Top-shelf seam construction and infra-red make this suit warm
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 28 September, 2015 - For many wetsuits this season the big innovations are happening on the inside of the suit. We’ve reached a point where even the mid-level wetsuits have top-notch outside seams and stretchy neoprene, so current frontier for wettie improvement is what lies on the inside.
The interior lining of the Body Glove Vapor X Red Cell is woven with infrared thread. Yes, infrared thread.
Wetsuit makers, when putting a soft, non rubber lining in a suit either use a solid, plushy interior lining or a channeled, patterned interior. Design-wise the Vapor X Red Cell lining employs a series of elevated Hexagons along the interior. The Channels surrounding the hexagons facilitate enhanced breathability and help the suit dry faster.
Wetsuit makers discovered a few years ago that your body heats air more efficiently than water, since then wetsuits have utilized plushier, more water repellent linings.
The Body Glove Red Cell material looks like several other fluffy interior neoprenes, but the ad-line is that the Red Cell redirects infrared rays back to the body, thus heating more efficiently. How can it do this?
“The yarns of the Red Cell lining are produced entirely from a highly specialized, thermally receptive polymer that captures infrared rays and reflects them back to the body,” said Body Glove Wetsuit designer John Federoff. “The balance between emitted and absorbed infrared rays has a critical effect on the human body’s ability to maintain a constant body temperature.”
Body Glove's interior taping method
Currently there are two wetsuit makers utilizing smart fiber materials that reflect and maintain infrared rays (Body Glove and XCEL). This could be the next leap in wetsuit tech - what can we expect with this new infrared technology?
Federoff explains further: “Smart Fiber technology has come a long way since its inception, and manufacturers of this type of “Third Generation” fabric claim there is an increase in blood flow, increased oxygen levels and even improved overall wellbeing.”
Federoff also cautioned that “Many of these claims can be highly subjective and their effectiveness can vary greatly from one person to another.”
Section of Body Glove's Red Cell interior fabric
How did the Body Glove Vapor X Red Cell perform?
WARMTH & FLEXIBILITY
Design-wise the Vapor X Red Cell lining employs a series of elevated Hexagons along the interior. The Channels surrounding the hexagons facilitate enhanced breathability and allow for a faster dry time.
For warmth and flexibility the Red Cell material was on par, if not above par to other similar high-end suit materials. The Red Cell is comfortable, flexible and very warm. Whether this warmth was due to increased blood flow and oxygen levels from the infrared fibers, or just that the Red Cell is a good insulator, I could not tell. Either way, the suit is very warm.
Body Glove uses their Liquid Weld on the seams. This taping is made of a highly elasticized liquid polymer to cover seams on the interior of the suit. They came up with a good formula here, as the interior tape is not too rubbery and feels comfortable against the skin.
On some suits we’ve found that the inner-seam welds, if too stiff in material, can chafe as well as crack and peel. Body Gove’s Liquid Weld also bonds quite well to the fluffier Red Cell material. Some suits on the market have had trouble with interior tape bonding to the plushy water-wicking interior lining materials.
On this suit Body Glove uses a thin, flexible exterior tape instead of the previous generation’s design that utilized a thick band of stiff silicone on the outer seams. Having thinner outer seams allows more flex.
Along these lines, the only room for improvement we could find on the Body Glove Vapor X Red Cell is their Refle-X upper back ‘X’ shaped panel. It felt stiff across the back shoulders. The Refle-X is designed to move with the motions of paddling, and while overall the suit is very flexible, the added outer seams necessary to create the ‘X’ shape stiffened up the suit across the upper back. That said, the over all flexibility and paddling motion range of the suit fell into the ‘good’ category.
Other perks in the Body Glove Vapor X Red Cell is the use of super stretchy Evoflex and Microbead along with an Airlock slanted zipper design, exterior key pocket and Nano Tritec kneepads.
In a nutshell, the suit performs like a top-end suit, utilizing all the best seams, constructions and materials available on the market. We liked the entry slanted zip design and experienced no flushing during our test surfs.
Pluses included: soft and warm Red Cell material; top-end inner and outer seam construction; overall comfort; no flushing; very warm suit. Minuses: ‘X’ shape seams feels stiff across the upper back.
Should you find yourself in the position to purchase a top-end suit, we would definitely consider the Body Glove Vapor X Red Cell.
Before buying a suit this year, take the below crash course in what makes a good wetsuit. Yes, many other factors apply, but below you’ll find a basic primer.
Neoprene is amazing. At its most basic level it’s just rubber with little gas bubbles blown into it. By blowing more or fewer bubbles into the neoprene one can control things like warmth and flexibility. Each major wetsuit brand has its own top-shelf neoprene, which is to say their own secret recipe for warmth and flexibility.
Neoprene interios-lining is the new frontier in performance as companies create innovative ways to insulate the interiors of wetsuits. The body heats air more easily than water, so most suits have some type of ‘fluffy’ interior neoprene for your core areas.
Wetsuit seams at the basic level are glued and blind stitched which, while strong, does allow some water to seep in through pinholes in the stitching. This is the type of seam you’ll find on your not-too-expensive suits or warm-water suits.
The next level up is interior-taped wetsuit seams. This means the suits have flexible tape glued along the inside seams. This type of seam provides a good water barrier and plenty of flexibility.
The top-shelf method for keeping water from seeping through the seams is having interior tape and exterior liquid tape. This pretty much means the suit’s seams are waterproof - at least while the integrity of the inner and outer tape material stays pliable and in tact. The only drawback is that heavy taping can decrease a suit’s flexibility.
Sadly this is the most overlooked component when purchasing a wetsuit. When we hear complaints from surfers about a particular suit that flushes or wears out prematurely in one place, most times it’s because the suit didn’t fit correctly in the first place. Extra strain placed on seams and materials due to an incorrect fit wear out that suit quicker than a proper fitting suit. To ensure your hard-earned money is spent well, take the time to try on several suits at your local surf shop and find the best fit.