James Neal is a PADI IDC Staff Instructor and holds more than 150 qualifications from a multitude of agencies. James has gained a reputation for skilled teaching, producing conscientious, safe divers. He has a modern approach to instructing and coaching and advocates teaching better buoyancy skills at all levels. James owns and publishes Club Diver Magazine. He also has extensive experience as a features writer and has written numerous articles for the diving press. He is also featured in the current edition of ‘Tanked Up’ magazine.
You Know You’re A Diving Fanatic When You Simply Can’t Wait To Try On Your New Drysuit
Buying a new drysuit, especially when you first start diving, is never a straight-forward exercise. The main thing to consider is ‘fit and comfort’, but there are so many other considerations to take into account. The most obvious being the weight of the suit and any added thermal protection it may give… or so I thought! Read on…
My very first drysuit was a heavy crushed neoprene type suit. I bought it whilst at the Dive Show about a decade ago. It was a good quality suit, from a well-respected manufacturer, and I got it for a very good price which included a set of thermals.
I quickly discovered that I had to add a great deal of extra lead to help me sink as a consequence of the added buoyancy. I also discovered that the thermal protection that I had wasn’t really up to the job of keeping me warm in our rather frigid UK waters.
Consequently I had to invest in another set of thermals. I opted for a much thicker, bulkier set. Which I then had to add an additional 3 kilos of weight to get to sink!
Do you see the problem here? In the early days I was adding weight all the time, at one point I had to carry 12 kilos of lead just to sink in fresh water! I now carry 6 kilos… so what’s changed?
When I wore my first suit out I opted to buy another identical suit, this is a common practice amongst many divers… sticking to what they think they know and what they’re used to. When I wore that one out I got talked into buying a tailor made suit from a renowned supplier.
Having a suit made-to-measure is the only way to go really… the difference this makes is simply profound. The problem with buying a suit that’s made to fit a body type is that it never really ‘fits’. I didn’t fully appreciate this until I got my first tailor made suit.
I opted for a heavy ‘commercial type’ suit, thinking this would be ideal for me as my old neoprene suits never really dried out in between dives!
My logic was sound and I absolutely loved my commercial suit… but it was still a very heavy suit. And I was still very much sticking to what I thought I knew… back entry zip, thick thermals and so on.
The first drysuit I was measured up for was the BARE Expedition HD2. It’s one of their high-end suits and is a front-entry suit that allows the diver to self don and doff.
I’d only ever dived a front entry suit once before, so this was something different. It was also a tri-laminate suit and not a neoprene one, that was different as well.
It was also a light-weight suit… I have always dived heavier suits out of choice, consequently the BARE Expedition HD2 was an absolute revelation. It’s awesome!
I tried it on as soon as I opened the box, whilst in my ‘Dive Den’, I was shocked at how light it is. I literally didn’t know I was wearing it… it actually felt lighter on than my old undersuit!
The BARE Expedition HD2 is an epic suit and when you combine it with BARE’s ‘Ultra warmth’ base layer and the SB mid layer you will be stunned at not only how warm you are, but at how much lead weight you can drop! You will also be shocked at how much flexibility you have. I find kitting up is much easier, especially on a rocking boat, and I don’t have to rely on anyone else to make sure my drysuit is done up properly! (That’s another story for another article, and one that’s quite frightening!)
I’m an absolute convert to the front entry system. I love it. The fact that I can fully practice my ‘self-reliant’ skills and get myself completely kitted up and de-kitted without any assistance whatsoever is just fantastic.
This is also aided by the fact that my Hollis sidemount wing has an ‘H’ style harness and this is so much easier to get into, and out of, than your typical ‘Y’ harness. Also of benefit are the integrated KUBI rings that form part of the suit, as opposed to being ‘retro fitted’. They’re actually 10mm smaller than the ones on my old suit and significantly less bulky, which means clipping on and off stages with sidemount cylinders is a great deal easier than it used to be!
Taking all of this out to sea for some serious diving has been an absolute pleasure. It all works together extremely well, faultlessly well in fact. I’ve become extremely comfortable in the equipment configuration and have come to trust it implicitly. This allows me to relax more in between dives and also to give more of my time to my students.
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