Appeared in DIVER September 2007

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John John Bantin has been a full-time professional diving writer and underwater photographer since 1990. He makes around 300 dives each year testing diving equipment.

DRYSUIT OCEANIC AERDURA TITANIUM

By the time I got round to taking up the offer, most of Oceanics suits were being made in China, and local made-to-measure production had been moved out of its big factory into the space previously occupied by the pool.
Times change. Anyway, it was still possible to go to the factory, choose the materials and the style, and get a suit made exactly to my specification, and this is what I did.
The suit was an Aerdura Titanium, the type that has been supplied to British military forces. Its outer layer is of hardwearing Cordura that has a certain amount of stretch to it, and the inner layer is fine satin-weave polyester.
Both this inner layer and the thick central waterproof layered sandwich of butyl rubber are impregnated with titanium oxide dust.
This is said to form an effective infra-red reflective barrier that stops heat loss.
I couldnt afford to hang around until next day for the suit to be made, so Oceanic SW agreed to send it on. It didnt arrive for some weeks and I dont know what happened in the interim, but the suit delivered certainly seemed much closer-fitting than the one I had tried on in the factory. I had not been on a diet of pies in the interim.
The fit was rather flattering but I needed an assistant to be on hand to help me struggle out of the suit after a dive.
Oceanic still offers the facility for any customer to go to its factory to try on a suit before it is finished. If youre prepared to hang around for a further 24 hours, you could take your suit home with you.

Appearance
Choosing a combination of different-coloured materials can be risky if you suffer from sartorial bad taste. Faced with an array of fabrics, I went for a combination of light blue, dark blue and black, because I already possess an Aquion suit with a similar colour scheme and that looks pretty good.
I am still smarting from the time when another drysuit manufacturer, faced with the opportunity to demonstrate the vast range of material colours he had available, and given the go-ahead from me to make a suit as colourful as possible, decided to make every panel in a different hue. The problem was that I had to wear it! I wonder where that suit is now.
Given the option, I also chose tough integrated rubber knee-pads and a small cargo pocket on each thigh. There was also the option to include built-in ankle-weight pouches. The comfortable boots were of lined neoprene.

Ease of use
Available either with a cross-shoulder zip or
a diagonal front zip for self-donning, the suit normally comes with an overlong telescopic torso so that you can pull it up over your head and get through the neck seal. Mine seemed to have insufficient excess material in the torso, making it hard to pull over the shoulders.
The crotch strap used to neaten the tuck afterwards was almost redundant. That, or I had suddenly increased my body length in a few weeks. I certainly couldnt touch my toes easily.
Either way, I have rarely encountered a truly self-donning drysuit, and usually need help in closing the last inch or so of zip.
Because of the slim fit, in the water I could swim unimpeded almost as if I was using a thick wetsuit. But I had one hell of a job to get my fins off without help, an exercise not helped by the grippy nature of the boots, top and bottom.

Efficacy of valves
Although labelled Oceanic, the valves are clearly commonly encountered Apeks products. The inflation valve rotates through almost a full circle, which makes hose-routeing less critical, always useful for me when pairing with a regulator I may not have used before.
The effectiveness of the dump-valve depends very much on it not being blocked by material on its inner side. I used a Pinnacle Merino wool-lined undersuit that was sufficiently slim and unlikely to fluff up and impede the escape of air during a critical moment of the ascent.
Air went in when I needed it and came out just as cleanly.

Efficacy of seals
For people built like me, a latex neck-seal usually keeps the water at bay better than a neoprene alternative, but with the penalty that you have to be a bit more careful not to damage the seals when putting the suit on.
The neck seal is of the parallel-sided bellows type that needs to be within the range of the right size, as do the parallel wrist-seals.
A trilaminate collar covers the neck-seal and, I found, acted a bit like a muffler, keeping my neck warmer than it might otherwise have been under nothing but a thin layer of latex.
In fact I was sweating by the time I was out of the suit. Apart from my own perspiration, I had stayed completely dry.


Divernet Divernet
SPECS
OCEANIC AERDURA TITANIUM

PRICE £750 inc. hood, bag, braces, hose
MATERIAL Cordura Trilaminate
ZIP POSITION Front diagonal or cross-shoulder
SIZES AND MTM Yes
CONTACT Oceanic SW, oceanicuk.com, 01404 891819
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