It’s been a while since I’ve worn a new Xcel wetsuit, so long did my previous instalment of Xcel rubber last. I bought that suit in the winter of 2012-13, and finally retired it only at the end of 2017. Several new features on this Drylock X, the pinnacle of the Xcel range, caught my eye.

The new neoprene is limestone-based, which though more damaging to the environment than the natural rubber used by Patagonia (in the R1 Lite shorty, for example) is probably better than standard petroleum-based neoprene. It’s likely to last longer, too, which makes sense from both an environmental and financial perspective.

If I had one gripe with my last Xcel wetty (a humble Infinity) it was the insufficiently tight seals around the wrists. Nothing kills my vibe quite like cold wrists, but the Drylock cuffs, which taper to a robust and improbably small opening, are impregnable.

A fan of darkly coloured wetsuits with few if any identifying features, I’m fully on board with the stealthy aesthetic and minimal branding. But equally — call me crazy — I’m partial to a bit of colour on the inside of a wetsuit, a touch of joie de vivre.

Xcel Drylock X 4/3 Wetsuit

 

The new Celliant Black lining, an updated version of Xcel’s Thermo Dry Celliant, is vibrant red along the arms and lower legs, and white with black splodges, almost leopard-print-like, across the rest of the suit. It’s a decadent combination, and nobody knows it’s there except you — a bit like when you put on a shirt and tie for an important Skype meeting but remain naked and proudly erect under the table.

“The Food and Drug Administration has recognised the Celliant lining as a medical device”

In more functional terms, the lining “recycles body heat into beneficial infrared energy”, which seems fair enough. Composed of “smart” fibres and incorporating a new “heat-retention mineral” (which distinguishes it from last year’s TDC), it covers nearly the entirety of the suit’s interior. (Only the underarm panels are not lined with TDC.)

Incidentally, the US Food and Drug Administration has recognised Celliant as a medical device, due to its ability to promote blood flow at the site of application. That’s a promising sign.

Perhaps the main difference between this suit, the Drylock X, and the regular Drylock is that on the Drylock the white and black stuff (warmer than the red stuff, owing to a higher hollow-fibre content) is confined to the chest and back panels. The stitch-free power seams — there’s barely any stitching on the whole wetsuit — and waterproof zipper (rather than merely water-tight) are also unique to the Drylock X.

Xcel Drylock X 4/3

Thickness: 4/3mm
Weight: 1615 (for a large)
Materials: Limestone neoprene
Price: £470

Xcel

Other features worth mentioning include the heat-pressure seam protection, or “Fusion X” tape, on the suit’s inside; and the “glideskin" collar, which in addition to guarding against flushing feels very smooth on the neck. The chest-zip and magnet combo, discussed in greater detail in our review of the Comp 3/2, is a revelation.