» You cannot judge a wetsuit's warmth from the outside. What makes the difference is invisible - it is the inside lining. «
Next to hardware, wetsuits are our best friends in the water, as several storms await us each year from the fall onward. It gets cold. Then it's time for the warmest wetsuit, which in the best case is also the most stretchy one.
I'm in the store. How can I tell how warm a suit actually is? Sure, the thickness of the wetsuit is every water sports enthusiast's first information. In addition, smooth-skin neoprene offers a plus in thermal insulation compared to double-lined neoprene thanks to increased wind protection hence the reduced cooling effect. So, the outer material is important.
But what provides the true warmth of a wetsuit? Questions for Kerstin Geier, Neoprene Product Developer at ION.
A water sports enthusiast stands in the surf store and is interested in a new, warm wetsuit for the cold season. Of course, one immediately recognizes differences in the thickness of the neoprene. In addition, it sticks out whether it is double-lined or smooth skin neoprene. Even more striking are the large price differences between the various suits. And yet they all look similar from the outside? Can you recognize all the criteria that give a wetsuit its warmth at first glance?
Certainly not at first glance since the inner lining is also for thermal insulation. The second look should then be at the labels on the product.
At ION there is a label for each functional inner lining and outer material informing about the most important technical facts. In the second step, I recommend turning the suit inside out. If you find a smooth lining here, the suit can already not be particularly warming.
All suits have different lining materials. They range from a basic lining to very high quality, technically advanced linings. If a manufacturer does not use Graphene fibers, which have very good thermal properties due to their molecular structure alone, the structure of the lining must at least be roughened in order to store body heat in the cavities. The functionality can be compared to that of a wool sweater. It is called natural thermoregulation.
A positive side effect: these cavities can also absorb moisture. Should you sweat, the moisture is wicked away from the skin and you stay dry.
The miracle material graphene. So thinner and still the same warmth?
Kerstin Geier: Yes, a wetsuit lined with Graphene_Plush offers comparable warmth to a 1mm thicker suit equipped with "Plasma_Plush", our second warmest ThermoPlush lining. Thanks to Graphene, water sports enthusiasts can choose a thinner and therefore more flexible suit, while maintaining the same level of warmth.
There are other wetsuit brands that use Graphene as a lining in the same way.
Kerstin Geier: That's right. ION is the only manufacturer whose Graphene lining consists of 100% Graphene coated polyester fiber. Our market competitors usually use a lining consisting of only 50% Graphene fiber. Graphene is indistinguishable with a naked eye and therefore invisible, so to speak.
So extra thickness and "plush" doesn’t necessarily equal more warmth!
Kerstin Geier: As just explained, plush is already half the battle. ION's Graphene Plush, which we use in our warmest suit, the SELECT line, combines Graphene technology with the principle of cavities to use the natural heat regulation and can thus show a 20% higher thermal insulation than alternative medium and high-priced suits with the common linings.
It is also a fact that a five or six millimeter thick suit is needed for the really cold days. Whereby not with every brand a six millimeter suit is also six millimeters thick. How do you check the actual thickness of the suit in the store?
Kerstin Geier: The thickness can only be checked with a thickness gauge. A well-stocked neoprene dealer should have this in his drawer and willingly hand it out upon request.
What does warmth mean in terms of comparing premium model versus baseline?
Kerstin Geier: Basically, in the range construction from the top (our premium model SELECT) to the bottom (our basic model ELEMENT), you can expect increasingly lower thermal insulation due to the inner lining. Technology and function are always associated with higher development and manufacturing costs.
That said, at ION we use our Hot Stuff on the torso, front and back even on our entry level model, the ELEMENT. Hot Stuff is our third warmest thermolining and keeps the core temperature at a comfortable level.
ION's CORE level is mid-range. CORE features Hot Stuff on the torso front and the entire thighs, even the Plasma_Plush in the back panel. At an affordable price, you don't have to freeze.
One last question. What makes a suit even warmer? What else should surfers look for when buying?
Kerstin Geier: Of course, it also makes a difference how waterproof the suit is from the outside. This is where so-called Glued-Blind-Stitch (GBS) seams, which are waterproof compared to flatlock, come in handy. With a GBS seam, the neorprene is not completely pierced by the needle. With flatlock, however, it is. Thus, water can slowly penetrate flatlock seams. GBS is more demanding in the production. My tip: In the store you can see the difference immediately. Flatlock seams are visible on both sides of the seam, while the seam in the GBS process is only visible on the inside or outside.
But none of this helps much if the suit doesn't fit. Fit is critical, because if the suit is too big, (cold) water can penetrate more easily when crashing than in a well-fitting suit.
The "Water Barrier" in the chest area of our suits also helps to keep the warmth inside. This is a Silicone print on the bottom of the opening that works in conjunction with the Skin Panel on the top of the opening to provide a better seal by creating more friction. We use the Water Barrier on the SELECT and AMP - each in the front zip version- suits.
Ultimately, we want to offer our customers all options. From the highest quality wetsuit packed with the warmest features to the perfect entry level model. Whatever level you choose, I strongly recommend paying special attention to the inner lining. No one wants to have to leave the water early because of cold. The inner lining will make the difference for you, even if it's invisible at first glance.