Walt's Gear Review: Pinnacle Polar

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Posted by Walt on December 14, 2005 at 21:54:40:

In Reply to: PINNACLE POLAR PROS AND CONS posted by Mike on December 14, 2005 at 09:57:56:

I promised diver.net a review of this suit, so here it is…

Bought a Pinnacle Polar just before Thanksgiving to try it out on a Fall dive. Was skeptical of the Merino wool lining, but Pinnacle offers a 30 day no questions asked return policy, so figured I’d give it a try. Splashed on December 10 at Anacapa Island with temperatures ranging from 54 to 57. My wife served as my control subject in her standard 7 mm suit (we generally chill at about the same time.)

Donning the front zippered suit was easy, though my wife did help me smooth out the inner shoulder lining. I was able to zip and unzip it by myself – it’s a nice large zipper with pull tab. The suit is very comfortable – it fits well and offers a high degree of freedom of movement thanks to the stretchiness of the material. As a test, I made some deep knee bends and swung my arms in circles – hardly any restriction.

Was told I would need to add 2 pounds of lead, but I have been a tad heavy with my standard 12 pounds on my regular wetsuit, so I kept my usual weighting. When I first went into the water I noticed that I was a little more positive than normal, owing to the trapped air in the lining. As the suit gradually filled with water, it basically had about the same buoyancy as my normal 7 mm suit with detached hood. The water normally enters my suit and chills me – in the Polar it was barely noticeable. I may add 1 or 2 pounds of lead while the suit is still new and I continue to adjust to it.

Its billed as a semi-dry suit, but that is a misnomer…its really a “no flow” wet suit. Water seeps in, but doesn’t ‘pump’. The seal system is excellent – like a skin in suit where it counts – the hood, shoulders, zipper, wrists, and ankles. Elsewhere it has a jersey type of Merino wool lining – not a plush lining, but one that absorbs and holds the water, If you have done any mountaineering, you know that wool is warm even when wet and the Polar lives up to its claims.

On each of our 3 dives that day I would have outstayed my wife, who was chilled on each dive. I couldn’t say I was warm, but I definitely wasn’t cold. As we talked about the suit later that day, I realized that I hadn’t ‘relieved myself’ in the suit all day. I know this may sound odd, but I believe this may be the greatest testimony to the suit’s warmth – eureka! I wasn’t chilled enough to pee!

Between dives I unzipped the hood and kept the lighter shoulder covering in place for part of the time. It actually was a little warm, so I’d remove the suit to mid-chest. Pulling it down for a bathroom break and re-donning it was not a bad experience, as the wet wool lining warms quickly and the stretchy suit is easy to slide off and on.

Rinses like any other wetsuit, but seems about twice as heavy when wet, owing to the wool. Hung it inside out and the wool was dry overnight (reversed and let the outside of the suit dry the next day).

The construction is first class. All points where 2 seams meet have stress pads and the stitching is of excellent quality. It is billed as ISO9000 and I have no doubt it is.

As for the return policy – won’t need it, as I’m keeping this suit.

I saw the next ‘semi-dry’ model up, the Pinnacle Extreme. It has a dry suit style zipper which I found hard to zip and is 8 mm which seemed less resilient than the Polar. Spoke with 2 people who dive with it and they swear by it. For me, I like being able to zip my own suit with ease.

Ease of self-donning: excellent (skin in where needed; material easy to enter)
Freedom of movement: excellent
Achieve minimum lead: very good to excellent
Streamlined: excellent
Water flow: not noticeable
Warmth during dive: very good
Warmth between dives: very good (a dry suit would be warmer)
Ease of cleaning: very good

Advantages: no seals to replace or punctures to be of concern; less buoyant than a Farmer John style; no water flow; external protective pads in high wear areas like shoulders, knees; quality construction; good value.

Disadvantages: no custom sizes (a XXL was a tad big, an XL was too short for my torso; I went with the XXL and have a little fabric near my knees, but the torso is perfect); if you are allergic to wool may be an issue

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