Looking for wetsuits and other scuba diving equipment? Here are the best cold-water wetsuits for divers.
Akona 7mm Quantum Stretch
Features Four-way stretch neoprene; smooth-skin O-ring seals at wrist and ankles; smooth-skin seal at neck with Velcro closure; padded double smooth- skin zipper seal; nonslip pads across shoulders and top of chest.
Bottom Line All modern wetsuits are stretchy, but none more so than the Quantum Stretch. At first it might seem like the suit is too small, but the more you pull, the more it stretches. The resulting second-skin fit, effective O-ring wrist and ankle seals, and a rear zipper seal that is nicely padded and leak-free make this suit warm and comfortable. We wish the smooth- skin encircled the entire neck rather than just the front two-thirds, but for this money, we won’t quibble — the Quantum Stretch is our Best Buy. akona.com, $325 ($350 2Xl-5Xl)
Aqua Lung Aquaflex 7mm
Features New-style cuffs at wrist and ankle; prebent anatomic legs and arms; three-way zipper seal; spine and kidney padding for comfort and insulation; abrasion-resistant knees.
Bottom Line The new X-Tend cuffs on the AquaFlex taper to nothing. We were dubious that the best cuff could be no cuff — until we tried it. Without edge tape to interfere, the superstretchy neoprene squeezes down to an excellent seal that doesn’t pump water no matter how much we stretch it. We also like the zipper closure, which overlaps two thick rubbery strips onto a long smooth-skin tab for a leak-free seal. The smooth lining combines with the cuffs to make this the easiest suit to get on and off. The AquaFlex is our Testers’ choice in its category. aqualung.com, MSRP $430
Aqua Lung SolAfx 8/7MM
Features Four-way-stretch neoprene (8mm in the torso and 7 mm in the sleeves and legs); soft, slick interior lining; liquid-sealed exterior seams; large vent releases air from the hood without letting in cold; water-resistant chest zipper; skin-in gasket seals at forearms and calves; water dam at neck.
Bottom Line Aqua Lung calls the SolAfx a wetsuit rather than a semidry, but don’t get hung up on semantics: the arm and leg gaskets and water-resistant chest zipper are effective in keeping water out. The soft lining does an excellent job of trapping water, and its smooth texture makes the SolAfx one of the easiest chest-zip suits to don. The hood’s large vents release trapped air without letting in a drop. aqualung.com, MSRP $545
Bare 7 MM Elastek
Features Reinforcement panels at knees, shoulders and elbows; exterior liquid seams; double smooth-skin seals at wrists and ankles; embossed knee and elbow creases; 5 mm smooth-skin collar with Velcro closure; compressed neoprene zipper flap with double-skin seal.
Bottom Line The Elastek’s zipper flap uses 8 mm neoprene compressed to 3 mm that mates against a smooth-skin flap for a seal that’s nearly watertight. The zipper is slightly shorter than many of the other rear-zip suits, but donning and doffing are aided by the lining, which is a relatively smooth material that does a good job trapping water. Bare added nice detail to protect your suit: The neck closure uses a low-profile Velcro tab designed to be easier on the suit’s fabric; just seat it correctly so it doesn’t pop open. baresports.com, MSRP $399.95
Bare 8/7MM Velocity Semidry
Features Water-resistant chest zipper; 8 mm hood with 5 mm smooth-skin seal; double-glued and lock-stitched seams; 10 mm pad over spine and kidneys; seamless underarms; abrasion-resistant knee reinforcement.
Bottom Line There’s nothing fancy here: This suit gets the job done with solid design and construction. The lining is effective, if not overly plush. hood venting is excellent. high-stress seam intersections are well reinforced, and the generous inside flap on the chest zipper is the widest of any we tested. This suit puts the heaviest materials in the right places for comfort and warmth, has effective seals at the face, wrist and ankles, and gets all the details right, making it our Testers’ Choice in its category. baresports.com, MSRP $499.95
Beuchat Focea Comfort 7mm
Features Thermal lining; patent-pending interlocking zipper seal; creased flex panels inside elbows and knees; anatomically shaped arms and legs; reinforced shoulders, knees and elbows; embossed nonslip on the seat; rolled smooth-skin seals with zips at wrists and ankles.
Bottom Line Nicely made from quality materials, this suit has a novel zipper seal that uses overlapping flaps of soft rubbery material with four rows of interlocking ridges to very effectively block water entry. That feature — combined with an excellent full thermal lining and good wrist and ankle seals — helps the Focea comfort live up to its name. The curved arms and legs feel a little stiff on land, but once in the water, the shape feels natural and comfortable. spearotek.com, MSRP $449
Cressi Lontra 7mm
Features Plush helio Flex lining; double smooth-skin seals at wrist and ankles with zips; padded smooth-skin zipper flap; smooth-skin neck with Velcro closure; abrasion- resistant knee pads; embossed nonslip patches on shoulders; hood-holder clip; anatomically shaped arms and legs.
Bottom Line The Lontra’s plush, bright-orange helio Flex lining extends throughout the suit and was a top performer among the suits in this category in trapping water movement. The lining also has a smooth texture; that, combined with the zipped double smooth-skin cuffs at the wrists and ankles, make this one of the easiest suits to get on and off. The padded smooth-skin zipper flap and the neck seal — which has a generous swath of Velcro at the closure — are very effective in blocking water entry. cressi.com, MSRP $399.95
Hollis Neotek Semidrysuit
Features Attached hood; plush inner liner; horizontal chest zipper with internal bib; mix of 8/7/6 mm low-compression neoprene; internal dams at wrists, ankles and neck; quadruple-glued and butt-joined seams with blind stitching; large thigh pockets with internal D-rings; liquid-glued exterior seams.
Bottom Line The liquid-glued seams, heavy reinforcement on the knees, elbows and seat, and huge thigh pockets with internal D-rings might tag the NeoTek as a suit for cavers or techies. But it’s worth considering for any diver whon eeds a 7mm that can take a lot of abuse. it’s comfortable too, with a full plush lining, thick padding along the spine and kidneys, and a well-shaped integrated hood with top-notch venting. hollis.com, MSRP $429.95
Mares Flexa 8-6-5 MM
Features Reinforced elbows, knees and shins; thicker material used for warmth in torso, thinner in extremities for mobility; wide neck closure; smooth-skin seals at wrist, ankles and neck; double smooth-skin seal at zipper; plush thermal lining in torso.
Bottom Line The Flexa 8-6-5 varies neoprene thickness to put insulation and flexibility where they’re needed. The neck closure has a relatively high smooth-skin collar that uses a long Velcro tab and a large patch for a wide range of adjustability. The zipper (front zip on the women’s suits, back zip on the men’s) is extra long for easy donning and doffing. Along the zipper, the 8 mm neoprene and wide zipper flap of neoprene and smooth-skin nicely insulate a spot vulnerable to the cold. mares.com, MSRP $370
Oceanic Pioneer 7mm
Features Full thermal lining; padded spine; smooth-skin gasket arm and leg seals with smooth-skin O-rings at wrists and ankles; internal seam reinforcements; rolled smooth-skin seal at neck with double Velcro tab for adjustability; liquid-seam exterior seals; reinforced elbows, knees and seat; embossed nonslip at knees and shoulders.
Bottom Line The Pioneer is a no-nonsense suit, heavily built and well reinforced at all wear points. although the neck is cut a bit lower than most of the other suits, it formed one of the best seals, perhaps because the rolled-over smooth-skin allows some neck movement without breaking the seal. The Pioneer seems to be cut just slightly on the large side. oceanicworldwide.com, MSRP $399.95
Scubapro Everflex 7/5 MM
Features Multithickness hydrophobic neoprene panels; thermal-lined Diamond Span quick-draining torso; reinforced seat, shoulders and knees; diagonal rear zipper; clip for hood at hip; zippered key pocket; double smooth-skin seals at wrists and neck; smooth-skin seals with zips at ankles.
Bottom Line The slightly angled rear closure of this suit moves the zipper’s bulge away from your lower spine, eliminating what can be an irritation in some suits that create a pressure spot where the Bc rides on the zipper. another nice touch is the neck closure, which uses a double-sided smooth-skin ring against the front of the neck — the thicker surrounding panel is notched to provide a comfortable seal that doesn’t leak. scubapro.com, MSRP $411
Scubapro Hooded Everflex 7/5 MM
Features Shoulder-to-shoulder front zipper; plush lining in torso and upper arms; rolled smooth-skin ankle seals with zippers; abrasion-resistant padding at knees, elbows and seat; liquid-sealed exterior seams; soft lumbar spine pad; reinforced interior seam intersections.
Bottom Line The zippered key pocket on the left calf — with its key keeper and tiny drain hole — shows the detail Scubapro put into this suit, which has a long list of well-executed features. The shoulder-to-shoulder front zipper is well positioned to aid donning and doffing. The internal pullover bib and zipper flap keep water out, and the hood vents and rolled smooth-skin ankle seals with zips perform flawlessly. scubapro.com, MSRP $449
Seac Masterdry 7 MM
Features Shoulder-to-shoulder rear zipper; embossed spine and knee pads; rolled smooth- skin seals at wrist, ankles and neck; detached hood with zippered hip pocket and keeper clip; plush thermal lining; reinforced seat and shoulders.
Bottom Line With its trim anatomical cut, embossed chest, spine and knee pads, and stylish black-and-gray design with bright accents, the MasterDry has a sort of superhero look to it. While it’s snugly cut, the extremely stretchy material makes it a comfortable fit, and the long, waterproof Titex shoulder zipper makes it relatively easy to don. The detached hood seals well at the face and neck, and the hood vent drains air quickly, even when swimming in a facedown position. seacusa.com, MSRP $669
Seac Warm Flex 7 MM
Features Full thermal lining; double smooth-skin seals at wrists and ankles with zips; abrasion-resistant knees; embossed creases at elbows and knees; nonslip patches on shoulders and seat; double smooth-skin water barrier at zipper; smooth-skin neck seal with Velcro closure.
Bottom Line A very effective water barrier at the zipper, a plush thermal lining and top-notch double smooth-skin seals at wrists and ankles combine to keep water movement at a minimum in the Warm Flex. The neck seal also works well, and we like the short zipper at the front to relieve pressure above the surface. You’ll also appreciate the generous nonslip patches on the seat. seacusa.com, MSRP $400
Tilos Zenith 7/6/5 MM
Features Double smooth-skin seals with zips at wrists and ankles; varied thickness materials maximize insulation and flexibility; thermal lining in torso; heavily padded knees; skin-on- skin zipper seal; smooth-skin neck seal with Velcro closure and relief zipper at front; abrasion-resistant elbow panels; embossed nonslip pads on shoulders.
Bottom Line The Zenith tapers its neoprene thickness more aggressively than most other suits, with 5 mm in the arms and legs, 4 mm in the crotch, and 1 mm in the doubled smooth-skin wrist and ankle seals. We noticed two results: its insulation is somewhat less in the extremities, but it offers the best mobility of any suit we tested. We also like the thick, soft kneepads that are glued and stitched to it — one of the few suits we tested with kneepads that protect more than the suit. tilos.com, MSRP $399.99
Nothing makes you shiver faster than being cold underwater. Luckily for divers, manufacturers have perfected heavy-duty dive suits that keep you as warm as a cozy fire on a winter’s night. And despite their thickness, these cold water wetsuits employ high-stretch-neoprene fabrics, internal linings, and high-quality zippers that make them easy to get into. All you have to do is decide which style is best for you.
Looking for moreScubaLab testing? Check out more of our gear reviews:
SCUBALAB 2014: Dive Bag Review
SCUBALAB 2014: Regulator Review
SCUBALAB 2014: BC Review
SCUBALAB 2014: Dive Lights Review
SCUBALAB 2014: Wetsuit Review
SCUBALAB 2013: Fins Review
SCUBALAB 2013: Mask Review
SCUBALAB 2013: Regulator Review
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