With a dry suit you stay warm by staying dry—simple. With a wetsuit you are, well, wet. So just what is a “semi-dry” suit anyway?
The best way to think of a semi-dry suit is a wetsuit on steroids. First, you need to understand how and why a good wetsuit works to understand why a semi-dry works even better. A good wetsuit allows a thin layer of water in between your skin and the thermal insulating neoprene. Your body warms this water and the foam neoprene keeps it warm. But there is always some degree of cold water flow in and out of the suit bringing its efficiency down, depending on the amount of flow (determined on zippers, fit, suit configuration, etc.). Bring that water flow down to an absolute minimum and you have a semi-dry suit.
In fact, a good semi-dry suit will bring water flow down, so low that odds are parts of the body won’t even get wet. You are, hence, semi-dry. The semi-dry, however, dives in the simple manner of a wetsuit. There are no valves to adjust, attached air hoses or underwear.
The Pro-Tech Extreme builds in all the right features you would want in a semi-dry. Cold water intrusion is kept to an absolute minimum. On a wetsuit, the biggest point of cold water seepage is usually in the non-watertight zipper. In the Bear Skin Semi-Dry, this problem is immediately eliminated with the use of water proof dry suit zipper. Water cannot flow in at this zipper. And because this suit is constructed in a one piece design, you’ve just eliminated several points where cold water can enter.
The other points at which cold water can enter are at wrists, ankles and at the face seal. The Bear Skin deals with each of these points in highly effective and efficient ways. Both the wrists and ankles are sealed off with double seals. A snug “skin-in” strip of unlined slick neoprene fits right up against the wrist and ankles as the primary seal. But secondary seal is also included a couple inches up on the inside of the wrist and ankles. You have double protection. An attached hood eliminates the possibility of cold water entering at the neck. At the face a wide swatch of “skin-in” neoprene around the face forms a seal in that area.
A unique feature to this semi-dry is attached internal shoulder vest. A thin 2 mm interior vest covers the lower neck and shoulders for an added layer of thermal protection in an area where water intrusion is likely. The rest of the suit is 7 mm in the torso and 5 mm in the arms and legs.
Other included features in the suit are key pocket, pre-bent legs and arms, spine pad and heavy duty “tech” knee pads.
This suit’s performance was excellent. It was easy to get into and the one-piece design allowed me to get rid of some lead. I did have the expected water seepage at the beginning of the dive, but warmth was absolute throughout the entire dive. Peeling back the suit afterwards, I discovered that parts of my lower torso did not even get wet! While that changed after a more active and longer second dive, my comfort level was still superior.
Perhaps what makes the Bear Skin Semi-Dry especially worthy of note is its value. The price is right. For about the cost of a good quality off-the-rack wetsuit you get all the added features and thermal integrity of a semi-dry. And because this is a one-piece design, hood attached, there is nothing extra to buy. Just add booties and gloves.
With a limited lifetime seam warranty, you know your buying quality that will last. The L.A.P.D. Underwater Dive Unit uses these suits for their work.
The Bear Skin Semi-Dry suit is sold exclusively through Pacific Wilderness dive stores in the Southern California area. It is available in black, men’s sizes only (sorry ladies), S through XXXL and in custom sizing. For more information, call 310-833-2422 or 714-997-5506 or visit www.pacificwilderness.com.