The Dive Rite O2ptimata CCR has been around for a decade and is very well established. As you would expect from a progressive company of actual divers that constantly tweak products according to their own real diving experiences & customer feedback, the O2ptima has had its fair share of updates in that time.
However, none has been as significant as the most recent in replacing the Jurgensen Marine Hammerhead electronics with a Shearwater DiveCAN system. With several other changes recently the O2ptima should now feature in any divers list of CCRs to consider.
The first thing you notice is the rugged design with the addition of superfabric and hard wearing other materials into covers, hose protectors, counter lungs and wing. This incredibly abrasion resistant material makes living with the rebreather easy. As a person who regularly has to dive from boatlift, abuse, bash and drag rebreathers around, its these covers that keep the unit looking good and components damage free.
I own rebreathers that have exposed tanks, canisters and other components and these do not fare so well over the years. Even if your O2ptima becomes rather ratty looking by crawling into too many wrecks season after season, a quick inexpensive cover change and you’re back to looking good. Dive Rite from time to time, notify users via the active O2ptima User facebook group of when they are doing new cover runs and can personalise it for you. I must confess to succumbing to a little self indulgence on that point.
Dive Rite supply the CCR in the configuration requested by the user, but it’s one of the few packages that comes supplied with everything out of the box including an XT CCR wing, Transpac or Transplate harness. Add a couple of tanks and your good to go. Tanks are not included, simply because the international regulations in many countries concerning cylinders mean that divers should always prefer to source locally to avoid hassle come hydro test or fill time.
The hoses are all lightweight braided and colour coded where oxygen in concerned and run from the new Dive Rite XT first stages. Both have fitted OPV’s with the oxygen side having a special detuned version. Solenoid failure may be handled by the isolator located on the manual add feed of the counter lung in any instance.
This review unit is running Faber 4 ltr tanks but any small tank size may be used from 2 to 5 ltr. A steel stand is at the heart of the unit and provides a very stable platform in which the tanks, canister and hose work reside. Best of all the stand enables the CCR to simply sit upright and stable on the boat or floor – not to be underestimated given some rebreather designs.
The Micropore canister allows a diver to use Extend Air cartridges which are personally my preferred option of scrubber, thanks to the solid polymer design, the risk of caustic cocktail and user error in packing is reduced. Dive Rite are currently testing packable scrubber designs for times that you may find yourself in remote locations and unable to source the Extendair.
The canister sits behind the users head in a horizontal position which achieves the shortest loop flow design of any CCR and with that comes the industry leading work of breathing. This is not something to be taken lightly and whilst many proponents of back mounted counterlungs like the lack of clutter at the front of the harness, the laws of gas physics cannot be denied and the O2ptima design will always provide a fantastic breathing experience in a variety of orientations.
Counter lungs come in various sizes and are unobtrusive, fitted with high quality valves and are again made using very abrasion resistant materials. A Bail out valve solution in the form of the Shrimp which Dive Rite supply directly. However, for those who simply prefer a DSV, the O2ptimas is a great friction fit, excellent breathing and easy to operate choice.
Whilst the Hammerhead electronics were quite good they had themselves a few revisions with the “Rev C” being perhaps the most common around in recent years. Although this was superseded with the Rev D handsets, these were not without problems. In particular, users’ reports included major power issues and the sheer behemoth size of the wrist handset to be a real turn off among other issues.
In the meantime Shearwater has established itself as a leader in computer and rebreather technologies, well received by the diving public as being robust, simple and reliable. The Petrel is arguably the best dive computer in the world at present and the implementation on the O2ptima is outstanding.
The O2ptima uses two DiveCAN Bus’s mounted on each side on the outside of the case. One control Bus connected to the Petrel and other monitor bus to the HUD. These can be moved to wherever in the rig the user chooses. Since I am running 4 ltr tanks there is little room inside the fabric cover. Were I running 2 ltr tanks then I would consider re-positioning them inside the cover for a tidy finish, but they are durable and well protected.
One of the key advantages of this system are versatility and modularity with the user able to adapt to alternate positioning and configurations for various specific needs with subcon connectors allowing for easy switch out.
The Petrel reads from cells 1,2 & 3 and the HUD from cells 1,2 & 4 allowing a true independence of verification rather than two devices simply
The HUD, calibrated separately from the Petrel, displays three cells PO2 in a modified smithers code which works very well indeed. A cell that falls behind or ahead the others is immediately seen by the diver. At the end of the HUD is a buddy light as well that pulses red in the event that the diver may need assistance as PO2 has fallen out of range.
At present the HUD design sports wet contacts on the end for control purposes and calibration. They do have a knack to using then and they are currently being revised for an easier to operate solution and will be updated shortly. It is however very rare that you have to go into the HUD to change settings, other than for calibration which is simple enough.
One of the interesting features of the Shearwater HUD is a colourblind mode for those who have difficulty in distinguishing colours underwater. A system that works very well indeed.
Living with the O2tima
The combination of the steel frame, 4 ltr tanks and the micropore cartridge sitting behind the users head give a weight distribution that makes trim effortless. Two inbuilt trim weight pockets sit on the outside allowing the diver to just get it perfect depending on the suit type used. The XT CCR Wing was designed for the O2ptima and it shows, with a perfect fit and lift placement.
The Shearwater electronics manage the set point maintenance very well indeed and I find the firing sequence of the solenoid less harsh than the Hammerhead, although this is purely subjective.
The HUD is bright, clear and coming from a unit which has a single LED HUD, there is a certain reassurance when I see data from three cells being shown at the same time. Personally, I am used to seeing 1 LED cycle through 3 cells so this was an interesting difference to note.
Travelling with the O2ptima is not a major hassle either. This is a tremendous factor for me when selecting a weapon for choice for a dive trip overseas, I always make sure to read a 360fly review when ever I am traveling so that I have a camera to take with me, specially when I rent houses for my vacations, I always end up having the best views. The CCR breaks down quite easily, with a head carried safely in my hand luggage, the remainder is rugged enough to get put into a dive bag, special for those days of camping; however, everyone knows that when camping there are other equipment that is necessary, but that can be found at the Survival Cooking site.
Service and support is probably the jewel in the crown for Dive Rite with dealers placed worldwide who can assist with parts, sales and training. It should not be forgotten that Dive Rite started as a small Florida based dive company and it’s kept those same great traditional service values over the years. Users are sometimes taken back that if they email, sometimes you’ll get a response from Lamar or Jared themselves with practical advice.
All the revisions and small nip and tucks that Dive Rite constantly make to the O2ptima have left us with a real workhorse of a CCR unit, something easy to live with, modular and very rugged. That’s not to be underestimated for the average diver who has limited leisure time and intends to make one purchase of a rebreather to last years to come.
Of course, the burning question – price. The O2ptima in a base line package is around $9500 AU with an additional cost for the BOV and cylinders. This squarely places the O2ptima in the lower price range as most other technical level CCRs, but with a unique design and features which are quite special.
As with the purchase of any CCR, a diver should consider not only if the technical specs are appropriate to their diving, but also the local availability of initial and ongoing training, support and back up from the manufacturer. In that respect, for the Australian market and others around the world – the 2014 O2ptima ticks the boxes.