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

 

MANY OF THOSE WHO RECALLED CUTTING out their own suits on the kitchen table and joining the bits together with yellow tape have now gone to the big dive-site in the sky.
Its a place with no strong currents, the visibility is always gin-clear, and there are plenty of complete wrecks and big animals to look at. Lets hope their suits fall apart less often now that they are there!
Thank goodness those days have gone when we struggled into our tight-fitting wetsuits, dripping sweat and coughing angry expletives through clouds of talcum powder.
Today we hop nimbly into our dive kit without a moments thought, especially those who know that wearing a pair of nylon socks helps steer our feet through the neoprene. Its all thanks to modern flexible materials, like the one used in the Bare Elastek semi-dry suit.
In an age when so much is made in China, Bare, an established Canadian company owned by the same conglomerate that includes Suunto, makes its neoprene suit in offshore Europe - in Malta, to be exact.
This is probably why its suits are a little more expensive than those of some rivals.

Appearance
Im one of those people, blessed with a body like a bag of spanners, who looks better in a wetsuit than without it. I was always a skinny kid, brought up in an era when no-one realised that Charles Atlas was simply an overweight, underheight man waiting to emerge from his cocoon of dynamic tension as a fat bloke.
Today Ive put on weight too, though not necessarily in the right places. Not, that is, until I don the flattering corset of a well-made wetsuit or semi-dry, when everything gets shoved to where it should have been in the first place.
The Bare Elastek does exactly that. The maker says it uses anatomically correct patterning, but Id like to know how it manages to make a suit correct for both me and for some of the very differently shaped divers with whom I have shared cabins over the years.
I guess we all look gorgeous!

Comfort
The Red Sea is unique in that it is warmed by volcanic activity from fumerol vents deep in the ocean floor. Unlike other seas, its temperature doesnt fluctuate that much by depth. Its pleasant to dive in wearing, say, a 5mm suit, all year round.
On the other hand, the part of the Red Sea that is not tropical, the part that has proved so popular with European divers, enjoys a huge variation in surface temperatures, thanks to the desert environment that surrounds it.
In winter, the cold wind can chill the marrow of someone in a skimpy suit.
In summer, that same wind resembles the draught from the engine exhaust of an Airbus.
I found the Bare Elastek easy to get into quickly in the pizza-oven heat of July, thanks to an almost creamy silkiness to its inner lining. I was quite comfortable strolling about on deck while I waited for those who werent familiar with my nylon-sock trick.
The internal seals at both mid-forearm and mid-calf needed pulling energetically over my flesh, but otherwise it was a dream to put on.
During one dive, because I hadnt pulled the legs up sufficiently into my groin, I did suffer
a slight case of the Nora Battys. The suit wrinkled behind my knees and caused me a certain amount of grief until I made a few running readjustments.
It proved equally easy to get out of when the time came. Im always in a hurry to get out of my suit after a long dive - something to do with having to send it back to the distributor once Ive finished with it.
How I envy those who can empty their bladders without guilt while still in the water.

Efficacy
I remain continually uncertain whether to ask for a suit in 3, 5, or 7mm thickness for test purposes. Bare offers the choice.
I recently found myself in the Coral Sea with a 3mm suit that was not really warm enough for the conditions. I knew I would be using the Bare Elastek in the Red Sea in midsummer, so the lightest version might have been enough, but
I played safe and opted for the 5mm version. Bare also offers a 7mm over-jacket for use with a heavier 7mm suit in the coldest conditions.
Being so flexible, the suit clings tightly to the contours of the body, and lets little water pass. The internal seals add to this effect, so it really does stay little more than damp.
At the same time, it has a water-resistant zip at the back that does the same. With no water flushing through, you stay at a stable temperature - comfortably warm.
Also, because I didnt work up a sweat
getting into it, I was able to wait patiently for those other divers to get ready without suffering over-heating.

COMPARABLE SEMI-DRY SUITS TO CONSIDER:
Fourth Element Proteus, £199
Scubapro Everflex 5/4, £199
Beuchat Focea Comfort 2, £225


Divernet
SPECS
PRICE
£250
THICKNESS 3, 5 or 7mm options
SIZES Off-the-peg, 15 for men, 13 for women
CONTACT www.sea-sea.com
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