Springtime in Colorado is a stellar place to test out a wet or dry suit. With air temps ranging from the 30's to 70's, and frigid water, we are able to put gear to the test (at the expense of our body's core temps) in a very demanding environment. NRS sent us a batch of their new for 2012, Radiant wet suits. Upon taking them out of the bags, the first thing that we noticed was the fuzzy VaporLoft interior lining. It looked like a warm suit.
We waited for the air temps to dip just below 50 degrees before we tested them out. With the water temps being about 50 as well, we wanted the 100 degree rule (if the air temp + water temp equal a number less than 100, you should dress for potential hypothermic conditions) to be in full effect. There was a 15 mph wind as well, which sealed the deal.
How'd the Radiant stack up? After Stand Up Paddling for 2 hours at sunset, 3 nights in a row, we can safely say that this is one of the warmest wet suit options on the market. It was actually fun to paddle in the cooler temps, and hanging out in the water was not a problem. The Radiant is right up there with Patagonia wet suits that cost more than twice as much. Check out the review for details:
Hanging out fully submersed in the frigid Arkansas River in Spring. Why spend close to $1000 for a dry suit, when you can be warm for just over $200?
WARM:Overall, the Radiant is extremely warm for only being 3mm. As previously mentioned, we used the wet suits in 50 degree air temps, sub 50 degree water and a 10-15 mph wind. Overall, the only reason that we quit paddling was because it was happy hour, and was getting dark outside. The Radiant is in fact so warm, that I had the opposite problem, and was too warm. From the time that I put the wet suit on at my house, to the time that I got in the water (15 min), I had broken a full body sweat.
Chilling out in the river, but toasty on the inside.
VaporLoft is the real deal.This synthetic fiber is awesome for a few different reasons. For starters, it's a smooth material, which makes it easy to get in and out of this full body suit. It's soft to the touch, which makes it comfortable to wear. It also increases your body's core temp when wearing the suit. Another cool feature is that it does not absorb water. If you use the Radiant on a daily basis, you will be getting in and out of a dry wet suit, not a sopping wet one.
The comfortable, warm and hydrophobic VaporLoft lining.
Great protection:The chest and stomach area is protected with a "rawhide neoprene panel", which is basically a thick, sticky neoprene layer that will keep you a little bit warmer, and more importantly help you stay attached to your surfboard or SUP out on the water.
Intuitive, durable and functional entry and zipper system:The beefy YKK ziper on the back is built to last. It has a long pull cord, which makes it very easy for someone to zip themselves up. There is a Velcro closure on the back of the neck, which ensures that the zipper will not come undone.
Teraprene works!Teraprene is basically a 3mm neoprene that is lined with Titanium. The Ti reflects your body heat, allowing NRS to use a thinner weight neoprene, which is more supple. Considering that this wet suit compares with $500+ Patagonia wet suits in terms of staying warm when fully submersed, I'd say that this technology works pretty well.
3.0MM Teraprene is legit.
The PowerSpan exterior material is stretchy:You will not feel restricted when engaging in high aerobic output activity like SUP surfing or swimming back to shore (which happens a lot when SUP surfing).
Hanz and Franz approve of this wet suit. Unrestricted flexing 24/7.
BEST SUP BASE LAYER OUT THERE FOR THE $$$$:For the value, this is the warmest, safest and most comfortable SUP base layer out there.Wear it under your board shorts and PFD (or top), and you will be warm and protected. If you add up the cost of neoprene bottoms and a top, you will soon realize, that you are better off just getting a full length wet suit like The Radiant, and calling it a day.
The Perfect SUP base layer. Warm, comfortable, and awesome abrasion resistance.
Lots of protection for river SUP:If you are SUP'ing in the river, and not swimming, you are not trying hard enough (or maybe you are Dan Gavere). One of the negative sides to down river SUP, and even surfing, is that you spend more time in the water, than on top of it. The Radiant, will protect your arms, legs, chest and back from bony rapids. It has reinforcements in the knees, chest and stomach. If you had to choose between swimming a rapid in the Radiant, or in a dry suit, I would personally rather have a 3mm wet suit protecting my skin.
Neck coverage:The little bit of neck coverage makes a difference in regards to overall warmth. It is nice to hop in the water and feel a warm layer of Teraprene wrapping around your neck and upper back. This is something that a Farmer John does not offer.
The inch or 2 of Teraprene on the neck feels nice to the touch and adds warmth.
Product testing is a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it!
This is a wet suit not a dry suit: Although the Radiant has the ability to keep you warm, you will still be wet. A wet suit keeps you warm by heating up the water next to your skin. If you would like to be dry on the river (i.e - wear jeans and a t shirt underneath) then invest in a dry suit. This will cost a lot more, but will keep you bone dry.
It costs more than a Farmer John:The Radiant costs about twice as much as a Farmer John. If you want the least expensive wet suit for the dollar, go with a farmer John or Jane. Keep in mind, The radiant is also twice as warm...It is better to spend a few extra bucks and be warm and comfortable IMHO. Hypothermia is no joke.
No relief zipper:Back entry wet suits generally do not have front relief zippers. When nature calls, you are going to have to either take the whole suit off, or....
The NRS Radiant wet suit fills a niche at CKS that has been empty for a long time. There are plenty of great full length wet suits out there, but most of them cost over $500. The Radiant has many of the same bells and whistles, and is just as warm. Coming in at $219, this suit is a bargain, and should be in the gear bag of any serious (or cold) Stand Up Paddler, rafter, or waterman/woman that spends as much time submersed in the water as they do on it.