Can a wetsuit really redirect heat back to your body with fuzzy infrared fabric?
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 30 September, 2016 - For this year the interior lining of the Body Glove Red Cell is woven with infrared thread. They did this last year, debuting their polyester resin material that stakes claims of redirecting heat back into your body.
It’s odd, for the last few years wetsuits exteriors have taken a back seat to high-tech innovations on wetsuit interiors as wetsuit makers (and the cold water surfing population) have discovered that your body heats air more efficiently than water. Understandable since that’s the part of the suit that presses up against your body during surfs and works to keep you warm.
Gone are the days of wet, long-drying nylon interiors to suits. The current frontier for wettie improvement is what lays on the inside. And those materials used on the inside are growing increasingly innovative and creative (or bizarre depending on whom you ask).
Rip Curl started it all with their fluffy flash-dry interior, and Patagonia followed with Merino Wool, but Body Glove has gotten quite technical with their Red Cell infrared material.
Design-wise the 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 by providing a channel for water to drain.
The Body Glove Red Cell material looks very similar to other fluffy interior neoprenes, but the ad-line is that the Red Cell redirects infrared rays back to the body, thus heating more efficiently.
“The key feature first and foremost is the Red Cell fabric technology, as it doesn’t use a fibre-based material but rather a polyester resin which has the ability to absorb emitted infra-red light from your 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.”
Currently there are two wetsuit makers utilizing smart fiber materials that trap and reflect infrared rays (Body Glove and XCEL). The XCEL Thermo Dry Celiant thread is that tie-dye looking fabric one sees on the inside of XCEL suits. Texturally when comparing the TDC to the Red Cell, the Red Cell feels softer and a tad “fluffier” than it’s XCEL infra-red competitor. We’ve tested both suits, but thermally we couldn’t tell a difference in regards to warmth between XCEL’s infrared and Body Glove’s.
So now you know a little bit more about infra-red fabric and thread, let’s move on to how the Body Glove Red Cell performed.
For such a thick suit, we tested the 5/4/3 hooded model, it’s extremely light. Normally this doesn’t bode well for an extra-cold water suit, but the insulative properties of the Body Glove Red Cell suit are fantastic (which could also be due to the seam construction, but we’ll get to that later).
The Red Cell material is comfortable and flexible and feels soft against the skin. We were expecting a stiffer, more abrasive material against our skin due to it being a polyester resin-based lining, but it was extremely soft and pliable. When wet the material kept it’s same comfort level and we experienced no chaffing or abrasive areas. Regarding flexibility, it moves and stretches really well for a 5/4/3.
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.
The exterior of the suit uses what Body Glove calls Evo Dry, which is made according to Federoff, by taking hollow cord yarn and weaving it into the jersey of the wetsuit. Claims are that the material absorbs 30% less water. It feels light and, yes, water did bead off of the new suit. It took a few submersions to get it fully wet.
We really liked the seams on this suit. They are a perfect blend of light and strong. Body Glove uses a basic, thin taped inner seam (their brand name is EvoFlex Tape) 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 EvoFlex 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 the exterior seams Body Glove uses a thin, flexible liquid tape (brand name Microbead) instead of a thick band of liquid seal. The material here feels durable and flexible. It stretches more than some of the other outer seam material we’ve tested on other suits.
Getting into and out of the suit was very simple for a chest zip-hooded suit. A lot of times, in the effort to keep water out, suit makers will not consider that surfers have to actually get in and out of the suit and leave only a small opening. The zipper is a bright yellow, lightweight “airlock” unit attached at a slant. During tests we didn’t get any flushing in through the zipper.
The hood is cinched tight with a pull-cord and then locked. On the visor is a very stiff brim that keeps the water from dripping down onto your face. Both worked well.
Cuffs and ankles have 1 1/2” of rubber to seal off the suit. The material is soft and pliable but tight enough so there was no “balloon leg” when we exited the water.
Other perks in the Body Glove Vapor X Red Cell include the use of the stretcher material through the shoulders for paddling.
Overall the suit performs like a top-end suit, utilizing quality seam construction and materials.
Pluses included: soft and well-insulating Red Cell material; top-end inner and outer seam construction; high overall comfort and no flushing. Given our testing method of merely examining the construction and materials of the suit and then surfing, but not running the Red Cell through a light-reflecting laser lab, we couldn’t verify the claimed benefits of infra-red lining. We can only say from using the suit that we found it to be very soft, warm, flexible and light.
The only point for improvement we could find (and we have to mention something with each review) is that perhaps since the 5/4/3 hooded Red Cell full suit is a serious cold water suit, that a smoothie or slick wind-resistent outer shell on the neoprene through the chest and back could help in cold wind sessions.
Should you find yourself in the position to purchase a top-end suit serious cold water suit, we would definitely consider the Body Glove Red Cell.