Casey McKinlay reviews DUI’s XM250 Thinsulate Drysuit Insulation
My DUI Xm250 DiveWear “Love” Story
By Casey McKinlay
Casey McKinlay reviews DUI’s Xm250 drysuit divewear insulationCasey McKinlay is a renowned aquatic explorer with more than 20 years of active research and discovery experience. Casey is currently responsible for directing operations for the Woodville Karst Plain Project (WKPP) which is the most active and successful cave diving exploratory project in the world with more than one hundred members. The WKPP recently received a Resolution from Florida Governor Crist and the Florida Cabinet recognizing the project’s 20 year contribution towards underwater cave exploration and its work to protect Wakulla Springs. Casey and his diving partner Jarrod Jablonski hold several cave diving world records including the longest exploration dive into a flooded cave system at more than 5 miles requiring more than 28 hours underwater. Casey serves on the GUE Board of Directors, is a fellow of the Explorers Club and serves as an advisor to the Wakulla Springs Water Quality Working Group and Unit Management Planning Committee, promoting responsible use, study and protection relevant to water quality issues affecting Florida Springs. Casey along with Global Underwater Explorers recently completed 3 cave diving expeditions to mainland China at the invitation of the Chinese government in addition to assisting with ongoing exploration and research projects in the Bahamas and Mexico.
It had been more than 15 years since I last used a DUI 200g Thinsulate jumpsuit so I was looking forward to diving the new Xm250 when it was introduced in 2010. Most of my drysuit diving over the years involved either the tried and true DUI 400g Thinsulate suit for long/cold/extreme exposures or a DUI 300g Polartec PowerStretch suit for shorter, recreational dives in moderate temperature water above 18c. On occasion I added the Plus 5 vest if the water temperature was a little cooler or if I expected the dive to run long. The 300g suit worked well for many years but for me it never had a “perfect” feel to it. That’s not to say that the 300g Polartec PowerStretch suit is not a great product for certain divers or specific environments, only to say there were a few things I did not like but was willing to tolerate because the product got the job done.
For example, I found the 300g Polartec PowerStretch to be a challenge to put on and take off during the warmer summer months in Florida since it would stick to the skin and absorb sweat. Since I do a lot of scooter diving, the wrist and forearm areas on the right arm would usually get wet, soggy and remain damp. When diving large, double steel tanks there never seemed to be enough thickness or padding across the shoulders with the 300g Polartec PowerStretch and the buoyancy characteristics were less than ideal for technical diving with heavy tanks and stages. The jumpsuit also seemed to slide around a bit and would not always stay in place under the suit. Finally, a primary issue for most technical divers, not to mention something that seems to have been ignored in the technical community and drysuit industry the past 10 years, is that the undersuit MUST insulate when wet. The 300g Polartec PowerStretch was good for short dives but occasionally I would attempt to do something longer with possibly some moderate decompression and it was not the right tool for the job.
I’d been looking forward to a change for some time and was encouraged to discover in 2010 that DUI was planning a 200g Thinsulate BZ suit with a similar design and cut based on their new Xm450 jumpsuit.
It’s been more than a year using the new DUI XM250 and I can say without hesitation that this product has easily become my favorite undergarment since I started drysuit diving 20 years ago. I hear many similar comments from other DUI divers and other non DUI divers who have used the Xm250 in combination with other drysuits.
The Xm250 cut is a great fit and the flexibility is excellent. In the Xm450 I wear an XL-Tall but the XL Xmw250 is perfect because of the added flexibility in the Polartec panels under the arms, across the knees and down the sides of the legs. The feel is solid when you put it on, the Thinsulate across the top of the shoulders is a night and day difference in comfort and the additional loft has greatly improved the buoyancy characteristics. The Thinsulate is going to function when wet so for moderate exposures it works perfectly with the added flexibility of the Polartec panels outweighing any marginal insulation issue.
One of the other design features I like is the outer shell of the undergarment. It looks good, feels good and wears well over time. Putting the undergarment on and removing it even in warm weather is not a problem since the material does not stick to the skin, stretch or slide around. I always wear a synthetic shirt underneath to absorb some sweat and oil which helps keep the undergarment cleaner between washings. The insulation qualities are excellent for moderate exposures but I would not suggest using the suit in water over 78 degrees because it gets too warm. North Florida caves, Mexico caves, Catalina and Jeju Island this past year were great experiences diving the XM250 and TLS350 or FLX EXTREME drysuit combinations.
Any diver out there looking for the right product to go with their new DUI drysuit (or any drysuit) or existing divers looking to replace that old, well used or unwashed undergarment will not be disappointed with the Xm250. I strongly encourage those looking to enhance their diving experience to make a performance driven, long term, quality, and non-gimmicky investment in the Xm250 or give one a try through your local DUI dealer or upcoming DUI DOG Rally & Demo Tour event. You will not be disappointed!
Did I mention the Xm450 boots are also a new favorite???