BARE Sentry Drysuit Review by Maxwel Hohn - Commercial Diver and Underwater Videographer from Vancouver Island, BC Canada
Since 2017, I've been diving in a Sentry suit and I can easily say the best drysuits I've ever owned are from the BARE Sentry series. It's built for the demanding conditions of cold-water environments, but also gives flexibility for control and movement. Many suits I've used in the past had thick neoprene materials, which are great for thermal protection and abrasions, but lacked any flexibility. I would often have flashbacks to being a child that was stuffed into a thick snowsuit and unable to bend my arms. However, the BARE Sentry (Men’s)/ Guardian (Women’s) suits are a game changer. The crushed neoprene material is lightweight, flexible but is also durable. Working as a commercial diver and underwater videographer, I often spend countless hours in the water daily, and consequently having a suit that can meet the demands of tough conditions makes it the single most important part of my dive kit.
With any dive suit, there are many options for customizations and additions. Here's what I opted for:
HD boots. These are great for shore dives and walking on rocky substrates. The Sentry suit normally comes with Tech boots which I found were too thin and didn't provide enough durability for shore dives. The only drawback to the HD boots is they are a bit thicker than the standard tech boots, which means that I had to use a slightly bigger fin size.
Latex wrist seals. Typically, I like neoprene seals for comfort but when using latex wrist seals, you have the ability to add wrist cuffs with ease. For the perfect combination, I pair the latex wrist seals with SI Tech wrist cuffs, then add on some wool liners, topped off with marigold latex gloves.
Neoprene neck seal. I've always had great luck with fitting into standard size neoprene seals, and this has worked best for me. I like neoprene because of comfort and also the ability to repair it in the field. Latex seals do have the option to have a ring, with user replaceable seals, but I find the ring very uncomfortable and my BCD or harness/wing would often catch on it. Neoprene is great because if you accidentally rip or tear it, you can fix it with a bit of sewing and neoprene cement. I once had a neck seal completely tear in half when I was on a job in a remote area of BC with no dive centers for thousands of kilometers. I used a fishing hook and dental floss to sow it back together and it held for another two weeks of diving without any leaks!
Standard Pockets. The golden rule in diving is: "If it's shiny, bring it up!" - this is referring to treasure that one might find underwater. Divers always have a need for pockets, and I prefer having the pockets on my thighs which are much easier to access than having a pocket on a BCD or backplate system. I find the pockets are useful every dive
whether it's for carrying a GoPro, SMB, slates, or the occasional treasure. Having previously used the tech pockets, which allow you to expand them into a larger pocket with the zipper, I found I preferred a more streamlined version for the diving I generally do.
Suspenders. These are a must if you plan to have your drysuit on for long periods of time. Often when I come up for a dive, I take my drysuit half off and the suspenders keep it around my waist, which is great for surface intervals on those summer days.
Convenience Zipper. Last but not least, this is one of the most important add-on items to me. I'm sorry ladies, I really feel for you on this one. But if you have the equipment for this, the convenience is a must. Especially if you work as a commercial diver and are in the water all day. As soon as someone enters the water, the pressure on our bodies causes an urge to urinate. It goes without saying that this should be done before every dive, and why not do it with convenience. There is such a thing as a pee valve, but I often find that I work in a shallow enough environment that if I gotta go, I just come up to the surface and then go back down.
Thermals. Drysuits keep you dry, but they are not built to keep you warm. Using a suit such as the Sentry in the cold-water conditions of Canada needs to be paired with the perfect thermals depending on the season. I often match my drysuit up with a BARE SB mid layer full suit and can be completely comfortable underwater for several hours (10c-12c). During the winter months (2c-8c) I opt for the BARE Hi-Loft Polar Extreme undergarments to keep me toasty throughout the dive. The only drawback to the hi-loft is their positive buoyancy, and I often need to add an extra 10lbs to my belt. Another option is layering BARE Exowear, or Ultrawarmth base layers with the SB Mid System. I've tried and tested various non-diving brands like Helly Hansen, Stanley, and while they are much more affordable options, they just don't perform the same as thermals that are built for drysuit diving.
Hood and Gloves. While a drysuit keeps your body warm, a good hood and a pair of gloves are the next important pieces of gear for staying warm. My hood of choice is the BARE 5mm Ultrawarmth hood. It fits well and keeps my noggin’ warm! The only drawback to this hood is that it often gives you a cone head when air gets trapped inside it, which isn't really a big deal, unless you are getting your picture taken! When diving in colder conditions I opt for the BARE 9mm Elastek dryhood, and this hood doesn't seem to create bubble head either! For gloves, I personally love marigolds and wool liners. They've done me well over the years, plus they are very affordable to replace. For environments where I'm exposed to a lot of wear and tear on my hands, such as marine construction I opt for BARE 5mm ultra warmth gloves. These are toasty and you get a lot of dexterity while using these.
Fit. Another key factor is getting fitted correctly. I'd recommend going to a qualified distributor like Pacific Pro Dive to get sized for your order. Visit their website at:
www.pacificprodive.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer, while I am an ambassador for BARE and Pacific Pro Dive, this review is purely my personal opinion for drysuits and accessories. I've owned 12 drysuits during my dive career from various brands, and this is what I found works best for me.