Frequently Asked Questions, and Their Answers

Are thermal fleece (aka Polartec) skins really equivalent to a neoprene wet suit?

No. The thinnest neoprene wet suit will give you more thermal protection than a thermal fleece skin. You only need a bit of reason to cut through the ridiculous marketing claims made about thermal fleece skins.

Take a neoprene wet suit and hold a large enough area of it flat. Pour some water on it. It will just sit there as it cannot pass through the neoprene. Do the same with a thermal fleece skin and you will have water dripping through. What do you suppose is happening when you are diving and the ocean or other body of water is making contact with your thermal fleece skin? It is carrying heat away as it can make direct contact with your skin. A thermal fleece skin is much more like wearing a lycra skin over cotton sweat shirt and sweat pants than a wet suit. In fact, that would probably keep you warmer than a thermal fleece skin as there is a thicker layer of fleece in most sweatshirts than in most thermal fleece skins. It would probably be baggy and unsightly, though, so we don’t advise wearing a Lycra skin over sweats.

Do wet suits with titanium keep you warmer than other wet suits?

No. Some wet suit makers and vendors make outrageous claims such as titanium wet suits keeping you 40% warmer, reflecting your body heat back to you, even reflecting cold away from you. We could be tactful and refer to such claims as marketing propaganda, or call them what they are, lies. Not only has no proof ever been presented that even remotely supports any claims of titanium adding value, but some reliable and unbiased tests have proven conclusively that titanium does not work and does nothing to improve a wet suit.

That doesn’t stop the marketers from claiming otherwise, even if they have to rewrite the laws of physics to do so. Cold is the absence of heat and cannot be reflected away. Your body heat underwater is carried away by both conduction and convection and cannot be “reflected” back to you.We could have added titanium to the neoprene we order. It is available and we do not publicize it. Manufacturers know only too well that is has no value at increasing thermal retention.

What about wet suits with skin in, like Henderson’s Gold Core wet suits, do they help keep the wearer warmer?

Unlike the claims made regarding the first two issues, these suits actually can do what they claim and there’s nothing gimmicky about them. There are two important conditions, though, fit, the same as with any wet suit, and wearing as little as possible under them.

These suits are a variation of the old skin in suits once common among divers. They work by sealing against the diver’s skin, thus minimizing the amount of water that enters and flows through a suit. Often that seal was so great that those skin in suits were difficult to get on and off. Divers would often use talcum powder to make it easier to slide into the suits when they were dry. Many divers did not like the inconvenience of struggling to get out of their suits (tougher than getting into them), and nylon lined wet suits soon became the overwhelming favorite of divers.

This new generation of skin in suits reduces that problem with a slick interior that slides against the skin much easier. Getting out of them is reported to still be a bit more difficult than getting into them, although both are easier than the old skin in suits.

There are two important factors that have a direct bearing on the effectiveness of these slick skin in suits. One is fit, the same as with any wet suit. An inadequately fitting slick interior suit will hardly be any better than any other wet suit since it will allow too much water in. Obviously, a custom skin in suit would yield the best results.

The other is what is worn underneath. Wearing a Lycra skin will eliminate the effectiveness of these suits as the slick interior is prevented from sealing against the wearer’s skin. Divers should wear minimal swim suits underneath them for the same reason. Even too much body hair can prevent a good seal.

There is a tradeoff with these suits, however, durability. The unprotected interior requires more delicate handling and care. One snag or tear and water can start seeping into the neoprene, causing de-lamination, followed shortly by the need for a new wet suit.

A lot of divers are a bit rough on their wet suits (and not just our commercial diver customers) and we’ve decided to stay away from offering slick interiors. They can mean a fast end to an otherwise serviceable wet suit. A custom fit wet suit with a seal set can approximate the greater thermal retention capabilities of these suits without sacrificing durability. If anything should happen to them, the seals alone can be replaced without having to replace the entire suit.

Other wet suit companies claim to use the best materials and premium neoprene. Are they lying?

You’ll have to decide for yourself. A lot of lies get passed off as marketing propaganda. They are leaving something out, though. What they really mean (we think) is that they use the best materials and premium neoprene that their particular neoprene manufacturer can make. In that context, they may be correct.. However, compared to Wetwear NCN (nitrogen composed neoprene), their best just isn’t good enough. That’s just one of the reasons no wet suit manufacturer mentions the brand of neoprene they use if it isn’t Wetwear NCN.