Yes, you heard me correctly, a wetsuit made from a rock.
I received my new rescue wetsuit and dive boots for work the other day, and started checking out my new “toys”.
Normally, wetsuits are made from a material called Neoprene, which is a petroleum-based product. My new rescue wetsuit from NRS however is made from a new material called Geoprene, also called Terraprene.
Geoprene looks like neoprene, it feels like neoprene, and it floats like neoprene, yet it is a “Green” product that is safe for the environment and does not use up our already depleted petroleum reserves. It is just as buoyant as a neoprene wetsuit of the same grading however it is warmer than a neoprene wetsuit which allows you to use a thinner one offering better flexibility than neoprene. Take for instance a 3 mil geoprene wetsuit, it is the same thickness as a 3 mil neoprene wetsuit, yet it is almost as warm as my 5 mil neoprene version which is very bulky.
Geoprene is made from 99.7% limestone, which is one of the most abundant minerals on Earth. It was developed way back in the 70’s, but for some reason has not quite caught on yet, why I have no idea. With Geoprene being made from limestone instead of oil based products, it is better for the environment and future generations. Because geoprene is warmer than neoprene, a thinner wetsuit can be worn, meaning less natural resources have to be used to produce it. Geoprene lasts at least twice as long as neoprene, meaning that less natural resources will be needed to produce replacement wetsuits. Geoprene aka Terraprene is a win-win for everyone.
One of the big concerns that I keep finding on the web against geoprene is the “extremely high cost” to produce it. Even though I did not have to pay for my wetsuit as it was issued to me for work, I did find out what the cost of it was, and it was THE SAME PRICE as my new Bare neoprene wetsuit and my new Xcel neoprene wetsuit. That just blew the whole extremely high cost complaint out of the water. And with geoprene lasting at least twice as long as neoprene, the cost is much less than neoprene wetsuits and their replacements.
Geoprene has a maximum elongation of 480-530%, which is far greater than that found in human skin. In fact, even at the greatest elongation point on the human body, the armpit, it is only 60-70%. This means you’ll be able to move freely while in this type of wetsuit and you won’t ever feel constricted.
After doing some research on geoprene I found that there are some additional advantages to using geoprene instead of the traditional old-fashioned neoprene in wetsuits. Neoprene is 65% water impermeable whereas geoprene is 98% water impermeable. What does that mean you ask? That simply means that geoprene will not soak up water like a sponge the way that neoprene does. Geoprene is touted as being warmer, lighter, dries faster, and lasts longer than neoprene.
I decided to put the drying speed to a simple test. I took the new 3 mil geoprene wetsuit, and a new 3 mil neoprene wetsuit and dipped them in water long enough to make sure they had absorbed as much water as they could hold. Then I took them out and hung them up to dry on my drying rack.
Immediately I could feel a difference between the two wetsuits as I lifted them out of their water baths. The geoprene wetsuit was at least half the weight of the neoprene version. Both wetsuits were the same thickness so theoretically they should have absorbed the same amount of water, making them weigh the same, but this was clearly not the case.
With the wetsuits hanging on my drying rack I checked the time and went inside. Every hour I planned to go back to the drying rack to check on their progress, however when I came back to the drying rack for the first check, the geoprene wetsuit was completely dry. The neoprene wetsuit felt like it was just hung up to dry and was still dripping water onto the ground. That was an amazing difference between the two materials.
I have no idea how they can turn limestone which is dug out of massive rock quarries like the one pictured here into a buoyant 3 mil wetsuit, but they have managed to find a way.
Limestone was once used in Egypt to build the Great Pyramids, and now we can wear it as clothing, impressive. What will they think of next?
With all of this in mind, when it comes time to replace my next wetsuit I will have to think long and hard about the replacement being made from neoprene. As long as I can find the wetsuit in my odd-ball size, they will always be made from geoprene from now on.