Time to Test
The 14 brand-new 3mm wonders sent in for this year’s round-up got a rigorous working-over in the ScubaLab shop. We stretched the arms, pulled the legs, tugged at zippers. We turned them inside out, took note of the finish work and attention to detail. Then we hauled them down to our test pool where 75-degree water awaited us—well within the operational range of a 3mm wetsuit, yet just cool enough to easily feel the leaks.
ScubaLab staff, staged on the pool deck, donned each suit, checking to see how easy it was to pull on and self-zip. Then we went through a series of squats, body bends and arm reaches to assess each suit’s comfort and range of motion. Checking to see that all seals and closures were snug, we then slowly entered the water, taking note where we felt leaks, i.e. through the seams, or at zipper, neck, wrist and ankles. Once fully-immersed, we checked for water entry at the ankles and wrists during feet-first descents. Then we shifted into standard swimming mode and checked for water scooping at the neck. Finally, using the same test diver to assure consistency, we performed a buoyancy check to give us a general idea of each suit’s relative inherent buoyancy.
Mares - Tropic 3mm
|Inherent Buoyancy||< 1 lbs.|
|Seals||360-degree neck, wrist, ankle
|Seams||Glued and blind-stitched|
|Sizes||5 men’s, 6 women’s|
The Tropic uses a multilayered Tricore material that includes a flexible and fast-drying skin-out chest panel. Overall, this suit is cut on the small side when compared with other brands. It’s also not as stretchy as other suits, but its panels are well shaped to provide both comfort and range of motion. Seams are glued and blind-stitched on exterior layers, and having no interior stitching adds to the comfort. A 360-degree smooth-skin neck with adjustable Velcro closure seal is paired with excellent O-ring seals at the wrists and ankles. Combined, these make the Tropic just about the most seal-successful wetsuit in this go-round. Hardware in back includes a noncorrosive zipper with a plastic slider. A smooth-skin underflap seals against a smooth-skin strip that runs along one side of the track to create a skin-to-skin seal. This is backed by double overflaps. The zipper is reinforced at its base and comes with a finger loop for easy zipping. Segmented Trilastic kneepads have a linear shape to follow leg movements, but they don’t deliver a lot of protection.
Pros: Contoured fit, complete sealing system, dynamite price
Cons: Limited sizes
Comfortable, watertight seams, excellent seals, yet priced so low? Say it’s really so. We’d like to see a larger size range, though.