A wing was never very appealing to me. Even though I have owned several from different brands but none where a perfect match. I always find them hard to put on, especially with a dry suit. Also the comfort was lacking tremendously as I am used to my comfortable traditional BC with padding on the back. But the thing I always dreaded the most was re-configuring the whole wing whenever I decided to chance suits.
This all changes with the arrival of the xDEEP NX Zen. All of my personal pain points regarding a wing are taken away by the Zen. It does so without loosing the essence of being a wing and all of the benefits which come with such a design.
Choices, choices, choices
Before you receive your Zen you need to make some choices. First of all the backplate is available in two sizes, small and medium. The smaller backplate is for divers smaller than 175 cm/ 5.7 ft and the large version for everyone over that.
After that you need to decide if you want the standard version or the deluxe version. The deluxe version offers a bit more comfort having padded shoulders straps, some padding on the backplate and clips along the shoulder straps for quick releasing them after a dive. The standard version is fitted with a tec rated webbing which is the way to go if you have the intention of doing technical diving in the future.
Other things which can be added are weight pockets in three different sizes, ranging from 0 kg to 16 kg in size. There is even the option of adding trim-weight pockets which are available in two sizes as well.
To add to what is already a crazy amount of choices to make before buying a wing there is the option of colors. The Zen is available in 11 different color schemes, yes eleven! If you want you can even let them stitch on your logo or name in the padding on the backplate.
As you might expect I went for the deluxe version in a heartbeat, even adding some weight-pockets for convenience. I even made them put the 50ft below logo in the padding!
The beating heart of every wing; the bladder
The donut shaped bladder of the Zen looks a bit off at first glance. It’s narrower and less high as you might expect from the likes of other wings. xDEEP has done this for multiple reasons but the biggest one is to reduce drag. Every dive is different and since I am diving for quite some years already, my air consumption will not be dropping enormously but being more streamlined is always a benefit. This also helps a lot when you deflate the bladder since no air is trapped in the “winglets” on the side.
Another thing which is striking is the fact the traditional bump on the top of the wing is gone. xDEEP has done this for two reasons: The first is that you will be able to equip your first stage more easily and the routing of the hoses is better. Hoses won’t get trapped between your tank and the wing and run more smoothly. The second reason is that on the surface you will be a bit higher up and the wing won’t push you as much forward as it’s counterparts tend to do.
Being narrower and a bit smaller does raise some concerns regarding the lift capacity. The Zen is made to be a travel wing and intended to be used with a single tank. The total lift capacity is 19 kg which is more than enough. If you do decide to go diving with a double set system in the future you need to make one chance. You only have to replace the xDEEP NX Zen bladder with an xDEEP NX Project Standard bladder. You can use the backplate and webbing of the NX Zen as usual.
One of the big disadvantages of traditional wings is that air remains stuck in the wing when deflating. Of course you can use the dump valve on the back but it would be nice if deflating with your inflator is an option. Due to the placement of the inflator, in the middle of the wing, this now is. The air is equally well distributed in your wing and when you want to deflate, it goes rather smooth without any air left remaining in the bladder.
That backplates looks….different
One thing almost all wing systems have in common is the shape of the backplate. Some holes for bolting down the backplate or for the webbing may be different but they all come down to the same design. The Zens backplate is wider and oddly shaped giving it more stability in the water. This is something which I noticed right the moment I went under with the Zen. The backplate is resting on your shoulders and lower back nicely. Putting no pressure anywhere on your back.
xDEEP may not be as well-known as Halcyon, but nonetheless nobody can deny this company is on the rise. What started out as a dive brand with only two wings and a side-mount harnas has grown to a full range of technical and recreational wings and side-mount systems. There are even plans of launching their own regulators and fins on short notice.About xDEEP
One of the main issues I have with other wings is the fact that I always leave the water with pain in my lower back. xDEEP has cut away a lot of the backplate in places where it’s not needed to reduce weight there. This ensures a better weight distribution and avoids the so called hollow back diving from which I was suffering. This seems to be totally gone after doing several dives with the Zen. The backplate is available in a steel and aluminium variant.
In addition to the innovation in the wing and backplate, xDEEP has also adapted the webbing for more comfort. A v-crotch strap has been fitted and the shoulder straps can be extended by 20%.
As I was preparing the Zen for my first dive I cleared an hour in my schedule to make sure I have the time to adjust all straps. Making sure the Zen is perfectly fitted and adjusted. Diving with a wing which is badly configured is something I want to avoid at all cost. Because I chose the deluxe version I already could skip the shoulder straps since they have clips which are adjustable. The cummberband wasn’t to long and could be left alone as well. The only thing which needed some adjusting was the v-crotch strap and this was done within five minutes. Gone is the pain of re-adjusting every time I choose to change suits.
Easier to put on
Another big plus is the fact that no matter what version you have the shoulder straps extend 20 procent when donning the wing. You can make the strap longer by pulling on it when you have the waistband loose. When you put on the xDEEP NX Zen you pull on the cummerbund to tighten the shoulder strap to your body. Having the deluxe version I can also widen and tighten the buckles on the shoulder straps as well. This makes donning the Zen even with the bulckiest of suits a piece of cake. Also diving with a wing becomes possible for a whole group of divers with less mobility in their shoulders.
The new crotch strap does not have 1 but 2 straps that run underneath your crotch. This ensures better weight distribution and stability when you “sit” on the surface in your xDEEP NX Zen. In addition, the straps are attached to the backplate in 2 different places so that the backplate can never move when the V-crotch strap is tightly secured.
Is the xDEEP NX Zen worth a Buy?
Yes, yes, yes!! This is hands down the best wing I’ve dived with ever. Period! The backplate sits so well on my back that all the lower back pain is a thing of the past. Donning the wing is very easy even when wearing a bulky dry-suit. And not having to readjust every d*mn strap every time I have to change suit is a blessing. For the purist the deluxe version may not be the way to go since it has some features the tec-diving community frowns upon but then the standard version is the way to go. Still offering many of the unique features as the deluxe version. At the current price point the xDEEP is a bargain in my opinion!