Appeared in DIVER September 2017
MY REGULAR POST-LADY handed over the box, telling me that it was too light to be diving equipment, and as soon as I took it from her I knew exactly what she meant.
We were both wrong. Inside the box was a bag, and inside the bag was a BARE Aquatrek drysuit. At just under 2.6kg, not including the direct-feed hose, the Aquatrek doesn’t weigh much more than a 5mm wetsuit. Not surprisingly, BARE has the travelling diver firmly front of mind for the Aquatrek, hence the name.
Home or abroad, however, a drysuit is only any good if it’s well-made, built to last, fits properly and keeps you dry. I wasn’t going to be able to check on the keeping-me-dry thing in my kitchen, but every other box looked to be nicely ticked right from the off.
The materials looked good, the seams were neat, the seals appeared well-fitted and the front-mounted zip was smooth and low-profile.
Time for a first try-on, and I’ll tell you now that this suit was as easy to get into as any I’ve ever worn and, once on, the fit was very good.
I’d picked it using BARE’s sizing guide and it fitted me at least as well as some made-to-measure suits I’ve had in the past.
Don’t read too much into that, we’re all different shapes and you may not be as fortunate as I was, but when you buy a new suit BARE can alter arm and leg length if required, so you should be able to get a suit that fits without any problems.
Getting out of the suit was a bit more of a struggle, but only because the standard latex wrist-seals are a generous length and were nice and tight. A quick squirt of lube got the job done.
The suit is made from a four-layered fabric that BARE calls Cordura Nylon Oxford and says makes it durable, breathable and lighter than traditional trilaminate materials, with a degree of flexibility to allow you to move around easily on the boat and under water.
The seams are kept neat and low-profile so that they don’t catch or wear, and additional taping is applied to seams that flex the most.
The standard suit is supplied with what BARE calls Tech boots, which are what I think of as traditional drysuit neoprene boots but, once again, if that doesn’t float your boat you can specify either a different type of boot or soft socks.
Ankle-straps allow you to pull the legs tight to keep air migration to a minimum and help prevent your boots popping off your feet, although in use I never felt that this was likely, straps or not, and if your suit fits properly neither will you.
The knees are protected by a large panel with the BARE name embossed down the front and backed by a lovely 2mm neoprene pad that made kneeling down more comfortable when I’d dropped my reel, which had rolled under the seat and I couldn’t quite reach it.
The upper torso and the lower part of the suit telescope together and are held in place by a crotch-strap adjustable enough to get the job done without getting all personal. Standard-fitting internal braces mean that you can don the lower half of the suit and wander around looking appropriately cool until it’s time to kit up properly.
The standard zipper is plastic, lightweight and with a nicely sized T-handle to pull it closed. It runs from your upper left shoulder across and down to your right hip, and you can close the zip all the way yourself. This suit is fully self-donning. Other zip options are available if you feel you need them.
Valves are branded BARE but made by SiTech, with the inlet valve a little to the right of centre of your chest and the auto-dump slightly to the front of centre of your left arm. You can have the valves placed elsewhere if you prefer.
Latex wrist-seals and a neoprene neck-seal were fitted to the review suit, but you can specify neoprene wrist- or latex neck-seal, or go for cuff-rings for dry-gloves and a ring system for the neck-seal. You can also have a Trigon pee-valve fitted.
In Use Topside
The suit was as easy to put on over a medium-weight Thinsulate undersuit as it had been over shorts and a T-shirt, and there was enough room in the fit to add a base-layer for winter without the suit being in any way baggy.
Being able to pull the zip closed myself was great. Don’t ask me why, it was just loads better than getting my buddy to do it for me.
Talking about the zip, zipping a zipper so that it’s closed doesn’t seem like much of a challenge, but there’s something you need to know about this zipper. Look at the closed end and you’ll see a hard plastic U-shaped dock.
As you pull the slider across and down it seems to reach the end of its travel and stop, but you’ll then need to pull it just a little further to make sure the slider goes fully home.
If you don’t, your drysuit will not be dry and your day will not be as much fun. It’s an error you’ll make only once.
Anyway, there’s a distinct feel to the zip closing fully that you’ll soon get used to. The neoprene neck-seal was a decent length, long enough to fold into place and provide a good seal. On me it felt tight enough to work effectively when settled in place, but not so tight that it was hard to pull over my head.
Another win. I was liking this suit more and more.
Movement on land was fine, with enough flexibility to make kitting up very straight-forward. Putting on my BC, bending to rinse out my mask and pulling on my fins were all easy, and there was plenty of movement to make clipping on a stage feel comfortable without any strain or tightness.
The suit is said to be breathable, but I wasn’t wearing the right underclothing to test that properly, so all I can say is that in the hundred metres-or-so walk to the water’s edge fully kitted with stage and camera, I didn’t get all sweaty on what was a warm, muggy day.
In the water the Aquatrek allowed me to adopt a nice horizontal trim without any fuss. The inlet valve was smooth and precise in operation, and the dump-valve worked very nicely.
I found that keeping the dump racked fully open and then rolling just a little left-side-high dumped air in a controlled fashion, though I think a different strategy might be required on a deeper sea-dive. It usually is.
As it was, within seconds of hitting the water I’d forgotten that I was wearing a new suit and was concentrating on what I was looking at. That’s pretty high praise, because the normally abundant Ellerton perch had clearly decided on a duvet day.
Not that I blamed them. The day was grey and drizzly and overcast despite it being warm, and a few days of heavy rain had reduced the vis to a metre or less.
Swimming was easy, and I was able to move as freely as I had on land, perhaps more so. Experimenting a bit, I found that I could do the GUE arms-forward or the dive-guide arms-folded positions with equal ease.
I’m sure I’d have had no trouble operating my camera if there had been anything to photograph.
Post-dive, I was bone-dry. You remember that Bond movie in which Sean Connery peels off his suit to reveal an immaculate white tux? This suit felt as if I could have done that, and subsequent dives were equally dry and pleasant.
I liked everything about this suit and felt it did the job it was designed to do.