Oceanic Pioneer Wetsuit

The more diving I do in Hawaii the more inadequate my 3mm wetsuits seem.  When I began diving in January of 2012 I could hardly see the need for any wetsuit at all.  So a 3mm wetsuit seemed more than adequate at the time.  Then, I began diving several times a week in the 74-78 degree ocean.  As I honed my skills as a diver I also learned that water carries heat away from the body 20 times faster than air.  Also with experience came better air consumption which enabled me to have longer and longer dives.  When you stay in the water for almost 2 hours you get cold.  And the more you get cold the less you care for the chill of the water. 

My first wetsuit was a Waterproof Capri 3mm which I picked up at a local dive shop’s tent sale.  I was a brand new diver and uneducated in wetsuits and dive equipment in general and since it was a good buy it seemed a good choice.  Mistake number one.  At first it was adequate but it was difficult to get in and out of and stiff.  A couple of months and a couple dozen dives later the zipper broke and my husband repaired it a couple of times.  After the third time, though, I decided to contact the manufacturer since I didn’t think it should be broken after only 30 or so dives.  I was told to go to the shop where I purchased it and take them the suit.  I did so, however, for some reason the manufacturer didn’t stand behind it very well. 

Luckily the shop did and they offered me a credit toward a new wetsuit.  So I tried on a few and ordered my Aqualung Quantum Stretch 3.0mm.  The Aqualung suit was an excellent value since the price was very competitive with other comparable suits.  It’s also a soft neoprene that stretches to allow the best fit and maximum comfort.  Unfortunately, because it’s a 3.0mm it just isn’t warm enough. 

Around the same time I also purchased an Xcel Thermoflex 3.0mm wetsuit.  I was in the process of accumulating dives so that I could start my Divemaster course and while the Aqualung was on order and the waterproof was broken I needed a wetsuit.  The xcel is an excellent wetsuit.  It’s soft, comfortable and easy to get on and off.  I like that it has leg zippers to make it easier to put dive booties on and of as well.  The only real drawback was the color.  Because it’s blue on the sleeves it would get a line of red running up the arm from the red dirt.  It’s not pretty but doesn’t change the function of the suit at all. 

When I started getting colder in the water I first tried a hood to help with warmth.  I figured if the hood made enough of a difference then I wouldn’t need to spend the money right away to get a thicker suit.  It worked to an extent but it also made it hard to hear under the water and they aren’t the most comfortable thing in the world.  The Henderson Hood was a great buy and I will probably still get use out of it in the winter.  The biggest drawback was getting the bib tucked in and not being able to zip my own wetsuit because it would get caught up on the hood. 

I soon realized that even with the hood I was still cold on long and consecutive dives.  At first I had decided to sell my Xcel suit in order to offset some of the cost of a 5mm wetsuit.  The more I thought about it the more I realized I would be better off selling both 3mm wetsuits and going to one 5mm.  And so the hunt began.

A wetsuit is an investment, one that I have written about before here.  There are a myriad of manufacturers and not all of them are equal.  Everyone has a preference.  Here, in Hawaii, choices are limited by what we can get on the island.  There are plenty of choices but they all fit a bit differently.  The size that fits in one brand is sometimes too large or too small in another.  I tried the Xcel suits and found a good fit but the price was an issue. 

I had seen and heard a little about the new Oceanic Pioneer wetsuit and its features.  I knew that I could probably get a good deal on it since the dive shop I work for sells Oceanic.  I have been happy with everything else I have ever gotten through Oceanic so they were a serious contender.  I have always found them to be comparable to the Xcel suits in quality.  Last weekend I had the opportunity to demo one of the pioneer wetsuits and I really liked the way it fit.  I found that the demo suit, a 3/2, was warmer than any other 3mm I have ever tried.  And that was despite the fact that the demo suit was a men’s suit and too large in the neck, arms and legs.  That’s significant because the seal around the neck is critical for warmth.  If it’s too large then cool water continuously flows through the suit and causes you to get cold faster.  In the end the Pioneer was more expensive than the Xcel would have been but far superior in comfort and ease of putting it on and off.  I liked the fact that is has liquid seals or increased durability and special super stretchy neoprene in all the right places. 

I ordered my new wetsuit on Thursday and today I handed over my only remaining 3mm suit to a friend.  But, since I seem to have hurt my ankle I won’t really be needing a wetsuit for the time being.  I’m excited at the prospect of enjoying a dive without getting cold and you can be I will be doing so as soon as possible.  I also like that the suit is almost all black so any red dirt staining should not be too obvious.  Oceanic combined it’s Lavaskin technology with its wetsuit technology for maximum warmth.  So far everyone I have talked to has been extremely happy with them.  I’m sure I will be no different.  Besides it’s always fun to get new equipment.


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