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Wetsuit neoprene: The Real Deal (A Guide)

Seacidal

Seacidal Tendencies
Sep 27, 2005
116
8
0
Ventura, CA USA
OK, I've been diving in wetsuits for over 35 years (yeah, I'm getting old ), and I've often heard that you should/shouldn't buy this/that wetsuit because it is/isn't made from (select one):


Yamamoto (#39, 45, ?)
Heiwa
Freedown
Rubatex
Showa
Nam Liong
Ecoline
Neoflex
3-D Skin
Super Stretch 1
(and more, I'm sure)

Over the years, I've worn and worn out a lot of wetsuits.
What I'd like to know, as I've never seen it all in one place, is what are the differences (pro & con) of these wetsuit materials?

I welcome contributions to this thread, in the hope that it may develop into a guide of sorts.

However, I would like to make one request. Any follow-up posts of information or views on these materials should be backed up with a clear statement of experience or, preferably, a cite to suitable (pun intended) authority.

It would be great if there were some actual lab test data available for the characteristics of these, and other, neoprenes. I have some limited numbers, and will post them if others are suitably (intended :)) interested.

Thanks
:)
 
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dave

Dicentrarchus labrax
Jan 13, 2003
497
185
133
49
Cornwall, England
www.spearo.co.uk
Neoprene is a subject that confuses a lot of people, and there is an awful lot of misinformation and hype.
As regards background/ experience; I was responsible for product development for one of the UK's leading drysuit manufacturers for nearly 10 years. My business partner in Spearo UK Ltd was a wetsuit designer for the UK's main surf brand for a similiar time, and is currently a freelance designer specialising in the surf industry;

Yamamoto (#39, 45, ?)
Yamamoto is a Japanese neoprene manufacturer. They make high quality, but relatively expensive neoprene They make a large variety of neoprenes, but the main ones used in dive suits are
#45- very soft and stretchy but delicate, used in the original Picasso Chicle suits, and the similiar suits by other manufacturers
#38- "dive grade" neoprene. Not especially stretchy, but fairly hard wearing and reasonably resistant to compression
#39- "superlite" a low density stretchy neoprene designed primarily for surface use. Often used in dive and freedive suits as it is nice and stretchy. does not stand up to repeated compression/ expansion cycles very well
Yamamoto have a website with lots of technical data, but I would take many of their claims with a pinch of salt:)

Heiwa
Another , smaller Japanese manufacturer. Similiar costs to Yamamoto. Heiwa medium density is used particularly by custom manufacturers to make smoothskin suits. It is nothing like as stretchy as yamamoto 45, but a lot tougher, and has less buoyancy change with depth

Freedown
A name used by Elios for a very soft stretchy neoprene

Rubatex
An American neoprene manufacturer; If you bought a suit in the 70s or 80s that lasted 20 years and had all the flexibility of cardboard, it was probably made of Rubatex G231-N. Not sure if they are still making wetsuit neoprene

Showa
possibly you mean Sheico, a very large Chinese neoprene and wetsuit manufacturer. They make suits for many of the big brands, mostly from neoprenes similiar to Yamamoto 39

Nam Liong
Similiar to Sheico, they make neoprene and suits for most other big brands

Ecoline
Elios phrase for their suits made from cheaper neoprenes (mostly Sheico and Nam Liong)

Neoflex
Elios phrase for their suits made from more expensive neoprenes (mostly Heiwa and Yamamoto)

3-D Skin
A phrase dreamt up by the marketing dept at yamamoto

Super Stretch 1
A very stretchy nylon/ lycra jersey


Neoprene is always a balancing act, softer stretchier neoprene is very comfortable to wear, and will fit a larger range of sizes in a standard suit, but will not last that long, or give much insulation at depth. The softer suits have much more "shop window appeal" so that is what most of the big names go for. Also , you cant get something for nothing; If someone claims to make a cheap suit out of an expensive material they are probably lieing, and "space age" materials cant change the laws of physics

cheers
dave
Spearguns by Spearo uk ltd finest supplier of speargun, monofins, speargun and freediving equipment
 
OP
OP
Seacidal

Seacidal

Seacidal Tendencies
Sep 27, 2005
116
8
0
Ventura, CA USA
Dave,
What can I say? Wow! Thanks!

I was aware of a number of things you mentioned, but am still very impressed by your efforts to put it all down in writing, in one place, at one time.

I'm familiar with Yamamoto, Nam Liong, old time Rubatex (California scuba favorite), and other brands, from a number of suits over the years. But I still have questions about how these different "brands" actually compare with one another.

Head to head, how do they compare for elasticity, durability, resistance to compression, etc.? Is there really any way to effectively rank the different neoprenes. Or, for that matter, to truly determine which neoprene is used in a particular suit. After all, don't we often proceed upon the representations of a salesperson?

Similarly, I've encountered a number of suits that claim to be a certain thickness neoprene, but in fact, are noticeably different from other suits purportedly of the same thickness.

Wouldn't it benefit the diving community overall if there were some way to tell what you're really getting? Otherwise, isn't much of the purchase left up to who has the better spin?

Thanks again,
Chip
 
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dave

Dicentrarchus labrax
Jan 13, 2003
497
185
133
49
Cornwall, England
www.spearo.co.uk
Similarly, I've encountered a number of suits that claim to be a certain thickness neoprene, but in fact, are noticeably different from other suits purportedly of the same thickness.
One reason for this is that some people count the nylon as part of the thickness, and some don't. Also, there can be a tendency to tell the customer what they want to hear (not so much in freedive suits, but neoprene drysuits often claim to be thinner than they actually are)

One problem with comparing different neoprenes, is that the jersey laminated to it can make a huge difference in terms of stretchability and durability. Also, as I said earlier, some manufacturers are less than open about which neoprene they use.

cheers
dave
Spearguns by Spearo uk ltd finest supplier of speargun, monofins, speargun and freediving equipment
 
OP
OP
Seacidal

Seacidal

Seacidal Tendencies
Sep 27, 2005
116
8
0
Ventura, CA USA
Absolutely! However, on this side of the pond, I still have a hard time referring to a suit's fabric exterior as "jersey". It's just one of those things.

Anyway, I've wondered about the different jersey fabrics, and have heard a number of claims made about each. Nylon is supposed to have stretch and be abrasion resistant. But I've heard claims that Lycra surpasses Nylon in both of these areas. I do know that I've had suits where the fabric material has, over time, started to separate from the neoprene. Not good!

I've also found that wetsuits may have different quality stitching, and some (e.g., Picasso's Comercial suit) even have a coating that covers and protects the stitching on the seams. This helps preclude the stitching from coming undone. I believe that Body Glove uses something similar on some of their neoprene products. I'd like to add that coating to some other suits of mine, but don't know what it is, or where to get it.
 

dave

Dicentrarchus labrax
Jan 13, 2003
497
185
133
49
Cornwall, England
www.spearo.co.uk
some (e.g., Picasso's Comercial suit) even have a coating that covers and protects the stitching on the seams. This helps preclude the stitching from coming undone. I believe that Body Glove uses something similar on some of their neoprene products. I'd like to add that coating to some other suits of mine, but don't know what it is, or where to get it.
Any liquid rubber product will do, liquid latex , or a product called plastidip
Personally I wouldn't bother, the stitching is mainly cosmetic anyway

cheers
dave
Spearguns by Spearo uk ltd finest supplier of speargun, monofins, speargun and freediving equipment
 

pete26

Member
Mar 2, 2014
12
0
11
44
Hi,

So can you name a hard wearing, class a thermal suit which also keeps you warm at depth please?
 

Magpie

Apprentice old git
Supporter
Jan 11, 2006
2,512
724
218
42
Guernsey
Wow, resurrecting a thread from 12 years ago, and sadly I remember it from then as well!
 
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