US HAIRLESS APES DON’T DO WELL in cold water, and given that our core body temperature is 37°, pretty much everything is cold water except the bath. Fair enough, it might not feel that cold when you jump in, but give it time. Water is an extremely efficient conductor of heat, and will slowly and surely drain your body of warmth.
Lose just 2° of core temperature and you’ll be suffering from the beginnings of hypothermia. From there it’s downhill all the way, unless you do something about it. Getting out of the water is favourite, but that spoils the point of being a scuba-diver.
Aquatic mammals manage nicely with a thick layer of insulating body fat. One or two of the divers I know seem to be trying the same strategy, but it isn’t working.
Research suggests that better-padded types are able to tolerate exposure to cold for longer than skinnier types, but they’ll still feel cold. True, feeling cold is a good thing, because it tells you to stop being so dumb and warm up, but it isn’t pleasant, especially with an hour’s deco still to do.
No, we divers need a more reliable solution, and that means some sort of protective clothing.
Back in the old days, a thick woolly jumper was recommended. I’ve never really understood why anybody thought this might work, and it didn’t.
On land the jumper traps a thick, warm layer of insulating air, but under water it just doesn’t. You would end up just as cold, and with the added weight of sodden wool making it harder to climb back on the boat.
It was nearly right, however. Air is a poor conductor of heat, so surround yourself with a layer of air and you stay warmer – which sounds daft until you know about neoprene.
Neoprene was invented in 1930, and soon after that a closed-cell foamed neoprene was developed – effectively a rubber sheet filled with tiny air bubbles. It’s probably nitrogen rather than air, for production reasons, but it works the same.
Cut into a piece of neoprene and take a close look and it’s like the inside of an Aero, only smaller and inedible. Neoprene is stretchy and waterproof, so if you use it to make a form-fitting suit you’ll have your own layer of air to wear when diving.

AND SO THE WETSUIT WAS BORN.
Neoprene is also very soft and easy to rip and damage, but a layer of fabric inside and out soon sorted that.
Over the years, neoprene has developed. We have materials that are hard-wearing, ultra-stretchy and very smooth, though perhaps not all at once. So today’s suits are often made from a combination of several types of material, resulting in suits that will keep you warmer, allow you to move more freely and resist wear better than you would have believed possible only a few years ago.
Stretchy, form-fitting material is the current big thing in suits. All the makers have their own ultra- or super-stretchy material, usually with a proprietary thermal lining to help keep you warmer.
Some make a thing of using as few panels as possible, which means fewer joins and a longer-lasting suit. One or two are starting to use environmentally friendly neoprene not derived from petroleum products.
And while we’re talking of trends, black is the new black and suits are mostly black with a logo, or black with a highlight panel, or contrasting stitching. Or just black.
How do you choose between all the suits on the market? First, consider the temperature of the water in which you’ll be diving. For much diving in exotic locations where the water stays above 25° or so a 3mm suit is fine, and provides protection against stings and scratches too.
Brits tend to go on holiday in summer, often to places such as the Maldives or the Red Sea, and a 5mm will probably be peachy for most people doing most dives.
For a winter Red Sea trip or the Med you might prefer a 7mm, or you could add a shorty over or under your 5mm. If you’re thinking of diving the Med in winter or the UK in summer you will want to think in terms of a 7mm base with a 7mm oversuit, and that’s when it’s probably sensible to start thinking in terms of a drysuit.
What matters is that only you know how much you feel the cold, so take general recommendations with a pinch of salt.
You can always ask the local dive-guides what suits they wear, and you may find the answers surprising, but by the time you’re in resort it’s probably too late. Still, there’s always next time.
Just remember that if you’re cold in your new suit you’ll be cold all holiday, whereas if you’re wearing a thicker suit and feel too warm you can always let some water flush through. Don’t go mad, however. Neoprene is remarkably buoyant, and every extra millimetre will need extra weight to get it to sink.
What makes a wetsuit good, bad or indifferent has a lot to do with fit. Well, duh, how much simpler could it be? Just take a look at the size chart for the suit you fancy, find your height and weight, and job done, right?
Perhaps, but no two people are alike. Average heights and weights for the UK today are 5ft 3in and 11 stone for women, and 5ft 9in and 13 stone for men, but that tells you nothing about body shape.
At least the suit-makers have realised that men and women are shaped differently, and most suits come in both male and female variants.

YOU NEED TO TRY THE SUIT FOR SIZE. I know we’re all addicted to the Internet because stuff is cheaper but unless you’re a standard shape for your size and weight you’ll end up spending more on return postage than you would have spent on petrol to get to your local dive-shop in the first place.
The first time you try on a perfectly fitting suit, it should feel a bit small. There’s a balance to strike, but if you can slip in and out of a wetsuit as if you were putting on an old pair of jeans, it’s definitely too big. If you rip off more than one fingernail trying to pull the legs up, however, it’s probably too small.
Kieran McClintock of Robin Hood Watersports sells suits from many manufacturers, and he says that your new suit should feel like one of those uncomfortably tight hugs you get from your granny.
Realising that a tight suit is a good suit, but that struggling to get into it can be hard work, many makers now use specialist materials as linings, or add zips to the ankle- and wrist-seals to allow you to don and doff them more easily. These things do help, though putting on and taking off a wetsuit will never look elegant.
And why is fit so important? Every time water gets in the heat from your body warms it up, but if the water flushes out, you’ve lost the heat. If that keeps happening you might as well not be wearing a suit at all.
Keeping flushing to a minimum is so important that today’s wetsuits boast tight-fitting wrist- and ankle-seals, smooth collars with sealing flaps and even inner vests and dry-zips. These are secondary to a decent fit, but good things nonetheless.
Getting in and out of a shorty is a lot easier. Shorties are usually like a full-length suit with the arms cut short of the elbow and the legs at mid-thigh, but you can also get suits that look more like a vest and shorts combo.
However, a full-length suit covers your precious skin and prevents contact with invisible stinging things or sharp edges on a wreck. Obviously I’ve never grazed my knee on the coral or anything, but I have seen other people do it and it probably hurts quite a lot, as well as causing you to leak in an embarrassing fashion.
Wearing a shorty where there is lots of fire coral is a good way to improve your buoyancy control. Shorties are also much lighter – a bonus for travelling divers – and cheaper. I’m not a big fan, but many divers swear by shorties, even if I mostly end up swearing at mine.
One final tip. You lose a lot of heat from your head, so wearing a hood can have a surprising effect on your overall comfort. Most makers offer hoods to match their suits, often with valves and holes and such-like to allow air to vent so that your exhaled bubbles don’t fill the hood with air and threaten to lift it off your head.
The suits shown here are in ascending price order.



INFORMATION

Aqua Lung: aqualung.com
BARE: baresports.com
Beuchat: beuchat-diving.com
Hollis: hollisuk.com
Liquid Sports: liquidsports.co.uk
Mares: mares.com
Northern Diver: ndiver.com
O’Neill: oneill.com
O’Three: othree.co.uk
Scubapro: scubapro.com
Sea & Sea: sea-sea.com
SEAC: seacsub.com
Typhoon: typhoon-int.co.uk
Waterproof: waterproof.eu

Northern Diver
Shark Storm Steamer – £45

Every now and then you walk into one of those new supermarkets to find that they’re selling wetsuits dirt-cheap for that week only, and you just have to buy one. Northern Diver developed the 3mm Shark Storm to compete. It’s not hi-tec, but it’s built from decent materials, features a vertical back-mounted zip with protective inner flap, a soft collar and reinforcing patches on the knees. It might not be the last word in wetsuit sophistication, but it would do the job.

Unisex, Sizes S-XXL (6), 3mm, black & blue

Northern Diver Shark Storm Steamer

SEAC Sense – £99

This is a budget suit for warmwater use. Made from 3mm neoprene, it uses super-elastic panels around the collar, chest, arms and rear-zipper for flexibility and comfort, and is nylon-lined. Despite the budget price, the wrist- and ankle-seals have a toroidal ring system in the smooth neoprene to prevent water ingress, and the collar has a generous flap so that it can be adjusted closely to your neck.

Sizes M: S-4XL (7), F: XS-2XL (6), 3mm, black & blue

SEAC Sense

Aqua Lung Bali & Mahe – £110 / £83 (shorty)

The Bali and Mahe suits are designed to complement one another in use and provide flexible protection for warmwater divers. Both are made from 3mm environmentally friendly neoprene and use a flat stitching technique said to protect bare skin from rubbing when you sling a heavy BC on top.

The Bali is full-length with a rear zip and has O-ring-type seals on both wrists and ankles to prevent water entry. The collar is shaped for comfort, there are knee-pads, and textured printing on the shoulders and left forearm should help to secure your BC and computer.

The Mahe is a shorty built the same way and in matching colours and also features a rear zip. It can be worn alone or layered over the Bali. A matching hood completes the ensemble if needed.

Sizes M: XS-XXL (7), F: XS-XL (6), 3mm, M: black & blue, F: black & twilight (purple)

Aqua Lung Bali (female)Aqua Lung Mahe (female)

SEAC Alien – £122 (F £119)

Available in both 3.5 and 5mm thicknesses, the Alien is a straightforward and simple design, like the suits we all used to wear. It uses neoprene faced inside and out with hard-wearing nylon and is anatomically cut and available in both male and female versions.

The wrist and ankle seals use SEAC’s ring-seal system to control water movement and the collar can be adjusted for size using a Velcro flap once the rear-fitted YKK zip has been drawn shut. Protective material covers the shoulders to prevent BC straps rubbing the suit and the legs are similarly protected.

Sizes M: S-3XL (6), F: XS-XL (5), 3.5 & 5mm, black & blue

SEAC Alien

BARE S-Flex (M) & Nixie (F) – £129 

These suits are BARE’s entry-level male and female offerings. BARE makes much of its all-female design team and the inspiration it has taken from outside the dive industry, looking to trends in the fashion world to deliver the Nixie range. The result, it says, is a new type of wetsuit. The men’s S-Flex suits get a similar level of design rethink to deliver a correctly tailored suit.

Both ranges are made from a stretchy neoprene without under-arm seams to enhance fit and mobility, and have the expected toughened knee-pads for long life. The back-fitted zips are extra-long to make dressing and undressing easier, and both ranges offer a choice of 2mm shorty, 2/3mm full suit, 5mm and 7mm suits and a 7mm suit with attached hood. These suits have a full CE Class A thermal rating.

Sizes M: S-3XL (15), F: 2-14 (10 in each style), 2mm (shorty), 2/3, 5 & 7mm. M: black or black & blue, F: black, black & blue or black & pink.

BARE S-FlexBARE Nixie

Scubapro Definition – £149

This 3mm warmwater suit is made from an environmentally friendly foamed neoprene and is designed to be extremely flexible and provide a snug fit. The fleece lining is said to reflect body-heat back into the suit to improve heat retention, and to be soft and comfortable. The rear zipper is fitted diagonally, and there are zipped seals at wrists and ankles.

The shoulders and backside are reinforced with an abrasion-resistant fabric, and the elbows and knees are protected by pads. There is an instrument-retention strap on one wrist and the collar has an over-zip that can be eased between dives when you don’t want to bother taking the suit off.

Sizes M: S-3XL (6), F: 2XS-2XL (7), 3 & 5mm, M: black, yellow highlights, F: black, pink highlights

Scubapro Definition

Typhoon Vortex OFZ – £150

Aimed at the price-conscious diver, this suit employs panels of super-stretch neoprene of 5, 4 and 3mm thicknesses, depending on where they are and how much movement is needed there, and a thermal fleece liner on the chest panel for warmth.

The zip at the centre of the back has a barrier system for reduced water-entry.

Simple wrist- and ankle-seals without over-zips should aid longevity and easy donning. The neck-seal is of smooth neoprene to make the suit more comfortable in use and minimise any rubbing.

Available for both sexes, this suit features colourful panels in orange, green or light blue and not just the currently on-trend black with only tiny hints of colour!

Sizes M: S-XXL (9), F: S-L (5), 5/4/3mm, M: black & orange/black & green, F: black & light blue

Typhoon Vortex

O’Three 3x3 GBS – £170

O’Three is something of a go-to for UK divers buying drysuits, but it does wetsuits too. Unlike other makers, however, it focuses less on ultra-soft and stretchy materials than on suitability for divers. Most wetsuits are worn by canoeists and surfers who never venture below the surface, it says, but the rules change under water. Water pressure will rob neoprene of most of its insulating properties, unless you choose your neoprene very carefully.

The manufacturer uses what it says is a true 3mm-thickness neoprene throughout for the 3x3, with super-stretchy material on the arms, shoulders and sides to aid movement, and a rear zip with a smooth panel to protect the back. The rear and legs are abrasion-resistant and knee-pads are added. O’Three says that standalone the suit is perfect for high summer in the Med and spring to autumn in the Red Sea, and for better thermal performance it recommends wearing the 2mm DeepSkin short john as a base layer.

Sizes M: S-3XL (7), F: S-XL (5), 3mm, black, blue & red highlights

O'Three 3x3 GBS

SEAC iFlex – £175

Made in 5 and 7mm neoprene using an outer stretchy fabric layer that SEAC says will stretch for up to 250% in any direction, this suit should provide ease of movement and body-hugging, while an inner plush lining is intended to keep you warmer. The zip runs up the centre of the back, and once somebody has done it up you can adjust the collar to prevent water-entry.

Wrist- and ankle-seals use SEAC’s single-cone system to prevent water going where it isn’t wanted, along with a smooth neoprene seal to rest against your skin and form a watertight barrier. Shoulders and knees are reinforced with an abrasion-resistant fabric to help keep the suit looking good.

Sizes M: S-4XL (14), F: XS-2XL (9), 5 & 7mm, black & blue

SEAC iFlex

Mares Pioneer – £185

The Pioneer is Mares’ best-selling suit in the UK, which is at least partly attributable to the price. It has flexible and stretchy side-panels combined with an anatomic cut to make it easier to put on and take off, and is more comfortable to wear in and out of the water.

The 7mm version has cone-seals at wrists and ankles in recognition of its likely use in cooler water, and also has zips over the ankle-seals to ease donning.

All versions have a long rear zip, and to make the suit as comfortable as possible in use the collar has an ergonomic anti-chafe closure that is non-scratch and won’t pill through use. Anti-slip printing is applied to both wrists to help secure a computer and back-up. The package is completed by a matching hood with air-release system.

Sizes M: 2-7 (6), F: 1-5 (5), 5 & 7mm, black & blue

Mares Pioneer

O’Three 6x5 Diving Semi-Dry – £200

This suit is made from three types of neoprene said to be chosen to deliver minimum compression with depth, maximum recovery on ascent and a comfortable and flexible fit. The anatomically cut body is made from 6mm neoprene with 5mm material for arms and legs for more flexibility. The 6x5 also boasts a selection of eight fabrics besides the neoprene for various purposes, including a plush thermal lining for the core to retain warmth, and a tough fabric on the seat and front of the legs to prevent wear.

To limit water-entry and flushing, the collar is of a super-soft neoprene meant to float to fit the neck as closely as possible, the zip is backed by a neoprene pad, and the wrist- and ankle-seals are said to be supple and smooth.

Recommended by O’Three for the Red Sea in winter, the Med and summer UK waters in the 14-18° range, the maker agrees that it might take longer to get in and out of the suit but reckons in-water performance will make it worthwhile.

Sizes Unisex S-3XL (8), 5mm, black/blue or black/grey/orange

O'Three 6x5

Waterproof W50 – £209

This, the latest in the Waterproof Sports Series wetsuits, is a development of its best-selling W30. Waterproof suits tend to be visually distinctive and the W50 is no exception. Made from what the maker calls an ultra-stretch neoprene sandwiched in equally stretchy nylon and Spandex, it is designed to fit snugly and still be easy to climb in and out of, with the ankle-seals featuring external over-zips to that end.

The rear-entry zip is a high-quality YKK item, and Waterproof makes a feature of the reinforced and oversized panels surrounding the zip, which it thinks will help the suit last longer.

Gender-specific anatomical cuts are used for better fit, with reinforced knees and textured non-slip panelling on the backside to help keep you in place if the RIB hits rough water. The same panelling appears on the shoulders and left wrist to hold your BC and computer more firmly in place and reduce wear and tear. The right hip features what Waterproof calls a docking station for a removable pocket, sold separately.

Sizes 3XS-3XL (10), 5mm, black & blue

Waterproof W50

Mares Flexa – £210, £263, £290

Ah, Italy! Cappuccino, Ferrari and Rome. When it comes to style, the Italians have it sorted, and new from Mares is the Flexa range. Available in three weights, each suit is made from an ultra-stretchy neoprene with a combination of thicker and thinner panels. The thickest suit uses panels of 8, 6 and 5mm; the middle suit has a 5/4/3mm combo and the warmest-water version uses panels of 3 and 2mm to combine, says Mares, appropriate thermal protection for different conditions with as much flexibility and comfort as possible, especially under water or getting in or out of the suit.

There are male and female cuts, all with a substantial backpad and extra padding over the shoulders intended to spread the weight of your BC and cylinder, and make tottering across the dive-deck more comfortable. Each wrist has a textured area to grip a computer, and the zip is at the front, with a broad neoprene flap behind for comfort and reduced water-entry.

Sizes M: 2-8 (15), F: 1-6 (13), 3/2mm (black & white), 5/4/3mm (black & red), 8/6/5mm (black & blue)

Mares Flexa

Sea & Sea Pinnacle Cruiser – £214

Regarded by Sea & Sea as a budget suit that can compete with rivals’ high-end products, the maker claims that this is better-built and incorporates more features than suits costing twice as much.

The Cruiser uses 5mm titanium-lined neoprene panels for the body and uses a stretchier neoprene for the extremities. 5mm wrist- and ankle-seals with external zippers aim to keep the water out and the wearer warmer. Overall, the suit is intended to be stretchy and elastic enough to get in and out of easily, and to resist compression as you dive to keep you warmer overall.

Moulded rubber shoulder-pads are incorporated to protect suit and wearer from the weight and rubbing of equipment, and there is a generous range of sizes.

Sizes M: XS-4XL + King 1 & 2 (17), F: XXS-XXL (12), 5mm, black, red highlights

Sea & Sea Pinnacle Cruiser

Typhoon ZFR – £219

Typhoon calls this a top-end, no-compromise 5mm suit featuring a back-mounted zip – a specialist item with offset teeth to form a better seal, and backed up by a barrier system to reduce water-entry almost to zero.

It employs panels of extremely flexible neoprene in various thicknesses, and is built for fit and ease of movement. There are no zips on the wrist- and ankle-seals, which should help the suit to last, and the panel covering the top of the chest and shoulders is cut from one piece to avoid seams rubbing when kit is worn.

Typhoon is especially proud of the lining, which uses a combination of lining materials it says are the softest and most flexible available in a wetsuit, with hollow fibres for warmth, and fast-drying properties to avoid climbing into a clammy suit for that night-dive. It’s even quite colourful.

Sizes Unisex S-XL (7), 5/4/3mm, black & blue

Typhoon ZFR

BARE Velocity - £222

The Velocity range of male-fit suits features a combination of panels using different types of neoprene matched to the area, with the aim of making the suits as comfortable and flexible as possible. Underarm areas are seam-free, and panels make the rear of the knees particularly flexible to aid squatting when you need to pick up kit on the boat and to help when make kicking in the water. The fronts of the knees are reinforced to protect against wear.

The back-zip features a skin-to-skin internal sealing flap and there are small neoprene flip-seals at mid-calf and mid-forearm aimed at limiting water-entry and keeping the suit warmer for longer. Heavy-duty ankle zips are fitted. The suits are CE Class A thermal-rated.

Sizes S-3XL (7), 3, 5 & 7mm, black, black & red, black & blue

BARE Velocity (male)

Northern Diver Delta-Flex Semi-Tech – £225

This three-piece combo offers divers options to deal with everything but the very warmest and coldest waters. It comes in male and female cuts and is exactly the sort of thing that made Northern Diver’s name.

The heart of the package is a hard-wearing full-length 5.5mm one-piece made from stretchy neoprene with an additional thermal vest sewn in to retain warmth, and with an anti-bacterial coating. Features include pre-bent arms and legs, and wrist- and ankle-seals protected by external zippers.

There is a back zip, but the neck also has a front zip to make it as easy as possible to get into the suit, then zip it tight to prevent water flushing through. It can be worn stand-alone, or combined with the 6.5mm shorty included in the package for extra warmth. There’s a matching hood too.

Sizes M: S-2XL (5), F: S-XL (4), 5.5 & 6.5mm, black, red accents

Northern Diver Delta-Flex

O’Neill Sector – £230

Sold to both divers and freedivers, this suit uses as few panels as possible to make it hard-wearing, while O’Neill also uses compression-resistant neoprene for the chest and back panels for thermal efficiency at depth, something its choice of lining material should also help.

The shoulder area, body side-panels, sleeves and legs are then made from a stretchier neoprene for improved comfort and flexibility. The neck has a fully adjustable seal, and the wrists are also sealed. The zip is fitted at the back, there are reinforced shin and knee-pads, and each suit has a concealed key-pocket.

Sizes M: XS-3XL (13), F: UK 6-18 (9), 5 & 7mm, black

O'Neill Sector

Aqua Lung Balance Comfort – £240 / £125 (shorty)

The Balance Comfort offers divers access to what Aqua Lung calls a modular suit system. The 5.5mm full-length wetsuit is made from ultra-stretchy neoprene for the best fit and freedom of movement, with slightly thinner and stretchier material used for the arms to make it even easier to do things like kitting up, launching a blob and using a camera.

The suit has a long rear zip with a closure system intended to prevent water-entry and an integrated pad to protect your spine from the weight of your kit. Wrist- and ankle-seals are made of smooth, thin neoprene with zippers over the top to make it easier to get in and out of the suit, and the knees are reinforced with durable and stretchy pads.

If you’re off somewhere a bit cooler but don’t want to buy another suit, the Balance Comfort is also available as a 5mm front-zip shorty that’s intended to be layered over the top of the full-length wetsuit, or can be worn on its own. An optional hood is available.

Sizes M: XS-XXL (7), F: XS-XL (6), 5.5mm, M: black & blue, F: black & twilight (purple)

Aqua Lung Balance Comfort

Beuchat Focea Comfort 5 – 299 euros

Brits know that the French are a stylish nation, and this range reinforces that stereotype, with an added dash of practicality. The suits are made from as many as 44 individually pre-formed panels, using up to 20 grades of neoprene for the best fit.

More flexible panels are used for armpits, knees and elbows, the base of the spine and around the shoulders and upper back for freedom of movement, particularly to make kitting-up more comfortable.

Water ingress is limited by wrist- and ankle-seals with zipped protectors, and the collar has a protective front zip to pull it closer once you’ve put the suit on.

Each suit is lined with a material Beuchat says is warm and water-repellent, and to ensure longevity has exterior kneepads and protective panels on the shoulders where your BC will rest. These suits come in men’s and women’s fit, with a choice of collar or permanently attached hood, and in 5mm or 7mm thicknesses.

Sizes M: S-XXXL (10), F: XS-XL (9), 5 & 7mm, M: black, red accents, F: black & blue

Beuchat Focea Comfort 5

Scubapro Everflex – £259

This upmarket suit is made from a high-flex neoprene in various thicknesses to combine thermal protection and flexibility for comfort, though Scubapro stresses that it minimises the number of panels and seams for flexibility, and that its internal and external stitching techniques are different to deliver waterproofing and durability outside with comfort against the skin.

The rear zip is fitted diagonally and the lining is of a soft, water-draining material aimed at enhancing coldwater protection. Zippers on the ankle-seals aid donning and doffing, and a neck-zip can ease the collar to improve comfort between dives.

Sizes M: S-5XL (16), F: 2XS-4XL (17), 5 & 7mm, black

Scubapro Everflex

SEAC Komoda – £269

The Komoda is built in 5 and 7mm variants using a very stretchy material that incorporates Yamamoto 38 rubber. This has a honeycomb structure said to reduce weight while retaining vital body-heat and delivering a long service life. The fibre lining chosen is also meant to help with thermal efficiency and quick-drying, making kitting up for the second dive that bit more pleasant.

Wrist- and ankle-seals have a smooth inner seal protected by zipped cuffs to make dressing and undressing easier. The YKK rear zip has a barrier system to keep water out and provide padding down the spine, while the shoulders and legs have a protective outer covering.

Sizes M: S-4XL (14), F: XS-2XL (9), 5 & 7mm, black, red, orange or purple highlights

SEAC Komoda

Sea & Sea Pinnacle Inferno V-Skin – £270

A trilaminate material with an outer shell of Lycra, a breathable membrane core and an inner thermal lining for warmth - this combination is intended to produce a suit that can conform precisely to the body shape without restricting movement, yet be as easy to get in and out of as ordinary clothing. The material is claimed to be the most thermally efficient on the market, and the suit is designed to hug the body so that the membrane inner can hold a thin layer of water next to your skin under water.

Back on the boat, the same membrane is said to be wind-proof. A special fleece material in the arms and legs is intended to allow water warmed by your core to move easily around the suit to keep your extremities warm.

The V-Skin can be used alone in warmer waters (though Sea & Sea doesn’t give a neoprene thickness equivalent) or under a neoprene wetsuit for added warmth, or even under a drysuit. The range also includes hoods, hooded vests, gloves and socks.

Sizes M: XS-4XL + King 1 & 2 (17), F: XXS-XXL (12), 2-3mm, black, white overprint

Sea & Sea Pinnacle Inferno V-Skin

Liquid Sports Sharkskin – £285

The Sharkskin range is a bit different. Designed and made in Australia, at first sight you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a technical undersuit range rather than something made to be worn as a wetsuit.

You can wear a Sharkskin suit as a stand-alone in warmer water – think 2-3mm neoprene equivalent – or beneath an ordinary wetsuit for added warmth, or even under a drysuit as a technical base-layer.

The material is said to be wind-proof even when wet, and both breathable and able to wick away moisture. It’s also soft enough to prevent chafing, says the maker, odour-resistant for wearing for long periods, and quick-drying. Available in male and female cuts, the four-way stretch material should mould to the body yet be as easy to get in or out of as an undersuit, it says, and it is neutrally buoyant.

The range includes suits, long- and short-sleeve vests, shorts, socks and more, to be used in any combination that works for you.

Sizes 6-22 (9), 2-3mm, black

Liquid Sports Sharkskin

Sea & Sea Pinnacle Tempo XT (Men) & Siren (Women) – £345

These two suits differ only in cut to fit the male and female form, and come in a huge range of sizes and shapes. They are made of a stretchy and flexible titanium-lined neoprene designed for ease of movement, and with a lining said to add more than a third to the insulation.

In an oh-so-discreet acknowledgment of real life, the lining is also odour-resistant. Walk around the dive-deck of any warmwater liveaboard when it’s warm, dark and the wind has dropped, and you’ll appreciate why that might be useful!

Moulded rubber shoulder-pads should make heavy kit more comfortable to wear, and knee-pads should help with longevity. Seals at wrist and ankles, the latter with long zips to aid donning, a smooth neoprene pad under the rear-zip and a smooth collar are all said to improve comfort while allowing ease of movement.

These suits also feature stress discs, used to reinforce the seam intersections and help your new suit last longer.

Sizes M: XS-4XL + King 1 & 2 (17), F: XXS-XXL (12), 5mm, M: black, red highlights, F: black & white

Sea & Sea Pinnacle Tempo

Hollis Neotek – £359

Hollis describes this as a coldwater hooded semi-dry. It uses panels of neoprene of 8, 7 or 6mm thickness, according to where they’re located, aimed at allowing you to move comfortably once you’re at the surface or under water.

The lining is a thermal material for warmth. Wetsuit collars are usually where water gets in and out most readily, and most divers will know the feeling of dipping your head to look at something only to feel cold water pour down your neck. Hollis uses a horizontal front zip across the top of the chest with an attached hood on the suit that should stop this, while an internal dam system is used below the neck and in the arms and legs to stop any water that does get in flushing around your body. Heavy-duty kneepads and a pocket on each thigh complete the suit.

Sizes Unisex SM-3XL (9), 8/7/6mm, black

Hollis Neotek

Hollis SD7.1 – £369

This second Hollis semi-dry pays particular attention to endurance. Its conventional rear zip runs horizontally across the top of the back and is covered by a generous neoprene flap for protection, but the chosen zip is the lighter and more flexible T-zip, which should make moving around to kit up less restricted and perhaps even a bit less clumsy on a rolling hard-boat.

The suit is made with a selection of neoprene panels to offer different amounts of stretch and flex to permit ease of movement without compromising thermal efficiency too much, and with an internal dam system to back up the wrist-, ankle- and neck-seals by restricting movement of any water that does manage to get into the suit.

The rear zip allows a more efficient neck-seal to be used, with an adjustable collar to provide protection. Two pockets and knee-pads are included, and a separate hood with air-escape system completes the package.

Sizes M: S-3XL (6), F: XS-XL (5), 7mm, black

Hollis SD7.1

SEAC Masterdry – £390

This 7mm semi-dry, intended for cooler water, is made from a stretchy neoprene with a nylon covering claimed to flex up to 300%. The idea is to make it as comfortable as possible and with as much ease of movement as you’re likely to get from a semi-dry.

The zip is horizontally mounted across the upper back, so climbing in should be like climbing into a drysuit without boots. The wrist- and ankle-seals use SEAC’s dual-cone system, with a smooth inner seal to fit as closely as possible to the skin and prevent water movement.

The inner lining is a quick-drying plush material that also helps to keep you warmer, and the exterior is reinforced with protective material on shoulders and legs to keep the suit going long-term. You might also appreciate the padded back protector. A matching hood with air-vent system and a large pocket on the right hip finish it all off.

Sizes M: S-4XL (10), F: XS-2XL (6), 7mm, black/grey, red highlights

SEAC Masterdry

BARE Reactive (M) & Evoke (F) - £412

BARE takes a different approach to its suits, offering specifically tailored male and female designs and stressing their thermal qualities (full CE A Class thermal rating). These suits come in 5mm and 7mm variants and are men’s and women’s suits respectively. Both are made from a stretchy neoprene designed to help you move around more easily topside and under water, and feature seamless under-arms for comfort and mobility.

There are flexible, abrasion-resistant knee-pads, ankle zips, and the extra-long rear zipper is backed by what BARE call a double internal-sealing zipper-flap to limit or prevent water-entry. The two things BARE believes set these suits apart are the lining material, a fabric with thermo-reactive minerals woven in that they say turns wasted body heat into infra-red energy that;s reflected back to your body to keep you warmer; and the stitching-free seams, said to prevent water entering through them.

The result of combining these two technologies should allow you longer and more comfortable dives, claims BARE, and it is so confident that it calls these suits the world’s warmest dive wetsuits.

Sizes: Reactive S-4XL (16), Evoke 2-14 (7), 5 & 7mm, Reactive black with red or blue piping, Evoke: black, grey & red or black, grey & blue

BARE Reactive & EvokeBARE Reactive & Evoke

Beuchat X-Trem – 499 euros

The most expensive suit here, this semi-dry is intended for cooler waters. The no-nonsense design is clearly thought-through to keep water out and you warmer. The wrist-, ankle- and neck-seals are claimed to seat themselves automatically as you don the suit, and the entry zip is placed horizontally across the upper chest so that you can get in and out without needing somebody else to zip it up, a system that Beuchat also says allows greater comfort and ease of movement.

The optional hood has an air-release system, so air exhausted from your reg shouldn’t build up inside, and is designed to prevent water entry while allowing free head movement.

In a nod to tec divers there’s a computer-holder on each wrist, and you’ll find a gusseted pocket with draining eyelets on the right thigh. Knees and high-wear shoulder areas are reinforced with protective panels. The suit is lined with a warm, water-repellent material.

Sizes M: S-XXXL (6), F: S-XL (4), 6.5mm, black, white accents

Beuchat X-Trem