From Yulex to Limestone to Red Cell: Several brands, several options out on the market
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 26 December, 2016 - This season we tested six new wetsuit models from brands Sooruz, Patagonia, Body Glove, Tiki, Superbrand/Narval and O'Neill. The suits ranged in price from mid-level to top-end and came in a variety of thicknesses from 3/2 to 5/4/3.
To bring you the best information we looked closest at the most important components in wetsuits: the rubber and the seams. Then we focused on the smaller factors that make or break a wetsuit. We took it out the box, pulled on it, wore it, swam in it and finally, surfed in it.
What did we find? Well, there's a great range of choices in rubber out there with the current trend being alternative *neoprenes. We tested two suits that use the latest Yulex petroleum-free natural rubber (Sooruz and Patagonia), and we also tested a limestone-based neoprene suit (Tiki) as well. The rest of the suits we tested are made with some variation of traditional neoprene (Narval, Body Glove and O'Neill.)
When looking for a wetsuit it's important that you as a consumer know what you want. Do you value stretch and performance over insulation and durabliity? Do you want a suit that says "no" to the petro-chemical industry? These are important questions to ask yourself before shopping for a suit as you can the suit that meets your ethos and surfing requirements.
Below you will find abridged reviews of each suit. You can click through to read the full, extensive review on Surfersvillage.
*FYI: When talking about Neoprene, we use the term neoprene. Neoprene (with a capital N) is a trademarked name, but everyone uses the term to descrbe wetsuits, so we do the same.
Out of the box it looks like a well-made suit with no unfinished seams or rough areas. The recycled polyester lining on the inside and outside is soft and pliable. Pulling on the wetsuit leg and seeing how far it would go we found it stretched a lot and went right back into shape with no sagging or delay in “snap-back.” The Naturalprene wetsuit material feels very stretchy. We would even venture to say it feels stretchier than Patagonia’s Yulex rubber. In addition we liked how “soft” the Naturalprene feels.
When picking up the suit we noticed it felt a bit heavier than comparable 4/3 full suits. We got out the scale and found the suit weighed 4.5 pounds. We compared it to the same sized XCEL 4/3 TDC full suit (which is made of traditional neoprene), and it weighed in at 3.3 pounds.
Dry times on this suit are good. Some “softer” neoprenes have a spongy, water-absorbing quality to them, but not this suit. When inflating an arm or leg of the suit with air like a balloon, there was no leakage through the neoprene itself or through the seams. This is an important test - and you can try it with suits in the shops by closing of an area of the arm or leg of the suit and inflating like you would a balloon. If air can escape, it means water can enter or escape just as easily. Remember, less water seepage equals better insulation.
Overall: It’s an eco-friendly wetsuit using Yulex sourcing, recycled jerseys and a smart design. It’s soft, airtight, stretchy with good insulation properties and overall the suit performs well. The big bonus here is that it’s a non-petrochemical suit sourced by Yulex that is competitively priced with other traditional chemical neoprene suits on the market. So you can support the environment without paying heaps extra.
For the R2 Patagonia use throughout the arms and lower legs a 100% recycled polyester jersey lining that is 3mil thick and categorised as “high-stretch” by the company. This part of the suit most resembles traditional wetsuit material.
In the thighs and torso they use a 3.5mil thick fast-drying 51% recycled polyester/44% polyester/5% spandex microgrid material.
The nylon material inside and outside feels a little more coarse and less silky smooth than a traditional wetsuit. It’s not abrasive by any measure, just not as soft feeling. It is similar in texture to XCEL's TDC infrared weave.
The microgrid, or “fluffy stuff”, on the inside core area works on the principle that a body heats air more efficiently than it heats water. This material scored excellent marks for both insulative qualities and for quick dry times, but was about average when it came to flexibility. The Yulex rubber is stretchy but I wouldn’t call it high-performance stretch. It’s about mid-range.
Overall it’s a very warm suit at a premium price, perfect for those who want to put their money where their environmental ethics are. Stretch is OK, but not superstretch. Suit is well made and solid (unfortunately longevity cannot be tested in wetsuit reviews as it's done with new suits - however, Patagonia does have a great warranty for their products). Suit is comfortable, non-flushing and non-chaffing. Inner seam glue-up was a bit messy. Top-knotch seams that keep a lot of water out. A lot of nice touches like special material on ankles to prevent the suit from fraying due to leash velcro.
Body Glove's Red Cell material is comfortable and flexible and feels soft against the skin. We were expecting a stiffer, more abrasive material against our skin due to it being a polyester resin-based lining, but it was extremely soft and pliable. When wet the material kept it’s same comfort level and we experienced no chaffing or abrasive areas. Regarding flexibility, it moves and stretches really well for a 5/4/3.
Design-wise the Vapor X Red Cell lining employs a series of elevated Hexagons along the interior. The Channels surrounding the hexagons facilitate enhanced breathability and allow for a faster dry time.
The exterior of the suit uses what Body Glove calls Evo Dry which is made by taking hollow cord yarn and weaving it into the jersey of the wetsuit. Claims are that the material absorbs 30% less water. It feels light and, yes, water did bead off of the new suit. It took a few submersions to get it fully wet.
Pluses included: soft and well-insulating Red Cell material; top-end inner and outer seam construction; high overall comfort and no flushing. Given our testing method of merely examining the construction and materials of the suit and then surfing, but not running the Red Cell through a light-reflecting laser lab, we couldn’t verify the claimed benefits of infra-red lining. We can only say from using the suit that we found it to be very soft, warm, flexible and light.
In a nutshell: It's a limestone neoprene wetsuit with minimal carbon footprint and high-end interior taped seams. Entry is zip free with minimal seam design along the back and paddling areas allowing for a good deal of flexibility. The suit is similar in design and construction to the Rip Curl Flash Bomb zip free, but with the Tiki interior Dry Lined Core which is very warm and comfortable.
The Zepha seams are sealed through a series of processes. First they are glued and stitched then taped on the interior. As far as construction it’s a well-put together suit.
The interior taped seams are very smooth and flat which makes the suit comfortable. The fact that only the interior seams are taped increases the wetsuit flexibility. We noticed minimal water entering through the seams, but some did get in.
It’s one of the more eco-friendly suits out there because it uses the Super XTEND limestone neoprene and the Aqua-A™ lamination glue for the seams. We liked the zip free technology combined with Tiki’s Wristy Cuffs and limestone neoprene, all of which make the wetsuit solid, warm, waterproof and relatively flexible for a 4/3.
Outer seams could be finished with liquid seal outer tape, but that would change the flexibility and the price of the suit. And if you compare prices with a similar suit, like the Ripcurl Flashbomb, the Tiki Wetsuit is a good deal at £188.95 / 245€
With the SUPERbrand patterning, Dion and Narval have created a unique, sytlish wetsuit using just a black and white color scheme. Beyond the styling, the suit actually works pretty well.
Let’s start with the neoprene. When you first pick up the suit you’ll notice how light it is. The Japanese neoprene is used throughout every panel and claims to have a low-water absorption rate. We agree as we noticed the water beading off of it when we jumped into the surf.
Once put on, the suit feels very cozy and is quite soft. The neoprene is on the lighter, stretchier side of the neoprene spectrum compared to some of the more plush-lined, insulative (and heavier) wetsuits out there. So it falls into the "performance suit" category.
The suit is all nylon with no smoothie material anywhere. And while it’s not promoted as having quick-dry properties we found it took only an hour or so to dry out along the core of the interior. Mentioning that this suit falls on the stretchy performance side of the scale, we can’t vouch for the life of this slinky material. One drawback of wetsuit product review is we can’t tell how it will last.
The seams on the Narval X Superbrand fullsuit are interior-taped while the outside is simply stitched without exterior liquid seal tape. While this design approach keeps the suit sealed and flexible and creates a good water barrier, it does not keep water out with the same efficiency as suits with the outer seams sealed. That said, sealing the outer seams with liquid tape would restrict the flexibility of the Narval X Superbrand suit.
Because the interior neoprene is flat and not plushy, there is a good, solid seal between this interior tape and neoprene. Some of the fluffier interior-lined suits on the market tend to not form a good seal between panels due to the thickness of the plush material which can get in the way of a tight-tape seal.
So, in a nutshell, this suit is really flexible, lightweight and easy to get into. It's also very stylish and feels like a 2/2 rather than a 3/2. The internal seam taping is soft and comfortable and one of the best we've seen on the market. The internal seam tape is stretchy and fits flush between the neoprene panels. We are however unsure of the durability of a high-performance, lightweight neoprene and at the anchor seams we did get a rash on the neck.
When holding the Psycho 1 it’s obvious that it weighs less than other suits on the market of comparable thickness, in this case a 3/2 mil. This is due in equal parts to the light nature of Technobutter 2 and the lack of heavier smoothie material in the Psycho 1 model.
The Psycho 1 has very few seams. More seams in a design mean more places for water to enter the suit, or more places where interior and/or exterior tape must be applied (which ends up hampering the suit’s flexibility). However, too few seams on a suit result in a wettie that does not fit the contours of the human body. It’s a delicate balance.
The seams on the Psycho 1 have an average-sized outer liquid seam. The seam is wide when compared to top-end-minimal-seam-standards. If you want the super thin outer seam seal (more flexible) then try the next higher-up model, the Psycho Tech.
O’Neill’s outer seams are made of a soft, pliable material. The inside seams just have the stitching with no interior taping. This has made the Psycho 1 very comfortable to wear. On some wetsuits interior seam taping methods can be stiff once glued, or worse, the rubber or silicone ones can crack and decay over time.
Overall it’s a very smart design coupled with a great neoprene. We would recommend this design for users looking for a mid-priced suit that is simple without a lot of bells and whistles. This suit scores big points for flexibility and insulation. But I would not recommend the Psycho 1 for surfers looking for a thicker, more insulative suit.
For that go with a design that has the chest smoothie material to help keep your core warm - remember such added warmth tends to restrict flexibility. It’s all about finding the suit that’s balanced for your particular surfing needs. That said, it’s a reasonably priced suit with good insulative properties and superior flexibility properties.