The original 8/7mm SolAfx has been a favorite for years and has just recently had some upgrades but the new 5mm version really grabbed our attention. The slightly thinner material combined with great water blocking features makes it a natural choice for the warmer end of the temperate zone. This suit was tailor made for California summers and Hawaii and Florida winters, and in Freediving mode this suit is good all year long. With less insulation it’s critical that water flow is controlled. Here the SolAfx 5mm incorporates some of the best water blocking features. It has an attached hood with a skin-in face seal, a Plasmaloc zipper with overlapping teeth backed with a neoprene neck dam, plus internal gasket seals in the forearms and calves, and all seams are glued and blind stitched for durability. The knees are protected with a durable cover that extends down to the shin, and a large kidney pad is added for extra comfort.
The 5mm 4-way stretch material and the large front entry zipper made it easy to get in and out. Pre-bent arms and legs conform to your curves. Stock sizes seem to fit true and there are plenty to choose from (13 men’s and 10 women’s). The attached hood design eliminates cold shots of water down the neck and reduces the bulk found with traditional hood bibs. The internal zipper dam covers the shoulders and blocks any water that seeps past the teeth. The internal gasket seals help keep water from traveling up the wrists and ankles.
While this suit was designed for the summer temps, we made our test dive in the middle of winter. In California that means 57-degree water, about 10-degrees cooler than summer time conditions. When we hit the water there was no cold shock because the suit just doesn’t let water in that easily. The 5mm material also seems to fit snugger and conform better, which kept water from moving through the suit. The face seal is wide and prevented water from getting in and traveling down the neck. The hood is vented allowing air that leaked from the mask to escape. After a 45-minute dive in shallow water (25-feet) we felt no colder than any other dive with a thicker suit. We expect that at greater depth the compression of the suit would have more effect on insulation. What we did notice was the extra comfort and flexibility that the thinner suit provided. Now instead of putting the thick suit back on we are thinking maybe we can just add a thin vest to this suit. The constant search to find the least amount of suit but still stay warm goes on, but for now this is the closest we have come to that neoprene nirvana. SGR