Winter wetsuit and drysuit test

Wetsuit and drysuit tests Kiteworld Issue #78 2016
This review first appeared in Kiteworld issue #78, released in November 2015. Get all the reviews first by subscribing to the mag!

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HIBERNATION IS FOR BEARS – A KITEWORLD WINTER WETSUIT AND DRYSUIT TEST

Jack Frost and Old Man Winter are knocking at the door in the north. However, a drop in temperature doesn’t mean you need to confine yourself to land for the next few months. Some of the year’s best conditions are on the horizon and a quality winter suit makes all the difference to how motivated you’ll be to hit them. Actually, there’s no such thing as bad conditions, just bad equipment choices, which is why we’ve enlisted Matt Pearce, our resident dweller of the UK’s frigid north, to put a selection of cold water suits to the test – so that you (and the rest of us here at KW) don’t have to!

 

Wetsuit and drysuit tests Kiteworld Issue #78 2016

 

“Hi guys, as someone who rides through most of the year in Northumberland, northeast UK, where water temperatures drop to around 6.2 degrees centigrade and never reach far above 15, I’ve long been focused on searching out quality winter neoprene – so it was a pleasure to put this collection of winter suits to the test. I put a lot of importance on how a suit performs in the grimmest of conditions. I tested the suits in October when water temperatures in Northumberland average 11 degrees (without windchill) and yes, it wasn’t quite winter, but it was colder than most other places in the UK at that time of year due to how far the coastline is from the Gulf Stream. I tested them kiting, SUPing, and body surfing in some pretty savage conditions and I was keen to see how warm I stayed, how comfortable the suits were, how hard they were to get in and out of, how much water got in around the seams and, if I’m honest, how cool I looked on the beach as well.”

 

 

MATT’S DIMENSIONS

Height: 6’2″ / 189cm
Weight: 95kg
Waist: 34″
Inseam: 35″
Chest: 42″ (ish)

*Please visit the manufacturer’s website for the full range of colour and spec options

 

MANERA – MAGMA 5/4/3

Size tested: Large

Manera are relatively new kids on the block when it comes to wetsuits and their new range, designed using body scans and 3D engineering technology, is a very impressive entry into the neoprene game. The Magma is their top-of-the-line suit that’s absolutely packed with features to make it a contender of note.

 

Manera Meteor Magma review Wetsuit and drysuit tests Kiteworld Issue #78 2016

 

LOOKS AND FEATURES

The Magma looks smart and understated but features the quality details you’d expect in a high-end suit. The Tripl3x neoprene is apparently exclusive to Manera and, according to them, the Magma fleece lining is the warmest on the market. The zips and zippers are robust and any rider will appreciate the Velcro ankle straps while the taped seams and ‘Water Strainer’ system ensures you don’t end up wallowing with your suit legs full of water.

 

COMFORT AND FIT

This is literally one of the most comfortable suits I’ve ever worn. Easy to get in and out of, it felt great, body movements were smooth and I didn’t feel constrained at all while kiting. It did flush a little when I crashed at full speed and then took a few waves on the head, but it didn’t when I duck dived and in general it felt really well fitted to my body.

 

WARMTH

The Magma lining is incredible. It’s very comfortable on the skin and even when I sluiced some water down the neck, it still kept me warm during a full five hour session on and off the water.

 

LIKES

Stylish look, outstanding fit, comfort and maneuverability.

 

WOULD CHANGE

Would be good to have a hood option (even a removable one) so you may need to add an integrated vest-hood item for the depths of winter and the suit may benefit from double taped seams for when the mercury really plummets.

 

SEASONS

Very early spring through to early winter months.

More information at www.manera.com

 

MYSTIC –  LEGEND 6/4/3 FRONT ZIP

Size tested: Large

Long established and based in The Netherlands, it’s safe to say that the guys at Mystic have endured their fair share of cold, wintry sessions in the North Sea. Their experience has brought fruition in the form of the Legend, a suit they claim to be ‘their warmest ever’.

 

Mystic Legend wetsuit review Wetsuit and drysuit tests Kiteworld Issue #78 2016

 

LOOKS AND FEATURES

A stylish suit, the Legend isn’t as ‘loud’ as some of Mystic’s other offerings. The 100% M-Flex neoprene is stretchy, durable and the varied colour shades on paneled sections look great. Mystic’s F-Zip construction features around the entry point while the Aqua Flush mesh around the lower legs along with the ankle straps keep most of the water out and also lets out any water that makes its way in. The Quickdry lining is really warm and the suit was bone dry again the next morning after a full afternoon of use.

 

COMFORT AND FIT

The suit felt great once I got it on but was a little bit of a struggle at first. I’m a large fit and this felt a little bit tight around my shoulders and neck. The lining is really comfortable on the skin though and my range of movement wasn’t inhibited when I was kiting or swimming. Another huge plus is that it never flushed, even after some spectacular wipeouts.

 

WARMTH

It was actually quite sunny and as this suit is seriously warm I was practically overheating. I’d have zero qualms about spending a few hours in this suit even on a much colder day and the lining is really impressive.

 

LIKES

Outstanding warmth, sharp looks and quick drying.

 

WOULD CHANGE

A hooded version would make this a real contender for serious all day cold water exploration.

 

SEASONS

Add a hooded vest and you could squeeze 12 months out of this up here.

More information at www.mysticboarding.com

 

PROLIMIT – PREDATOR 6/4 BACK ZIP STEAMER

Size tested: Large

Another Dutch company, ProLimit have an extensive range and their focus has long been on a range of windsports, so they know a thing or two about making stylish suits that’ll do the business in colder seas in strong winds. The Predator 6/4 is no exception.

 

ProLimit Predator wetsuit review Wetsuit and drysuit tests Kiteworld Issue #78 2016

 

LOOKS AND FEATURES

The suit looks great in dark blue – it’s really eye catching without looking too garish. ProLimit have used Airflex 550 in the production of this suit which is their best neoprene and lined it with a water repellent coating that works well in conjunction with the wind deflecting panels on the chest and back – especially on the colder days. The Predator also features shin pads which are a great idea and something I’ve never experienced in a suit before. Every knock hurts more in the cold, right? Other welcome additions include a key pocket and drain holes.

 

COMFORT AND FIT

This is an easy suit to get in and out of and doesn’t feel at all restrictive when zipped up. I took it body surfing to put it through its paces and, although I had great freedom of movement, it did flush a little more than some when I was duck diving or took the odd wave on the head. A fit is a very personal thing depending on body type, but for me personally there were a couple of baggy areas.

 

WARMTH

The Zodiac lining feels really cosy, but I tried this on probably the coldest day of the whole test and, although it’s plenty warm enough, for a 6/4 I expected a little added extra toastiness and I could feel some cool water at the seams at times.

 

LIKES

Great looking, very useful shin pads and water-repellant neoprene.

 

WOULD CHANGE

Tighter neck on this size, double taping on the seams and a tweak to my fit.

 

SEASONS

Early spring to winter.

More information at www.prolimit.com

 

PROLIMIT MERCURY 5/4 STEAMER (FRONT ZIP)

Size tested: Large

Another top-end ProLimit suit, the Mercury is packed with many of the same features as the Predator and is an awesome looking suit that’s loaded with some really innovative designs.

 

ProLimit Mercury wetsuit review Wetsuit and drysuit tests Kiteworld Issue #78 2016

 

LOOKS AND FEATURES

For me, this was one of the coolest looking suits on test – I really liked the colour and denim-like finish on the neoprene. The FTM (fluid taped) seams look great and the Mercury is fitted with the same Zodiac lining and Airflex 550 neoprene as other high-end Prolimit suits.

 

COMFORT AND FIT

Getting yourself into the Mercury is easy with the FreeZip entry system. The Airflex neoprene does a great job again here and there are no restrictions to your freedom of movement. There’s less flushing than the Predator but a bit of water came down the neck when duck diving waves. I do think these suits are really designed to be robust for windsports rather than surfing movements and again for me this suit was a little loose around my lower back and waist. Again, this could be down to my body shape, but for movement, protection, ease of entry and when locked in and riding it all felt great – which are big pluses for many people and those of different shapes.

 

WARMTH

As a 5/4 this suit is good for most seasons except the absolute depths of winter. As I had a gap in my back, the more active I was the warmer I was, but the water repellent coating on the suit did a good job of keeping the wind chill at bay.

 

LIKES

Great looks, easy entry and optional ankle straps.

 

WOULD CHANGE

A little more neoprene around the neck entry and zip, but then that would probably hamper the good ease of entry.

 

SEASONS

Early spring to winter.

More information at www.prolimit.com

 

PATAGONIA R4 HOODED FRONT ZIP WETSUIT

Size tested: Large

When it comes to making equipment designed for the most rigorous conditions on the planet, Patagonia are fully focused. The R4 is their warmest wetsuit designed for use in frigid conditions, tested in the coldest wind and waves and produced using top end and – where possible – recycled materials.

 

Patagonia R4 wetsuit review Wetsuit and drysuit tests Kiteworld Issue #78 2016

 

LOOKS AND FEATURES

Everything about the R4 tells you it’s a quality suit. Sleek but extremely understated, the design is all about performance. The build features 5.5mm neoprene in the body and 4.5mm on the arms and legs –  which is 66% recycled. Inside there’s a chlorine free merinho wool lining and triple-glued seams that are internally taped and externally glued.

 

COMFORT AND FIT

Getting the suit on for the first time takes a while due to how dense the lining is, but that’s part of what makes it so warm. Once zipped up the R4 is really comfortable and very easy to move around in thanks to the inclusion of spandex in the neoprene to add warmth without increasing stiffness. Easier to get out of, the suit fit me perfectly. I wore this suit in decent sized waves and it didn’t flush at all.

 

WARMTH

Although relatively thin, this was a very warm wetsuit indeed. The lining feels fantastic and the triple-glued and taped seams lock water out. I was out until after dark one night and I’m sure I could spend hours in this suit without feeling the chill.

 

LIKES

Extensive use of recycled materials, durability, maximum warmth and great fit.

 

WOULD CHANGE

There’s a key attachment but not a pocket and some people might feel a little nervous having a car key pressed against their skin and so close to their chest. Some optional ankle straps would be handy, too.

 

SEASONS

All year round.

More information at www.patagonia.com

 

DRYSUITS

OCEAN RODEO – SOUL ONE PIECE DRYSUIT

Size tested: X-Large

Ocean Rodeo were the first brand to make a drysuit specifically for kiteboarding and this was the suit that started it all. The Soul is the firm favourite of legions of serious cold water kitesurfers thanks to its rugged construction and several innovative features.

 

Ocean Rodeo Soul drysuit wetsuit review Wetsuit and drysuit tests Kiteworld Issue #78 2016

 

LOOKS AND FEATURES

The Soul looks good and far removed from the bulkier, diving type drysuits that traditionally were the mainstay for dry warmth. Walking down to the beach people thought I was wearing waterproof trousers and a jacket and were then very perturbed when I jumped in the sea! The suit is made out of Ventor breathable waterproof material and can be worn in a fully dry or ‘stand-by’ mode so you don’t overheat in between sessions. The seals can be trimmed to fit your body and it’s got an insulated (but removable) hood which keeps the windchill off your head.

 

COMFORT AND FIT

You basically just step into the Soul, although you need to take care with the seals. It’s easy to zip up and freedom of movement is incredible as you feel like you’re not even wearing a suit at all. I didn’t get any flushing whatsoever and was bone dry throughout.

 

WARMTH

I was warm because I was dry, but drysuits aren’t insulated so you need to wear something warm underneath. I had a thermal long sleeved top and fleece trousers on which kept me toasty. In the depths of winter you can buy more serious linings.

 

LIKES

Confusing people at the beach as I plunged into the water in what looked like normal clothing. Also, high quality construction and materials, freedom of movement, warming hand pockets and pee zipper!

 

WOULD CHANGE

A harness hook hole under the outer jacket would be a nice addition.

 

SEASONS

All seasons without compromise. Wear less serious underlayers and you could still have all the range of movement in summer.

More information at www.oceanrodeo.com

 

OCEAN RODEO – HEAT DRYSUIT

Size tested: X-Large

The Heat is Ocean Rodeo’s more entry-level drysuit and, although it doesn’t come with some of the extra perks found on the Soul, there’s still lots to offer the rider looking for a solid drysuit that’ll stand up to winter’s test.

 

Ocean Rodeo Heat drysuit wetsuit review Wetsuit and drysuit tests Kiteworld Issue #78 2016

 

LOOKS AND FEATURES

The Heat has many of the same features as the Soul and similar styling but there’s no removable hood, wader belt or pee zipper, but the construction is still top notch with the same quality materials used throughout.

 

COMFORT AND FIT

Quick and easy to get on and off (although you need to take care with the seals), range of movement is just as good as the Soul. The seals do a great job of keeping the water out and the fit is great, if a little less snug due to the absence of a wader belt or adjustable Velcro cuffs which are also found on the Soul.

 

WARMTH

Again, there’s no insulation in the suit itself, so you need to wear warm clothes underneath, but it keeps the water out which is the key thing and Ocean Rodeo make a thermal base layer bodysuit that you can wear underneath which will be the perfect addition to any drysuit.

 

LIKES

Understated looks, high-quality construction and materials and affordable performance.

 

WOULD CHANGE

A harness hook would make a lot of difference.

 

SEASONS

Again, all seasons – the Heat is a quality suit that does what it has to, but without a few extras of the Soul.

More information at www.oceanrodeo.com

 

PATAGONIA – KITE SUIT

Size tested: Large

Like their performance wetsuits, Patagonia’s drysuit is all about quality construction and design to help aid high-performance.

 

Patagonia Dry Kite Suit drysuit wetsuit review Wetsuit and drysuit tests Kiteworld Issue #78 2016

 

LOOKS AND FEATURES

Combining Patagonia’s mountain and wetsuit expertise, the Kite Suit is made out of full Goretex with neoprene gaskets to keep you totally dry and to repel moisture. It looks great and reminded me of an all-in-one ski suit with a removable hood and well thought out design quirks, such as drain holes in the pockets and a fitted waist.

 

COMFORT AND FIT

Some drysuits can feel really baggy but Patagonia’s suit is a little more form fitting without hindering freedom of movement. The neoprene head, ankle and wrist gaskets are excellent with no water leakage at all during a long kite session.

 

WARMTH

I felt the chill in this suit when I wasn’t wearing any insulating layers underneath, but that’s to be expected in any drysuit and the important thing is that it kept the water out and the wind chill off. Patagonia produce an impressive range of thermal under-layers that are worth checking out.

 

LIKES

Stealthy, no nonsense styling, excellent performance with very effective seals and gaskets.

 

WOULD CHANGE

I found the zipper a little tricky to reach but not everyone will have this problem.

 

SEASONS

All seasons, no compromise.

More information at www.patagonia.com

 

It’s a common misconception that bears hibernate. They are more like ‘light hibernators’ – sometimes they go into a torpor where they can be easily awoken. A bit like kitesurfers before they buy the right wetsuit. Hamsters on the other hand definitely hibernate. Who wants to be a hamster? Think on…

 

This review first appeared in Kiteworld issue #78, released in November 2015. Get all the reviews first by subscribing to the mag!

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