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Thread: Review: Whites Fusion Drysuit - say goodbye to cave cut

 

 



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    fdog's Avatar
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    Review: Whites Fusion Drysuit - say goodbye to cave cut

    Say goodby to the cave-cut drysuit.

    I’ll admit it, I am an “early adopter”. I see the utility in something, and jump right in, first generation and all. Although this is occasionally a cause for angst, usually I get the joy of an extended timeline with the “good stuff”, as it has been with the X-Scooter.

    This is a review of the new Whites Fusion Drysuit. When I first saw this suit, I was skeptical. Several months later, when I tried on a prototype, I was so impressed that I ordered one on the spot. What won me over was two big things:

    • Mobility
    • Fit

    The mobility was better than my 3 mil wetsuit; the fit was way better than custom, actually, it fits like spray paint.

    The suit reviewed here is one of the first production run of 200. The manufacturer and regional rep have been extremely cooperative, and suggestions made from these initial suits are being incorporated into the next version.



    The Fusion is a shell suit in two layers. The inner layer is a thinner shell that is built a couple of sizes “too big”; the outer layer is a heavyweight lycra coverall that is built a couple of sizes “too small”. The two are held together at the wrists and ankles by Velcro, so it is a single unit.

    The result is a suit that looks somewhat comical when you hold it up next to you, here’s my suit, which is a size 2XL-3XL.




    Since the interior shell is essentially non-stretchy, just like a TLS350 (yes, I know you think it stretches), it presents practically zero resistance when you move because it’s way too big for your size. The fabric never gets stretched tight (tightness restricts motion).

    This floppy inner layer is held in check by the Lycra. This is tight enough that it holds in all the excess, and incidentally, makes for some impressive streamlining for a dry suit.


    As you can see below, Janet was wearing blue jeans under the suit, the suit fits so well you can see where the waistband of the blue jeans are.





    So that’s the idea behind the suit. The big question is, does it work?

    As I’d said, this suit is one of the first batch of 200. So it was with some excitement I received it and first pulled it on. This being a shell suit, it is quite a change for me; all I’ve used are neoprene dry suits, and lately, a CF200.

    To say I was astounded by the fit is an understatement. I apparently have one of those hard to fit bodies, and every custom suit has been sent back at least twice for changes. Legs too long and shoulders too wide, apparently. Anyway, this suit fit me exactly like custom. Exactly. And it’s what you’d expect, with the lycra pulling everything tight.





    To get an idea of how this fits, here’s a look at the suit with the zipper open. As you can see, the outside follows the contours of the undergarments.





    All this shrink-wrap fit is worthless if you can’t move. As it turns out, you can do stuff that’s impossible (at least for me) in an ordinary dry suit. I really felt that the only thing restricting my motion was my undergarments (more on that later), and even with that, I would be forced to admit that my 3 mil warm-water wet suit is more of a restriction.



    <sorry about the shocking sight of me bent over, but, well….anyway…>






    Another thing that’s unique about the Fusion is the suit zipper placement. Wow. Different is a good word here. I was very pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to get your arms into the sleeves, without a conventional back entry that hits you in the face, or, a side zip.

    As for getting your head into the neck seal, it’s like reaching over your head for ejection seat handles; grab, pull, and pop, your head’s in place. A total non-event that is rather unlike the side zip neck-bend hip shimmy.

    This is also the first zipper that I can zip up completely without help, and feel confident about. Cool!

    The undergarments are rather different from the one-piece Flecton 200 that I’m used to. After a bit of reflection, I realized that the one-piece snowmobile suit idea was really restricting motion, so I gave the Whites undies a try. They are certainly well built, and most importantly have stretch fabric and stretchy neoprene in the places that need it the most, like the knees/elbows/small if the back. They are easily ¼ as restrictive as a one-piece. And, they have the “union suit” zipper in the back that allows easy bathroom trips without dropping your undies on the bathroom floor, yuck.

    So with all this new stuff, Janet and I put in some dives. Lake Tahoe is a balmy 53 degrees F right now, so I figured this was about average and a good workout for the suit.

    The first thing that’s “different” is getting the suit on. It has two layers, so it’s not as easy as a conventional suit; you have to pull on only the inner bladder as you get your feet into the legs.




    After your feet are in the legs, it’s easy to pull up the suspenders. Then, pull up the lycra to your waist. This is easier than it sounds, it’s just like pulling on a pair of pants, and after this point, it’s just like any other drysuit.

    Did I mention how easy the weird front zipper is? Well it is. Easy, that is. And weird, after years with a side zip.





    Something else that’s “different” is the new inflator hose that Whites includes with the suit. All you have to do is push it on the inflator nipple, you don’t have to pull back the collar on the hose fitting. As trivial as it sounds, this is as cool as can be, and makes connections easy even with thick gloves. If this new fangled fitting makes you uneasy, with the vague extra failure point of a ball bearing or two, you are welcome to use your old school connector which works perfectly (since the suit nipple is the standard one).


    In 53 degree water, I was wearing the Mk 1/ Mk2 undies and was plenty warm, although not as warm as I would have been with a CF200. In conversations with folks that switch between CF and shell suits, I was told “of course dummy”, and “just stack on an extra thin layer”. Shell suits have no built-in insulation, duh. Adding a layer does the trick and is warm as can be, and those who know me can attest, I am the king of the cold weanies.

    A big concern was fit and flexibility underwater. Mobility was superb, and the fit was something to behold! Here’s Janet:





    And a close-up of her leg:






    Something I’d anticipated was scootering speed. As far as I could tell (we haven’t run a measured mile yet, but that’s coming) the speed is identical to being in a wetsuit, my reference suit is a 7mm semi-dry. It is certainly appreciably faster than the CF200! Being a scooter-aholic, this is reason enough for me to get one.





    This is also the easiest drysuit I’ve ever flown. Just as a test, I flipped fins-up and waited for the air to rush into my legs. I wanted to see how easy it was to backpedal out of the position and recover.

    The result was really, really unexpected – the air just kind of meandered into my feet. The lycra controls air movement! After a while kind of hanging there I got bored and flipped back level. After some reflection, this worried me, because I often cruise along with air in my feet to keep them warmer, and I wasn’t into something that would prevent it! So I tried it, without a problem, if anything it’s easier to meter how much air goes into the feet.

    I’m not a Weezle kind of guy, so I’m not sure how( or if) the lycra would cause issues for these types of undies. With undies that don’t count on large amounts of loft, like thinsulate, this suit is perfect. I’m looking to try a layer of 4th Element stuff, too.

    Concerns

    A concern that remains to pan out is durability, and it’s the first question everyone asks. That’s valid, this is soooo new that I’d be concerned too. What I didn’t know is that this suit has actually been on the market since June! A subsidiary of Whites is a surfing company, OceanRodeo. I chatted with a surfer in NorCal that has had one since they first sold, surfing a couple days a week, and has had no punctures or issues besides a bit of pilling on the lycra. That was reassuring. Also, the rep gave me a swatch of the bladder material, which looks thin as can be. Try as hard as I could, I couldn’t push a ballpoint pen through it. This is something I can do pretty easily with CF200, so that’s an up-check in my book. The lycra coverall is pretty inexpensive to replace, too; if you rip it, get a new one (or take it to a seamstress at a dry cleaning shop), and all it takes is resticking some Velcro.

    Time will tell, although for our primary diving – shore diving and boat diving – it looks plenty robust. I would admit to being nervous if diving a nasty, razor sharp old rusty wreck to penetrate.

    Another issue actually comes from the background of surfing! The surfing suits have no feet, and only ankle seals. Somewhere in the translation to attached feet, the legs became 1)shorter and 2)thinner. This meant that the size I should have fit into, the L-XL, had legs that were about 4” too short; so, I’m in the 2XL-3XL. (Amazingly it fits just like it was made for me!) The factory says the next batch will have bigger legs to fix this, so it should be a non issue.

    Another concern I have is being ridiculed. Ha. The laugh’s on you, hater.

    An issue I really do have is that the lycra just doesn’t have enough turgor to hold up a fully loaded cargo pocket. While I can’t seem to commit to X-shorts, right now I have a pocket on my waist strap that does the job, it’s just different. And the rep hinted broadly about new lycra styles coming in the future, with some sort of pocket. Hmmm. Take off old lycra and replace…hmmm.

    Oh, and back to the durability thing – I found out that all it takes to fix the bladder is a heat gun. Just patch it in the field. Same with new seals. That’s pretty nice.






    All in all I’m very happy so far with the new Whites Fusion. This is the first really new thing I’ve seen in dry suits for a long time, and it’s a humdinger. To say this has the potential to change dry suit diving is really not hyperbole.

    Of course it’s new, so I’m keeping an open mind about durability, and I’ll keep y’all posted.

    Give one a try. I’m not a caver so I’m curious about how it would work for you folks – I already know it works for my scootering lifestyle.


    All the best, James

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    Thanks for such a well-written and comprehensive review!

    Quote Originally Posted by fdog View Post
    All this shrink-wrap fit is worthless if you can’t move. As it turns out, you can do stuff that’s impossible (at least for me) in an ordinary dry suit. I really felt that the only thing restricting my motion was my undergarments (more on that later), and even with that, I would be forced to admit that my 3 mil warm-water wet suit is more of a restriction.
    Quote Originally Posted by fdog View Post
    I’m not a Weezle kind of guy, so I’m not sure how( or if) the lycra would cause issues for these types of undies. With undies that don’t count on large amounts of loft, like thinsulate, this suit is perfect. I’m looking to try a layer of 4th Element stuff, too.
    I would share your concern about this suit reducing loft in undergarments other than Thinsulate.

    My undergarments are various amounts of Polartec for temps above 40 degrees and Weezle Extreme Plus below 40 degrees.

    How do you think this suit will perform when using enough Thinsulate to keep you warm in sub-40 degree water? Perhaps the thicker Thinsulate will become restrictive when squeezed by the Lycra layer.

    Thanks again! Looking forward to hearing what you think of the suit if you get into the issues of colder water and heavier undergarments.

    Dave C
    Last edited by dave4868; October 23rd, 2007 at 07:48 PM.

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    Great review - thanks for taking the time to post it!

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    Very interesting...

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    I always like to see manufacturers try new things.
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    Great review. I'm in the market for a drysuit myself and was looking at the Pinnacle Evo2 or one of the Bare suits. This looks like it would fit me down to the ground. By the way did you see need to use less weight with this suit compared to your normal drysuit?

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    Wow, great in depth (heh) review , James

    Interesting idea, looks good too
    .. discussing the idea of differing outershell collors/designs here .. What color do you want your drysuit dive skin?? Black with a Yellow seam stripe down arms like Cousteau had would be popular

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    Hi,

    Thanks for the indepth review.. I live on Vancouver Island, about 45 minutes away from the factory and saw one of these suits the other day. I was l was less than impressed with their old suits and went for the tls 350 but their new suits look pretty good .. might have to try one.

    Thanks for the serious review.

    Guy

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    Quote Originally Posted by Space Beagle View Post
    <snip> By the way did you see need to use less weight with this suit compared to your normal drysuit?
    My prior suit is a CF200. Compared with that, for equivalent warmth, it's about the same amount of weight.

    Also, to get equivalent warmth, I find I need an additional layer of lightweight fleece. <shrugs> Only makes sense.

    In 53 degree water (Lake Tahoe) I am quite warm with:
    Mk1 Undies + top
    Thin Layer of REI fleece, pants and jacket
    Mk2 Undies

    This is as warm as the CF200 and about 3 times the mobility.

    For the above, I am wearing 27 lbs, medium SS plate, HP80 (or HP100); all this feels about right when the cylinder is near empty.


    All the best, James

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    The no pockets would make this a no-go for me.
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