Spanish Italian

In the Northern emisphere, and in the Mediterranean in particular, Winter has shown its peak and only the brave dive in the sea, with water still around 12°C. In other northern countries water is even colder this time of year. We have tested the best spearfishing wetsuits on the market for use in cold water, where thermal insulation is fundamental. Wetsuits are the same ones we had presented some time ago in the “Winter wetsuits dossier“.

When we talk of cold water in the Mediterranean sea, we consider temperature going down to 9-10°C. In some countries water can be even colder, still our test in the water will give indication of the best choice wetsuit for any temperature cold water.

The test in the water has seen us using the wetsuits received from manufacturers (who have been able to choose freely model and thickness they believed the best choice for such termperature) in a 12°C water, which is surely a good enough test. Of course our friends from the northern European countries will surely dive in colder waters, but again, the efficiency of thermal insulation of wetsuits will work independently.

All wetsuits tested are of good overall quality and our comments and reviews will of course compare the level of all the 8 products tested. Price has not been taken into consideration and it is up to you to evaluate such point (prices can be easily found on the web). Aim, well summarized in the chart at the end of the article (but do read all the text as many clarifications are inside the article), is to give you indications on 4 very important aspects that characterize Winter wetsuits: 1 and 2, thermal insulation inside and outside of the water, the latter considering possible transfers in the sea with the dinghy, 3, softness & comfort, 4, resistance.

There is no absolute winner from this comparison test, even though some Winter wetsuits will finally receive better overall marks than others. The evaluations you will read will though have the aim to help you choose the wetsuit which is more adequate for your needs: shallow water spearfishing among the rocks, or deeper one with the waiting technique, transfers with the dinghy or dives from the shore, very frequent use or just occasional, possibility and capacity to do frequent maintenance to the wetsuit, or necessity of a very tough long lasting solution that needs only occasional maintenance, need for a very comfortable wetsuit or a tougher and more resistant one. 

Wetsuits tested have been: Beuchat Espandon Prestige, Cressi Tracina, Mares Squadra, Pathos Thira Camu, Picasso Thermal Skin, Salvimar Nebula, Seac Kama and Sporasub J55.

 

Beuchat Espadon Prestige (7 mm jacket, 7 mm pants)

Beuchat Espadon Prestige

Thermal insulation in the water

Finishings are neat, with folded smooth neoprene on wrists and ankles, helping thermal insulation. The latter is very good, and softness of the neoprene gives the possibility to use greater thicknesses of neoprene without feeling uncomfotable in the movements and breathing.

The Braca Concept, which somehow has the same aim of the pisette, is useful only outside of the water, and so helpful when moving with frequent stops on a dinghy, and permits one to pee just before entering the water, with no need to take off the braces present on the trousers; so surely a good solution. Still, the system cannot be efficiently used in the water, differenty from the pisette, as cold water would enter in the pants. Sealing of the Braca Concept once closed is perfect if layers of neoprene are carefully placed in the correct position.

Thermal insulation outside of the water

The external lined neoprene in the fantastic super elastic Elaskin X8.8 lacks good protection when moving with the dinghy, as the outer lining does not dry quickly, and even less the Supratex 2 protections, that soak with water. In this situation the Braca Concept can be useful.

Softness & comfort

This is amazingly by far the softest wetsuit of the test among the externally lined wetsuits, and as soft as many of the smooth external and open cell internal neoprene wetsuits. This is thanks to the outstanding performance of the Elaskin X8.8 neoprene by Beuchat. Wow!

Resistance & Durability

The extreme softness has a small downside as, despite the external lining, the internal neoprene is slightly delicate and some cuts have been made during dressing and undressing. Still, this only requires some additional care, especially with nails, but protection from external elements such as rocks is insured.

Conclusions

Overall a very good quality wetsuit, that is surely an excellent choice for Winter, thanks to its amazing comfort, the best among lined wetsuits. Only limit is in transfers, when the wetsuit is wet and all the external lining and the pads in Supratex 2 are soaked with water. A waterproof windstopper jacket to wear on top is advisable.

 

Cressi Tracina (7 mm jacket, 7 mm pants)

Cressi Tracina

Thermal insulation in the water

Great cut, good structure of the neoprene and Smoothskin on wrists, anckles and cap profile make the Cressi Tracina a very good wetsuit on the thermal insulation side in the water. Cap profile, anckles and wrists are finished with Smoothskin, an internally smooth externally lined neoprene that determines better seal of the areas, thanks to smooth surface in conttact with the skin and higher rigidity, compared to open cell interior neoprene. The Aqua Stop system can be an additional help to increase warmth.

Thermal insulation outside of the water

Due to the external lining and the wide knees and elbows protections, the Cressi Tracina is not particularly adequate for transfers with the dinghy, even though a small advantage comes from the sternal protection in Melco Tape, which, differently to all the rest of the external lining, does not soak and dries quickly.

Softness & comfort

Very soft neoprene, the Sheico externally lined with Ultraspan and Nylon gives great comfort, thanks to the good cut of the Tracina. Still, neoprene keeps a good level of structure, meaning it does not elongate too much, and so maintains godo adherence to the body.

Resistance 

Neoprene is sufficiently soft but, as said, has a good structure and does not actually tear easily in the internal open cell surface, while externally strong lining and large Supratex protections on elbows and knees make the Tracina extremely resistant to tear and wear. Powertex on wrists, ankles and cap profile is surely tougher than simple cut edges with internal open cell surface.

Conclusions

The Cressi Tracina, which has an updated design compared to previous Cressi wetsuits, has its strengths in the resistance to cuts and wear, thanks also to large protections in Powertex, and in thermal insulation, due to the good structure of the neoprene and the Smoothskin solution. Tracina does not dry quickly, and so here, as for other externally lined wetsuits, we suggest, in case of long trasfers outside of the water, a waterproof windstopper jacket to wear on top.

 

Mares Squadra (7 mm jacket, 5.5 mm pants)

Mares Squadra

Thermal insulation in the water

Thermal insulation in the water is much linked to structure of the neoprene, squeeze reduction and finishings of parts like cap, wrists and anckles. Much is also determined by general design/cut of the wetsuit and closing of the jacket around the legs, which is actually the wider passage of external water in the wetsuit. The Mares Squadra has a very good cut and design, but looses something due to the absence of smooth folded neoprene seals around wrists, anckles and cap profile. Mares avoids the smooth solution as the company indicates this is weaker and cannot last long enough when wetsuit is used intensily, especially considering minimum two years of warrenty. Usually such solution, in addition to the sealing effect of the smooth neoprene, is designed to have a stiffer border that closes water passages. So finally, this aspect partially reduces thermal insulation. We must consider, though, that Mares has decided to send a 7 mm jacket, but 5.5 mm pants, to permit reduced weight on belt compared to 7 + 7 mm solution.

Thermal insulation outside of the water

As externally lined wetsuit, the Mares Squadra has the same limit of all wetsuits with such kind of neoprene. Still, some advantage comes from the wide sternal protection, and partially knee protections, in polyurethane, which dry up quickly and protect from the wind.

Softness & comfort

Mares Squadra has quite a soft neoprene with externally lined Nylon cover. Such neoprene is though not too soft, so it avoids excessive squeezing (even though in Winter/cold water generally diving depths are not too high) and loss of thermal insulation due to the wetsuit becoming too loose on the spearo’s body. Extremely easy to wear thanks to the simplicity of the design and with profile of cap, anckles and wrists edges designed with folded externally lined neoprene.

Resistance

External lining well protects the wetsuit from external shocks, and wide polyurethane protections on chest and knees are a good additional strengthening of the wetsuit, while absence of such solution on the elbows could determine some additional risk of cutting the neoprene when spearfishing in shallow water between the rocks. Externally one piece lined forded neoprene on cap profile, wrists and anckles is the strongest solution possible, also considering superior resistance to sun rays compared to externally smooth folded neoprene.

Conclusions

Very easy to wear and confortable, Mares Squadra has a simple design that guarantees excellent resistance in time, which is always at the base of Mares products. Lack of some sealing details slightly reduces thermal insulation.

 

Pathos Thira Camu 7 mm

Pathos Thira Camu

Thermal insulation in the water

Good structure of the neoprene, helped by the neoprenic cover of the stitchings and the externally smooth internally lined folded neoprene on wrists, anckles and cap profile make the Thira Camu extremely warm in the water. Water Stop System can give an additional help to seal from external water and improve thermal insulation.

Thermal insulation outside of the water

Large protections of knees and elbows in thick Supratex Nylon, and sternal protection also in Nylon determine the Thira Camu to be easily soaked with water and hard to dry quickly. For this reason the Thira Camu is not adapt to trasfers outside of the water with the dinghy. A waterproof windstopper jacket is advised in such situation.

Softness & comfort

Pathos Thira Camu is not only an externally lined wetsuit, with soft Sheico neoprene and Ultrastretch Impermeaflex lining, it also has the special neoprene cover all along stitichings, which actually gives more structure to the wetsuit. This effect is not much perceivable compared to other externally lined wetsuits, and once warn the wetsuit is extremely confortable. Cap profile, wrists and anckles are well refined with folded externally smooth and internally lined neoprene, which is of course more rigid then solutions without such edge.

Resistance

The Pathos Thira Camu is benchmark for resistance upon wetsuits tested. External lining with large sternal, knees and elbows protections made of Supratex Nylon protect extremely well from shocks with external elements such as rocks, even if these have sharp edges, and so helps a lot in shallow water Winter spearfishing, where the spearo has to make his way between the rocks, sometimes even using his elbows and knees to move or keep the position, especially with rough sea. In addition, the neoprenic cover of all stitchings makes them long lasting in time, due to the protection from sea water and sunlight.

Conclusions

Of good comfort, but not above avarage, the Pathos Thira Camu has its strength in resistance to wear and sunlight, and thermal insulation in the water.

 

Picasso Thermal Skin 7 mm

Picasso Thermal Skin

Thermal insulation in the water

Picasso Thermal Skin is the first open cell inside and smooth outside wetsuit of the lot. The great cut and good structure of the neoprene, with reduced sqeezing effect, of the Picasso Thermal Skin, together with folded smooth neoprene on wrists, ankles and cap profile (smooth side of neoprene is slightly more water tight than open cell side) makes the Portuguese wetsuit extremely warm, even in deep dives.

Thermal insulation outside of the water

The smooth neoprene dries immediately and absence of lining on the chest and the elbows, with small patches only on the knees and around the waist (pretty high though), make the Picasso Thermal Skin excellent out of the water when transferring with the dinghy.

Softness & comfort

Evidently the smooth neoprene has better elastic properties than externally lined solutions, and so gives better comfort to the spearo. Still, Picasso has chosen for its wetsuit a neoprene which is not extremely soft, so that it keeps a good structure, does not squeeze excessively and does not loosen too much letting water in.

Resistance

The choice of a dense neoprene also permits to have a smooth wetsuit that is quite resistant to tear and even shocks on the rocks. Evidently, having small protections (in anti-cut Supratex) only on the knees, and none on the elbows and stern (there is an internal neoprene patch to protect the sternum) makes the Thermal Skin unprotected from sharp edges of the rocks. Bondings are so good they seem to be extremely reliable, with practically zero defects.

Conclusions

Specifically made for high level spearfishing, the smooth neoprene seems to be the perfect choice as for density and resistance, especially for thick Winter wetsuits. Still, the absence of Nylon patches on elbows and chest can lead to cuts, more than tears, that will need periodical maintenance.

 

Salvimar Nebula Skin 7 – 5.5 mm

Salvimar Nebula Skin

Thermal insulation in the water

The TRD-Skin (Tear Resistant Dry Skin) neoprene has a never before tested thermal insulation capacity. The experience in the water is amazing, with the capacity of the Salvimar Nebula Skin to protect the spearo from cold water in a net superior way compared to best wetsuits tested. Most probably the polyurethane layer impregnating the external lining improves total thermal effects, keeping the lining dry even underwater. As we have also had the opportunity to test the 5.5 mm jacket of the Nebula, we can definitely assert that the thermal insulation capacity of the revolutionary product from Salvimar gives the opportunity to reduce thickness of the wetsuit by up to 1 mm compared to average performing wetsuits on the market. This of course, in Winter period, helps to reduce weight load with a very positive effect on comfort.

Thermal insulation outside of the water

The effect we find in the water is indeed confirmed outside, as the polyutherane layer that impregnates the lining makes the Nebula Skin totally water resistant, so it can quickly dry up, and the thermal insulation we find underwater is also perceivable outside, moving around with the dinghy. But here the effect goes even beyond smooth solutions like Picasso Thermal Skin and, even more, Sporasub J55. In fact, if the first one has a high externally lined waist, but also externally lined inseams, the second in addition has lined protections on elbows and knees and, even more important, the long sternal protection; all elements that will soak with water and need time to dry up. The Nebula Skin, instead, is practically 100% water resistant TRD-Skin, and will dry up quicker than any other solution.

Softness & comfort

On the softness side the Nebula cannot really compete with the smooth neoprene solutions, and, in fact, is less elastic than the best externally lined neoprenes. This is true event though Salvimar has wanted to use the high quality Yamamoto 39 neoprene to improve such aspect. The external lining plus the polyurethane layer with which the lining is impregnated, though, determines this slight loss of elasticity. It will be so important to choose the perfect size, especially for the jacket.

Resistance

Excellent overall resistance of the Salvimar Nebula Skin, with the polyurethane layer that gives additional protection to the external lining. Still, in some specific areas such layer can wear out with time, like between the legs, but we have noticed such process takes very long. The PuffGum cover made of small elements on elbows and knees is also present on the bottom, and thid represents an additional protection. Still, we have noticed some of the elements coming off partially with time.

Conclusions

Amazing and unbeatable thermal insulation in and out of water. Not very elastic, it anyway gives the opportunity to use thinner neoprene, recovering on the comfort side, also due to possible weight load reduction.

 

Seac Kama 7 – 5 mm

Seac Kama

Thermal insulation in the water

The neoprene is quite dense so it does not squeeze and, also, has good structure. The wrists, anckles and cap profile are neatly refined with smooth folded neoprene that makes such edges tougher for better seal. Strangely enough, the Seac Kama has not resulted to be as warm as expected. Reasons can be the cut which does not adapt well to the body of the spearo, or the type of neoprene that internally does not adhere too well to the skin (this was the sensation during dives). Still, we must consider that Seac has sent a 7 mm jacket with 5 mm pants solution, and this of course makes some difference.

Thermal insulation outside of the water

Being an externally lined wetsuit, it tends to dry very slowly and so, as other lined wetsuits, is not ideal for transfers on the dinghy in cold periods. Still, the fact that protections on knees, elbows and chest are in PU Print polyurethane, even if pattern is in small rhombuses, partially protects from wind and avoids having thick Nylon covers that soack with water.

Softness & comfort

On this point something in the choice of the neoprene type made by Seac did not go as it should have. A neoprene which is a little too tough and the Polyester lining, even if called Superstretch, finally in the test in the water has shown just sufficient comfort and elasticity. Of course, the fact that the neoprene feels pretty tough can indicate a longer life as the material squeezes less and so, as we have noticed (and we have used the Kama quite a few times), does not lose its initial thickness with time, giving the wetsuit a longer life. In addition, stitchings behind the knees can be felt and reduce comfort.

Resistance

Indeed, the Seac Kama has in the resistance its strength, with tough neoprene and external lining, plus large PU Print polyurethane covers on chest, elbows and knees, which are perfect for shallow water spearfishing among rocks.

Conclusions

Probably not the best choice comfort-wise in case of a 7 mm version for Winter/cold period, as the tough neoprene has indeed more limits when thickness is higher than 5 mm. Also, thermal insulation is below average. Still, for those who want a long lasting product, and can accept the two previous downsides, the Seac Kama is probably one of the toughest wetsuits on the market.

 

Sporasub J55 8/5 mm

Sporasub J55

Thermal insulation in the water

With very good design and cut, the Sporasub J55, this year substituted by the J60, well adapts to the body also due to the very elastic neoprene. The 8 mm jacket is a perfect match with the 5 mm pants (always prefer thicker jacket and thinner pants to insure thermal insulation still reducing weights on belt). All edges of cap profile, wrists and ankles are with forder smooth neoprene which additionally improves sealing (smooth side of neoprene is slightly more water tight than open cell side). Cap profile closes on the face in an extreme but useful and necessary way, to protect the spearo from the freezing Winter water. Neoprene squuezes a little too much in deep dives. The result is anyway a very warm wetsuit, an excellent solution for cold water dives, if not too deep.

Thermal insulation outside of the water

The smooth neoprene is excellent outside of the water. Such effect is slightly reduced by the long sternal protection made of Ultrastretch Nylon and the patches on knees and elbows that evidently need more time to dry up.

Softness & comfort

It is absolutely the number one wetsuit in terms of comfort. Wearing the Sporasub J55 is, even with the 8 mm jacket, almost like wearing a pijamas. The softness and elasticity of the neoprene used by Sporasub is absolutely amazing.

Resistance

Resistance is the weak point of the J55. If on one side this was expectable due to the use of such a soft and elastic neoprene, on the other side it is quite unexceptable that some other aspects influence the total strength of the wetsuit. First of all, the bondings are not of sufficient quality, meaning they show, even when new, some areas of evident weakness. It is possible to find various segments where the two or three parts of the neoprene sheets are not perfectly glued together. It is as if the wetsuit would need a second passage of glueing, just like some artisans do. Not only. The design of the sternal protection, intelligently made of a elongated shape down almost to the waist to give the possibility to load also long spearguns, is too rigid and creates a discontinuity with the smooth neoprene, determining a very weak and stressed area all along the border line of the Nylon patch, and especially in the lower part. It is not by chance that in the new J60 the Nylon area goes down to the lined neoprene (of the waist of the jacket) connecting to it. A useful update.

Unprecise and “unfinished” bondings on Sporasub J55

Conclusions

A very good wetsuit for what concerns performance in Winter period, both for amazing comfort and excellent thermal insulation. Resistance, linked both to design and quality, is not sufficient. Still, with a very careful use and constant maintenance of the bondings, one could have a very performing wetsuit.

 

Marks chart Winter wetsuit