HOW WE TEST

Scuba Diving - - Encounters -

Test divers with un­der­wa­ter slates scored each suit in the fol­low­ing cat­e­gories: DONNING (pulling on, zip­ping, se­cur­ing ad­just­ments) FIT (sleeves, legs, torso) COM­FORT (over­all com­fort in wa­ter, in­clud­ing bind­ing, tight­ness, chaf­ing) SEALS (ef­fec­tive­ness at block­ing wa­ter en­try at wrists, an­kles and neck) WARMTH (per­ceived warmth, whether wa­ter flushes through suit with nor­mal and ex­treme mo­tion) RANGE OF MO­TION (de­gree to which suit lim­its flex­i­bil­ity or move­ment) DOFFING (ease of un­zip­ping and re­mov­ing)

Divers also recorded their com­ments about the suits and chose their top three fa­vorites in each cat­e­gory.

Test­ing be­gan at Blue Grotto Dive Re­sort in cen­tral Florida in 72- de­gree wa­ter, which made it easy to tell when there were leaks at seals or zip­per flaps. Top-scor­ing suits from the first phase were then tested dur­ing boat and shore dives in South Florida, where wa­ter temps were in the mid-80s. Those con­di­tions al­lowed for lengthy dives (in­clud­ing some more than an hour) that helped gauge a suit’s longer-term com­fort, fit and range of mo­tion.

Test­ing also in­cluded mea­sur­ing the buoy­ancy of each suit as a way of gaug­ing the thick­ness and dis­place­ment of the ma­te­ri­als used. Each suit

was taken to the bot­tom of a 10-foot pool where air and bub­bles were re­moved from in­side. The suit was then weighted, in in­cre­ments of ½ pound, un­til it would sup­port no ad­di­tional weight with­out sink­ing.

Our test­ing was de­signed to pro­vide first­hand ob­ser­va­tions from divers who have worn the suits, but it’s im­por­tant to note that, to a greater de­gree than most gear we review, our find­ings are sub­jec­tive in terms of per­ceived per­for­mance for sev­eral rea­sons: FIT IS CRIT­I­CAL A rel­a­tively thin suit that fits per­fectly and has ef­fec­tive seals at the wrists, neck and an­kle is likely to feel warmer than a thicker suit that’s too large or does not ef­fec­tively block wa­ter from en­ter­ing. DIVERS ARE DIF­FER­ENT A per­son’s body size and type, and the tem­per­a­ture con­di­tions to which a diver is ac­cli­mated, af­fect how “cold” or “warm” a diver feels.

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