The well-executed Apnos Mask tweaked my curiosity about XS Scuba. I went to their site to check for other freediving-related items. T’was there I chanced upon the ‘Universal Floating Object’.  “Nice name..'” I thought.  I read through the specs; lots of D-rings, bungees, and handles; tough fabric, etc. The description spoke of a well-thought-out, sturdily-constructed and reasonably priced inflatable float.

Not long after the Apnos review was published XS Scuba contacted me and asked if I wanted to review the UFO. Naturally, I leaped at the chance.

First Impressions

I brought the unopened box into work with me.  I wanted my coworker-and-intrepid-dive-buddy Jason’s first impressions.  Floats are a big deal for us.  We need them to keep boats away in our busy recreational waters, and to carry precious and valuable stuff like cameras and spare gear.

There was a lot of ‘mmm’s’, a few ‘ooh’s and several shared nods of approval as we unboxed the UFO. We were impressed by the overall design and obvious quality of materials and construction.  We both liked the ‘Zodiac’ configuration for easy access close to water-level.

The UFO comes packaged in a handy black carrying bag. Inside the bag is the float, a dive flag with a small pole, and enough bungee cordage to populate some of the abundant D-rings and attachment points.

Handy carrying bag for when the float is deflated.
Handy carrying bag for when the float is deflated.

The float’s skin is made from heavy-duty D600 polyester with four coatings of Polyurethane and is double-reinforced on the front bottom – where its most likely to be dragged up onto rough surfaces. Inside are three heavy duty inflatable PVC bladders.

I spoke with a member of the development team at XS Scuba and learned the UFO was originally designed as a hooka rig.  The durability, buoyancy, and attachment points built-in for that application make it versatile and ready for customization.

This one came with the ‘Instructor Kit’. It carries on with the well-thought-out theme by providing a small folding anchor, a clip-in zippered mesh cargo bag, four additional side handles, and a bungee cargo net.  Other kits are the Spearfishing/Gathering kit and the Hooka Kit.

UFO with the extra handles and zippered mesh bag from the 'Instructor Kit' installed.The instructor kit enhances the float's base functionality with better small-object stowage, more bungie netting, and side handles.
UFO with the extra handles and zippered mesh bag from the ‘Instructor Kit’ installed.The instructor kit enhances the float’s base functionality with better small-object stowage, more bungie netting, and side handles.
The Instructor Kit
The Instructor Kit

In The Water

For its maiden voyage, we took the UFO to a small inland lake near my house.  We chose this location for our photo shoot/test because it lacked the howling north wind and huge waves at our primary site.  I’d hoped for some additional ‘floating objects’ in the form of icebergs – for dramatic effect – but alas, the lake had thawed in the five days since I’d last seen it (though the water remained nearly as cold as possible without becoming a solid).

Check out the handy ruler on the side of the UFO - for measuring things!
Check out the handy ruler on the side of the UFO – for measuring things!

The UFO is light, a fraction the weight my usual polypropylene float.  It’s also soft – which makes it way friendlier to my camera – and to my head, if I surface under it. Low mass makes this float easy to manage in waves and currents.

The UFO comes with a couple of easily removable backpack-style straps on the bottom.  For most of my shore entries, I’d use just one of these as a shoulder strap, but the backpack is handy if your access has more challenging terrain.

Here Claire models the UFO's off-the-shoulder look in a practical-yet-stylish ensemble featuring Yamamoto Silver with black highlights and a bold-yet-understated choice of mat-finish green for the mask..
Here Claire models the UFO’s off-the-shoulder look in a practical-yet-stylish ensemble featuring Yamamoto Silver with black highlights and a bold-yet-understated choice of mat-finish green for the mask.

In the water, the UFO pulls easily and is quite stable.  It is also highly visible and has ample buoyancy to support resting divers.

Claire practices side-monofinning with the UFO in tow.
Claire practices side-monofinning with the UFO in tow.

I brought my camera, a few masks, and an assortment of random objects along, and found the UFO’s stowage ample, secure, and accessible.  The foam insert on the floor of the float keeps fragile items from getting bashed around if it gets pulled across rocks or washed into a breakwall.

Final Thoughts

Out-of-the-box the Universal Floating Object has everything I expect from a float  – plenty of attachment points, buoyancy, cordage, flag, etc. and a secure nest for fragile items and spare gear.

Claire and I marvel at the tremendous face pain brought on by monofin sprints in 38f/3c water.
Claire and I marvel at the tremendous face pain brought on by monofin sprints in 38f/3c water.

Probably the best measure of this float’s utility is that we pretty much forgot about it once we were in the water. It was there when we needed it though, with easy to access my camera and water bottle without exerting much energy or tipping the float over.

Three Floating Objects...
Three Floating Objects…

As an instructor I like the ease with which I can stow and access things like spare weights, masks.. or even an O2 tank and first aid gear.  The option of deflating the center bladder to improve water level access adds to its versatility and there is a D-ring under a velcro flap on the bottom for dive-line attachment.

Also floats on most lawns!
Also floats on most lawns!

In an equation of portability, visibility, durability, stowage, ease-of-use and value there’s nothing not-to-like about the Universal Floating Object.  It comes in at a slightly higher price point than most other floats in its class, but has more attachment points and higher grade fabric. All three of us involved in this review really like it, and our local scuba shop has adopted it as their go-to instructor’s float.

Suitable for napping.
Suitable for napping.

Key Features

  • Rugged construction
    • Outer shell – 600D with 4 coatings of polyurethane
    • Inner bladders – thick PVC film
  • 28 attachment D-rings and 12 attachment hooks
  • Includes 15” (38 cm) x 12.75” (32 cm) dive flag with wire stiffener, staff and mounting hardware
  • 2 shoulder straps for hands-free transporting
  • Crisscross bungee hold-down with tensioner
  • Enough bungee cord and pull bobs to build 6 tie-downs
  • 28” (70 cm) fish measuring scale along the starboard side
  • Drain holes with SS grommets
  • Dimensions: L 36” (91 cm) x W 26” (66 cm) x H 11” (28 cm)

Price (MRRP)

  • Universal Floating Object: $199 USD

Find Out More

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Performance
Looks
Value For Money
Christopher Morey
Christopher Morey has been free diving since age nine. He has trained with Pete Scott, Eric Fattah, Emma Farrell and Will Trubridge and is a RAID advanced instructor and Master Freediver. He lives in Traverse City, Michigan with his wife, son, three monofins and seven (7) Spheras.

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