This is our impression of the drysuits we regularly encounter in South Africa. All but 1 (Stingray Marine) are suits imported into SA. We receive quite a few queries and comments about these reviews from divers outside of SA most of whom find the info accurate and sometimes a little unsettling. That’s because we don’t sugar-coat or avoid mentioning the bad stuff – of which there is plenty. Unfortunately there are so many drysuit manufacturers world-wide that we simply can’t review all the suits and must focus on those found locally. Please e-mail Grant if you would like our opinion on a suit not reviewed here.
Also please see the notes about these reviews at the bottom of the page.
ScubaPro suits are imported and distributed by Scuba Equipment Africa and are available in dive shops that stock the ScubaPro range of dive gear.
ScubaPro EverDry 4 (Neoprene) approx. R13 500 (incl VAT) Available in standard sizes with no customisation. This is a very popular entry level drysuit in South Africa so we have lots of experience repairing them! It’s made with uncompressed 4mm neoprene which is soft and stretchy, with neoprene seals and neoprene socks. The seals are not taped as neoprene seals should be and just about ever one that has come to us has seals that leak on their seams. We tape them all.
By it’s nature it’s comfortable and easy to swim with but with those leaky neoprene seals and leaks from punctures and tears it’s a bit like a semi-dry wetsuit. The main problem with these suits is that they are just not going to last nearly as long as you would expect. The uncompressed neoprene punctures, tears and wears easily and the seals stretch and need to be taken in to remain watertight. Still, if you only dive occasionally and you require comfort over durability then perhaps it’s the suit for you.
ScubaPro EverTec LT (Shell) approx. R23 000 (incl VAT) Available in standard sizes only with all latex seals and a diagonal front-entry zip. This is another very popular drysuit that we have lots of experience with. The ScubaPro sales pitch will have you believe that it’s a top of the line suit perfect for technical divers and very durable. We think not. There is nothing wrong with the basic fabric and it certainly looks the part but there are some manufacturing and design issues to watch out for: Since it’s introduction in about 2012 (it succeeded the Fjord and Fjord HD – great suits) it has had it seams sealed with a black sealant that has proved very problematic. The sealant cracks after just a year or 2 and endless seam leaks result. We have re-tapped the seams of several EverTecs with rubber tape but that’s a heck of a job and very difficult to remove the black sealant and to get the new tape to adhere well to the glossy surface of the inside of the suit fabric. Only recently (June 2015) did they stop using that sealant and move to machine applied fabric tape. This tape we know from other suit brands and although it’s much better than the black sealant it still isn’t up to the standard of proper rubber tape. Another less serious but quite irritating manufacturing problem is that they have never managed to adhere the valve ports to the suit properly and every single used EverTec we have seen has flapping valve ports. The EverTec is a “telescopic” torso design with neoprene boots which require over-boots. The thing with telescopic designs is they can get various lengths of diver to fit into their standard sizes. That seems like a good idea but we find if you are on the tall side of the range of lengths for that suit size then the arms are invariably too short for you. Similar thing with the boots – more feet sizes fit into the flexible neoprene boots but those boots are not durable or particularly comfortable. They have quite narrow arms and legs so are not suitable for use with bulky undergarments or for “wide” divers. Despite these issues plenty of divers are happy with their EverTecs and although we would not recommend them for technical divers or harsh conditions they make for reasonable entry level shell drysuits.
Aqualung/Whites and Typhoon
Aqualung (previously Whites) and Typhoon suits are imported and distributed by Manex Marine and are available in dive shops that stock the Aqualung range of dive gear.
Aqualung/Whites Fusion (Shell) R34 000 for the Bullet version. The Fusion appeared in SA in about 2013 when Whites became part of the Aqualung group. It’s a strange design that features a waterproof inner layer and a Spandex or thin neoprene outer cover available locally in 3 variants (standard, tech and bullet) to protect the inner layer. The layers are held together with velcro. We really don’t like these suits. The inside part is akin to a plastic bag and the outside is like an all-over rash vest! The design makes no sense to us. I’m sure proper tech divers would run like hell to avoid being seen in the “tech” spandex variant. Durability – none. The 1st few minutes of your 1st dive with it will be dry, but then you will sweat yourself wet in the plastic and puncture or tear it and never be dry again. One good thing about the Fusion is that factory fitted Si Tech (they call them SLT) rings for silicon seals are optional in place of latex seals. Although in SA the option may not be available depending on what is in stock. How’s that price!! Madness.
Typhoon ProSport (Shell)(Not available as new suits anymore but still quite a few out there in the used market) This is another suit with which we have had a lot of experience as they have been available since about 2004 when they replaced the Ranger Sport model. For an entry-level suit it’s well made and has a standard shoulder zip, good quality valves and proper boots fitted. They have proven to be quite durable but they do have a few issues; Firstly, they have a bad reputation for being leaky. They suffer from continuous seam leaks which is surprising since the seams are properly sealed with wide rubber tape. Secondly, their design features very wide arms and legs. That may have been to accommodate bulky Thinsulate undergarments (also offered by Typhoon) but it was slightly overdone and they are quite baggy on most divers.
Typhoon CNK Tech (Shell)(Not available as new suits anymore but still quite a few out there in the used market) This suit was marketed as ideal for technical divers but in reality it is just a ProSport in black with a front-entry bib system. They suffer from the same leakiness that afflicts the ProSport, perhaps more so as the bib increases the number of seams sealing up difficult to get to areas. We don’t really like the bib system (it is unique to this suit) as replacing the zip when it fails is a nightmare job. Typhoon ditched the design in favor of a conventional diagonal front zip in their new front entry suit.
Manex Marine no longer import stock of Typhoon suits and will only bring in suits to order. You could order one of the following models;
Typhoon Discovery This is their entry level shell suit with a shoulder zip and latex seals.
Typhoon Seamaster (mens) & Seamist (ladies) These are their neoprene entry level suits.
Typhoon Evolution This is their shell suit front-entry option.
Typhoon Quantum This is their high-end neoprene suit made with a better quality neoprene than the Seamaster/Seamist
Typhoon Fathom This is their top-end delux shell suit. We can’t see much difference between it and the Discovery though.
We don’t have much experience with the new Typhoon range of suits. To be honest the shell suits seem to be much the same as the old ProSport with the same tri-laminate fabric and wide arms and legs and most likely the same leaky nature. The Seamaster/Seamist seem much the same as they have always been, not bad really, but quite basic. We haven’t seen the Quantum yet.
Mares suits are imported and distributed by Aqua Divers SA and are available in dive shops that stock the Mares range of dive gear.
Mares TechFit (Shell) R22 249. Available in standard sizes with no customisation.We quite like these suits and have had a fair number in for replacement of their latex seals with silicon seals. The suit fabric looks very plastic and cheap on the inside but it is laminated to a decent Cordura outer layer so overall construction is durable enough and extremely watertight. I wish they came from the factory with silicon seal rings as the standard duty latex seals that they come with won’t last long. Also, with that plastic inner layer you will definitely need an undergarment with good moisture wick capability to avoid getting wet with perspiration. We consider them to be quite expensive but reasonable quality.
Mares ProFit (Neoprene) R16 999 Available in standard sizes with no customisation. We unfortunately haven’t had any of these in for repairs so we can’t review them yet.
Hollis and Oceanic
Mike’s Dive Shop in Port Elizabeth are the importers and distributors of Hollis and Oceanic drysuits in SA. Mike doesn’t actually hold many suits in stock but when he does order suits (Hollis from the US and Oceanic from the UK) he will add a few suits to the order or add suits to orders of other gear so there are quite often Hollis (less so with Oceanic) suits available. Fortunately they have their shipping and customs clearance worked out so even if they don’t have your size in stock you could have your suit within a month.
Hollis BioDryFX 100 (Shell) approx. R30 000 This may be the only light-weight drysuit we rate highly. It’s marketed as being comfortable and durable and the comfort part we can certainly endorse. This is due to the suit fabric (BioFlex with WearForce) being the most flexible waterproof laminate we have ever encountered. The durability part,, not so much. The fabric tends to fluff on the outside and the inside is very plasticky so perspiration will keep it damp. Unfortunately they are fitted with latex neck and cuff seals from the factory but discerning owners can have us fit rings for silicon seals. I’m not sure if we will see many more of them as the DX-300 may have replaced it.
Hollis DX-300X (Shell) approx. R35 000. This is the latest offering from Hollis and a true top-end suit. Nice durable fabric, standard with rings for silicon seals, plastic YKK zip and neoprene socks which are reportedly quite comfortable. All good so far. Definitely one to watch out for despite the high price.
Oceanic Flexdura (Shell) Ah you’re my favorite! Such a pity these are hardly ever kept in stock. They feature a very nice somewhat flexible fabric and decent components. Latex seals only – sorry, but we could change that. A superb mid-range drysuit.
Oceanic Aerdura (Shell) No you’re my favorite! A really durable, well made drysuit. Top-of-line quality but once again hardly ever available locally. Also only available with latex seals but easily converted to silicon. A brilliant suit for serious tech divers.
Stingray Marine (Shell) Stingray drysuits are the only drysuits made in South Africa. The Stingray factory (they also make boats and bakkie canopies) is in Kraaifontein Industria, Cape Town. The boss there is Mike and he has lots of drysuit experience. They have been making them for over 20 years and there are hundreds of them in service all over SA. We get plenty in for repairs so we know them very well. Standard sizes can be made but they are only made to order so you might as well get a custom fit suit. From measurement (which could be done by e-mail but is best done in person at the factory) to delivery takes about 4 weeks. Don’t try and buy one through a dive shop as Stingray prefer to deal directly with divers especially where suit measurements are concerned. It’s a very basic, well made suit with proper traditional tri-laminate fabric that will outlast most divers. The zip and valves are fine and the standard latex seals are OK. But there are a few issues; For some reason they have never had nice boots fitted and the standard boot that comes with these suits is a cheap plastic gumboot. I think Stingray made a hundreds of these suits for police divers who didn’t mind the gumboots or didn’t know better so that’s how they developed. Proper drysuit boots are also very expensive to import. And then there’s the hard plastic tape used to seal the seams where rubber tape would be much better and would not cause wear points at the edges of the hard tape.
That said there is a lot going for this suit and we may be able to turn this beast into a beauty. It’s been done before. Here’s how; Negotiate with Mike to build you a custom fit one but leave off the gumboots and the latex seals. I reckon you could get about R2 000 off the normal price. Then bring it to us for Si Tech silicon seal rings and our nice new drysuit boots. That will cost about R5 000ish. You end up with a highly durable, custom fit, suit with nice silicon seals, comfy boots and the total spent should be less than R20 000. Quite a good deal!
Stingray haven’t produced any drysuits in 2016 as they ran out of fabric in 2015 but new fabric is on the way and Mike says they should be producing again in November 2016.
Please note that the prices listed here are a guide only as there are often variations with exchange rate fluctuations and specials.
Also note that being in the repair business we naturally focus on suit durability over other aspects. But what constitutes a durable drysuit? If you got 100 dives out of a suit would you be happy? 1 000 dives? It’s hard to define and varies wildly with the conditions it is used and stored in. We think an entry-level drysuit should have a minimum life-span of about 300 dives/3 years while a top-of-the-line suit should last for more than 1 000 dives/10 years.
And beware of manufactures with excessive use of meaningless marketing jargon. I have yet to discover any drysuit that was not “Designed for Special Forces” “HD everything” “Tech” “Double Tapped” ” Ultra” “Extreme” “Flexible” …… ja ja blah blah.
Please let us know if you found this info useful or if you think we should add or edit anything.