Posted by JRM on May 24, 2002 at 09:44:44:
In Reply to: drysuit advice posted by rey on May 23, 2002 at 20:14:03:
Let's see if we can sneak this by the spam police...
What you should look for in a drysuit:
Self-donning. Being able to get yourself in and out of your suit without help is *huge*. I know one guy who can zip and unzip a back-zip drysuit. Everyone else who has them can't gear up by themselves. Along the same lines, a protective zipper over the drysuit zipper is nice, but not a huge deal.
Adjustable auto-dumping valve. I prefer the Sci-Tek valves, and actually moved them over to my current suit from my last one (see below). But being able to set the suit for the loft you want and let it go is huge. As is the nifty trick of dumping air by flexing your bicep. Hands free.
I'm going to say latex seals. My last suit had neoprene seals, my current one has latex. I actually prefer the neoprene wrist seals, but nothing beats a latex neck seal. No folding, much less leaking. The first drysuit I dove had a bellows style latex neck-seal. Then I went to the neoprene neckseal. Then, to a suit with a cone style latex seal, which I replaced with a bellows. I prefer the Oceanic neck seals, as they offer much more freedom of movement. It isn't crucial though, but just something to keep in mind. Seals are a personal choice, and much blood has been shed by parties on both sides.
As for material, I'd recommend the shell. I've dove suits made of the Oceanic "flex" material (basically tri-lam), tri-lam, "closed cell neoprene" and "crushed neoprene." I very much prefer the tri-lam. Closed cell neoprene is basically wetsuit material, maybe squished a bit. It has a bouyancy shift and reduction in thermal protection at depth (although at normal recreational depths this isn't a big deal). Crushed neoprene is cool, but dries really slow and is *heavy*. It is a bit more puncture/tear/rip/pierce/amputation resistant than a shell type suit. Overall, all things considered, my *personal preference* is for the shell.
Avoid gimicks like ankle dumps (Apollo suits are famous for these). Most of that junk is an attempt to compensate for poor skills. Ankle weights are a mixed bag. If you use nice heavy fins they really aren't necessary. Some people swear by them, some at them. I've never actually used them, so I don't have an opinion. I hear gators are better (but never used them, either). Avoid "rock boots" like ebola. Big heavy boots on a drysuit are evil and totally unneccessary. I ended up cutting them off my last suit.
So, as far as brands, here goes. I had a good experience with the Oceanic Flex. I managed to come up with a demo suit for a couple of months. It's tough, has good seals, decent footwear, and seemed well constructed. It's major drawback is they don't offer a self-donning version (that I know of).
I had a pretty good experience with my generic neoprene suit. I put a lot of dives on it, and it served me well. I had to cut the boots off. Good freedom of movement. And for $300, made a great stop-gap until I could get a better suit.
I borrowed a friends DUI CF-200 for a trip to the Yukon. Nice in that much less insulation is required, and it's a beefy, tough suit. It weighed a ton and never actually dried. I would, however, recommend the CF-200 if that's what your after.
I currently dive a DUI TLS350, stock medium. I got it on ebay for around $500. I've replaced the Apeks valves with Sci-Tek, added pockets, a P-valve, and slapped an Oceanic bellows neck seal on it (came with a cone). The telescoping torso is a huge plus, it's self-donning, and has the zipper guard. I personally think this is the best suit to buy, period. And for $70, you can mail the suit to DUI and they'll do a leak check and repair any leaks.
I will say that the DUI undergarments that I got are annoying. They don't fit very well, and radically restrict my range of motion. I've since gone back to my mountaineering exposure gear, and it's made a world of difference. So before you drop serious coin on "diving" underwear, head to REI. It's better, cheaper, and you can use it for stuff other than diving.
Good luck. Drop me an email if you have any questions. I may not know the answer, but I can probably hook you up with someone who does.
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