Review of FLY SIDE
By Robert Uhlmann, sidemount-forum.com
after many test dives in shallow and deeper water we have received deep insight and gained great confidence in FLY SIDE sidemount system of Finnsub.
First, however, I extend my heartfelt thanks to Josef Vacek of hiring two systems for a detailed review. Available was the Finnsub FLY SIDE custom-system (for the consumer) and the Finnsub FLY SIDE school system (for training) - both systems in full trim.
The FLY SIDE makes an extremely robust and safe impression. The bladder is made up of two shells, the inner bladder can be removed via a zipper and be cleaned of sand, mud or the like - very good!
The Harness is available in different hardness - medium hard when standard DIR, soft for the training system. Soft webbing advantage: It allows easy adjustment of the lengths and the positioning of the D-Rings. The D-Rings on the waist belt can be used as a sliding D-Rings - and allow the readjustment by the diver or the instructors directly in the water. The soft crotch strap protects against abrasion and is a comfortable advantage using a thin wetsuit. The load with steel cylinders on the soft belt webbing is definitely too much. The harder harness granted a fixed positioning of D-Rings and these remain stable even under load in place. The adjustment of the length and positioning of the D-Rings on the other hand are more complex - but definitely it is not a problem.
Basically, I like the clever modular system. Here, the entire system has been completely thought through. Divers with existing equipment will find a solution just as well as sidemount beginners. This could enable to limit the costs.
What equipment details are available?
The weight system
Optional available is a 3mm aluminum, 3mm or 6mm stainless steel backplate (0,75kg, 2,2kg, 4,4kg). It is also possible to choose weight pockets with velcro double in the dimensions of 3kg-2kg-1kg. Furthermore, the use of a P-Weight (5,5kg) is possible - alternatively two hard pieces of lead (each 4,5kg) which can be screwed directly to the backplate.
The Inflator Unit
The inflator can be equipped with either a plastic or a stainless steel head. Plastic is light and great for travel. The stainless steel version will likely prefered on an open-water configuration with the inflator coming over the shoulder. The inflator stays always in the right position – because of the weight. This is not important for a front chest mount while using plastic head - the attached bungee ensures the right fit. Furthermore, it is possible to choose between three positions for the inflator. Lying inside on the left or right, or alternatively on the shoulder. The length of the corrugated hose can be chosen - available in lengths of 40cm and 50cm. There are two standard pressure dump valves, which are provided with a cord and a plastic end. The dump valve cord on the upper part of the bladder – coming over the shoulder has a too long cord - these can be individually adapted and shortened. Very nice is the solution to the lead of the cord in a transparent tube - that allows a view to a possible contamination or damage. The second valve is effected on the inside of the bladder bottom, passed through an eyelet. Here is a choice of mounting left or right - depending on the need and desire. A blind plug is included in the package. Not everyone uses the dump valve on the upper side - for a variety of reasons.
Included is a bungee on each side of the shoulder. This is very flexible, and should be placed in two layers usually around the valve extension of a cylinder. The length can be quickly and easily varied and adjusted by knotting. The bungee will be fixed by a small boltsnap in the shoulder D-Rings. This will work fine with wet gloves, with dry suit gloves, of course we need a little more practice - or has to be changed. A modification to a floating loop system is quite easy. Take care while using the training system: the quick adjustment of the harness should not be restricted. For those who prefer thicker bungee material – you can replace it in a few minutes.
Different degrees of hardness exist between the school system (soft) and the standard DIR (medium-hard). In both cases, a V-shape of the harness is given and ensures a secure fit. Additional the training system has a quick metal adjustment. This allows a comfortable and easy change between wetsuit or drysuit. Slip, tighten. Only the position of the shoulder D-Rings should be checked. Done. In addition to the twin shoulder bungees with boltsnaps, the system comes with two shoulder D-Rings, which are located directly below each other. On each side of the waist belt two little Billy-D-Rings. This allows to clip aluminum cylinders at 120 bar and less a little forward. That works easy. The soft crotch strap is equiped with a D-Ring attached at front and rear side.
The buoyancy bladder
The bladder is made outside of Cordura 2000 and inside of Nylon 420 TPU/film-foil 500my - and is securely connected with a 5-point attachment to the harness. Two dump valves and the inflator unit allows individual configuration. Optionally the bladder can be ordered in colors red or black. The 3D design is streamlined flat and offers just in the pelvic region the desired buoyancy of 12,5L / 25lbs / 122NM.
Other extras or accessories
A buttplate with slanted (45 degrees) and divided bars, a storage pack for a buoy or liftback and a moveable holder for a lamp cannister on the buttplate complete the modular and custom system.
The equipment variations are truly outstanding. In addition to the small pack size and good travel weight the system will be delivered using it "out-of-the-box". It belongs to the "one-size-fits-all" category and grants you during transport a very small packaging size.
"It's your choice ..." - for sidemount beginners it is certainly advisable to discuss and configure the own personal system with a professional. It is too easy to lose yourselve in the abundance of possibilities in detail.
The placement of weight pockets is extraordinarily simple done with hard lead or soft lead. Only the inflator unit side requires a little more finesse. The exchange between the individual backplates is self-explanatory and easy. The application of P-Weight or specially manufactured hard lead pieces is easy - and done in all cases in a few minutes. Whether drysuit or wetsuit, whether hot or cold water - the system can be quickly and easily adapted to the requirements and offers sufficient space for the required negative buoyancy up to 23kg.
The dump valves are mounted on the bottom right or left on the inside. The short cord with the small plastic head is not easy to find without some exercise. Without gloves no problem - with thick gloves already severe. An exchange of the input / outlet units on the bottom is possible, but requires a little tinkering solution (separating the plastic head).
Several dives to 40m+ with three aluminum cylinders - in wetsuit or in drysuit were. No problems with two steel cylinders and two aluminum tanks in a drysuit in deeper depths. In thick wetsuits without redundancy the dive was just as feasible - but at borderline. The much-criticized dump vlave on the top of the bladder was not a problem for me – it is protected behind my head. While cave diving I did not came to the limits of the system.
* the soft webbing, all settings are easily and comfortably done fast (leadfixing / D-Rings / length adjustment)
* comfortable and large weight pockets (selectable)
* different kind of backplates available
* this is associated with a high lead adding
* good quality with regard to D-Rings, leadfixing, boltsnaps - and more
* the harness is very generous - a XXL size fits just as a XS size
* light travel weight
I LIKE TO IMPROVE...
* if necessary, short backplate for long guys / women
Due to the high quality of the material, the availability of a training system, the "one-size-fits-all" strategy (XS-XXL) it offers a very wide range of applications - just for dive shops. The maximum adjustment took each person 5min. The light travel weight, the big, reliable and comfortable weight pockets make the system an ideal travel companion. Small changes are made quickly and easily and requires no great craftsmanship. The price is fair - and it offers a whole season use.