You don't have to search particulary far online before you stumble across the name Otter. This Bradford, family run business has a strong reputation for quality and legendary customer service.
Considering a basic suit costs around £1,500 (before extras), I needed to be assured that aftercare for a product in this price range was exemplary. I am pleased to say that all my dealings with Otter to date are testament to that assertion.
The review that follows is based on my own personal experience having purchased my suit from Otter - paid for with my own hard earned cash.
The Otter Britannic MKII drysuit is available off the shelf or made to measure. Given I live only 45 minutes away from the factory, it was a no brainer to attend in person and therefore I opted for the made to measure service.
Once a comprehensive set of measurements were taken, it was time to configure my drysuit. As you would expect, a variety of options exist with regards to the possible configuration of your drysuit. The Otter staff know their product inside out and are more than willing to be flexible with the design. As an example, I'm not into logos / branding; therefore my request for the Otter logo to be removed from one of the arms was agreed with no resistance.
I opted for Silicone neck and wrists seals, Sitech dry gloves and built it neoprene dry socks (with rock boots). With hindsight, I should have had a pee valve installed; although I was advised this could be added at a later date with relative ease.
A decent drysuit was a sizeable investment, therefore I was pretty thorough with my research into all viable options. Buy cheap, buy twice is a mantra I subscribe to, perhaps especially so with regards to drysuits.
I have used this dry suit with the Thermal Fusion undersuit. This particular garment is a close fitting, extremely flexible and stretchy material. It does not require excessive amounts of air to loft unlike other materials meaning it's really easy to dive this suit with minimal weighting. Obviously an undersuit is a very important choice and if you opt for a version that does require lofting, you will need to adjust your weight accordingly.
As mentioned previously, I opted for the made to measure service. I think Otter were pretty much on the money with their cut.
The Otter website states this drysuit is constructed from a super tough flexible armour skin. To my untrained eye, I assume this is a tri-laminate material. From my personal experience, this dry suit as stood up well to my open water training and I see no signs of any abrasion wear.
Regardless, one year on this suit appears to be structurally in great shape still. Quality stitching along seams and tidy glued seems on the inside are standard.
The metal zip, is protected by an additional external plastic zip. The zip does require maintaining, to keep clean and the occasional application of bees wax to keep it running smoothly.
I have no qualms about the quality of construction here and what really strikes me here is the attention to detail. This simply isn't a suit that is going to fall apart.
Located inside the drysuit are a set of elastic braces, to secure the suit position on the body. Fantastic for surface interval wanderings too. The knee area of the legs is reinforced too.
The front entry zip together with the telescopic feature, really makes donning and doffing the drysuit childs play.
Once you are inside the legs and arms of the drysuit, simply pull at the waste to elevate the neck seal above your head. Slide your head inside the seal, and finally pull the excess suit material down to your waste. An elastic cord routes from just below the divers lower waste around through the legs to a clip to the front. This keeps the excess material used by the telescopic feature nicely stowed.
Depending on your BCD or harness config, you may also find the telescoping torso feature of this suit a benefit when carrying out valve drills
I find the added flexibility the telescopic torso offers a benefit whilst wearing the suit and clambering around a boat on choppy water!
The pockets are located directly central either side of the legs.
As you would expect, both are easily reachable with either hand - no stretching required. A nice feature is a sewn in grip (feels like a rubber tube) on the pocket flap. This really gives nice positive feedback that you have found your pocked in low visibilty conditions
Located at the top of the pocket is a zipped compartment. Within the compartment is a storage area and bungee loop - ideal for storing spare bolt snaps and the like
Inside the pockets large main compartment, there are two bungee loops in the main compartment.
Towards the inside leg, is an inner compartment, ideal for storing your wetnotes.
I opted for Silicone seals. The Sitech replaceable seal system means that should a Silicone seal tear, then it's a five minute job to fit a replacement yourself. The alternative is to have either a neoprene seal or latex permanently attached which are not easily fixable yourself. The replaceable seal system could be the difference between a missed dive.
The cuf seals are pretty easy to remove and replace, its a case of manipulating and applying a certain pressure to the cuff, forcing out the inner ring. The neck seal again, is relatively easy to replace with the special tool supplied. I must say, that I wouldn't fancy attempting a neck seal replacement on a boat!
An Apeks dry suit inflator valve is situated to front of the suit. A low profile Apeks dump valve is located on the left shoulder in the 'DIR' position. This is a good placement for technical divers who tend to dive in a flat trim position. This should make it possible to dump gas from the suit without having to drop out of trim.
Throughout my years use of this suit, at no time have I experienced any water leaks from the dump valve. (I always dive with the shoulder dump valve fully open)
Rock Boots and Socks
I opted for having the sewn in neoprene socks with rock boots to cover. I feel this is a pretty good system, ideal if you need to walk any distance with your kit.
I love this suit, however it would not be a balanced review if I didn't mention any negatives. As it happens, I wouldn't classify these as more than niggles for most people.
As mentioned previously, I'm not into big brand labels on my everyday clothing let alone dry suits. I did have one of the logos removed, but perhaps I'd like the others smaller too.
I personally struggled to carry out valve drills in this suit - this I believe is down to the way the under arm is cut straight across. Yes - the suit is telescopic - which greatly aids donning and doffing, but when you are wearing a backplate and harness horzontial in the water, there isn't a lot of telescoping action going on!
Plenty of technical divers can manage valve shut downs in this suit. Unfortunately, I am not one of them and can't. This probably is a none issue for the majority of divers, but it would be remiss if I did not mention it.
All points considered, I don't think the vast majority would regret purchasing the Otter Britannic MK2 dry suit.
It dives just great, the material is flexible strong and durable. All this together with knowing you have the backing of a British company the believe passiotionaly in their product and have gone out of their way to support me with it.