Body Glove Vapor Zipperless 3/2mm retails for $349.99
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 26 October, 2017 - Are zipperless wetsuits any good? Well, it depends on how you define “good.” For the most part a zipperless entry system allows more flexibility through the chest than traditional anchored-front-zip systems. The advantage is that the soft, stretchy neoprene is allowed to be soft, stretchy neoprene unencumbered by a static, glued-in-place heavy duty zipper. So, yes. If you define "good" as more flexible.
However it’s not as simple as zipper = good and zip-free = good, you need to consider how the zipperless entry is designed. It’s like there’s a little ecosystem going on there with just the right balance of all the right components. Let’s have a look…
Many zippered designs on the market are unobtrusive and quite flexible. Typically if a zip design uses more neoprene material (remember neoprene will stretch, zippers will not) surrounding the zip closure in a free-floating waterproof membrane, then the flexibility performance characteristics will be quite similar to a zipperless entry system. The performance difference in flexibility between these top-shelf zip-entry suits and zip-free entry is minimal.
Body Glove's left shoulder cinch with camlock
But there are heaps of other things that factor into the overall design to help a zip-free entry design work to its full potential. We’ve seen on the market many zipperless suit designs that negate the benefits of not having a zipper because the entry system is unnecessarily bogged down with extra seams, straps and panels. Unbelievably some wetsuit makers will add extra security straps, tabs and pulls to their zip-free design in order to make the fastening process of closing the entry area more solid. However, this ends up decreasing flexibility in one of the most important areas of the wetsuit, the shoulders which move quite a bit each time you paddle.
Body Glove’s Vapor zipperless design resembles the top zip free designs on the market with an opening that splits the wetsuit at the left shoulder and the torso material staying anchored while the neoprene from the arm area tucks neatly underneath. But what sets this design apart is its closure system, a thick, stretchy-yet-secure band that anchors neatly into a seated bracket.
The design uses a wide, stretchy ribbon of fabric where most companies opt for a thin, cord type closure system. Surfers run into problems with a cord-style design because it’s easy to have too much hanging off the shoulder of the suit. If you don’t tuck the looping cord back into the suit, you can trip up on it with your hand while popping up to your feet. Body Glove’s left shoulder cinch with camlock closure sits close to the shoulder and it’s easy to either trim the ribbon to fit or tuck it back into the suit’s entry area. Another added benefit is that when the ribbon material is pulled tight it doesn’t bite into the wearer’s skin the same way a narrow piece of cord does.
Body Glove's X-dry plush interior
So let’s move on to the materials in the Vapor Zipperless Wetsuit. Body Glove X-dry plush interior in the torso and legs with thermoplush in the legs and underarms. Despite the fancy names they are both basically high-pile suit linings that trap a thin layer of air (along with the water in the wetsuit) between the surfer and the neoprene. The torso has the X-dry plush which is white plush poly fiber set off in a pattern of multiple “X”s. It feels really soft and cozy next to the skin.
The more performance-oriented (read stretchier) of the two is the thermoplush which sits inside the suit along the paddling points where your arms and shoulders move the most and also the lower legs. While not as warm as the X-dry, it’s a bonus as most suits opt for straight up nylon interior on this section of a wetsuit. Body Glove has gone with the thermoplush as it’s still very stretchy for a plush interior.
Bells and whistles on this suit include, microbead sealant, lightweight super flexible interior tape and glide skin along the neck, ankles, and wrists.
Body Glove's inner tape and stress point weld next to X-dry and thermoplush linings
A word about interior tape: Many suits that use interior tape along fluffy interiors have issues with the tape not creating an effective water barrier. This is because many times the interior tape cannot sit flat against the suit. Any raised area between tape and seam means water can get in. However, Body Glove’s Neotape internal seams sit really tight against the interior of the suit. The other plus to ensure seam longevity and water blockage is the use of liquid tape sealant along the exterior seams. The liquid tape seal measures really thin at 1/8” instead of the traditional 1/2” outer liquid tape used my many manufacturers.
How did it perform?
We were really impressed with how comfortable, soft and stretchy the suit was. The interior thermoplush and X-Dry plush are really cozy. Combined with the suit’s impermeable-to-water seam construction, test surfs were quite warm. As far as the main selling point, the zipper less entry, it was pretty much invisible. We didn’t notice it much. The suit’s easy to get in and out of. We noticed no binding from the closure system and during test surfs we did not experience any flushing. So overall we'd rate it high on the flexibility index.
Things we really liked
Innovative, forward thinking zipperless entry system that didn’t crimp into our shoulders or leave excess material dangling in front of us. Suit has a great amount of flex.