Back Plate Observations
I got a BP/W after training. Like most I used a traditional “stab jacket” for training. It fit OK but It always never felt right. Now I will admit I probably could have done more tuning and maybe improved it some but after the pool work and the 4 open water checkout dives I was done with it. I am a big guy, 6' 300+ lbs so that could have something to do with it.
I have been following the sport for some time and I liked the simplicity of a backplate and wing and once I put it on I it felt great. And in the water it felt even better. I did make one change I elected to use a STA because I did not like how the tank rode on the backplate. I have the stainless one and the STA is stainless too so that is some weight off the belt. The crotch strap keeps things from riding up on you no matter what your position is.
In keeping with the simple theme I also use the single continuous piece of webbing. I never liked those buckles so good riddance. I do one sin though I elected to use weight pockets which from what I have been told a weight belt is a true “hog” setup. The D rings are adjustable.
I have hear a few negative things about BP/W setups:
The bare unpadded straps are uncomfortable while on the shore.
True it is not terrible but I would hate to walk a mile in it. I never noticed until I was in the Caribbean diving in a t-shirt. In a 7mm wetsuit I barely notice it. Then again a far walk is 100ft for me in full gear. If you are boat diving this is not an issue.
The back inflate tends to put you face down while at the surface.
When I was first told this I disagreed until I was wearing a empty AL80 in the Caribbean and over filled my BC it did feel like it was trying to “faceplant” me. I will admit that of you like to be out of the water up to your waste a BP/W is not for you. Now I normally ride neck deep in the water anyhow so that kept me from having an issue. If the water is choppy then keep your reg in or lay on your back (My typical surface mode). A snorkel would also work but I don’t carry one while diving. If you are drift diving and expect to be there for a while just take your safety sausage and use that if you like.
The back plate cuts the straps so they are a maintenance headache.
I am not sure I see some fraying on it but I am thinking it will be a while before I have to. Now I don’t dive that often but if I could dive enough to wear them out I would gladly replace them.. We are talking $20 in webbing if that. It would be replaced probably due to its looks long before the strength is close to breaking due to stress.
They are too heavy for warm water diving, so you have to own two.
False had mine in Cozumel and it was a pleasure to use. Just a T-shirt and a suit never had an issue and had a wonderful time. Now from a transportation standpoint I agree that they can push the now stingy weight limits to the breaking point but I did not have an issue but depends on what else you packed.
The two major complaints (1 and 2) are all on the surface problems, meanwhile it provides a better performance under the water which in my opinion is where it should matter. The most complex thing on it is the air sack the rest is hardware are webbing and extremely adjustable and customizable. Also for the most part other vendors hardware fits together.
I found a guy on scuba board “The Krackin” he has a machine shop and makes back plates and STAs The Sta was nice and from what I know the back plate is nice too prices seemed pretty good to but I have to admit I got mine through the LDS because I did not want to make a mess. Probably would have ended up doing the same thing again.
Try to rent one if you can but I have never met anyone that bought one and then sold it. I looked real hard when I was looking for mine :-)
Good Luck, Dive Safe