So this story starts about two years ago in 2013 when Head/Mares acquired Scuba Schools International, SSI. Since then Mares have been focusing on a new line of diving equipment to compliment SSI’s Extended Range courses to cater for the more advanced diver that wants to stay down longer and Mares XR was born. Fast forward to November 2015 when Mares released a teaser trailer, linked below, for their XR range to introduce it to the world. Mares have spent years talking to experienced divers and analysing existing equipment on the market to see where they can be improved, this combined with Mares’ history of innovation and ground breaking ideas has produced an exciting new range of regulators, backplate and wing configurations and accessories.
In April Mares invited their top dealers to come and visit their headquarters in Rapallo Italy to introduce the XR range and take a look around their main base where they manufacture and test most of their equipment. Day 1 started with a dive just off the coast before visiting Mares HQ on the outskirts of Rapallo. This is my first time diving in Italy and I can thoroughly recommend it. I’d describe the diving there as similar to British diving but with better visibility, plenty of fish and invertebrates and a wonderful landscape of large boulders and deep waters. Water temperature was about 14°C but my Mares semi-dry kept me nice and warm and Mares BCD and Regs performed perfectly.
After the dive we headed to Mares HQ where the Sales and Marketing Director Dusan introduced us to each piece of equipment drawing attention to the new features and performance there in front of us so we could be the first to pick up and feel each item. First impressions are very good; Mares have deconstructed each piece of equipment required for extended range and striped out any unnecessary features while adding useful features. Their new twin regulators have mirrored 1st stages for convenient hose routing and the choice of either the DR or CR 2nd stage; the DR standing for Deep and CR for Cave because the DR is a metal 2nd stage that is very strong and reliable and the CR is polymer with an easy removable front cover.
Probably the largest innovation was the VR 2nd stage that is designed to be a stage regulator with a vertical hose routing. Changing to a side mounted stage cylinder most are taught to pull a length of hose, loop over your head and put the 2nd stage in your mouth. The VR eliminates the need for this or scruffy hose routing with an inlet hose from the underside of the body. A similar body to the CR still with a bypass tube make the VR a clever and practical stage regulator. With their innovation Mares also have a keen attention to details like the HP ports on the 25 1st Stages angled in opposite directions so no matter how you mount them your HP hose will route down around your cylinder, the pull dump on the wings is a nice low profile inside valve with a small toggle with the option to mount on your right or left kidney. The presentation of each product for the end customer was very impressive too with regulators in their own semi hard case with foam inserts and hoses neatly coiled underneath.
After looking at the new equipment we had a tour around the rest of the facility looking at the manufacturing and testing floors along with R&D labs where technicians are designing the next generation of equipment. 3D printers and precision equipment engineers prototypes for new products for testing in days rather than weeks. When products are ready they are taken downstairs where they are tested beyond normal use, so regulators are set up on a bench and repeatedly purged, fins are fitted to a mechanical leg submerged in water for repeating fin kicks and BCDs can have their buoyancy measured.
I was very impressed by both Mares’ hospitality, their new range of equipment and their facilities manufacturing and testing equipment. Mares XR is a nice range from bolt snaps and spools to a kevlar dry suit and heated vest that will be available here in the not too distant future. I expect good things from Mares XR as they have always been know for reliable equipment and I was impressed by the build quality and attention to detail of every piece of equipment shown. There were also some new products that I’m not allowed to talk about I’m afraid but rest assured they look great and I’m sure they will work just as well to expand their range into the more advanced market.