ScubaLab tested 12 new 3mm scuba diving wetsuits — read the results here.
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How We Test
Test divers with underwater slates scored each suit in the following categories:
Donning (pulling on, zipping, securing adjustments)
Fit (sleeves, legs, torso)
Comfort (overall comfort in water, including binding, tightness, chafing)
Seals (effectiveness at blocking water entry at wrists, ankles and neck)
Warmth (perceived warmth, whether water flushes through suit with normal and extreme motion)
Range of Motion (degree to which suit limits flexibility or movement)
Doffing (ease of unzipping and removing)
Testing began at Blue Grotto Dive Resort in central Florida in 72-degree water, which made it easy to tell when there were leaks at seals or zipper flaps. Top-scoring suits from the first phase were then tested during boat and shore dives in South Florida, where water temps were in the mid-80s. Those conditions allowed for lengthy dives (including some more than an hour) that helped gauge a suit’s longer-term comfort, fit and range of motion.
Testing also included measuring the buoyancy of each suit as a way of gauging the thickness and displacement of the materials used. Each suit was taken to the bottom of a 10-foot pool where air and bubbles were removed from inside. The suit was then weighted, in increments of ½ pound, until it would support no additional weight without sinking.
Our testing was designed to provide firsthand observations from divers who have worn the suits, but it’s important to note that, to a greater degree than most gear we review, our findings are subjective in terms of perceived performance for several reasons:
Fit is Critical
A relatively thin suit that fits perfectly and has effective seals at the wrists, neck and ankle is likely to feel warmer than a thicker suit that’s too large or does not effectively block water from entering.
Divers are different
A person’s body size and type, and the temperature conditions to which a diver is acclimated, affect how “cold” or “warm” a diver feels.
How We Score
Divers rated suits in each of the seven evaluation criteria with a score from 1-5, where 1 = poor, 2 = fair, 3 = good, 4 = very good and 5 = excellent. Scores for warmth and range of motion are shown in the graphics accompanying each review. Click here to download the full test scores in all categories.
3mm Wetsuits Under $200
Price $140.42 | Contact beuchat-diving.com
The Alize has a surfer look, but it also has design elements that make it a comfortable dive suit. It’s cut without seams in the underarms, where they can chafe, and the pre-curved elbows don’t bunch when your arms are in a natural position. The rolled smooth-skin seals at neck, wrist and ankles took the top score in the category for blocking water entry. In a nice touch, the adjustable neck closure has the “hook” side of the fastener on the neck, with the soft “loop” side on the flap, where it’s less likely to snag on the neoprene. The kneepads are minimal, and while the suit was rated very good for warmth, that seemed more a result of the performance of the seals than the material’s thickness, which feels on the lighter side. But for warmer-water work, no suit was rated more comfortable; one test diver, after an 82-minute dive, noted, “As comfortable at the end of the dive as when I started.” The Beuchat Alize is our Testers Choice for suits under $200.
BODY GLOVE PRO DIVE 3MM
Price $119.99 | Contact bodyglove.com
Made of 3 mm material throughout, the Pro Dive is constructed with flat-lock stitching and has a soft, smooth interior that divers rated good for comfort. The rear zipper is on the shorter size of average among the suits we tested, but it’s heavy-duty, and the suit is stretchy enough that divers still found it easy to get on and off . The suit’s lime-green highlights on wrists and calves drew somewhat mixed style reviews, but that made it one of the more visually distinctive suits in the test; your buddy won’t have trouble spotting you in a group. The wrist and ankle seals — simple rolled hems — were comfortable and moderately effective at blocking water movement. The neck seal has smooth-skin only on the front and soft lining material on the rear, which was quite comfortable but didn’t seal as effectively. The knee patches are tough enough to resist abrasion well.
Price $169.95 | Contact cressiusa.com
The Morea, which uses 3 mm neoprene top to bottom, has a rubberized chest panel that blocks wind and provides an abrasion-resistant, nonslip contact point for BC straps. The suit’s high-flex neoprene and its cut allowed very good range of motion, particularly in the hips, without the binding we noticed in some suits. The wrist and ankle seals are rolled and hemmed, without any smooth lining, but were rated good for limiting water entry. The entire interior of the neck seal is lined with smooth-skin, and the closure has a wide adjustment range, which helped to get a comfortable, leak-free seal. The printed knee/shin patches provide abrasion resistance and a bit of traction but not any padding. One of the more attractively styled suits in our test, the Morea has a very smooth feel to the exterior material, and still looked brand-new after multiple dives.
IST SPORTS WS80
Price $170 | Contact istsports.com
The neoprene in the WS80 feels thicker and firmer than others (and we measured more buoyancy in this suit than any other in its category). But it proved comfortable and not at all restrictive, tying top scores for both fit and comfort, and was rated excellent for range of motion, helped by pre-curved elbows and a high-stretch panel on the lower back. As one diver noted, the suit is “more flexible than I am.” The seals are made of the same material as the interior of the suit, requiring a snug fit to work well. But the wrist and ankle zippers eased getting the suit on and off, and it tied top scores in its category for donning and doffing. The suit has rubbery shoulder appliques that help keep BC straps from moving around, and the waffle-pattern kneepads provide good protection without binding, even with a wide frog kick (though they did tend to collect sand and dirt). Well-made, warm and comfortable, the WS80 was our Best Buy.
SEAC SENSE 3.0
Price $169 | Contact seacsub.com
The neoprene in the Sense has a lighter-weight feel to it than most here. But it still tied the top score in its category for warmth, thanks to the very effective rolled smooth-skin seals at the neck, wrist and ankles that stopped water entry without feeling uncomfortably snug, even after long dives. The Sense also feels stretchier than most suits, and that second-skin flexibility, along with the soft seals, helped it tie the top score for comfort. It has a distinctive look, with contrasting stitching highlights and color inset panels in a blue that (unlike some suits) looked better to our eye underwater than on the surface. The rubberized chest panel helps keep BC straps in place and blocks wind, and the heavy, textured material in the knees and insides of the calves helps resist wear, though it did tend to collect weedy bits. Comfortable and attractive, the Sense was a top contender in its category.
3mm Wetsuits Over $200
AKONA QUANTUM STRETCH
Price $235 | Contact akona.com
Super-stretch material and a cut that fit multiple divers well helped the Quantum Stretch tie top scores for comfort and range of motion, while a smooth lining made it easy to get on and off . The collar, somewhat tall, lined with smooth-skin and with plenty of adjustment in the closure, was comfortable and sealed thoroughly with no leaks — even with exaggerated movements intended to provoke water entry. However, the ankle and particularly the wrist seals, both with unlined hems, seemed slightly large for the size and allowed a bit of water entry; we tested the suit in size large and, given the material’s high stretch, we would try a size smaller next time. Rubbery knee patches provide good abrasion resistance as well as nonslip traction. Divers also liked the look of the suit, with gray inset panels and textured patterns with red highlights.
AQUA LUNG AQUAFLEX
Price $299 | Contact aqualung.com
Some 3 mm suits are clearly designed for the cooler end of the temperature range, but the Aquaflex goes the full measure. The rear zipper has a wide double smooth-skin closure with a rolled outer flap of a design you’re more likely to find on a 5 mm or even 7 mm suit. The exterior seams are sealed with liquid rubber to block water seepage, as well as to prevent the stitching from unraveling, and the front of the torso is lined with a thick insulating panel. The suit’s high-stretch material and body-hugging cut helped it tie top scores for fit (although it seemed on the verge of too snug in the hips). It also tied the best score for the efficiency of its seals, which taper to a feather edge that combines with the high stretch of the fabric to make for an efficient, water-blocking fit. Well-made, warm and comfortable, the Aquaflex is worth consideration if you’re looking for the maximum insulation in a 3 mm.
Price $429.95 | Contact baresports.com
On the scale of light- to heavyweight 3 mm suits, the Reactive is well out at the beefy end. The rugged, heavy-duty construction has no stitches in the seams; they’re double-glued, sealed on the outside with liquid rubber and reinforced inside with hot-glued tape. Long smooth-skin seals in wrist and ankles extend several inches high, making them a little tough to get on but effective in blocking water penetration. The wide seal on the long rear zipper is full-thickness neoprene with smooth-skin lining on both sides, for a closure that’s about as bulky — and as effective — as many 5 mm suits. The entire interior is lined with Celliant fiber, designed to reflect heat back to your body. The Reactive might not have the toss-it-on convenience or warmerwater comfort of the lighter suits here, but it could be the ticket if you want a ruggedly made 3 mm that can do the work of many 5 mm suits.
BARE VELOCITY ULTRA
Price $269.95 | Contact baresports.com
Our test included suits designed for both extremes of a 3 mm’s range. There were also some that are more of a balance of comfort, convenience and insulation — chief among them the Velocity Ultra. It uses heat-reflecting Celliant fiber lining, but only in the torso. The rolled smooth-skin wrist seals are comfortable, very effective at blocking water penetration, and still easy to don and doff — likewise the zippered ankles. High-stretch material and touches like seams located to avoid underarms added to its notable comfort. Admittedly our test leaned toward that mix of warmth, comfort and convenience, and at the cold extremes of 3 mm range, the heaviest suits might be warmer. But for overall comfort, the Velocity Ultra was a standout. As one diver noted, “After five suits, this is the most comfortable I’ve been in all day.” The Velocity Ultra is our Testers Choice for suits over $200.
CAMARO ALPHA 3
Price $249.95 | Contact camaro.at
The front-zip Alpha 3 has an asymmetrical closure set at a slight angle, with a wide interior flap to the inside of the collar, covered by an outer flap. If closed with care, the seal is quite effective. But the front zip wasn’t necessarily easier to get on or off than a typical rear zip because the suit was noticeably snug in the shoulders and hips, which required a fair bit of tugging to get in place (zips on the wrist and ankles made it easier). Inside, the Alpha 3 has thick, plush lining; the interior seams have slight ridges, but they weren’t noticeable when wearing the suit. Seams in the underarms and crotch are backed with tape, and there are reinforcing patches at seam junctions. Wrists and ankles have rolled smooth-skin seals, but the zippers have no interior flaps, allowing a bit of water to seep in. With its snug fit, graphics and colors giving a sort of superhero look, the Alpha 3 was one of the more eye-catching suits in our test.
CAMARO TITANIUM 3
Price $249.95 | Contact camaro.at
While the Titanium 3 shares a front-zip design with Camaro’s Alpha 3, the suit is otherwise very different, lined with skinlike titanium. Glued rather than stitched, the interior has a smooth, flat profile with no ridges or bumps. That slick, soft surface lets it stay right up against the skin to very effectively block water movement — and it helped the suit earn an excellent score for overall comfort. Since the titanium lining doesn’t absorb water, the suit’s interior dries quickly; on our sunny-day dives, it was dry within minutes. Rolled smooth-skin seals at wrists and ankles tied the top score for effectiveness. Easy to pull on when dry, the suit’s interior is a little sticky when wet, and the exposed neoprene demands care to avoid gouging or tearing when donning and doffing. But the carefully assembled interior, with a feel of Old World craftsmanship, made the Titanium 3 exceptionally warm and comfortable.
SCUBAPRO EVERFLEX 3/2
Price $369 | Contact scubapro.com
Concentrating on the core, the Everflex puts full 3 mm neoprene and a thick, fleecy lining in the torso, tapering to 2 mm neoprene in the wrists and shins. It’s an effective design, helping the Everflex earn both a very good score for warmth and tie the top score for range of motion. Wrist and ankle seals use a tapered edge in the 2 mm material, and did a very good job of stopping water penetration (helped by a snug fit). The smooth interior made the suit easy to pull on, but the diagonal rear zipper, which starts from near the left hip, has a shorter zipper pull than most rear zips here, and requires help closing until you get the knack. Designed with a great deal of attention to detail, the Everflex has lots of well-thought-out features, from the hip-mounted plastic hook for securing a hood or gloves to the short zipper at the throat, which lets you ease the neck seal for comfort on surface intervals.