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.
Neo Sport - X-Span 3/2
|Inherent Buoyancy||< 1 lbs.|
|Seals||Raw-cut adjustable collar|
|Sizes||10 men’s, 7 women’s|
Suit material is X-Span, a 250-stretch neoprene sandwiched between a super-elastic fabric laminate. A full 3 mm is used in the torso area and 2 mm in the extremities with anatomically fitted arms and legs. This combination means the X-Span can definitely stretch. The super-soft rubber forms to your curves, is very forgiving in the midriff and actually feels like a much more expensive suit. However, the lighter neoprene in the extremities, while increasing comfort and range of motion, reduces the suit’s thermal properties. The flatlock seams are comfortable against bare skin but do let water in, and there are no smooth-skin seals anywhere on the suit, so you have to expect water intrusion from all openings. However, the adjustable raw-cut collar can be snugged down to prevent it from scooping water while swimming, which is a plus. The zipper is noncorrosive with a plastic slider backed by a nylon underflap and double overflaps, and the thermally bonded kneepads offer decent protection. A key pocket is also included.
Pros: High-stretch, low price
Cons: No seals
Though light on features, the X-Span 3/2 has a lot going for it. Comfortable, stretchy, available in a decent size range, and with the lowest MSRP in this year’s group, it won’t bust your budget.