happy diving it on serious dives.