Thermo Dry Celliant: Marketing hype or neoprene awesomeness?
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 19 October, 2014 - Did you know your body produces infrared light? To bring you up to speed, infrared is invisible radiant energy, electromagnetic radiation with longer wavelengths than those of visible light. Why am I telling you this? Because it’s the cornerstone of Xcel’s new Thermo Dry Celliant, or TDC.
Xcel, known in the industry as the working-man-working woman’s no-nonsense daily driver suit line has been making some (understandably) outrageous claims about their latest material, Thermo Dry Celliant. The official line is that TDC smart fibers recycle body heat into infrared energy. The benefits of this are: greater warmth, increased endurance, faster recovery and enhanced overall athletic performance.
“TDC is the warmest wetsuit lining ever in over thirty years of Xcel product development,” says Lance Varon, Xcel Design Director. “Comparing TDC to other materials, we could literally see and measure the significant increase in warmth.”
How do they do this? A new synthetic fiber called Celliant which, as far as we can tell is only being used by Xcel, has some unique properties.
Celliant is a trademarked fiber currently used in bedding, home therapy, medical bandages, and veterinary products. It’s a synthetic polymer bi-component made from polyethylene terephthalate with optically active particles embedded into the core. Celliant has been shown to interact with electromagnetic infrared light produced by the human body to achieve increased oxygenation.
Much of a person's energy is radiated away from the body in the form of infrared light. Insulative materials like neoprene trap that light, what Celliant claims to do is redirect that light back to your body, something that no one ever worried about traditional neoprene doing.
“What’s also unique about TDC is that, since the Celliant mineral blend is embedded at the fiber level, TDC technology will never wear off or wash out, so its benefits last for the lifetime of the wetsuit,” added Varon.
OK. Enough of the science lesson. Let’s share with you how the suit performed...
It’s a bloody warm suit. After a few sessions I am still unable to tell if it’s the Thermo Dry Celliant redirecting my infrared body heat back into my muscles, or if it’s just a great new high-performance material.
Positives were that during our sessions water beaded off the outer neoprene shell. Most neoprenes do this the first few surfs, but this was some good, solid hydrophobic water-beading action.
The TDC material stays surprisingly light when wet. It’s a plushy material, so it looks like it would absorb heaps of water. When taking the suit out of the rinse bucket it was still very light overall. Some suits soak up water like sponges.
The feel of the TDC against your skin takes some getting used to. Not as scratchy as a wool-lined suit and not as clammy as straight-up traditional neoprene, the TDC felt a bit like a new piece of clothing that hasn’t gone through a wash cycle yet.
Flexibility was great for a 4/3. Although the suit looks heavy and solid, it is quite stretchy. I attribute this to the TDC and Xcel’s seams and construction. Xcel uses a smaller outer seam liquid weld, it’s about 1/4” as opposed to 1/2”, which allows for more stretch than the previous generations of liquid welds.
One thing that always sets Xcel suits apart is their inner taping material and method. They do this much better than some other companies. The tape fits flush agains both the neoprene and the fluffier TDC high pile chest as well as along the infrared print low pile material. At least two different inner taping materials are used to better match the wetsuit lining they are adhering to.
Many suits this year are employing a magnetic zipper latch instead of a snap. Innovation points awarded here as it’s much easier to fasten than a snap mechanism that needs to be lined up perfectly. Our cold, fumbling fingers say ‘thank you’.
Other features include a 100% waterproof zipper (there was no zipper flushing during tests) and Drylock wrist seals which kept out water just fine without creating “balloon leg” when we exited the water. The suit did not flush anywhere and stayed feeling kinda dry on the inside.
The Drylock is Xcel’s high-end suit. It’s worth the money if you’re spending that kind of scratch on a new suit. According to a nearby surf shop employee, Xcel owners have a tradition of being frugal and making one long-lasting suit stretch out over a couple of seasons. In the frugality tradition, one might consider the Xcel Revolt which offers the same TDC material at 20% less in cost (minus some of the Drylock bells and whistles of course).