The day I became a dry suit diver, a whole new world unfolded before me. I didn’t need to wait anymore for the diving season or my next holiday to tropical locations: I could dive anytime, anywhere. It took me some time to buy my own, but then for 3 years, my Aqua Lung Blizzard 7mm neoprene drysuit has been my best buddy in places like Scotland and Iceland. From the moment I became a scuba diver I always felt cold. Soon I discovered it was just because the suit I was given was never in my size or never the thickness I would have needed for the location.
Until recently, I was the owner of a 7mm full suit, a 5mm shorty, a 5mm full suit, a 2,5mm full suit, and then I got the Aqua Lung Diveflex 5mm suit that was way more comfortable than my first one. Before moving back to France, I had 6 scuba diving suit in my scuba closet! Moving is always the good opportunity to sort your stuff. So I downsized my scuba closet and kept my 7mm dry suit, 5mm and 2,5mm wetsuit. Water temperature colder than 18°C? I would just always pick my dry suit, why not? Since you can adjust the undergarment below. This is how I dived in Portofino, Italy, early July, while water temperature was 16°C at 20m, with my dry suit and only a swimsuit below. As a result, I was diving with my drysuit more and more. I loved it so much!
The thing is, by doing so, I have put my neoprene drysuit under great stress. Last October, after a weekend of scuba diving in Southern France, the last time I put it off, half of my right forearm sleeve broke. I bought some neoprene glue, and it seemed to do the job. But after two dives it broke again. So I used the neoprene glue again, and I sewed it too this time. This time it worked quite well, but I understood the message: I maybe had a too intensive use of a beginner drysuit. In addition to this, because I had so many leak issues in the past with other models of drysuits, I made sure to choose a size that was tight. It was so adjusted that most people believed I was diving in a semi-dry suit! I never had any single leak underwater, so it did the job, but the truth is I was a bit struggling to put it on and off. For sure material resistance has limits when you have to force on your suit every single time to remove your arms from it.
Luckily, this is when the Aqua Lung France team suggested I should give a try to their new Fusion drysuit. Maybe some of you used to know the White Fusion drysuits. After buying the Canadian company, Aqua Lung recently launched a new generation of their popular hybrid drysuits in 4 models: the Fusion Sport, the Fusion Bullet, the Fusion Fit and the Fusion Kevlar (that actually comes under Apeks brand, Aqua Lung’s tech diving brand). The Sport version is the entry range model while the Bullet version is the full option version. The Fit version is just the same model as the Bullet but with an outer skin designed for ladies. I call it a hybrid because it’s not a neoprene drysuit, but it’s not a trilaminate drysuit either. If you remember my article on how I chose my first drysuit, I explained I chose neoprene over trilaminate because it was lighter and closer to the body. Here the Fusion drysuit has a bi-laminate waterproof inner shell (called the AirCore) and a soft thin neoprene outer skin that keeps the waterproof part close to your body. As a result, you get a much lighter suit than most trilaminate drysuits, and you don’t have the impression of diving in a floppy bag. That all sounded awesome, so from January to April, I did all my dives with it to get to know it better and give you a full review. Here is the beginning of my adventure with my new Fusion drysuit!
Disclaimer: As part of my partnership with Aqua Lung and my participation in the Dry Suit Tour 2017 event, Aqua Lung provided me with a complimentary Fusion Fit dry suit. As always, all my views and opinions are my own and reflect honestly my experience.
1 – Toulon, Southern France: waterproofness check
date: 15th of January 2017
water temperature: 14°C
I did my final fitting trials at Paris Dive Show. The Medium/Small size was perfect for me regarding my height (I’m 1m68) and thighs size (I’m between 57 and 60kg, depending on how much ice cream I recently ate). For your feet, The Fusion drysuit has a smart system on which you can attach the socks to custom size Fusion booties thanks to secured velcros below the foot and around the ankle. Once they are attached, you don’t need to remove them at all (see exception below). I’m a size 40 (EU)/ 7 (UK) for shoes, but with my thick fleece socks, it was too small, so I took the size 41/8. Regarding the seals, you need to know the Fusion drysuit comes with standard size SI Tech silicon seals that are just clipped and not glued! That’s awesome because a small size also exists for the tiniest of us. It also reminded me that once in Scotland, I saw someone calling the entire dive trip because his neck latex seal broke on his first dive. Here you can just change everything by yourself in only 15 minutes! So as the neck seal was obviously too big for me (I could put my hand between my neck and the seal) we changed it. The drysuit is delivered with a special tool that looks like a pizza knife. You need to remove the yellow ring to do it and replace it carefully with the special tool. It’s not complicated, but you need to take your time to do it. The best is have someone to show you how to do it. You can also have a look at Aqua Lung YouTube channel, they have many cool tutorial videos there about the Fusion drysuit. Regarding the wrist seals, the standard size seemed to be alright. Well, it only seemed…
To avoid any potential disaster on a more challenging dive, I took the opportunity of a sunny weekend of January in Toulon where the water is never colder than 14°C to test my new dry suit is a sheltered creek. As the water wasn’t so cold, I only used my sharkskin suit below, same as what I’m using below my 7mm neoprene drysuit in any weather.
First, I noticed I could put my drysuit on quickly, that’s a strong point, but I’m still not able to close the front zip by myself. With a bit more training, I hope I’ll do it soon. The first bad news came quickly: my dive computer band is too small, and my light travel fins with the booties in size 41 are also too small. I could finally put my dive computer, but it wasn’t easy. I could finally put my fins on, but it’s not comfortable, I will need to use the bigger ones I have at home. One good point: the hood with the back zip. I hurt my neck twice quite seriously because I forced toi hard on my head to put my tight 7mm hood on. Now with the back zip, it will never happen again!
I put the 8 kg of weights I usually take in a way I could drop them off, one by one, to adjust my buoyancy. Going from a 7mm non-compressed neoprene drysuit to a bi-laminate drysuit makes a big difference. I removed 4 kg of lead (but think I only had a sharkskin below! you’ll see why later).
I did a 5-minute dive to check how comfortable I was underwater in a rather shallow depth. I felt good, but I could see air escaping from my wrist. My drysuit wasn’t flooded but when I came back on the quay and removed my suit, here it was, the two sleeves of my undersuit were entirely wet. OK, I also need the small models for the wrist seals.
2 – Tignes, French Alps: temperature comfort level check
date: 29th of January 2017
water temperature: 2°C
When I got a new opportunity to dive below the ice, in the French Alps, I thought it was the perfect timing to check how warm I would be with my new Fusion drysuit with the Thermal Fusion undersuit. This thermal undergarment is so soft, light and cosy, I could have spent my entire winter in it!
My first dive in Val Thorens was with the equipment of Evolution 2 ice diving school, a 7mm neoprene drysuit with a full face mask and dry gloves so I could compare. The next day, I was diving in Tignes, the historical location of Evolution 2 scuba diving centre. This time I was wearing my Fusion drysuit, my wrist seals in small size, changed by myself in only 10 minutes next to the frozen lake!
So no dry gloves but my 5mm gloves, no full face mask but my hood and my Glacia regulator (the icy water version of the Aqua Lung Legend regulator) that covers your lips thanks to its special mouthpiece. After my first dive in Val Thorens with the full face mask and dry hood, I was so surprised my hair wasn’t even wet! You can imagine how warm you could stay then. The drawback was I struggled a bit with my buoyancy at the beginning of the dive. My other point of comparison was when I dived Silfra, Iceland, with my Blizzard drysuit, same gloves and same regulator, and I was perfectly fine. The result? Yes, my hair was wet after the dive, but I stayed for more than 20 minutes in 2°C water without being cold a single second. Another significant advantage was I could control way better my buoyancy as the suit was less buoyant, so I felt way more comfortable to shoot the beauty of the ice from below! Read the full story of my ice diving adventure in the French Alps.
3 – Brest, Brittany, France: playing with my buoyancy
date: 4th of February 2017
water temperature: 28°C
I often say that one of my favourite scuba diving training was the peak buoyancy course while doing my Advanced Open Water course. Playing in a confined environment to reach full mastery of your position underwater is a critical skill for anything from lower air consumption, care of coral reef to great underwater photography! However, you usually start from scratch again with dry suit diving. One of the advantages I had with my neoprene drysuit was the tiny amount of air I would put inside as it was very close to my body and the 7mm was warm enough. With the Fusion dry suit, it’s again another story, and I felt I needed some practice to make sure I knew at least the different sensations in different positions. Because it’s bi-laminate suit and the waterproof zip is at the front of the suit (which is actually awesome to close the drysuit by yourself), it creates an additional space that will be filled with air, so increasing the risk of uncontrolled ascent if you don’t know what you’re doing. Then what’s better than a pool to practice?
I was lucky to be invited to the first date of the French edition of Aqua Lung dry suit tour. It was organised in Brest, at the very west end of Brittany. However, instead of heading to the sea, we stayed inside to test the Fusion drysuits, in the 28°C and 6 m deep swimming pool of Eau Libre, a scuba diving centre located in the same building than Scubaland, one the biggest dive shops in France. It’s was a great opportunity for me to share my first tips and impressions of the dry suit with the attendees and also listen to the type of questions they had. Half of the people attending had never dived in a dry suit, so everything was new to them, and the other half was more a tech diving crowd with even one of the attendees who tried a Fusion Bullet dry suit in sidemount style. Most explanations included why it’s so different from a neoprene suit and a trilaminate suit. A few ladies were attending too so I could also share my experience with the Fusion Fit model, as the neoprene outer shell is designed for women to keep the waterproof inner shell close to your body while staying very comfortable. As I was sharing my stories about scuba diving in Scotland, Iceland and Patagonia, they all realised how awesome drysuit diving is!
In the pool, I took the opportunity to take pictures with my new wide angle dome in all different kind of positions. It was really easy, but then I realised I was trying the drysuit without any undergarment just my swimwear as the water was 28°C. I was even less buoyant than when I tried it in Toulon. In the fresh water of the pool, I didn’t need a single kilogramme of lead. The thing I learnt that day is I can also use the Fusion dry suit in warmer waters, the material inside in the inner shell has a nice feeling against the skin, and I was comfortable the whole time.
4 – Izu, Japan: luggage friendly for long-haul international travel?
date: 25th of February 2017
water temperature: 15°C
A few weeks later, I was flying to Tokyo for my third trip to Japan but the first one I would be able to scuba dive. Thanks to Dive Zone Tokyo, I went diving in Izu, 1h30 away by Shinkansen train from Tokyo. While packing, I decided to make the experiment of how much my scuba diving bag was with my neoprene drysuit and how much it was with the Fusion dry suit:
Here is my scuba diving bag with all my gear, including my Fusion Fit dry suit and my cold water regulator, but without the Thermal Fusion undersuit: 14,80 kg
The same bag, I replaced my Fusion drysuit by my 7mm neoprene drysuit: 13,50 kg, so my Fusion fit drysuit is 1,30 kg heavier than my Blizzard drysuit, which is not really a surprise considering my Fusion suit has real booties, and the seals have plastic clip systems. I think it’s time to get a regulator that is lighter for cold water, keeping my Glacia for only extreme cold water use such as ice diving.
I now put my Fusion drysuit back in the bag and add the Thermal Fusion undergarment: 16,20 kg. This was my biggest surprise, the undersuit is actually pretty heavy (1,40 kg) contrary to how fluffy it feels.
Finally with my clothes for 1 week and my travel vanity case: 17,95 kg. Considering 20 kg is the smallest weight I can get for checked-in luggage from the least diver friendly airlines, this is way more than enough as a safety margin for international travel: test passed!
Thanks to the excellent organisation of Japanese train station which have elevators on every platform, it was nice and easy to reach Izu Peninsula. I did 2 dives at Izu Ocean Park. The weather was beautiful and sunny for an end of February, but the wind was still chilly, so I was happy to wrap myself up in the Thermal Fusion undersuit. Water was 15°C, so it wasn’t as cold as I was expecting. I could have taken a less warm undersuit. Anyway, as I quickly noticed at the end of my first dive, it was the first time I was diving in seawater with my Fusion drysuit and my Thermal Fusion undersuit. With my 8kg of weights (what I would usually take with my neoprene drysuit) I struggled to stay at 5m for my safety stop. Ben of Dive Zone Tokyo kindly helped me with extra weights. On the second dive, I took a 15L tank instead of a 12L and added an extra kilo. It was just what I needed. It was a little bit of a disappointment that if I’m diving with that warm, cosy undersuit, I actually need more weight, in my case 10 kg with a 12L tank. Note for later: if possible, adjust the type of undersuit depending on water temperature to drop the weights.
Ben, who was also in a dry suit, and I, enjoyed anyway hour-long dives in Izu Ocean Park, where we saw so many staggering species! Read the full story of scuba diving mission in Japan.
5 – Dour, Belgium: final weights adjustment
date: 4th of March 2017
water temperature: 6°C
As I just returned from Japan to Paris, the very next day I was on my way to Belgium, to meet up with some friends from Paris and Brussels at the Belgian date of the Aqua Lung dry suit tour. This time, it was fresh water again as we were diving in the quarry of Dour, near the Belgian/French border. I dropped the weights to 8kg and with a 12L, this time I had absolutely no problem to stay in shallow water. Considering the cold temperature of the water this time, I was happy I brought the Thermal Fusion undersuit! The dive was interesting as this quarry has become a unique ecosystem. My favourite part was the “underwater ghost forest” as I called it!
Clement who is about my size, tried the Fusion Bullet (the male version of my Fusion Fit) in Small/Medium (same size than me) and felt it was a good fit. Raphael, who is much taller, 1m87, dived in a Fusion Bullet as well, size XL, but said it was a bit too small, and wished he could try the 2XL. Glyn, who is not as tall, tried the Apeks Fusion Kevlar dry suit, in XL as well, and felt it was the right size. They were all impressed by the quality and comfort of their dry suits, but they also had to adjust their weights like I did.
Summary review of the Fusion drysuit
As I took my Fusion Fit drysuit for my 12-day scuba diving adventure in Croatia, I can now tell I’m fully confident Fusion drysuit diver! I summarised the main points of my 5 first months of experience with my Fusion drysuit:
- The silicone seals are easy to change: It is by far the biggest advantage for me. You can change by yourself the neck and wrist seals thanks to the smart clip system! Forget about the risk of calling a dive trip because you broke one of your seals.
- The seals come in 2 sizes: The neck and wrist seals can be cut to your size and are available in 2 sizes: standard and small. This is excellent for small divers like me, forget about any leak possibility!
- It’s quick to put the drysuit on: I can put it on in 2 to 3 minutes instead of the 10 minutes I needed before as my 7mm neoprene suit was slightly too small. The silicone seals make it also easier to pass your head and your hands through compared to tight neoprene seals as they are more flexible.
- It feels like diving in a wetsuit: The hybrid system of a bi-laminate waterproof inner shell with a neoprene outer shell that keeps the suit close to your body contrary to most trilaminate dry suits that feel like diving with a floppy bag.
- There are 2 big pockets on the legs: they are big enough to put many accessories such as your hood, gloves or underwater lenses for photographers, but they are also robust enough to put some weights in them, so you don’t have to put everything on your back. (note: the pockets are not standards on the Fusion Sport version).
- You can drop the weights: The Fusion drysuit in itself is very little buoyant when associated with a thin thermal undersuit like my sharkskin, I can dramatically drop the weights (-4 kg)
- It’s like getting a custom-made drysuit in a kit: Thanks to its socks system that integrates a solid scratch system, when associated with the Fusion booties at your size, you can have the suit that fits you perfectly. Once the Fusion booties are attached, you don’t need to remove them anymore (except for faster drying, see below). By adjusting the size of the suit, choosing between male/female models, changing the seals to small size if necessary, and picking the right bootie size, you get a full custom-made drysuit!
- It’s a bit heavier than a neoprene drysuit: The Fusion drysuit is a bit heavier than my Blizzard neoprene drysuit (+1,30 kg). However, this can be easily compensated with a lighter regulator.
- The Thermal Fusion undersuit is super cosy but very buoyant: When associated with the Thermal Fusion undersuit, I’m more buoyant so combined with the fact I put more air in the Fusion suit, if I’m diving in extreme cold water, then I need to use more weights (+2kg)
- Purging the air of the drysuit can be tricky: It took me some time to learn how to purge the suit properly for my safety stop in shallow waters.
- Drying time: The Fusion drysuit takes more time to fully dry compared to my neoprene drysuit (+1 day) which can be an issue when I’m travelling internationally to avoid excess luggage weight.
My tips for new Fusion dry suit divers
- Take your time to know each other: If like me, you have been diving with another drysuit for a while, take your time to adjust your weights on some easy dives, don’t go straight away to Scapa Flow with your brand new suit!
- Get some spare seals
- Take one size bigger than usual on the Fusion booties
- Fast drying tips: When you need to fully dry your suit before flying back home, don’t hesitate to remove the booties and detach the neoprene outer shell scratch at the wrist and the ankles. Water tends to get stuck in these areas of the drysuit.
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