I have been waiting patiently for the Spark Suit to arrive in the UK, well this week I have it and so far I am very impressed with it. and a quick write up on it About the Spark Suit
It has very clean lines no bulky reinforced sections so it is incredibly lightweight and breathable, the neck is the same as their popular Fuse jacket which is a tight neoprene glide skin seal. The zip is higher up and shaped to make opening and closing easy to do on your own! made of XP 3 layer which is light weight and breathable. The ankle seals are long neoprene gaskets as standard but socks can be fitted at the factory (for an additional £30) wrist have latex seals with adjustable outer cuffs. and a pocket for earplugs or something.In Use
This suit is easy to don the neoprene ankle seals just slide over your feet and seal the water out well ( Palm can put on their immersion suit socks if you wish at an additional cost) Putting the suit on was simple and the new zip meant I could do the suit up on my own and fold the protective panel over it easily. The neck seal was an interesting idea and I wasn't too sure about at first but once on and a session of play boating later I was convinced that I made a great choice mainly because it made a great seal was comfortable and didn't let any water in.
The next day we decided to go play down the Ogmore, with many weir steps it was rock spin galore off the top tail squirts and cartwheels where ever we could made for a fun active paddling session down river. The suit worked really well again the neck seal worked flawlessly the suit breathed well I wasn't over heating and still dry even after our swimming test yup we decided to jump in and swim at the end well why not!
On the Sunday we hit CIWW for the 4 and 8 cumec sessions. Thankfully the guys at CIWW had recreated the retentive surf wave on Catapult on the 4 cumec session which gave up spins blunts back stabs so a lot of time was spent on their and on the 8 cumec we hit the two holes Vicarious and the one by the Camera, lots of ends loops every where again the Spark suit did a brilliant job kept the me comfortable inside didn't notice the zip once and the best bit no Cag rash even after 3 sessions and kept me dry throughout
I have also used it out in Canada on a solo run of the 17km Badger Chute section of the Exploits River colder than UK (still) which is a wide river (100m bank to bank) after 3 hours of paddling and playing hard in the rapids I was glad to of put my Tsangpo suit on underneath was a bit chilly outside but just right in the suit and the fleece had wicked the moisture out from the skin to leave me dry, some water did come in when playing in the hole but it was just a tiny dribble and didn't bother me.
That afternoon Paul from raftingnewfoundland.com
took us to the coast and out to Exploits Islands and around the Bays of the North East Coast on his Zodiac RIB. I was glad I wore the Spark as the water has still got huge Ice bergs floating about to give you an idea of sea temperature, although after a couple of hours and walking in to the water to launch and exit the sea and no annoying cag rash but cold feet to be expected after being exposed to the elements for 3 or so hours and the fact that Paul loves to open up the throttle fully wherever possible. So Pro and Cons of the SparkPros
Easy to put on and zip up on your own thanks to the higher placement and with a more flexible zip than previous suits.
Comfy neck seal which is still tight and keeps a lot of water out but will let the occasional dribble through
Great articulated cut, so nice to paddle in even the leg hems are shorter at the back than the front to stop the heel wearing out
Light weight and breathable due to no kevlar/ cordura areas
Comes in any colour as long as you like Bright Green nice and visible for photos, rescues etc ( I like the bright green reminds me of Kawasaki Racing Ninja Green)Cons
no reinforcement so if your an elbow basher use elbow pads
no latex neck seal so some water will come through (if that bothers you...)
No Socks but can be added on request in the factory for £30 Summary
In summary the Spark Immersion Suit is suited towards the active paddlers and those who want the best performance comfort and are happy with the occasional bit of water through the neck seal which isn't much (I am sure that Palm could put a latex seal in if you really wanted) If you wear the correct layers underneath moisture/ condensation will work its way out of the suit.
I personally believe that the Pros outweigh the cons which to face it aren't a massive issue and I would recommend it if I had more time before leaving the country would I add socks? maybe although using the Index sock under my booties hasn't bothered me that much.
If you think you would need a latex neck seal then and reinforcements (but those who hit their arms normally pad up) then maybe the Stikene could be a better bet I have used mine for 3-4 years coaching rafting and personal paddling and is still hanging in there, however it is seems a lot heavier on not as breathable due to the extra hard wearing areas and the zip is much stiffer and more noticeable in use.
(Photos courtesy of Tony Howells)