Tech diving, by its very nature, is a complex pursuit. Careful planning and a diligent focus on detail are integral to safety and success, whether teaching, learning—or exploring. And to add to the complexity, every tech diver’s personal preferences are a little different.
With that in mind, it can be tough—yet essential—to understand new gear as it comes to market. That’s why we sat down with Hollis Brand Manager, Nick Hollis to learn more about the much-anticipated sidemount harness, the Katana 2, and some of its key features and design highlights.
DeeperBlue.com: Hey Nick, tell us about the Katana 2…
Nick Hollis: Well, when you’re diving in Mexico in the Cenotes or in warmer water with two or more tanks, being streamlined is very important. In those environments, you need to keep your profile down. That’s the benefit of a sidemount, in general, is keeping your profile low, so if you’re in an overhead or a restriction, you’re not getting hung up or caught on things. That’s why these harnesses look a lot more streamlined than, say, a traditional BC with a tank behind your body.
This won’t do anything back-mount—it’ll only do sidemount—and compared to anything we have today, it’s a lot more streamlined. The wing wraps more around your body, it’s very contoured to the diver and it still has the increased lift or 40lbs of lift, but it’s very, very low-profile for the most part until you need that lift and you pump the wing up. It’s going to obviously grow in size the more air you put inside the air cell, but that air will be positioned in such a way that keeps it very close to the diver.
DB: What kind of diver should use it?
NH: The Katana 2 is strictly for sidemount dives. This could be a beginner harness for sidemount diving, but it’s sidemount only. … So if you’re an instructor who teaches or explorer who likes to sidemount dive exclusively, or if you’re just getting into sidemount and you know that you’ll be doing it a lot, this would be the harness that I’d suggest.
We’ve had harnesses that Hollis has designed specifically for diving with steel tanks in North Florida. That’s an environment that’s popular for us, but when you go to places like Mexico, it’s a different type of environment: No flow, warmer water, less gear, lighter aluminum tanks, really minimalistic and low-profile equipment needed for that type of dive.
And again, there are products on the market that are designed for that type of environment that works really well, but we took the best of those products, added in some of our own features, and created a very low-profile, but high-lift product for Mexico, the cenotes as well as the dives in Florida.
DB: How was it designed? Tell us more about some of the configurations.
NH: Profile is very important to the Katana 2. Again it was designed for diving in warmer water with aluminum tanks, but it can still do cold water with steel tanks. … It has an increased lift for diving with steel tanks, and this harness also comes with what we call the H Style Accessory Kit. So, other harnesses for this style of sidemount diving are sold in what’s called a “Y” configuration, and the “Y” runs the harness over the shoulders behind you as a traditional BCD would.
But when carrying that heavier weight of the steel tanks, it’s nice to have all of that weight more central or clipped off to your waist routing in what’s called an “H” style configuration. Instead of running over the shoulders and behind you the “H” runs over the shoulders and straight down to the waist strap. We supply that with the Katana 2.
This adaptation came about because for the last few years we’ve heard from instructors and explorers diving other brands, and they’ve asked us if we could make some design improvements.
Other brands were happy with the general wing shape found on the market, which is the shape that we add—it’s kind of that trapezoidal triangular shape of the wing that wraps the edge of the wing around the front of the diver. But the rest of those other brands’ features weren’t really user-friendly. For example, our harness allows for multiple configurations—their harnesses don’t.
DB: Are there any key differentiators that make the Katana 2 better than comparable harnesses?
NH: A lot of harnesses take longer to adjust than a traditional BC that has the quick-adjust and the shoulder and back adjusters that are really easy to use. Other sidemount harnesses are set up the same way—they use webbing and they use a series of tri-glides to adjust all of that webbing.
And between divers, if you’re an instructor that’s teaching multiple people, if you’re running a demo or whatever the circumstances might be—if it’s a new diver and you just want to get them fitted quickly, we have what’s called the Quick Fit system on the Katana 2 which allows the torso to quickly adjust up or down depending upon the diver’s height. That’s something that no other harness has that we were able to integrate into this product. It makes it a level above where the competition’s at.
DB: Final thoughts?
NH: Depending on location, everyone’s a little bit different about how they like to set their harness up. But at the end of the day, the coolest thing about the Katana 2 is that you can run it however you want. Technical divers love to modify and tweak this webbing, or this Bungie, or this tri-glide in a certain way.
Depending on how they’ve been diving in the past, or how they were taught or how they teach their students, everybody’s a little bit different when it comes to technical diving, and the key benefit of the Katana 2 is that those people can make all of the adjustments and decisions for themselves. It goes back to our goal at Hollis of making sure each harness is comfortable and properly fits each individual that’s using it.
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