HOW WE TEST
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.