I USUALLY PREFER MEMBRANE DRYSUITS TO NEOPRENE ONES. That's because I expect the primary function of a drysuit to be to keep me dry, which normally means long conical wrist-seals and a neck-seal made from soft and pliable latex rubber to keep the water out. Neoprene drysuits tend to be damp suits for me. A trickle of water always seems to gets in. Of course, a compressed neoprene drysuit that fits you well can be almost as sleek as a wetsuit in the water, which can be important if you need to cover a lot of ground. The first thing I noticed about the Typhoon Seamaster was that although it is constructed from compressed titanium-lined neoprene (5mm), it has a latex neck-seal. I therefore expected only to suffer wet arms, but I was pleased to discover that the neoprene wrist-seals have a slippery-smooth inner surface which made a good seal against my skin and more or less kept all the water out. I say 'more or less', because I am the worst person to test a drysuit. I not only have sinewy wrists but I always tend to be busy taking photographs. Gripping something tightly and raising my arms above my head is a test of any suit's ability to keep the air in and water out. However, the suit worked better than I had expected in this respect and it was also a tolerable fit, which is surprising when you realise that Typhoon imports these suits in a number of stock sizes and that, being tall, I am not easy to suit off the peg. The Seamaster is available with either a constant-volume automatic dump valve or a simple cuff-dump. My test suit came with a cuff-dump, so every time I raised my arms to take a picture I dumped air from the suit. However, a cuff-dump does save a few pounds. The inflation valve is the revolving Apeks type that has become an industry standard. Getting the photograph of me wearing the suit at the surface was done during a brief respite from some heavy rainstorms. These didn't affect the diving, only my ability to persuade someone to get soaked taking my photograph. I was driving past Wraysbury Lake with Mrs B when we decided to grab the moment. Why is this relevant? Because I was wearing my normal clothes, and the Seamaster proved very easy to slip on over them. I was even wearing a pair of thin nylon socks, but the neoprene-lined boots proved exceptionally comfortable over them alone. I was into the suit, the picture snapped, and out of it again quicker than you could say: 'I don't believe it's stopped raining! Oh no, here it comes again!' The guys at Wraysbury are still wondering about my flying stopover. In many other ways the Seamaster is less than surprising. It is a very conventional design with a cross-shoulder zip. It seemed well-enough constructed, and neoprene suits like this are inherently tough. Neoprene has an insulating effect of its own, so less is needed in the way of an undergarment. You could use this in the northern Red Sea in the coldest period of February and March without anything else on except perhaps a T-shirt and shorts. The UK demands the use of an undersuit, and like all neoprene that used in the Seamaster gets compressed as you go deeper, losing some of its inherent buoyancy as well as some insulation, so an effective BC is also recommended. In the water, one distinct advantage with this type of suit is that its inherent buoyancy is the same all over, so there was little of that floaty-feet syndrome from which I often suffer. The arms are made of thinner 3mm neoprene, so I was able to move easily. Generous yet flexible knee-pads added to my comfort. There was none of that feeling that someone had stuck a couple of ironing-boards down the legs. Staying absolutely dry would be asking for miracles, but I didn't climb from the cold November water with that let-down feeling I have suffered with one or two other drysuits in the past. The secret to this suit is the fit, and the Seamaster fitted me like a glove, but because neoprene has some stretch in it, someone a little heavier might have enjoyed the fit just as much. The Typhoon Seamaster represents good value and seems well enough made to last. It is available in a wide range of off-the-peg sizes for both men and women. The Typhoon Seamaster costs £379 with cuff-dump or £399 with auto-dump.
Typhoon International 01624 486104, www.typhoon-int.co.uk
+ Good if it fits + Good value for money
- Never as totally dry as a good membrane suit should be