Hollis Katana 2 Review
Single or dual diamond shape bladder options available
20lb – 4 x 5lb spine integrated weight pockets
Cost (RRP Australia)
Single bladder –$1199.00
Dual bladder – $1749.00
Estimated Release Date
Australian Underwater Products (AUP), the Australian importer for Hollis, provided the Katana 2 used for testing on loan for a review and familiarisation. I work for a dive shop that sells AUP products but that is the extent of my relationship with them. This review was written solely to benefit our community with as little bias as possible.
Hollis has done a great job at updating their line with a comfortable well-rounded sidemount system. The Katana 2 will suit the majority of sidemount user’s needs with all the essential and comfort-oriented features straight out of the box. There are no major drawbacks and only minor annoyances which are more a matter of personal preference. The following is a more details analysis from a cold water, cave diver’s point of view, that focuses on the minor details that other reviews may overlook.
Setting up the Katana 2 was very easy compared to other sidemount harnesses due to the tri-glides being stitched into the harness as well as what Hollis is calling ‘Quick Fit System’. Essentially the same as what some hiking packs use where the waist strap can be easily moved up or down to suit the user's torso height by connecting into strips of horizontal webbing. The Katana 2 comes with everything required to get started. Unlike some other sidemount BCs that don't include weight pockets, the Katana 2 comes pre-assembled with everything you need straight out of the box. Set up and sizing took me about 10 minutes compared to over half an hour for other BCs I've used. Currently, there is no manual or supporting documentation for the Katana 2 so set up may take some time if you're new to sidemount. Hopefully, that will change once production and distribution are up and running.
The Katana 2 uses a diamond shape bladder just like the Katana 1. From the footage that I’ve taken diving while being actively over-weighted, Hollis has done a good job at stopping the bladder from looking like a balloon which is one of the drawbacks of a diamond shape bladder.
For the single vs dual bladder debate, go ask in the Sidemount Facebook group or ScubaBoard… The fact is Hollis is accommodating of either preference with a dual bladder option available for an extra $550.
40lb of lift is about in the middle of the road for sidemount BCs. Having enough lift to be comfortable on the surface with a few cylinders but not large and bulky. The bladder isn't connected to the harness on the sides, so it uses a piece of bungee and a bolt snap to connect the two edges across your stomach.
There are also inbuilt connection points for the KISS Sidewinder but I’ll leave that to someone a lot more experienced than me to comment on and review.
Cylinder Attachment and Harness
The harness on the Katana 2 has everything you need and nothing you don't. It's not over-cluttered with excess buckles, accessories or D-rings, having 8 in total in the standard spots. Two on the shoulders, two on the hips, two on the back and two on the crotch strap. The two cylinder attachment points are either via d-rings on the outer hips for aluminium cylinders or via two low profile rails attached to the rear of the waist belt. The two rails are quite large and easy to locate with a lot of adjustment for their horizontal positioning to suit your cylinder rigging.
The Katana 2 comes with a floating loop, non-continuous bungee. Simply, it means there's one piece of bungee for each tank which keeps the tension even and makes don and doffing cylinders easy and predictable. The bungee feels high quality with a large diameter and coarse stitching, but my few weeks aren't enough to attest to its long-term durability.
The ‘H’ style harness lends itself to divers with broader shoulders where it’s very comfortable both in and out of the water. Smaller divers may benefit from the optional chest trap which is included along with a range of other d-rings for different configurations. The wide top opening in the harness makes it easy to get in and out of. In a wetsuit that doesn't matter so much but in drysuits with large wrist seals and protruding dump valves, the extra width is appreciated. The crotch strap has been made using thinner webbing than the rest of the harness most likely with the intention of comfort. This is one definite weak point of the BC. The thinner webbing still uses the standard size tri-glides. As a result, the D-Rings and connection to the rest of the harness at the rear are not overly secure. Hollis or the end-user could address this issue by either replacing the crotch strap with a standard thickness one (what I'll be doing). Or manufacturing/sourcing tri-glides with a smaller gap to match the flexibility of their thin webbing.
Hollis has hidden all the valve fittings in places that are protected and away from the back of the BC to protect them. The Katana 2 has two dump valves, both are on the inside of the wing one at the bottom right and one at the top centre with a pull cord routed to the left shoulder. The upper dump valve was great for going from an upright position on the surface to letting lots of gas out quickly. Once underwater and in trim though, I found the lower valve more efficient to use. To Gas seemed to naturally sit lower on the BC and usage of the upper valve required me to drop my knees a fair bit to get any considerable flow.
The power inflator can be connected to either side and is across the chest-style. The across the chest style inflator does add to the clutter when using a drysuit and takes a bit of thought and adjustment to get routed neatly. Adding another threaded fitting to the bottom, inner left of the BC would be a welcomed addition. It would then allow the user to have their preference of dump valve location and the added option for a vertically routed power inflator. A vertical mount power inflator is my preference as it declutters the chest and keeps the buttons tucked away where I can still reach it comfortably with both hands.
By not having any of the valves on the back, the Katana 2 reduces any snag points, and while in overhead environments the chance to wear away at the pull cord. The pull cord on the lower dump valve is very soft and fine, I haven’t noticed any wear yet, but it is a point that is worth watching and replacing if noticed.
One additional change that may be beneficial would be the use of courser threads for the fittings. Halcyon has just announced that they are changing their fittings to reduce the chance of cross-threading. Comparing the two, the Hollis connections appear to be higher quality with a harder plastic. In comparison, the Halcyon fittings strip with minimal torque and I’ve had to resort to using thread tape to ensure secure connections. I have not seen the new threads in person, but it may be a consideration for future development.
As with other harnesses that are designed from the factory with spine weight integration it is a very efficient but secure system. The Katana 2 has four pockets which allow for precise fine-tuning of your trim. The pockets are easily accessible with large openings and plenty of room for a 3lb weight in each or up to 5lb with a little more finessing.
The Katana 2 is a versatile BC that aims to suit both Florida and Mexico styles of sidemount diving. Its lift capacity lends itself to being both not overly large but offering enough versatility for a range of diving conditions and configurations. There are only two groups of people which I can see the rig not being best suited for. The first are divers who are small framed. The wide harness may make it feel slightly insecure and wanting to slip off their shoulders, as previously mentioned an optional or third-party chest strap would be of assistance. The harness can be easily shortened using the ‘Quick Fit System’ but the wing is still quite long as compared to some other sidemount BCs with smaller bladders. The second group of divers that the Katana 2 wouldn’t suit are the top end explorers that need every centimetre of clearance they can get. Not that divers of that level would need my opinion. Any BC that uses spine mounted weights gives up a few centimetres clearance in exchange for stability and comfort. When these explorers are doing what they do best, every centimetre counts.
My testing has been conducted solely with steel cylinders, in freshwater with a drysuit using from two to four cylinders. I used a range of configurations consisting of using 7L cylinders for tighter cave diving, 12L cylinders for deeper dives and the addition of an AL80 and AL40 when required for deco.
Conclusion and future development
In conclusion, the Hollis Katana 2 is a well-rounded sidemount rig that will suit most people's needs. It is designed to be a generalist allowing it to be dived well in both warm and cold water with steel and aluminium tanks. Whether this is your first sidemount rig or you’re just looking for a change you won’t be disappointed by the Hollis Katana 2.