We have all heard the same jokes a thousand times; there is no such thing as a drysuit, barely dry, sort-of drysuit, etc. I have to say I had moderate success with my first coldwater Drysuit, and I love it to pieces, literally. All of my students over the years have commented on its varying stages of deterioration and joked about it looking like it had scabs for kneepads. Say what you want, but my Bare XCS2 Tech dry has been an absolute machine for cold water diving and instruction in Vancouver. Now ten years later after multiple zippers, neckseal replacements, patches, sock replacements, leak tests, warranty repairs… It’s time for something new.
For me, I’ve always looked at the construction of the suits and combined it with what a company offers to decide on the quality of the product I’m buying. Not only that, but the way a suit is built has to reflect what the manufacturers believe to be a beautiful and well made drysuit. The reason I’ve installed 5 different zippers and the same number of neoprene neck seals onto my old compressed neoprene drysuit is because a) I love it, and b) I haven’t been blown away by many other options out there. For various reasons I’ve been hesitant to try anything else. This one is good but there are no repair facilities for diving equipment in Canada, or on this continent. This one has a good warranty program but you have to send the suit in every year anyways because of leaks. This one is bulletproof but costs a fortune and there is no one in the area who even knows where to buy it.
This is where things change. There is a new player in town, at least for the West Coast, with a name that brings to mind an online-only gear store, offering top-notch scuba diving equipment in Vancouver: ScubaForce. I have to admit that, without knowing anything about who they are or what they do, I could tell right away that these suits were made by divers who share my values. First thing you notice is that this suit is built with heavy, demanding dives in mind. When looking at their top suit, the Xpedition SE, it has protection everywhere. Key areas being the shoulders, knees, AND the crotch and seat where a tough piece of nylon webbing tends to rub if you are diving some sort of harness system. These separate overlays are made of Kevlar and are made of several different panels meaning you have tons of movement while maintaining all that protection.
Once you touch the suit, it feels like the most rugged satin you’ve ever felt. I mean the material feels GOOD. It is super lightweight and “flexible” (as flexible as a trilaminate material can be) and not crunchy or stiff at all. The Kevlar overlays have drainage holes at the bottom of all the panels which goes to show that they are a completely separate protective pad placed on top of the already tough base material. Basically the suit feels great.
Now the interesting thing about the build is when we get to the seams. I, like many divers, have always found the seams of the drysuit to be a sticking point. They are the first place to fail and always need attention. Many manufacturers try to address this by offering free repairs or something similar. However the fact remains that when you buy a drysuit, you will likely encounter a seam leak at some point. Most of them will say the one thing you DO NOT do is aquaseal the seams. Aquaseal has this great quality that makes it incredibly difficult to remove around once applied, making repairs difficult. ScubaForce has turned everything on its own head. If you make a suit properly and build a seam well, what is there to repair? They are using a special mix of aquaseal, several different kinds of seam tape, and tons of attention to detail to make what appears to be an unbreakable seam. Now that is a mentality I can get behind. Built by divers who hate sending their suit away for repairs. So let's make a suit that won’t fail.
Lastly, getting the suit was amazing. The options are wild. I was able to opt for a Cordura upper overlay in the most vibrant pink I’ve ever seen while keeping the Kevlar reinforcements on the legs. I wanted a custom made and fitted drysuit because if we really look at it, most people are not an “average” size.
Apparently, the reason we have adjustable car seats is because, back in the day, when they were trying to find the right place to fix a driver seat, engineers took measurements from many different people and turned it into the average. No one could fit into the average seat. So.. Adjustable seats.
When taking the measurements, we took down an extensive list of sizes, twice! Once with tight fitting clothes, and a second time with all the layers of undergarments I would be wearing on a dive. I’ve never had anyone actually take the measurements with the undergarments on. Needless to say that when I got my fully customized suit (ahead of schedule I will add) it fit better than any other suit I have tried or tested. It actually feels like it was made for me, not just a suit that was sold to me.
Fan-boying aside, I will have to do many many more dives in my suit until I can say if it is the best suit I have seen. So far I have no red flags, which is always a good start, but we will see. For now I have a coldwater drysuit made by a company that I feel values the things that I value, providing the best dive experience in the world with equipment designed to keep me alive underwater and performing my best. I can teach from Open Water to Technical divers without worrying about getting wet. I can plan decompression dives inside wrecks and I know my suit will not cause any restricted movement. The ScubaForce Xpedition SE Drysuit seems to check all the boxes that I value as a dive professional, diver, explorer, and consumer in the realm of technical diving in BC.