“CLOTHES MAKETH THE MAN”, or so the saying goes. Back in the early 1970s I had a beautiful pin-striped suit made in Savile Row. It cost a fortune and I felt great wearing it.
However, although I still have it, the waistband seems to have shrunk and it no longer fits, and fit is everything.
When I bought my first drysuit, in order to get an off-the-peg size to fit someone of my height I had to be satisfied with swathes of material that I didn’t need around the middle. I was never happy swimming (or attempting to swim) in it.
One of the first drysuits that actually fitted me came from DUI. It was made from crushed neoprene, and had an over-length torso that allowed for a front-entry diagonal zip.
This meant that the shoulders could be pulled over the head, then the extra material was taken up with a tuck and held tidy with a built-in crotch strap.
Luckily the boss of DUI, Dick Long, is of the same height and build as me, so I fitted his idea of a normal shape for an off-the-peg suit.
This was effectively the first tailored drysuit that I ever wore.
Off-the-peg people are better catered for today. A good fit is also helped by the fabrics now available to drysuit manufacturers, because they are so much more flexible than in the past.

The Design
The Bare XCS2 Tech Dry, made by a Canadian company in its factory in Malta, might look superficially like that classic DUI suit with its cross-chest diagonal front zip, but it needs no over-long torso, because it is made of a fabric so flexible and stretchy that you can simply pull it up over the head.
Bare No-stitch technology makes for a suit without a single seam stitch. Instead, the seams are double-glued and heat-taped on both sides.
The tough outer coating repels water, so you don’t have to cope with a soggy suit when you take it off after a dive, and the heat-reflective Metalite inner coating helps you retain body warmth.
The XCS2 Tech Dry is reinforced at the points of most wear, including the shoulders, under-arms and elbows.
It comes with fixed rubber boots or the option of a compression-resistant soft boot. It has pre-installed fixing points for suspenders, and the suit I tried had the optional suspenders with it.
Kevlar knee-pads are discreetly integrated with the legs.

Donning
Getting into this suit was almost a pleasure, because the inside of it reminded me of a non-stick saucepan, and I slid into it easily.
The wrist-seals provided were of heavy-duty latex (a neoprene alternative is optional) and although these were parallel, they were long enough to keep the water outside at bay. This meant that the first time I wore the XCS2 Tech Dry,
I didn’t notice that I had left my watch on until the time came to take the suit off again.
Arms and legs in, it was time to reach back and pull the shoulders and neck-seal over my head. It was a close-run thing (paraphrasing the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo) but there was sufficient stretch to allow me to do it. My head then passed through the neoprene neck-seal. This is beautifully comfortable once turned in on itself, and it’s conveniently marked up for those who might need to adjust it to fit a neck thicker than mine.
The warm neck-seal sits under a neoprene collar with a vented neck-drain, attached to the suit. This is said to integrate well with a Bare dry hood. I eschewed that option because I always seem to get trouble with my ears with dry hoods. A latex neck-seal is another option.
I have often called self-donning suits something of a fraud, because so rarely can I get the diagonal front zip started without help.
The Bare XCS2 employs a modern plastic TiZip, and although I was unlucky once with a tag that broke off, this one slid easily, and I was able to pull it from my shoulder and close it all on my own.
The advantage of this type of zip is its added flexibility over a more traditional brass zipper.
My wife commented that I looked very smart in the suit. Smart In diving kit That might be a first!

In the Water
The water in Wraysbury Lake just before Christmas was a balmy 5°C. (Barmy to be in it, you might say.) The upside was that there were few other people in the water and the visibility was remarkably clear. You could see from the taxi to the sunken boat. Even the freshwater crayfish seemed to be strolling in the open.
Justin Hanning, the representative of the company, accompanied me on a dive. I’ve known him for so long that he’s had time to grow up and I’ve had time to grow old.
The rubber boots supplied with the XCS2 Tech proved slightly too small for me, but I felt very comfortable in this suit.
I wore it over a Bare Polartec undersuit with an Icebreaker Bodyfit Merino wool base layer and Weezle Wellie-Warmers.
The drysuit came with SiTec valves, which I like very much. The inflation valve continually rotates through 360° and is set on a firm panel. This helps to effect the centre push when you need to add air.
The same could be said of the meaty shoulder-mounted auto dump.
It’s only the air in your suit that compresses as you descend. This suit is made from 2mm hyper-compressed neoprene, which is hardly affected by the sort of depths that leisure divers visit, so it maintains its buoyancy characteristics.
That leaves the air in and around your undersuit. The trick is to make sure you’ve expelled as much as you can before entering the water. Crouch down and pull open the neck-seal, or wind open the dump-valve fully.
Once in the water with the correct ballast you need only add a little air into the suit as you go deeper. Buoyancy is about displacement. Keep the amount of water you displace the same and your buoyancy stays constant.
Remember to shut down the auto-dump and then open it back around a quarter of a turn once under water.
When you ascend, the air expands in the suit. The spring in the auto-dump will let any extra air out, though this works in a trickle and cannot compensate for an out-of-control ascent.
It’s important to keep the valve at the highest point of the suit. Pushing the body of the valve will make it dump faster.
With a single tank on your back, you should be able to organise your buoyancy so that it stays constant by keeping the drysuit at the same volume. In this way you need never put air into your BC as well, except when using it as a buoyancy aid at the surface.

Conclusion
Despite the low temperature of the water, I stayed as cosy as that proverbial bug in a rug.
The only discomfort I experienced was with the Bare Tech hood, which was warm apart from a tiny trickle of water that gradually made its way across the top of my scalp, from the vent that lets any trapped air escape to avoid that pointy-headed look.
I was unrestricted in my body movements and could fin any way I wished. Nor did the suit act like a sea-anchor when it came to slipping through the water.
The Bare XCS2 Tech Dry drysuit is a top-quality suit with a lifetime guarantee and it’s sold at a price to match.
A rear-entry version with a cross-shoulder zip called the XCS2 Pro Dry costs a couple of hundred pounds less.
The suit is available in a wide range of off-the-peg sizes that will suit the shapes of 16 different men. Only the cross-shoulder Pro Dry is available in shapes to fit women.
As with all clothes, the fit is everything. It’s also available with a blue or red panel at the shoulders.
All BARE Drysuits will now be repaired under the BARE lifetime warranty by Hammond Drysuits of Dartford, Kent. n

COMPARABLE DRYSUITS TO CONSIDER:
O’Three Ri 1-100 CCN, £1300
Ursuit Kevlar BDS, £1600

SPECS
PRICE £1325
MATERIAL Hyper-compressed 2mm neoprene
ZIP Front diagonal TiZip
SIZES 16 for men, six for women (Pro Dry)
CONTACT www.baresports.com
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