Firstly a confession, I am a bit of a technophile that's drawn to products with innovative or unique angles. Especially those that may improve on my own ability. So when I first heard about a wetsuit that would practically make you invisible (and in range) to marine animals, I was obviously very very interested.
I acquired the 3mm spearfishing wetsuit on release in May and after six months of testing - here is the HECS Stealth wetsuit review.
This is a 2 piece spearfishing wetsuit made with HECS StealthScreen. HECS is a conductive carbon fiber mesh designed to reduce your electrical energy field. Its based on the Faraday Cage principle invented by English scientist Michael Faraday - a Faraday Cage is an enclosure made of a conductive grid that attenuates electrical fields. So the idea is - by reducing your emitted energy to get you closer to the many marine creatures that rely on this key sense.
The 3mm HECS Stealth wetsuit weighs in at a hefty RRP of AUD 815 and also includes a matching set of HECS booties and gloves.
6 months of diving on average 3-4 times a week
|Warmth relative to thickness. If you ain't warm - then you are cold and being cold cuts down your dive ability and duration drastically.||The fit and flexibility. A good wetsuit will fit like a comfortable yet flexible glove that doesn't hinder apnea or motion.||Camouflage and features. Do you blend in like a chameleon with a swiss army knife or standout like a no frills rave rat.||Material and construction. Should a mere urchin be avoided or can you go complete cray cray in the rocks with impunity.|
Thanks to a combination of the premium grade open cell Yamamoto neoprene and the layering of 3mm top and long john - the HEC suit is a very warm suit. Throw in the 3mm gloves and boots and you are very well equipped for long dive sessions in water down to about 19-20C.
Seams are also excellent with no discernible leakage, although due to some initial fit issues I experienced some minor bagging and flushing into the lower leg.
The suit is not as flexible as other existing premium grade neoprene spearfishing wetsuits. Which is to be expected given the stiffness of the exterior carbon weave bonded to the neoprene. On first touch this actually makes it feel like a stiffer, cheaper wetsuit. Which is a bit misleading given the interior is the delicious, buttery soft, premium grade Yamamoto neoprene. In the water, any impingement of motion due to the exterior stiffness feels negligible.
In terms of fit, the overall contouring and paneling of the suit is good and optimizes range of motion. One area of improvement is the cut of the leg - way to roomy, especially the lower calf/ankle where I would have taken an inch out of the diameter to ensure a snugger, more watertight fit through the entire leg length.
The matching gloves are a matter of taste but fit me well. A point of note, request gloves that match your hand size and not just the default. For example I wear a M suit but L gloves.
Booties serve the purpose but if you are used to wearing elastoskin or molded booties then they actually feel inferior because they don’t fit tightly to the foot shape. This empty space then fills with water and requires draining on exit.
The suit itself is good looking and sports a green hued multi environment mimetic camouflage which is seamlessly carried through to the matching gloves and booties.
HEC logos and brand shaped loading pad demonstrate thoughtfulness in the finishing detail of the overall suit. They will also probably be the only thing that makes you visible to your dive partner. It is unknown at this point if they attract kingfish but results are good ;)
The loading pad is thick and covers a large amount of the right space for those big gun chest loads.
Knee and elbow pads are generous and ensure minimal exposed contact with the bottom without being inhibitive.
While I have inherent trust issues with an external tool pocket and my expensive dive torch - its certainly a nice touch and will save you from rummaging around in your catch bag when you need something.
As mentioned the suit also comes with matching booties and gloves which goes some ways toward the price tag but the big selling point is the carbon stealth screen.
Ok - this isn't an official criteria but it is the primary driver for purchasing this suit. So does the suit make you invisible? Short answer - no. You will not be able to swim directly up to your target in full sight without being seen. However, if you hunt like you would without it, then you will be able to capitalise on reduced reaction times in certain species.
Since wearing it, I have definitely noticed fish don’t read me as well or as quickly. This especially applies to sharks and rays which I have literally pushed/tickled aside as they have attempted to swim over/through me. General fish reaction also seems slower and at times they seem curious to the blank spot in their senses.
Lobsters are definitely baffled. Probably the biggest affirmation of the technology, is when I recently went into a hole and moved a smaller lobster out of the way with my hand so I could get the larger one behind it. The smaller lobster merely backed away slowly from my hand without alarm until I secured its bigger brother. Obviously, this is where the gloves form part of the overall package.
The counter balance to having stiffness from the carbon weave is that you would expect an element of additional durability from it. Externally, I have found the seams and exterior to be holding up very well despite large amounts of reef abrasion suffered while rock hopping, reef hunting and cray diving. A lot of this wear has been transferred to the Pro-tech reinforced knee and elbow pads which are also still in excellent shape.
Internally, the seam integrity is still good and there is no noticeable neoprene compression (admittedly I rarely dive deeper than 20m).
Gloves have held up well through the early cray season. Although having sealed seems would go a long way to prevent unpicking of the finger stitching and give them greater longevity.
Take away the Stealthscreen element and you have a good looking, warm, comfortable, well designed and hard wearing 2-piece spearfishing wetsuit that isn't as flexible as some others.
So the real question is - does the hefty price tag justify the technology and matching booties and gloves? It will be down to individual choice but for me the combination of good technique and this technology could be the difference of that split second needed for the fish of lifetime. Totally worth it.
It is worth noting that since this review, the wetsuit has already been revised to improve flexibility and the leg cut.
|Review: Product Name||
Overall Score: 80%
Has spent over 30 years of his middle aged life trying to spend more time in the ocean. Likes to surf, bodysurf, free dive and pretend he enjoys chasing big waves.