Scuba gear review: Whites Fusion drysuit

Perhaps it is just local pride, but nowhere I've been diving, nowhere in the world, compares with California. The abundance and variety of sea life you can encounter underwater from Carmel to Catalina is without compare. The cold water, however, takes some getting used to.

My solution for the last five years or so: the Whites Fusion Drysuit.

Representing a newer design idea in drysuit tech, Whites uses two shells: the first inner shell is basically a bag made of "DryCORE," a waterproof, airtight, very durable but very flexible material. The second shell is an over-suit of lycra and neoprene. The first shell holds air around your body and the over-suit squeezes it all down and keeps it streamlined.

The Fusion is easy to put on. You simply step into it and essentially roll it up your legs, and over your torso. The fit is fairly amazing and it is extremely comfortable, like a warm water 3mm wetsuit. There is no bulk and no heavy material to limit your movement. If you wear a really thick insulating layer with the suit, that can get in your way, but otherwise my movement in the suit is not constricted.

I highly recommend the Fourth Element Arctic undergarment for California. I had used an insulating layer that came with the drysuit, and it was not very good. Instead, I prefer the Fourth Element Arctic. It seems to cover our California temperature range perfectly, and does a brilliant job of keeping me warm. The Arctic also takes very little weight to sink. I find I'm diving with far less lead when I dive dry.

Seals and zippers with this suit are standard industry stuff, and made with the same quality you get with most other manufacturers. The seals are fairly field-replaceable if you have the spare and some glue with you. Whites also makes a whole series of easily swappable outer-suits. I've been diving the simplest and lightest "Sport" shell and love it. Pockets might be nice, but thus far I haven't seen a reason to upgrade.

While diving in a drysuit will keep you a lot warmer, the change in buoyancy takes some getting used to. There are certification courses for drysuit diving and the one-on-one advice you'll get in those sessions is invaluable. Finding yourself inverted with your legs full of air and fins poking above the surface is both scary and embarrassing. If you are in the San Francisco Bay or Monterey areas of California, or can get here from elsewhere for one-on-one sessions, I recommend calling Bamboo Reef.

Link: Whites Fusion Dry Suit

Notable Replies

  1. Not unlike one of those stillsuits from "Dune," only with the opposite function.

  2. I am completely weirded out by the juxtaposition of the scaled photo.

  3. I had to double check if I was reading Boing Boing when I saw this. Pleasantly surprised.

    I also dive a White Fusion drysuit - but actually there's a newer suit that's a step cheaper - the Fusion One. Usually retails for about $1000 or so - which is a good deal as far as dry suits go. On the down side, it's a back zip and you can't get pockets or the quick replace locking seals. The seals and zippers are the same quality you'd get on the Fusion Sport/Tech/Bullet. They've also recently come out with a women's cut of both the Fusion One - called the Fusion Essence, and a women's version of the Fusion Sport - called the Fusion Fit.

    So far I've got about 40 dives on my suit in everything from 33°F to 84°F water - just change out the undergarments and you're good. Neither my wife nor I have had seal problems or leakage, so that's been excellent.

    The lycra/neoprene shell works really well for keeping you streamlined and provides quite a bit of give in the sizing. This also makes it a fairly friendly dry suit for new divers because you don't get as much air in your feet - at least compared to when I've been in tri-laminate suites. However, the lycra shell also makes it a bear to dry out. After a dive you need to essentially rinse the whole dry suit and then hang it inside out than right side out to get it completely dry. My friends with tri-laminate suits just hose em down and they're dry in 10 minutes. Overall I'll take a nicer suit in the dives even if it means I need to let it dry out for a couple of days in the bathroom after a dive.

  4. jlw says:

    I've seen folks diving all the various shells and cuts. The women's cuts are nice and Aqua Lung seems to have taken this to heart across the line.

    The One is supposed to be easier to don alone, but I rarely need help with the chest zipper on my Fusion.

    On drying -- Yes, it takes a day or so for the Sport to dry. I understand the Bullet & Tech take a lot longer as the neoprene elements trap water against the suit.

    I also highly recommend applying McNett's Seal Saver to the seals after every cleaning. I then pop them into the sleeve and put the whole whole, folded/rolled suit, in a giant ziplock bag. My seals (wrist) are like new and not gummy or cracked at all, after 200 or so dives. I added a custom neoprene neck seal and it is starting to go. I'll likely be able to preserve it with cement for a few more years and then I'll likely swap back.

  5. V_B says:

    I've been diving a Fusion with the Bullet skin for a couple years, about 180 dives, and was a vocal fan praising innovation and all that. And then I switched to an old school DUI for improved flexibility.

    That's right, flexibility. Fusion is flexible in the sense that it's soft and easy to fold to pack into a bag. I was very surprised that my own flexibility doing the valve drill (shutting down and opening the valves on a doubles manifold) was much better in an old school drysuit. I did my tech checkout in a Fusion, and it took three months of stretching before I could reach the left post, still with much strain. Then the neck seal ripped on my Fusion, I sent it for repairs, rented a TLS 350 and was stunned to find that the valves suddenly were "right there".

    What's going on here is that a stiff fabric of a traditional suit does not resist you movement at all, as long as it's baggy enough to allow the range you need. An elastic skin like the Bullet always starts pulling back as soon as you move away from the "normal" position--a little at first, and the more the further you go. Plus, an elastic skin compresses your undergarment which makes it a little stiffer as well. Incidentally, I also found I was a little colder wearing Fusion, again because the elastic skin would compress my undergarment more than a traditional suit.

    So counterintuitively, a stiff suit can actually make you more flexible. It's all very personal and depends on your build, the suit cut, the undergarment, the gear and the type of diving you do. There is no objective "flexibility", no matter what Whites marketing may lead you to believe. Few of us need to do splits underwater. The best you can do is test-dive some suits for yourself.

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