The fun they had at TEKCamp

An awesome week of meeting the best UK technical divers and learning from them

Diving in The Red Sea

Warm water, clear visibility makes for a great holiday!

Malinbeg Harbour

Often, the simplest local dives are the best.

Review: Whites Thermal Fusion undersuit

The nemesis of every cold water diver is the cold water. Therefore, the quest of every cold water diver is to maintain some amount of body heat when diving, or at the very least make an effort. 

An arduous task, that is only possible though the use of a drysuit and an undersuit.


One of the newer undersuits available is the Whites Thermal Fusion. Is it the future of cold water diving?


We'll see.











TECHNICAL STUFF (what Whites say)

The Whites Thermal Fusion is made up of two layers. The first layer, a loose cut thermal core constructed of Polartec 200 fleece, fits a wide size range and does not restrict mobility. The second, outer layer, is a Polartec Power Stretch Procompression skin which streamlines the inner core to the divers body, provides a custom fit, and allows maximum range of motion.Sounds fab doesn't it?





WHAT I ARE DIVER SAYS


COST

£299

LOOKS

Lets face it, undersuits look awful on the majority of divers. Very few of us are built to prance around in a tight fitting one piece affair. Even the latest trend of 'the onsie,' is (thankfully) confined to one's bedroom; or the streets of certain Belfast housing estates.





The Whites Thermal Fusion looks pretty damn good in the grand scheme of things. It's black, which is always pleasing, and has a nice matt look outer layer.The branding is minimal, consisting of 'Whites' around the neck, 'Fusion' text on the right shoulder, and a small logo centrally placed on the back.


Whites logo on back
Once donned, the suit looks pretty slick. Moreso on me.Quality wise, only time is the true indicator, but it certainly seems well constructed, and I still havent managed to break it yet.



FEATURES

The undersuit has the obligatory thumb and feet loops, to keep the arms and legs in place when donning the drysuit.
thumb loops
feet loops

A nice addition are the 2 pockets. Pockets are something that are often omitted from undersuits, I have no idea why; I never imagined a pocket was hard to make.

The Whites Thermal has a pocket either side of the suit which meet in the middle, sitting nicely around the belly area; kinda like pockets on a hoodie.

front "hoodie" pocket

Whites have also included the Air Transfer System, or ATS if you're into those wee acronym thingies. The science is impressive I'm sure, to me it's just the combination of 2 vents. A vent on the chest allows air injected into the dry suit to enter the undersuit, and a vent on the shoulder allowing air to be expelled through the dry suit dump valve.


chest vent

shoulder vent

Another worthy mention is the convenience zip, just like on a pair of jeans. This not only enables a bloke to take a pee without doffing the suit, but allows all divers to route a pee valve without cutting a hole in a nice, new suit.


convenience zip


TEST DIVE

conditions: the suit was worn next to the skin, under a membrane drysuit, in sea water, fourth element arctic socks, temperature of 6C / 42F, duration 60 minutes, average depth 17m.



Donning the undersuit

Donning the suit was a bit weird. The entry zip runs from should to shoulder, dropping down across the chest. Once opened the diver steps into the suit, pulls the flap over the head and zips closed. The only area that proved irritating was the legs. The 2 layer system gets a little bunched up around the calves until fully donned. There is a definite technique, but after a few goes it becomes bearable.








Zipped up, the outer layer did exactly as designed and compressed the inner layer close to the skin, resulting in a lovely tight, snug fit. The suit was very comfortable, creating immediate warmth, and despite being tight to the body was not restrictive. Even with exagerrated movement of arms and legs the suit returns to a nice state of equilibrium.

Once on, popping one's hands into the pockets is strangely comforting.



Donnning the drysuit


Due to the close fit of the Whites Thermal Fusion donning the drysuit was an almost enjoyable experience. The one piece didn't move an inch, the arm and foot loops worked perfectly. The test dive was conducted from the shore, which involved a reasonable trek down to the site, and a bit of standing around. Even layered up with hood and drygloves the overall feel was still comfortable; no crazed sweating.




Diving the whites thermal fusion


In water the first noticeable aspect of the undersuit was the mobility. The stretch material worked superbly, allowing full range of movement; even throughout a pesky twinset valve drill. The mobility was unlike any other undersuit system previously expereienced. It was very impressive.

The water was cold, no doubt, my face told me as soon as it hit the water. After several minutes in the water and adding only enough air to the suit to remove the squeeze the dive commenced.

First impressions were excellent. I could feel the water pressing against my body, which I wasn't expecting, as my usual layering system is so thick I don't feel anything physical; but I wasn't cold.
There were no weird bouyancy changes either. My trim felt normal and I didn't need any additional weight.

30 mins into the dive my hands began to get cold. The extremities always get cold first, as the body draws all the heat to the core in order to sustain vital organs. By 40 mins I was ready to leave the wreck and swim for shore. My feet were also getting cold, but my core was still warm and there was no shivering.

At the safety stop, dive time of 50 mins, I began to feel the cold all over. A little flailing of arms and legs generated a bit of heat which allowed the remaining 10 minutes to pass by without unbearable distress. It appeared whatever heat movement generated was maintained well by the undersuit.

At the climax of the dive I was feeling the cold, but not shivering; I wouldn't have wanted to extend my bottom time; I hate being cold on a dive, i don't do shivering, and 60 mins was my limit.


It also insulates when wet. On a later dive I had a neck seal failure and the undersuit became very wet down the front. I hadn't realised until post dive. The suit was wet on the outside, but the fleece lining against the skin was dry.


VERDICT


The Whites Thermal Fusion is an excellent undersuit choice for cold water divers, and I imagine worn under a neoprene suit it would be perfect, even in extremely cold water. The thermal properties are very good, but the best thing about the suit is the mobility and comfort; it is simply outstanding.



It is not warm enough worn alone for long dives, or extended decompression, certainly in waters below 6C. On subsequent dives I added fourth element xerotherms as a base layer, which worked very well for increased duration. With that system I completed 3 dives in one day in a 5C freshwater quarry no problem, and outlasted my buddy!










The only downside with the suit is the lower calf region. The double layer system ends around that area, and a stretchy section continues to the feet and feet loops. 

Without long socks the lower calf would only have single layer insulation. I don't quite understand why the suit doesn't continue to the ankles; perhaps Whites just know everyone owns fourth element arctic socks?













PROS: Comfortable, warm, superb mobility, stretchy to facilitate extra layering, has pockets.

CONS: Technique in donning, requires good long under socks. Expensive.






HOW TO: attaching Tekna Knife to Goodman handle

Wifebuddy is rather awesome at buying me stuff, and one such gem has been my new Tekna Knife.

It's essential that all divers carry at least one cutting tool on a dive; personally i like to carry two.

The Tekna Knife is a fabulous solution to carrying an extra cutting device, stowed rather splendidly out of the way.








I always have a stubby steak-knife on my waist band, and occasionally a set of EMT shears in my right pocket. I have been considering a wrist mounted knife of some description for a while, but could never quite sell it to myself. I like the idea of a blade close to hand, but i really hate clutter on my wrists. I don't like wrist slates, and i'm not overly fussed wearing a back up timer - i sometimes stuff it into my pocket to salvage what real estate is available on my arms.


Knowing me well, Wifebuddy popped the tiny little Tekna Knife into my Christmas stocking; with the premonition of me fitting it to the goodman handle on my primary light. She's very clever.


I have heard of plenty of divers bolting these knives onto goodman handles, but i had never actually seen one up close; or been told how to go about fitting it. With the aid of few pics scattered around the interweb, my supreme intellect, and a handy little bolt from a dive buddy (thanks Dave!), i was able to successfully attach the Tekna Knife to my lovely Halcyon EOS LED light.





Awesome.



Being completely thrilled with my DIY savvy, i figured i would share it with the masses, as i couldn't find a step-by-step guide when i needed it.



Well here it is; behold ...




HOW TO ATTACH A TEKNA KNIFE TO GOODMAN HANDLE




Step 1 - Get the bits together








  • Tekna Knife.
  • Bolt and nut (make sure it fits through the pre-drilled hole in Tekna Knife sheath).
  • O-ring from SPG spool.
  • Spanners / pliers.
  • Drill and metal drill bit (size 3.5 metric).





Step 2 - Bin keyring



  • The knife comes with a little keyring thingy - take it off, we don't need it.



Step 3 - Drill





  • Drilling stuff is great, it's almost as good as hammering. Select the appropriate sized drill bit by sizing against the bolt.
  • Drill a hole in the left side of the goodman handle, ensuring you have left enough room to fit the whole knife inside the grip.



Step 4 - Get the kettle on







  • The bolt needs an o-ring on it. The o-ring allows you to tighten the bolt, create a little pressure to hold it in place, but can be deployed with minimal effort without grinding metal on metal.
  • Boil the kettle and pop the o-ring into the boiling water to soften it up; takes about a minute.
  • Put the o-ring over the bolt. I found placing the o-ring on a hard surface, then pushing the bolt into the centre worked well to get it started; then roll it up to the head of the bolt.






Step 5 - Assemble





  • Place knife inside the handle. (It's better there as it won't get snagged anywhere, and is held in place by your hand).
  • Bolt downwards from the inside out.
  • Nut on the end.
  • Tighten with spanners.




Step 6 - Bungee / Silicone





  • I decided a little loop of bungee around the other end of the knife secures it further. It may not be necessary, but it is easily rolled off to free the knife handle for deployment.
  • Wipe the blade with a little silicone to protect it from salt water.




Step 7 - Size it up



  • The goodman handle is now a little thicker, so pop on your gloves and try it out, adjusting the handle as necessary.






Step 8 - Celebrate


  • Revel in completion of this arduous task with an air-punch.




CONCLUSION

The Tekna Knife is a back up to a back up in my mind, but it's a great wee thing to have on your kit. It's nicely out of the way, easily accessible, requires minimal maintenance and may save you from a great white shark attack - remember, you only have to slow down your buddy ...





Safe diving folks!