Review of SPELEO
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 the SPELEO sidemount system of FINNSUB.
First, however, I extend my heartfelt thanks to Josef Vacek of hiring four systems for a detailed review. Available was the SPELEO DIR system (for the consumer) and the SPELEO SCHOOL system (for training and comfort oriented diver) - all systems in full trim and as well as each with internal and external exhaust valves. The extensive tests were done in different environments. From pool to cold, deep lakes and from sunny Egypt spots to dark cave diving.
The SPELEO makes an extremely robust and safe impression. Especially the 2000 Cordura outer shell gives an excellent haptic 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 has different hardness: medium-hard for the DIR system, soft for the school system. Advantage of soft webbing: It allows an easy adjustment of the lengths and the positioning of the D-rings. The D-rings on the waist belt can be used as 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 comfort advantage especially in thin neoprene suits - and protects your expensive dry suit. But the soft webbing is definitely too soft under load with steel bottles on the waist belt. The harder harness of the DIR system ensures a firm positioning of the D-rings and remain stable even under load. The adjustment of the lengths and the positioning of the D-rings, on the other hand, are more complex. But they are definitely not a problem - not even for delicate women's hands.
Basically I like the sophisticated and comfortable lead system, the softback and the unique bubble with the Shape Adapt Effect. The small pack size and the low weight make it suitable for travelling. Three different sizes ensure a perfect fit.
What equipment details are available?
The weight system: The weight system is double-rowed and secured with a double Velcro fastener in the middle of the back. In contrast to the competitors, the weight system does not lie on the spine but well and comfortably padded on the left and right of the spine. This provides comfort for the diver - especially with thin neoprene suits. The system holds up to 14kg of lead. If this is not enough, a further 6kg of lead can be carried with two additional lead pockets (not included). Especially during long, cold dives the gain in comfort is priceless.
The Inflator Unit
The Inflator is delivered with a plastic head. Plastic is light and great for travelling. The included bungee provides the right fit. Furthermore it is possible to choose between two different lengths of the inflator hose. The inflator unit can be mounted right or left. There is also the possibility to choose between internal and external exhaust valves. The internal exhaust valve and the inflator unit represent a great safety plus, especially when exploring or passing narrow points (e.g. wreck and cave penetrations). The function of the internal dump valve is not restricted in any way. Well done! In my opinion, the dump valve has a cord that is too long - it can be individually adjusted and shortened. The solution of the cord guidance is nice - here is a choice of mounting left or right - depending on the need and desire.
Included is a bungee on each side of the shoulder. This is very flexible, and should be placed usually around the valve extension of a cylinder. The length can be quickly and easily varied and adjusted by knotting. This will work fine with wet gloves, with dry suit gloves, of course we need a little more practice. A modification in the direction of a floating loop is quite easy. The training system should not restrict the quick adjustment of the harness. If you prefer thinner (6mm) bungee material, you may want to exchange it - a job of a few minutes.
Different degrees of hardness exist between the school system (soft) and the DIR system (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 wears 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 - and is securely connected with a 3-point attachment to the harness. Two dump valves and the inflator unit allows individual configuration. Furthermore you can choose between internal and external dump valves. The design is streamlined, flat and offers the desired buoyancy especially in the pelvic area - depending on the selected size (M, L/XL, XXL).
The equipment variations are really excellent. In addition to the small packing size and the good travel weight, the system is delivered "out-of-the-box" and can be dived immediately.
"Who has the choice, has the agony..." - for a sidemount beginner 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 weight pockets are extremely easy to fit with both hard lead and soft lead - and it's done in no time at all. Especially the double-row construction of the weight system allows easy weight balancing when using a mono sidemount bottle during a fun dive. Whether drysuit or neoprene, whether hot or cold water - the system can be quickly and easily adapted to the requirements and offers sufficient space for necessary negative buoyancy up to 20kg.
The quick release is mounted at the bottom right or optionally at the left on the outside or inside. The short string with the small plastic head is not easy to find without practice. No problem without gloves - even harder with thick gloves. An exchange of the inlet/outlet units at the bottom is possible, but requires a small handicraft solution (separation of the plastic head).
Various dives on 40m+ with three aluminium tanks - in neoprene or in a dry suit - were done without problems. Two Faber steel tanks as well as two aluminium tanks in a dry suit in deeper depth with thick neoprene and without redundancy was completely unproblematic with the size L/XL. The limit value becomes such a dive with the system size M. The often critically noticed position of the internal dump valves did not turn out to be a problem for me - it is protected and had no loss of function. While cave diving I did not reach the limits of the system.
* the soft webbing, all settings are easily and comfortably done fast (leadfixing / D-Rings / length adjustment)
* comfortable and safe weight system, expandable with large weight pockets (exclusive)
* good quality with regard to D-Rings, weightfixing, boltsnaps - and more
* selectable size between M, L/XL and XXL
* light travel weight and pack size
* robustness and perfect streamlined shape
I LIKE TO IMPROVE...
* change of the two further bladder fixations at the waist belt. These changes went into production after the BoatShow2019.
Due to the high quality of the material and the availability of a training system, a very wide range of applications is possible - especially for diving schools. The maximum adjustment took about 3 minutes per person. The light travel weight, the large, reliable and comfortable lead pockets make the system an ideal travel companion.
Small changes can be made quickly and easily and do not require great manual skill. The price is in the upper price segment - but offers all-season use. However, the quality of workmanship and the material justify the price.